Two quotes for one, though I am not sure I quite consider either of them official quotes seeing as I have no idea where they originated or if they are accurate or are simply memes that have taken hold on Facebook. They’re both very relevant to current events happening in my life of late so I decided to use them for #WCW anyway.
I’ve been focusing quite a bit over the past few months on mental health awareness as suicide seems to keep propping up in the peripherals of my life. I believe suicide is, in fact, a symptom of mental illness. It may be an acute (in that moment) mental illness (like when someone “snaps” suddenly for a limited period of time, or it may come from something long and lingering like depression, bipolar disorder, or any number of other illnesses. I just don’t believe that anyone who is thinking clearly commits the act.
And I’ve been at that edge. I took a knife to my wrists about 12 years ago (I wasn’t home alone. I was feeling under attack by my mother and she was chasing me around the house and I went to the kitchen where my then 9-year-old son and 80-something-year-old grandmother (and soulmate) were. I didn’t care about them or what they were witnessing. I just needed the pain and anger of my life to end.
And, prior to that, over 20 years ago, I was driving an automobile, my boyfriend in the passenger seat beside me and I needed to make it all stop. I lurched the car toward a cliff. God intervened… the automobile stalled. Now I don’t even remember what instigated that (we must have been arguing but certainly it wasn’t worth dying over!) The memory is very vivid (and I’m not a visual person). His instincts were wrong… his legs came off the floor of the car and braced against the dashboard as his hands went down on either side of his seat. God has saved my life by miraculous means more than once. That was the third of four times that I am aware of.
But, back to the quote because this post isn’t supposed to be about my relationship with God or how he truly works miracles. It is about being a true friend.
Mental illness is not a joke. It is not something to be hushed up or ignored. (Same with domestic violence). If your friend or family member needs help step up to the plate and help. Don’t say you’ll be there and then not answer your telephone. Don’t offer hot soup on Wednesday when he is sick with the flu and then cross to the other side of the street when he is being threatened by himself or another person.
It is painful to say but I believe Baily was saveable. I believe that if he had not felt fear of stigma, (which we know he did), if he had shared what he was truly feeling then I know we would have stepped up to the plate and gotten him into the hospital and properly medicated. As it is, people knew he was having a hard time being away from home and at college but he thought he could handle it. He convinced everyone he could handle it. The counselor at his university prescribed a medication that is not meant for people his age. If we knew how dark his feelings were we’d’ve done more. We would not have backed down. He would have been hospitalized and given the opportunity to find the correct medication. He may have survived. He may not have. But it is a possibility. The isolation of being away from his support system and his unwillingness to share how much pain he was in, that’s what killed him. And sadly, he hadn’t planned on dying. He went to all of his classes that day. He took notes. He asked for something to be mailed to him from home. But something happened. A trigger occurred and no one was there and now he is gone. Forever.
(I will state here that I am grateful to say I do not have survivor’s guilt though I know his mom is working at overcoming that.)
Before the end of the week was out I wrote to Chris, a suicide survivor and host of the blog Surviving the Specter asking questions. He comforted me. I consider Chris a friend. He was there for me when I needed someone to talk to even though we had never met. I am glad he is alive. He is helping people every day. And I want to share this quote with you about his decision to commit suicide:
If hopelessness was the mother of my downfall, seclusion was the disfigured child that accompanied Her…was attached to Her. Like some 1943ish sinister Siamese twin experiment. I can’t say that if I was with friends, I would have waited until a time that I was alone to end my life. But I was by myself for the entire day and that made it easier to commit.
So back to the meme at the top of the page. I said I believed it. I believe it so much so that I have risked relationships with friends. One example is that I have a friend, also bipolar as well as a survivor of child sexual abuse, who cuts himself. People who were close to him knew he “used to cut himself back in high school,” but he hadn’t done it in decades. I had not physically seen him for approximately a year when I learned that he was doing it again. He’d confessed this to me over the telephone expecting complete privacy. I listened to him and counseled him until I felt confident that he would be safe and then, immediately upon hanging up the phone, I reached out in person to the members of his family that he was closest to. I knew that in doing so I would be breaking his confidence and my word. I knew that it was entirely possible that he would never speak to me again. But this was his life. And his life mattered to me so much I was willing to risk losing him. Later that night he voluntarily checked himself into the hospital.
Yes, he was mad. He was embarrassed. But also, he was grateful. We still talk.
Crisis Text Line 24/7: Text “Go” to 741-741 to get started
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 24/7: 1-800-273-TALK (8255)
National Domestic Violence Hotline 24/7: 1-800-799-SAFE (7233)
If you or a loved one suffers from a mental illness please visit my other site, Letters to the Mind, and consider contributing. Sharing our stories educates the uninformed. Stigma can only end when we bring this taboo topic into the light and teach the people around us that within our hearts we are all the same.
The featured photograph was taken by Isi Parente and acquired through Unsplash licensing.
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