Warning: This piece discusses suicide and depression and may be a trigger for some individuals.
It wasn’t always tree poses and namastes, but then again, is it ever? There’s a bit of discomfort in writing this. A lot of [backspace] and many, many pauses. My journey isn’t unique, but this week has opened up so many emotions and I felt called to engage in this discussion. I spent a large chunk of my life giving off a watered down version of myself and if I’m going to show you how I shine all of the time, I also have to show you what once made me dim.
I started going to therapy a little less than a year ago and thus began my journey of unpacking. Unpacking where I’ve been, where I’m going, and how in the hell I got to this moment. Every pin pointed moment of my life where I became tired of it has always found its way back to a moment in my childhood that I’m not, and probably never will be, ready to share with the world.
I’m not going to lie: this piece was far different a few days ago. I began to write my story with the hope of putting it out there for others. But then I stopped to think about the purpose of this month’s post and realized it’s not about my story. It’s about hoping even one less person in this world doesn’t have a story to tell.
What I’ve come to realize in this age of social media is that many of us (if not most) have, are, or will suffer(ed)(ing). So many people have experienced trauma, depression, feelings of unworthiness and worse. In 2015, over 9 million adults over the age of 18 had suicidal thoughts in the past year.
As a collective, we’re slowly starting to poke our heads out of our shells – slowly starting to peel away that layer of stigma toward speaking about mental health. And as an individual, I’m trying my hardest do to my part: to approach the world with a little more kindness and ask those in my life to do the same; to teach my Goddaughter how to love herself through any stage; to openly talk about my therapeutic process with friends and family; and most importantly to stand up and say to the world: YES. I’ve been there too.
There was a time in my life that I didn’t just have bad days – I didn’t want to see the next one through. I treated myself in ways I’m not proud of and had nights in my room where the depression literally took my breath away. There were years I wished I had never existed during a time when I had barely even lived. It took me years to dig myself out of that hole. At a time when this sort of thing wasn’t spoken about, knowing I was alone in my battle was just as painful as the pain of not wanting to go on. My therapist believes I got through it with a healthy set of biological defense mechanisms. Personally, I believe it’s a combination of biology, learned resilience, and let’s be honest, privilege that got me where I am today.
But enough about me. Not everyone is as lucky, privileged, or resilient. On average, 1 person dies every 11 minutes from suicide in the US. Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and questioning youth are almost 5 times more likely to attempt suicide. Women are 3 times more likely than men to attempt suicide, and men are 3.5 times more likely to have a fatal outcome when attempting suicide.
With numbers that staggering, the collective silence needs to end completely. I’m not an expert in mental health and I don’t have all of the answers about how we can combat this epidemic. Keeping the conversation open and making plenty of room for action is an important start, and an integral step within my own healing process.
I can also offer this:
Kindness is priceless. Approach every person you meet with the realization that you have no idea what they might be going through; your closest friends, co-workers, and yes, even your family. Be kind to others and especially to yourself. A little Ahimsa goes a long way. Don’t just start and end with you. Teach your children to do the same.
At the same time, love and kindness isn’t always the cure. Suicidal individuals could be surrounded by love and support but still feel the way they do. This is where it’s so important to know the signs of suicidal behavior.
Empower our youth. Give them the tools they need to be resilient in a world that is constantly testing their strength. Schools, communities, programs, and families need to come together to create an environment open to uplifting the minds of the future. It takes a village. It’s beautiful to see some communities are already doing this.
If you can, donate or volunteer. Be a Big Brother/Big Sister or a mentor in your community. Donate to organizations that work with our youth, underrepresented communities, and/or mental health initiatives. Some honorable mentions: NAMI, Girls Inc., Therapy for Black Women and Girls.
Lastly, if you feel or have felt hopeless, I truly hope this piece gives you some sort of feeling that you’re not alone. I can’t take your pain away – I can only tell you that I’ve felt it too. I might not ever know what yours feels like, but man have I felt mine. Though I still struggle with my mental health, I’ve accepted that it’ll always be a journey. And I’m grateful to wake up every day to take another step.
Shine on, folks. Shine on ❤
Crisis Text Line: text HOME to 741741 to connect with a crisis counselor 24/7
Trevor Project: 24/7 LGBTQ+ crisis intervention and suicide prevention hotline at 1-866-488-7386
Trans Lifeline: peer support hotline run by and for trans people at 877-565-8860
To Write Love on Her Arms: to find local resources in your area