a group of runner doing pushups

My journey to the 23rd pushup began on March 15, 2015, the day my soulmate, Steve Tarpinian, took his own life.

Steve was an extraordinary man and positively impacted so many lives in the sport of triathlon which he pioneered on Long Island. Although, one did not have to be an athlete for Steve to make a  lasting impression. The way he was able to make people feel good about themselves and his uncanny ability to make people believe they were the most important person in the world were unforgettable. His kind spirit and good nature was apparent to all who met him.

I did not want Steve to be forgotten so I wrote his memoir. In an attempt to try and have some good come out of such a tragic loss, I wanted to donate proceeds of the memoir to an
organization that promoted mental health and suicide awareness. I named Project 9 Line as the beneficiary of the book proceeds.

Project 9 Line is a Long Island non-profit organization of veterans helping other veterans
deal with depression and PTSD by providing outlets for them in the arts (writing, music, comedy etc.). Steve, being the Renaissance Man he was, would have loved that approach. It was through that organization I was introduced to Airborne Tri Team. Airborne Tri Team’s mission is to promote teamwork and endurance sports to help veterans

It is through Airborne Tri Team that I learned of the staggering statistic that an average of 20 veterans are killed by suicide every day. The #22pushup challenge is similar to the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge in its attempt to raise awareness of this plight of our veterans. Ron, the founder of Airborne Tri Team, was inspired by Steve’s life. Now, when the team participates in a triathlon, they will gather together when all of them have crossed the finish line and do 22 pushups to honor those who served.

Then, they will do the 23rd pushup in Steve’s memory.

a group of runner doing pushups

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Steve was not a veteran, and although the paths that lead our veterans to suicide might be different than Steve’s, they shared the pain of hopelessness and they feared living more than they feared dying. The end results of suicide are the same — the tragic, sudden loss of a precious life and the loved ones that are left behind, feeling the terrible heartbreak of loss, with so many unanswered questions, wondering if they could have done something different to help their loved one.

I am humbled that Airborne Tri Team has chosen to honor Steve’s memory with the 23rd push-up. It is a privilege for me to join these veterans as they do their 22 push-ups to honor their fellow service men and women who have taken their own lives. The fact they add one for Steve after they finish a triathlon gives me purpose to continue to keep Steve’s legacy alive, and it gets me out of bed in the morning.

Follow this journey on Slipped Away.

If you or someone you know needs help, visit our suicide prevention resources page. 

If you need support right now, call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255

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Editor’s note: This post contains details of a woman’s suicide attempt. If you need support right now, call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255

I have written before that I struggle with suicidal ideation. But there have been times it has crossed over into more — when the passive thoughts of I could just die, and that would be all right started turning into angry thoughts, and developed into planning.

It usually starts when I’m actively in suicidal ideation, and then something happens, whether it be a fight with someone, bad news, or just going through an experience nobody should have to go through. Bam. I’m there. My thoughts are racing, and I can’t slow them down. My breathing gets shorter. I’m manic, and I’ll laugh it off in the moment, and then I’m depressed and I want to sleep forever, and suddenly I’m in a mixed state. Usually I’m this way for a few weeks; that’s when I start planning. I think about the bridge I live nearby and the pills that would put me to eternal sleep. I write suicide letters, crumple them up, and start again. I’m reckless.

One of three things happen. 1. It passes, and I go back into ideation, and I can manage. Usually this happens when I haven’t caused much damage and can still pick up the pieces. 2. I check myself into the hospital or start a hospital program that’s intensive so I can be OK again. 3. I attempt to kill myself.

I have tried to kill myself five times in my 22 years.

When I decided to kill myself, the thoughts stopped. They all raced to the same finish line, an answer. Death. I felt at peace with this at these times. It was the only answer that had made sense in years. I was OK with my self-inflicted fate.

When I attempted to overdose, here’s what happened.

There was almost a poetic justice to the actions I was about to take. I felt like everyone would stop hurting around me. I felt like I could almost save my name by taking this way out. Maybe people wouldn’t think of me as the person I saw: the monster, the pathetic girl nobody could love. So for a brief moment, I felt OK. But that feeling didn’t stay. Seconds, minutes, hours passed. I wasn’t at peace. I was full of regret. Tears started streaming down my face. All I could think is what have I done? I didn’t think of memories I loved; I thought about the people who loved me. I thought about the pain I would cause them to go through with this. I thought about who would find me and how much more hurt I would cause by them stumbling across my body. I thought about the things I could do differently, the words I would never be able to say. I would fight off sleep as best I could. And then the next morning, I would wake up. I was alive.

