According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), suicide rates increased in the United States by 25.4% between 1999-2016, and over half of our fifty states saw over a 30% increase. Almost just as alarming is the number of these suicides where there was no diagnosed mental health condition, a whopping 54%. But suicide rates are not only on the rise in the United States. In Japan, it is the number one killer of children, elementary through high school.
Take a look at the infographics below pulled from the CDC’s website.
In the process of creating this blog, I’ve had the opportunity to share my story with quite a few people and as a result, they have generously shared their stories, those of friends, sisters, fathers grappling with despair, the search for meaning and suicide. My heart is so WITH those who suffer, and for this reason, I have decided to go public with my story. The whole truth, blatant and unapologetic.
Before we go any further, I want to be clear, I am not a mental health professional and this is a very complex issue. I am simply here to help facilitate a much needed conversation about mental, emotional and spiritual health by sharing my personal experiences. To do my part to break down the stigma around depression and hold space for those who have been impacted by the mental illness and/or suicide of a loved one.
I was one who suffered in silence for years, guarding my thoughts of suicide from everyone in my life with the exception of very few, but even then, they only knew what little I chose to tell. Most often, instead of picking up the phone to call someone, I would go to the couch, draw the blankets up to my neck and pick up a drink (or ten). I ran to romantic relationships to try to feel less alone and when they fell apart, my darkness deepened, threatened to overpower me, and sure enough I would inevitably find myself slicing my arm with razor thin shards of glass, numbing out with sleeping pills, marijuana and alcohol, ignoring the beeps and buzzing of my phone while I binge watched television for entire weekends at a time, recalling none of the plot lines of the shows I stared blankly at.
Self-loathing was doing the driving. Something inside me did not believe I was worthy of being saved, truly seen or deeply loved. I felt ugly inside and out, in every way. I had made the decision that I wanted to die. That my life was worthless. That I was not valuable enough to stay on this earth.
I buried my pain in busyness. In grinding from dawn till dusk. Even in my darkest of times, I was still getting up in the morning, carefully lining my eyes, selecting my outfits, dancing the proverbial circles in high heels, excelling in my career, clawing my way to the top fueled by pure desperation that if this didn’t work out, what else would I have? At least having money and an image of success gave me something to focus on, to build, even though I knew in my heart it was a house of cards. And on the nights when I wasn’t going to the couch to succumb to crippling despair, you would find me at the bar, trying to numb it all away.
We all have stories like this. Ourselves, loved ones. Even celebrities who seem to truly have it all are dropping left and right. We scratch our heads, baffled. “But he has a baby boy,” we say. “She seemed so happy,” we say. “I thought she was doing better,” we say.
The hard truth is that we never really know what demons live within others’ cranial depths. We can never know everything that goes on in one’s heart.
But as a society at large, we can begin to get real about the impact of depression and suicide. We can have the hard conversations and hold space, without judgement, for people to be where they are, no strings or pity attached. The cost not to is too dear.
I’m thankful that my story did not end too soon. In the coming days, I will be sharing more of my journey on this blog and I would love to hear yours.
I am here to say one thing: There is hope. I am living proof.
For the healing of all,