In March of 2015, I learned two things. The first was that I had lost a coworker to suicide. The second was that I felt an incredible amount of survivor’s guilt at the news of his death, and I didn’t know how to deal with it.
You see, I have wanted to end my life many times. For years, I hid my bouts of suicidality from others, until after one particularly frightening evening when I finally managed to ask my husband for help. After a couple years of therapy, I thought I had left that part of my life behind. That is, until March of 2015. “Why did he die and I didn’t?” I couldn’t answer the question, and it tormented me. It seemed unfair. A twist of fate which decided life and death.
That fall I attended an evening suicide prevention talk. At the end of the talk, the presenter asked for all the lights to be turned off in the auditorium. She asked for those who could answer “yes” to her questions to hold their lit phones in the air. The questions started with “Who is a survivor of suicide?” and ended with “Who would be willing to help someone struggling with their mental health?” She asked everyone to look around the room, which was full of little lights. She said that her dream is that those who are struggling will see that they are not alone in the darkness. I wept.
That night I told my husband that I had to tell my truth to my friends and family. By keeping it within me, I just was furthering the profound silencing effect of stigma. The act of speaking about my struggle with suicidality was one of the hardest things I have ever done, but the comfort and understanding and love that swept back over my now-opened wound was profoundly healing and encouraging. I was already surrounded by lights, and I had become one of them.
Why do I walk? I walk for those who did not make it through the darkness and into the light. I walk for those still in darkness and unable to see the way out. I walk for those who propagate stigma, that they may see my face and know my name. Lastly, I walk for me, for all my fears and anxieties, for all my successes and hopes. I walk for the girl who wanted to die, and the girl who chose to live.
Suicide Prevention Program Coordinator, NAMI Maine