Thirty-Five

I turned thirty-five today.

Just to paint a clear picture of the excitement: A random show is playing on Hulu, I don’t even know the title. My 4-year-old daughter is fully dressed in a bright red jogging suit and bright pink light-up shoes, trying to work the TV remote while dripping pickle juice all over the carpet. It’s a quarter ‘til midnight

Maybe I should be putting my restless Energizer bunny to bed for the thirty-ninth time, out getting drinks with friends, or pretending to hate a casual family dinner, but I’m not. To tell you the truth, I didn’t even get out of my pajamas. My birthday is the one day a year, no matter what, I feel suicidal.

I watch my friends with envy as they celebrate their birthdays and moan and groan about getting older. That part has never bothered me. I get tripped up by abandonment, insecure attachments, broken homes, missing family, and mental health. I get distracted by watching the hours fade away on the one day I should hear from my family. I get choked up by checking my phone and the mail, by checking painful doors and expecting lost love to be there.

I might be middle-aged, but I am still a little girl waiting to be surprised, waiting for her wish to come true when she blows out the candles, and crying herself to sleep at night. But I’m not writing this for me. I’m writing to the person who knows how the lies of worthlessness feel. To the person who can’t stand being told they are never alone because every time they hear it, they’re surrounded by empty rooms and silence.

I’m writing to you. Maybe it’s not your birthday. Maybe there is another day of the year you always struggle to get through. Maybe you’re happy one minute and the next minute, you’re hopeless. Maybe you struggle with thoughts of suicide every day, you feel like your life doesn’t matter and nobody cares every day! Maybe suicide haunts you. Me too.

When you can’t celebrate your life because you are distracted by thoughts of your death, it matters. Because even if you get a million Facebook comments or tweets from random strangers, when you’re disconnected from friends and family, when the love you want to be there is missing, the only person really left to celebrate your existence is you. And if you haven’t found a reason, if darkness is screaming like a monster after five shots of vodka at a nightmare Sweet Sixteen party, no matter how many candles are lit, you fly blind.

Hopelessness and worthlessness become all you can taste. All you can hear. You play Russian Roulette year after year as they duel with your will to survive. Here is my biggest piece of advice: Prepare. Buy a new outfit. Find a reason to leave the house. Alone or with someone else, it doesn’t matter.

If you don’t make it, if you can’t open the door, dress up anyway. Get out of bed anyway. Text a friend. Answer all the Facebook posts on your timeline. Don’t have any? Announce it! That’s right. Seek love out! Celebrate yourself! Even if you’re struggling to understand why you’re alive. Fight. Have your favorite meal. Have a drink of your favorite wine. (Mine’s whiskey.)  Do something you’ve been meaning to do.

Protect your heart. I’ve spent a lot of birthdays wanting to die. Enough to know a lot of other people out there have, too. And I want you to know, as my birthday ends, I am celebrating each of you!

Love doesn’t always come knocking the way that it should. And sometimes, when it does, things like depression, PTSD, and social anxiety, get in the way of us answering the door. That is exactly what lifelines are for! Build them. If you do not have them, seek them out. Build them.

Love will come. In the meantime, my wish for you is to taste the frosting. Have a cake made just for you. Keep choosing life!


If you are feeling suicidal, please reach out the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, 1-800-273-8255, or text ‘HOME’ to the Crisis Text Line, 741-741. 

A Lesson In Hope

I was only fifteen when I tried to kill myself.  It happened nineteen years ago today.

Both of my sisters left home. One left a note behind and didn’t look back. The other moved in with a different family just a few houses away. I stayed. I had a medical condition I couldn’t get my family to face and I hid from the rest of the world. I had just been diagnosed that September. The following month, a boy who went to my school and lived up the street died by suicide the same day we received our report cards. He had gotten a B. Two other students attempted suicide. Then, I became attempt number three.

We had just celebrated Thanksgiving. A couple of days later, my parents went to granny’s house for turkey leftovers, but I stayed home that night. Maybe it should’ve been a sign that I planned it. But the truth is, I was so ambivalent in my attempt I was blinded. While the rest of the world could see what was on the surface, if you asked me, I was just trying to get rid of my migraine.

Years later, a college essay forced me to reflect on that day. I stayed in denial about a lot of things. I stood by that migraine, which I did have… and shifted the focus to home. I lived in a pretty abusive household. At the end of the essay, I needed to choose what side of the fence I was on when it came to legalizing physician-assisted suicide. I couldn’t choose one. So, I took a break from college to decide.

Ambivalence, once again, crept into my life. Attempting suicide during my youth, amid familial religiosity, made me a black sheep; sinful, troubled, tormented… outcast. I fought against that with lies.

