When I think about which suicidal tragedy (because there are sadly so many to speak of) tore me up the most, it would have to be the moment in time when Robin Williams took his life.
I remember feeling shocked, sad and utterly afraid. Shocked because death is so infinitely final, sad because the world was robbed of so many more incredible moments from a great man, and afraid for the same reason as always when I hear about suicide – that maybe someday it will get the better of me too.
If you’ve followed any of my writing pieces, came out to my short-film movie premiere in 2019, or follow my podcast (and social media pages) you already know that I suffer from mental illness. I came out about my anxiety, depression and eating disorder about 7 years ago. It was one of the scariest moments of my life – without question. I was so afraid of what people would think of me, and how they would react and treat me from now on. Would I still be a reliable employee, co-worker, family member or friend. Would people trust me to take on hard challenges or simply think me weak in every way.
I won’t lie and say that things were wonderful and nothing changed, that’s simply not the case. I was judged. People were afraid of me and was thought of as the girl that people had to be “careful” around (through both actions and words) because I was fragile and couldn’t handle anything. I thought I was sad before I came out, but I reached a whole other level of sadness when I finally decided to stop hiding my illness. But, that was then. Today, thanks to a global pandemic, people are finally paying attention to mental health and encouraging those who suffer to speak up, speak out and come out about their feelings. Yet, let’s not all be fooled entirely. Are we speaking about it more – YES! Are we paying more attention that this is actually a disease – YES! Are we claiming to provide more funding and awareness – SURE! But in my opinion, it’s not nearly enough. We deserve more resources, more funding and more empathy. Although there is a broader scope on the entire subject more so now than when I came out almost 10 years ago, society’s ugly stigmas surrounding mental health are still very much alive and present – more than ever before!
Today (September 10th) marks another awareness day for mental health – Suicide Prevention Day. So, I found it fitting (and timely) that I came out again, with another revealing truth about my life. I know that It may come as a shock to some and validate others who may have always had a feeling that this was happening. Either way, it may be very difficult to hear. What I will say is that although these particles of my life are excruciatingly difficult to share, I do it in hopes that others out there (like me) can know that it is safe to speak out and share your stories. I do it to save lives - including my own.
Earlier in this piece, I spoke about how much Robin William’s suicide effected me. That is because I was drawn to his life for many reasons. Artistically, he was untouchable. Whether in a big role on screen, or playing his biggest part of all, as a family man – he was always a very compassionate and generous soul. Life was so important to him. That is, until the voices were too much to bare. All of this resonates with me, because I always felt like we were similar humans. When he committed suicide, I became afraid that someday the voices would get me too.
I have thought about suicide more times in my life than I care to remember. I have come close 3 times. By God’s grace, my thoughts and attempts equaled failure, each time. This is not an easy thing to admit, but it’s necessary. In the past, medical doctors and psychologists dismissed suicidal tendencies in my diagnosis because my main trigger to my anxiety and panic is the fear of dying. So naturally, a person who fears death would never attempt suicide, right? WRONG! Everyone is capable of it. I am living proof of that fact. This “side affect” of mental illness can most definitely effect us all. It’s time we understand this clearly.
In my case, all of my attempts came on sporadically. They were never planned out. I thought about it often because the voices in my head just wouldn’t stop, but I never carried out any sorted plan to execute.
My first attempt came about one day, while I was driving my car. It was such a gorgeous day outside but inside there was a storm going on that just wouldn’t pass or leave me. So, as I drove down different streets, listening to music – I just zoned out all of the sudden. The next thing I knew, this voice inside me asked: “I wonder how long you could close your eyes for (while driving) before you hit something” Seconds later, I was doing that. I kept closing my eyes while I drove. 1 second, 3 seconds, 5 seconds and so on. It became a game. The longest I did was 8 seconds, until I heard a loud horn and screeching tires. When I opened my eyes, I had completely gone into oncoming traffic on a 2-lane road – almost colliding with a few cars. My heart thumped and raced so loud and I was shaking all over. The Monster’s voice was replaced with God’s voice – begging me to stop. I remember grabbing my rosary that hung from my rear-view mirror and pulled over, crying.
My second “almost attempt” came one day, while doing laundry. For some reason, I noticed a rope, hanging from some in-door laundry cords in my family’s home. My dad had made a magnificent contraption to help him along with his physiotherapy at home, for an arm injury he was having at the time. Anyone would plainly see that this was a therapy tool, but my mind saw it as a noose. The voice came back: “You know, if you grabbed the stool over there, you could easily reach the rope and dangle from it, for just a second. Try it, see what happens”. I walked up to it. I touched it, I pulled on it; to test it’s strength. I looked at the stool and followed it with my eyes and placed it right underneath the rope. I imagined placing it around my neck. As it was about to play out, the other voice cried out – screaming NO! The next thing I can remember is that I heard voices coming from the hallway and I left the room. But, I looked at that rope like a noose, every day I passed the laundry room for months.
