I started this blog in honor of my friend who committed suicide on Christmas.
As a person with quite a bit of experience with mental illness myself, I’m quite certain she had mental health issues that were never properly diagnosed or treated. It was no one’s fault. She was brilliant and knew how to put on a face to the world that didn’t show her true pain…unless she wanted you to know.
I’m not here to share a story that’s not mine, so I won’t give you all of the details. But since her death, I’ve come face to face with my own past in dealing with suicidal thoughts, friends suicide attempts, and others suicides who I’ve known and been close to. I’m not happy to say that one little mom like me can have so much experience with this topic, but it seems to keep creeping into my life.
As a teenager, my high school boyfriend’s cousin shot himself. That was the first time I came face to face with the aftermath of suicide, and I was a child myself. To see a family living in this agony was not easy to see, but I now realize it was a good lesson for the future me.
In college, a close friend attempted suicide by jumping off of a building a couple blocks from my apartment. She thankfully and miraculously lived. I struggled to support her however I could, racked with guilt from not seeing the signs like many of her friends. It was torture seeing her struggle to recover day to day. But ultimately and after a lot of work, she balanced herself with mental health treatment, and has gone on to have a fulfilling life as wife and mother. Another wonderful lesson for the future me.
My own story of suicidal thoughts began several years after college when my depression and anxiety got the better of me. I began to actively and passively try to hurt myself, physically and otherwise, sabotage my successful career, alienate my loved one’s. Friends began to see that I was not myself and started asking questions. And the lessons of the past thankfully became a guide. I somehow found a way to ask for help. Although I was suicidal and feeling like life was not worth it, I understood the pain my loved ones would feel AND I was aware that there might just be a future for me if I could hold on.
Not many suicidal people have the benefit of these insights. While their act may feel selfish to others, seeing past the pain, and actually seeing a future can be close to impossible. I understand that.
Two years after my own struggles, a different college friend Matt killed himself. Such an incredible tragedy for a wonderful family to lose a son, brother, husband and father. For his twin to lose his identical. For a close knit fraternity to lose a brother.
On December 25, 2010 when Dina took her life, she also left a family behind. A teenage son, brother, parents and innumerable family members and friends who loved her. Our close knit group of high school girlfriends who hold reunions every summer.
I can tell you the love that existed and still exists for both Matt and Dina could fill the oceans of the earth, and then some. Yet an emptiness and pain existed that drew each of them to take their own lives. To somehow find peace. I don’t blame them for their actions. I hurt that they had to feel such pain and I grieve for both of them.
But I also know how it feels to be there. I was just fortunate enough to have learned my own lessons of suicide early on in life, or its very possible I would not know my husband, the love of my life, nor would my two amazing children exist today.
Keeping quiet about suicide is NOT the answer. The more open we are, the more lives could be saved. This topic should not be taboo. I want to talk to my kids about suicide before life’s stresses, or even their possibly inherited mental illness grabs hold. I don’t know yet how old I feel is appropriate, but I am certain it will be a conversation we will have. Education and support is the only way. More and more children are finding their way out of life because they feel alone in their pain.
Pain is a normal part of life, but feeling alone in it is unnecessary. It just takes the courage to talk, ask for help, seek a doctor’s guidance.
Have you shared information about suicide with your children? Will you?