Due to the following post’s sensitive themes such as suicide and mental illness, I urge readers to continue while acknowledging their own mental and emotional well-being. If this post stirs overwhelming feelings and thoughts please disengage in reading. Take further steps and talk to a loved one who understands your needs to decompress.Always remember to be gentle with yourself.
I chose to open up about this particular subject due to my own personal and familial experiences with mental illness and suicide. I am very open about this particular subject; hence why I chose to dawn the semi- colon tattoo on my wrist unlike many of my tattoos that can be easily covered.
For those who do not know what the semi-colon tattoo represents, it is part of the Project Semicolon: “your story is not over” nonprofit organization that is dedicated to the prevention of suicide. Those who choose to intentionally place this symbol on a visible part of their body (mine is on the left wrist) invite others around them to feel safe to talk about their experiences of mental illness. Many people feel very misunderstood and unable to communicate to others due to fear of having their feelings minimized: to “be positive!” or “things will get better”. When this happens the one trying to communicate tends to feel shut out and shamed into silence to not make others feel uncomfortable. When they feel heard and understood by the receiving party it brings a sense of safety and community, instead of distance and loneliness from others.
The day my mother told me there was a death in the family in 2009, I expected it to be my grandfather who had battled with heart issues. Instead, I was told of the loss of my uncle Tom. Uncle Tom lost his battle of alcohol abuse and had taken his own life. This news was devastating. While I was a child, his presence had imprinted on me as a father figure to look up to. Though we had not spoken or seen each other in such a long time, I felt the weight of his loss in my entire being. How could he leave us so soon? How could he depart from his wife, children, this world? Needless to say, the questions were endless and the turmoil it brought to our family left a wound that could not be repaired. In time, I was educated in the struggles of addiction and mental illness that plagued our family genetics. It was the beginning of my own understanding of myself.
Let me be clear in the fact that I come from a loving family and home thanks to my mother, grandparents, uncles and aunt. But in spite of coming from a supportive family, I have personally undergone my own trials that had put me in a very dark and lonely place. I have struggled to make peace with years of distance from loved ones, insecurity, bullying, and trauma. Everyone who has met me have spoken of me being positive, empathetic, and lighthearted; yet as I was younger, few knew of the burden I felt. I had built an unhealthy coping mechanism that consisted of drugs, heavy alcohol abuse, and the addiction of toxic people who supported my habits. When I was alone, I felt inferior and unloved, sure that those around me were better off without my presence. Though I never acted on my thoughts of “a life without me”, the sense of who I was became lost in the toxic traits that I developed. I found that this alone made me more empathetic to those around me. At times, my empathy has acted as a gift, a homing beacon of sorts to others who shared my pain; but it also welcomed those who would only further my destruction. It took years of self-work and self-awareness to draw on the positive aspects of empathy.
Through my experiences, I thankfully learned the gift of being gentle with myself — to feel my feelings wholly and truthfully while regaining the strength to use the “depths of despair” as ways to learn and heal.
If you are undergoing any kind of heartache or heaviness upon your being please know there is a community of people who love, cherish, and accept you wholly. Ground yourself in knowing you are not the only one. That we are all connected and that you are an essential piece of those around you. The feelings you feel are a gift to show and connect with others around you. In short, remember this:
- Be Gentle with Yourself. Feel your feelings wholly, and know that many others have felt or are feeling this heavy burden as well. You are not alone.
- Treat Yo’ Self. Whether this means to take a bath, talk to a friend, or buying that item you’ve had your eye on, do something that feels rewarding.
- Open your Heart. While this is easier said than done, when in the presence of someone whom you feel comfortable and secure with tell them of how you feel. This can also develop a deeper connection with that person who now feels fully entrusted.
- Seek Out Community Connections. If it feels like too much to bare yourself to those around you, there are, thankfully now, plenty of outside resources to turn to.
You are loved and stronger than you know. Life is like a muscle, when strained, in time, it can become stronger.
If you or any one you know is struggling with suicidal ideations or struggling with a loss from suicide, seek professional help or reach out to the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-8255 or at https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org .