Out of the Darkness II

out of the darkness II

A year ago I wrote a piece on the Out of the Darkness community walks put on by the American Foundation to prevent suicide.  Well, today we participated once again in our community walk.  It’s been a year since we lost our last loved one to suicide (rather than a month) so attending the walk was much easier, no more tears only a touch of sadness — nothing more than we feel on any given day.  We were able to enjoy everyone coming together in community to remember those we have loved and lost.

FIND A WALK NEAR YOU AT THIS LINK (CLICK HERE).

AFSP has local chapters in all 50 states and is “the leader in the fight against suicide.  Fund[ing] research, creat[ing] educational programs, advocat[ing] for public policy, and support[ing] survivors of suicide loss.

“The Out of the Darkness Walks are proof that when people work together they can make big changes in the world. They are AFSP’s largest fundraiser – they produce millions for suicide prevention programs, unite those who have been affected by suicide, and create communities that are smart about mental health.”

You can read about my previous Out of the Darkness experience. Or you can read previous posts I have written about how suicide has impacted my life in these posts listed below:

You can also read two powerful posts about personal struggles that I hosted here on my site written by guest bloggers Chris, and Sarah.  The post written by Chris does have a trigger warning attached to it so if you are thinking of suicide do not read it.  Instead, please telephone or text the resources below.  It is confidential and will help alleviate your pain.

Crisis Text Line 24/7: Text “Go” to 741-741 to get started
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 24/7: 1-800-273-TALK (8255)
Veterans they understand your experiences are different. Press 1 for a line dedicated just to you.
LGBTQ National Youth Talk (afternoons & evenings M-S only): 1-800-246-7743

Out of the Darkness

Ending the stigma against mental illness is a big part of my blogging.  It is why I share my own diagnosis and feature other people’s stories of mental illness; it is why I co-host a separate blog, Letters to the Mind, where other people can post their stories of living with mental illness.

If you’ve been following my blog for over a year you know that we suffered a great loss to suicide in August of 2015, which lead to a poem about that loss, three articles, and the #ASKFORHELP poetry challenge. One of my firm beliefs, as someone with a mental illness, and as someone who has frequently felt there was no way out other than death, I believe that Isolation Kills! And the only way I know to end the isolation is to talk, share, and educate those around us so that the fear for mental illness and those with it alleviates and we can become embraced by the rest of the world.

#askforhelp | Memee's Musings

I am sad to report that last month we lost another young person close to us to suicide, 14-year-old Nina.  It breaks my heart and indeed makes me angry that we live in a world where children are not carefree, where they have enormous stresses and not enough support systems (or fear sharing their struggles) that the only way they can end their pain is through suicide.

Suicide changes the lives of 1 in 5 people. That stat alone means this is common.  There is no reason whatsoever to justify families believing that struggles with suicidal thoughts, actions, successes or failures should be taboo and kept as “dirty little secrets.”

Yesterday I participated in our community’s Out of the Darkness walk hosted by the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.  I didn’t like being a part of the community, but it is a truth and my need to raise awareness to the prevalence of the problem is so much more important than my own personal comfort.  I cried.  I wasn’t alone though. Everyone there had lost someone or made attempts themselves.  We formed a team in honor of Baily and Nina and raised several hundred dollars toward  raising awareness, education, and the pursuit to end the stigma.

We all wore beads representing our loss.  I wore four bead strands.  Three for losses of friends/relatives and one for having attempted suicide myself.  Once we began walking the tears subsided and the mission began.  I will definitely do the walk again.

The first Out of the Darkness walk had 4000.  Now a quarter of a million people walk!  If you have lost someone or struggle with mental illness, or simply want to help raise awareness, WALK.  And support those who walk.  Thank you!

Be A True Friend. Isolation Kills!

friends

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 which 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.

As you know 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 this 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 found out he was doing it again. He’d confessed this to me over the telephone expecting complete privacy. I listened to him and counselled 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 in to the mental institution.

Yes, he was mad. He was embarrassed. But also, he was grateful. We still talk.

To Be A Good Friend | Memee's Musings

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 the taboo into light and teach the people around us that within our hearts we are all the same.

