I find my mind in a strange domain today. Everything is a little foggy, and it’s kind of gray and misty. I am grieving for the family and friends of a person I never met. I am sad for the workers and volunteers who fight endlessly to prevent suicide. I’m confused and not-so-confused at the same time about Amy Bleuel’s death. And I ache for her, for the demons she fought so long.
Project Semicolon has held a special little place in my heart since I first heard of it. I’m a grammar/writing nerd, and I am an advocate for mental health. So when I heard there was a project based on the idea of a semicolon, you can imagine it captivated me.
“A semicolon is used when an author could’ve chosen to end their sentence, but chose not to. The author is you and the sentence is your life.”
I’ve never written out a detailed history of my mental health. Some people who are very close to me don’t even know the nitty gritty. They know I have depression. They know I have panic disorder and anxiety disorder. But the details are something I don’t talk about. For a long time, I felt it was shameful and that I was a weak person. My brain still feels that way sometimes, and it’s hard to convince myself otherwise.
Let me put this out there, though: I have experienced suicidal thoughts. I have thought those around me would be better off without me. In my teenage years, the peak of my hormones and mental health issues co-mingling, I had fantasies of nothingness. It wasn’t that I wanted to die. I just didn’t want to exist. I didn’t want to feel pain and cause pain anymore.
There’s a stigma surrounding suicide, but I can tell you the following: my thoughts were not selfish. I was not being dramatic. I was thinking about those around me. But my mind still had me convinced I didn’t deserve to exist anymore.
Some of these thoughts came back shortly after the birth of my daughter. In the throes of postpartum depression, I often thought I could never be the mother or wife or friend or family member that people deserved. I felt completely broken, and I wished I didn’t exist.
I am so glad I exist today. My semicolon means my life has gone on. I’ve had intentions for a couple of years to get a semicolon tattoo, and I finally found one I hope to base mine off of, if I get the courage to ask permission, of course. But I also suffer from a pretty severe needle phobia. I’ll get there someday.
So when I said above, “I’m confused and not-so-confused,” it meant that I know depression and anxiety and mental health disorders can strike anyone anytime. You can be okay one day and then have to fight like hell the next. Even when you know, you just know there are people out there who love you and that better days are coming and this, too, shall pass…there are times when you just can’t see the sun through the dark gray fog that has settled into each and every part of you. And you don’t know if/when you will see the sun again.
I am sure there are many, particularly from Project Semicolon and the suicide prevention community, who are taking this hard. To know that nobody is immune, even those who have come out as an inspiration to the community, those who have shared their stories…well, it stops you in your tracks.
We need to keep going, though. It gives me renewed perspective on fighting for something I’m passionate about. I want to do more, and I just need to find my platform or my project. Just like my tattoo: I’ll get there someday.
So today, I am thankful for one person: Amy. Thank you, Amy, for putting your story out there. This is not your ending, though. You will live on through thousands of tattoos and people who will continue fighting and holding each other up.
Move forward. Keep writing your story. We owe it to Amy and to ourselves and to the survivors and to those who are gone too soon. We owe it to the families and friends, because suicide touches many lives.
If you, or anyone you know is dealing with feelings of hopelessness or thoughts of self-harm, I want you to know there IS help. Call 911. Text “START” to the Crisis Text Line at 741-741. Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. Call the Trevor Project at 1-866-488-7386. Get in contact with someone.
I came across these recommendations for reporting on suicide, but I also think they are good things for all people to review. Here are warning signs and risk factors. Here is information on treatment. Need to help someone else?
Please take care of yourself. And let’s take care of each other, too, especially when we need it most.
You matter. You are loved. You are valuable.