One day, when I was in my final year, I was swimming laps in the university pool. I paused to catch my breath at the end of a set.
“Did you hear about _________?” The lifeguard had strolled over for a chat. We’d gone to high school together.
“No.” I replied, willing him to go away. I only had an hour until my next class.
“He killed himself.”
I lost my breath again and had to be helped out of the water.
_________ was more than an acquaintance, but not quite a friend. Also from the same high school, we crossed paths periodically on campus and had brown bagged it with each other a few times over the course of our degrees. He was a bit of a loner and I had those tendencies too, we never actively sought each other out.
I steeled myself enough to attend his funeral, but I went alone and sat in the back. I didn’t pay my respects, nor did I sign a guest book. I needed to be there for _________ but I wanted to be invisible.
When I got home from the service, there was company over for dinner. I tried to sit with everyone for a while but had to excuse myself. My mother followed to make sure I was okay, but I wasn’t… I was falling apart.
I’ve written about this many times — rants, letters, poems — but these have all been to myself and were quickly destroyed. When I started this blog, I knew I would inevitably write about it here and then it would be public.
So, why today, you might ask. Well, peeps… today is World Suicide Prevention Day and the international theme is Stigma: A major Barrier to Suicide Prevention.
Stigma is the reason I couldn’t breathe in the pool.
Stigma is the reason I hid at the funeral.
Stigma is the reason I fell apart.
Stigma is the reason I never talked about my own suicide attempt from the year before.
I know it’s not logical, but I felt responsible for _________’s death. Maybe if I had been public about my past, we would have talked. If I hadn’t been ashamed, maybe I could have helped. Probably not, but I’ll never know.
But what if I talk openly about it now? Can I help remove some of the stigma that surrounds suicide and mental illness? Maybe this time I can help save a life.
I know this all raises more questions than it answers, but the rest of the story is for another day. Today, I just wanted to start talking.
It’s okay to feel desperate, and it’s okay to talk about it. Please, tell a friend or call a hotline.
I wish I had.
Where to find help:
If you are thinking about Suicide ….READ THIS FIRST
(includes links for American Crisis Centres)
Find a Canadian Crisis Centre
More about World Suicide Prevention Day