My third “almost attempt” was one late night in June, of 2019. I had been going through a depression episode that lasted for about 2 weeks. The tears and bad thoughts came so easily and the voices just couldn’t be silenced, no matter how hard I tried. In my heart, I knew I was in trouble. THIS, would be the time. THIS was going to be it. It was a hot and humid night, so I decided to stay in the basement and try to get a grip on things. Nothing was helping. I couldn’t call for help because I was afraid to scare my family, who were asleep a floor above me. I was too far gone. The voices kept at me. I was useless, ashamed of all the things I wanted to do in my life but couldn’t accomplish. I felt like I was nothing, had nothing, and would always be nothing. Things were never going to get better and I was so tired of being anxious and afraid – every single day. No matter what I did, I was always sad and feeling all alone. It was too much to bare. So I decided to take pills.
Every now and again, I looked over at the medication I had in my hand that I was about to abuse, and then suddenly my stupid phone started dinging. I had a message. At this hour? It was nearly 3 am. It was a guy I had just started speaking to a few weeks ago and exchanged numbers with. So, I answered his “hey how are you?” Then another one came, and another, then another still. It was none stop. I couldn’t understand why this guy was up at that hour of the night, continuously beating on my phone with messages. At first it made me furious. I was so angry because I couldn’t concentrate on the voices and his texts at the same time. And yet, I kept answering them and writing him back. Then, my anger started to turn to sadness. For some reason unknown to me, he kept asking what was wrong, that he knew something wasn’t right. He barely knew me, how could he assume something like that? But, he did. He kept asking questions and I kept telling him a little bit more about how sad I was, how I didn’t want to live anymore and that he should just leave me alone. He never did. The texts that night later turned to a phone call and before I knew it, the sun came up. I had cried to him and expressed my depression in such a raw way, but the suicidal feelings were subsiding and the bad voices had left. Shortly after the sun had risen, the guy said: “See, you made it! It’s a new day, a new sunshine. Just in time to celebrate Father’s Day today”. My heart almost stopped. I had no recollection of time, let alone what day it was. I realized in that very moment, that if this man hadn’t reached out continuously that morning, I would have taken my own life on Father’s Day. A thought I could not bare.
Suicide is a real thing – trust me. It’s not attempted or done in the form to gain attention or because we are crazy. It’s thought of, attempted and followed through with simply because we are in pain and can honestly see no other way out, or reason to live. If you’ve never experienced it for yourself, don’t pretend to even begin to understand what it feels like to have these dark thoughts, because all your assumptions would be wrong.
Many people think suicide is a very selfish act. That we don’t think of the pain and suffering that we will inflict on the ones who remain but the truth is, we do. We live with and wrestle off these demons every, single day – and we don’t know how to win! Medicine can’t always help and neither can doctors. We keep faith that we will feel better tomorrow and pray that tomorrow does come – but we can’t promise it. No one can. More than anything, we don’t want you to live in a world, simply watching us in pain. Knowing that there’s nothing you can do for us. That is honestly the worst part of it all – what it’s doing to our loved ones. We aren’t insane or weak – we are just sad.
When I woke up this morning, I never imagined or dreamed that I would be telling you this truth today, but here it all is for you – in black and white. I use every experience in my life as a tool to help others and to try and do better for myself. The latter is not always easy, but I figure trying is better than giving up on myself entirely.
If you are currently suffering out loud or in silence, always try to remember that you are not alone – no matter what that fuckin ugly voice keeps telling you. You are so worth this fight. Illnesses of any kind are the hardest things to battle in this life – I honestly believe that. The way I see it, we have only 2 choices: You can choose to live or choose to die. I hope and pray that we all choose life, every single day. I pray on it heavily. It’s anything but easy, but I hope we can all make it to the next morning sunrise. One sunrise at a time. Always remember that hope is faith holding out its hand in the dark
To those who know someone who is suffering out loud or in silence, please make a point of reaching out and checking on them frequently. With each passing day, new challenges arise – all of them different for everyone. If something seems off or their behavior is radical or different than usual, get them help immediately. Don’t just suggest they seek help, GET THEM HELP!
No one should ever be or feel alone in their mental health journeys.
If you or someone you love needs help, here's how:
The Canadian Suicide Prevention Centre
24 hours a day / 7 days a week