Your news hit us like a tornado!

Writing 101 wants us to focus on a single 24-hour period of time with no backstory, flashbacks or foreshadowing. And right now, you still remain my most recent trigger so, Baily, this one is again inspired by you.

The winds were howling like nothing I’d seen in Seattle before. Sure, I had witnessed tropical rains and storms in other parts of the country but this storm, this felt different. The row of tree trunks just 12-feet’s reach from my porch swayed to and fro. Oaks, huge solid oak trees and a single unexpected Redwood, their trunks stretching first to the right and then to the left a good four feet from center while enormous branches broke and crashed to the ground’s floor, the smaller branches and leaves taking flight in the whirling winds that screamed their anguish through our ears. It was frightening but more than that it was awesome. Not awesome in the cool way. But awesome in the powerful way that leads to devastation. We were stunned into silence watching the fury of nature. I stood there staring and wondering which tree would rip the roof off of my life. As it turned out, only one tree fell with explosive concussions. The tree that ripped the roof of our house that day came only moments later, in a telephone call.

“Is this Memee?”

It was only three words, yet something didn’t seem right. It didn’t feel like an unsolicited sales pitch, a bill collector, or a survey taker. With weary I replied.

“Yes, who’s this?”

I didn’t catch her name. Did she even tell me her name? I’m not sure. I just felt sick and didn’t know why. I heard her words, “Joan’s sister.”

I panicked. Joan, my best friend, oh my God why was this woman calling me?

“Joan! Oh my God, is she okay?” (Joan is my best friend and I love her like a sister. She is family. Her sons are my son’s brothers. Our oldest boys best friends.)

“It’s Baily.”

I immediately sobered up unaware for the first time of the massive storm wailing around me.

“Let me turn off the music.”

I was stalling. I needed to sit down. I knew I had to sit down before she said what she called to say. My son, standing just five feet away standing still as a reinforced cement freeway stanchion, a blank stare on his face. He wasn’t on the phone with me but he felt it. He already knew to his soul the words I was about to hear. The music off. I took a deep breath with a prayer in my heart.

“Okay.” I said.

“Baily killed himself.”

The words tore through me as if it was my own son, the son I could see standing before me. In that instant I broke into five billion pieces and then some. I held it together for this woman on the other end of the phone. This woman that was tasked with spreading the news of her beloved nephew’s heartbreaking fate. When I hung up, I looked at my son standing there just steps away knowing yet not knowing. How would I tell him that the person he is closest to in the world would not be his roommate next year in San Francisco, would not be joining in the Mongol Rally they’d been planning for years, would not be standing beside him at his wedding, would not laugh with him or cry with him ever again.

I looked up.

“It’s Baily. He’s dead. He killed himself. I’m so, so sorry, baby!”

And then we brokedown and cried. And cried. And cried. We still cry. We will always cry for your loss and for ours. We miss you.

Baily attended Washington State University where he was majoring in Nuclear Forensics and hoped to help maintain global stability through his work. Always known for his ready smile and gentle demeanor, he was forever ready to lend a hand to anyone in need. He will forever be missed by those that were lucky enough to befriend him and served as a role model to his neighbors and classmates. His strong work ethic was witnessed by all those around him during his 8 summers spent processing fish in Alaska – Legacy.com

Please don’t take your life. Isolation is deadly. Call someone. And if you’re scared to call a friend or family member, please call a hotline or text one! Please do not try to get through “it” on your own. There is no shame in your anguish, pain, and distress.

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 24/7: 1-800-273-TALK (8255)
Veterans they understand your experiences are different. Press 1 for a line dedicated just to you.
GLBT National Youth Talk (afternoons & evenings M-S only): 1-800-246-7743
Crisis Text Line 24/7: Text “Go” to 741-741 to get started

If you were touched by this post, perhaps you will see it in your heart to go to the family’s Go Fund Me account and make a donation to fulfill a dream that Baily shared with his younger brother Ben. Baily & Ben’s Bee Sanctuary. Funds will be spent on hives and organic fields for bees to recover from their exposure to toxins, planting organic flower gardens, and providing a place for visitors to enjoy the fruits of their labor.