September 4th – 10th is Suicide Prevention Week. Having lost a loved one to suicide myself, I asked my friend Cristi of the blog Motherhood Unadorned to guest post today. She is a tireless suicide prevention and overall mental health advocate. You can also find her on Twitter and Facebook.
I was eating lunch one day in between classes (about 15 years ago) and a very close friend Denise walked up and gravely sat down. She looked me straight in the eye and said “Stephanie* fell off of Cabra.” Cabra Hall was a 6-story dormitory building at our University. Needless to say, hearing that one of my closest friends fell off of a building isn’t exactly something I ever expected to hear in my life.
But something inside of me knew.
I looked at Denise without hesitation and said “No, she didn’t. She jumped.”
It had not been confirmed. The story continued to be that our dear friend “fell” for quite some time. But as I made it over to the hospital and spoke to her boyfriend, we collectively confirmed in our hearts what we knew was true.
She had jumped.
And miraculously her body was in full-on healing mode. It swelled to enormous proportions, protecting itself from the intense impact. Only bones were broken. Not a single organ punctured.
She was going to live.
You might think that I would be rejoiceful. But the guilt was unbearable. She had told me a few times that she was “depressed” but at that point in my life at 20 years old, I had no idea what depressed really meant. I didn’t even know that I also had depression.
I spent days, weeks, going between classes and hospital visits, multiple times per day. It was the only thing I knew how to do. Be there for her while she healed and recovered. I threw myself into being the friend that I thought I should have been before her suicide attempt. It was one of the most horrible experiences of my life and it wasn’t even happening to me.
Flash forward 10 years. I am now fully aware of my own mental illness. I am living in it. I am in a deep dark hole of sadness, so deep and dark I am physically hurting myself. My mind is taking me to a place where I no longer want to be in this world.
I don’t have kids. I’m not married. I’m feeling alone. My meds are not working. My doctor just sucks. And I feel as though there’s no future for me. I absolutely don’t see it.
But I remember Stephanie.* And on this day she is married, and medicated, and happy. That is what I can see. Not my own future, but the possible promise of one. The miracle of hers.
And it saves me. She saves me.
I ask for help. I tell my family. I tell my company. I travel thousands of miles away to receive intensive therapy to build back my life, to balance my meds, to fight for a future that I cannot see but hope is there for me.
Today I am married happily. I have two gorgeous kids. A house. A life. I have friends and family who mean the world to me. And I could have missed it. I could have missed ALL of it.
In December 2010 my dear friend Dina lost her own battle with mental illness and died by suicide. She is why I started blogging. Why I am fighting tool and nail for prevention. But this suicide prevention week, I also honor Stephanie* for the miracle of her life. For her suicide attempt not completed. For my own miraculous recovery.
I am not healed. But I am a work in progress, and a good one at that.
I am here to tell you, that each one of us is valuable. Our life is worth the fight. Every one of us has a future, whether or not we see it, and it could be a GREAT one if we just let it happen.