“I didn’t try to kill myself! I had a migraine.”

When suicide isn’t talked about in the community or the home, it’s easy to feel like we have to hide those things. So, at age thirty-one, I repeated the past and my self-destructive uncertainty with a suicide prevention campaign on Facebook. Ambivalence has always been tricky with me, and it’s hard to detect.

Like when my sister told me, in the middle of my campaign, she was “broken but not suicidal.” I think she really believed that. Or wanted to. I know I did. I should’ve known better. Maybe I would’ve saved her if I had known what to look for and was listening with my heart. But I didn’t know how. I didn’t know anything about suicide; the risks, the warning signs, they were lost on me. Until now.

While juggling suicidal thoughts, grief, and denial… I educated myself. But the one thing I kept running from is why feeling suicidal is a daily fight for me. I finally know the answer. When I tried to kill myself as a teen, it wasn’t because my sisters were gone or because I lived in an abusive home. And it wasn’t depressive disorder like the inpatient doctors at the youth facility tried to throw at me. It was because I couldn’t leave like my sisters did. I couldn’t fight for my life on my own. I couldn’t escape. Because the biggest thief of my hope was looking in the mirror, seeing the diagnosis I was facing, and knowing there was a solution, there was a way to address it—for the rest of the world. Not for me. My father’s insurance wouldn’t cover the treatment.

Some say I survived, but I didn’t. The following summer, I deleted me. Although, I couldn’t have told you back then. I wouldn’t have been able to explain why I wrote a new first name on every paper at school.. or how I went from a bully to one of the kindest people you’ll ever meet overnight. But I know now that it was the onset of Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID).

I kept myself hidden, protected, for as long as I could. I ran from the reason for my suicide attempt as long as I could, until I had my daughter. Until my lack of fighting for myself began to impact more people than just me. Then, I rose from the ashes to face the demons still burning inside… and I learned the hardest lesson of my life: Hope is temporary if solutions are out of reach.

I don’t know if you know how it feels for the cure for your pain to sit just out of reach. But I can tell you how to survive. Fight. Even when there is no hope.

It’s okay to fight dirty when you’re fighting for life.


If you are feeling suicidal, please reach out to the National Lifeline, 1-800-273-8255 or text HOME to 741-741 to chat with the Crisis Text Line. 

To Those Whom I Met In An Online Support Group For PTSD

It’s different now. You know? Four years ago, you were my only support— online, in person, and in life. I only had you and a brand new baby to hold.

I shared a lot with the group, with you, but the biggest battle is still one I carry alone. Though, you taught me to bare it all and learn to pull a few close. I did that. You taught me a lot of other things too, although many of you I’ve shoved away. And you let go.

I bet you don’t know, everything I do, the woman I am today, is because of you. I stumbled into the room half dead, half alive, broken. And every time I opened my mouth, you cared and you actually spoke back. Everything I said, you told me it helped you. I’d never had confidence in myself like that… or people who wanted to love me. I didn’t even know the sound of my voice before I met you.

We bled together and laughed together. I swear, we introduced the world to cupcakes and vodka. You still make me smile. You still make me cry too. Because I know, in the end, I hurt a few of you after the loss of my sister.

It’s not easy for me to admit I did some of the damage. It’s not easy for me to write this open letter to you. But, when hearts get broken, we have a way of slamming doors. And, when we remember love, we have a way of kicking them open too.

Maybe, back then, I was just a stranger who walked into your life and you did your best to love me. I wish I would’ve told you then I was so broken I didn’t know how to receive it. I wish I could have told you then how I will love you with everything that I am… and hurt you because I can’t always control it.

All the words I needed to say got lost because I knew you loved me and you were hurting too, but you shoved me away. You ignored my pain. And every single time, it broke me. I can’t tell you how hard it was to watch your news feed; your sadness and pain. But, mostly, your love.

Many of you had families; sons, daughters, mothers, fathers, grandchildren. Gosh, I envied them. And I listened when you called me family too. Maybe I seemed just as lonely as you, but the truth is, you had love you couldn’t feel in the middle of your darkness. It was too much for me because on my side of the fence the yard and the houses are empty.

I wish I could’ve told you back then. I think a part of me really tried. But I was shattered, the words came out sharp and anger became me. I wish I had logged off. Part of me wishes I had stopped reaching out. Because my circle was small and when it came to pain, I carried it all; your bad days, my bad days, your loss, my grief, all of the weight from everything we’ve ever escaped… and the only place to dispose of it was in the same place we gained or left it.

I’m sorry I hurt you while I was hurting. You deserved better from me. But I just wanted to say, in case you ever look back my way…

Thank you for teaching me how to walk.