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Usually, I’d wake up alone in my empty apartment. And there’s just something about those mornings that chill me to my core. I had never felt so alone in my entire life. I remember walking around the next days, silent. The streets didn’t seem real, nothing felt real. I wasn’t able to bring myself to speak or call anyone. I ignored my phone. I cancelled plans. I just kind of hid. I wouldn’t tell anyone what happened. I kept it to myself, my dark little secrets. And it just devastated me. Nothing had changed since the attempt. I didn’t know if I was a failure or lucky to be alive.

It’s now been over three years since my last suicide attempt. In this time, I’ve gained a little clarity. See, I have a family now, a husband and child. I have responsibilities. And yes, now I have something to live for more than ever, I am achieving and reaching my dreams. But that doesn’t exempt me from suicide attempts. Just because my life is going better than it has been before doesn’t meant I don’t get suicidal. It doesn’t mean I won’t get into a bad place again. It doesn’t change the fact I have a mental illness. People always say after a suicide attempt that someone was so loved, and had so much to live for. And while that may be true, it doesn’t change the fact that they were struggling with mental illness, like myself, and are still prone to these thoughts, plans, and actions.

But I’ve also learned something else. I am lucky to be alive; I’ve watched too many mental warriors lose their battle, and my heart goes out to the fallen and their families. I’m lucky to have survived. I am a survivor for this reason. There is a reason I’m still here, or at least that’s what I tell myself. I think the reason is to change the world on how we view mental health and get people the help they need. I want people to know anyone can be hit with tragedy or mental illness. And suicide is something that happens with both. It may not be a good kind of normal to feel this way, but it is normal for a lot of us, as awful as that is.

But it’s preventable. It is treatable. And there are mental health professionals who can help. You aren’t a lost cause. Your life is worth fighting for. You are worth something, no matter what you tell yourself, no matter what awful people say. You are worth living. Please, keep fighting for your lives and for your mental health. I promise, I will be doing the same.

If you or someone you know needs help, visit our suicide prevention resources page. 

If you need support right now, call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255

Image via Thinkstock.


“They should just kill themselves.” “I’d kill myself first.” “I guess I’m just gonna go kill myself then.” “If you do that, then you should just kill yourself.”

Over the past few months, I have read or heard each of those statements, or several variations, thoughtlessly mentioning suicide on social media and in informal conversations. I have been digesting the use of this common and popular idiom while not wanting my sensitivity to the subject to affect my gut reaction, which is to demand political correctness.

Before my brother’s suicide, I don’t think I noticed these statements. In fact, I might have even agreed with, laughed at it or said something similar. But when you know better, you do better. Helping others to understand these statements are actually harmful to society is better than not speaking up at all.

Here’s why:

1. Mentioning suicide flippantly diminishes the grief of families who’ve lost someone to suicide.

Every time I see or hear one of these comments, I cringe. Some topics, like suicide, do demand political correctness and sensitivity.

2. Suggesting someone should die by suicide is cruel to the person — and his or her loved ones.

One poster on a popular social media website disagreed with a political figure’s beliefs. I did too, but that person has a family and his or her family would be heartbroken and struggling for years if they were to lose someone to suicide. These type of comments have a ripple effect.

3. Vitriolic comments about suicide, like some made online, make it assessable to hide behind your computer screen while spreading negativity.

If a person is not in front of you, then it’s easy to lack empathy and set a poor example with your comments. It’s also damaging to the balance of positive and negative relationships among society members.

4. Lastly and most importantly, using these statements frivolously makes it difficult to identify actual cries for help.

If true victims of suicidal thoughts make a statement about suicide, it is impossible to distinguish it from statements meant to be funny or dramatic for effect.

While I’d love to hand a print out of the detailed reasons to anyone who says or writes a nonchalant statement referring to suicide, I have found it sufficient to respond with, “Suicide is nothing to joke about.” Most people are contrite, especially if they know my experience with this topic. Acknowledging the misstep is the first step in educating others, who are simply unaware of the consequences to a familiar but dangerous idiom.

MIGHTY PARTNER RESOURCES

If you or someone you know needs help, visit our suicide prevention resources page. 

If you need support right now, call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255


We have all heard of sayings or idioms with these words:

“You are my rock.”

“Set in stone”

“Rock bottom”

“Stone dead”

“On the rocks”

“Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.”

Since my daughter Chaney passed away, I’ve had many stones weighing me down. Here are the stones I still can not let go of. I have been able to toss some stones away from myself, but some remain.

1. I miss my daughter every moment since she left me.

I can’t get this pit out of my stomach. She loved me. She always knew I worked hard to give her what she needed and wanted. I miss her voice. I miss the smell of her hair and the wonderful hugs she gave me. She is my first love, and my only daughter.

2. A deep depression has taken over my heart.

I never thought I would outlive one of my children. I certainly never thought I would lose one to suicide. This isn’t a just depression. I have post-traumatic stress disorder, so many things can send me into tears.

3. I feel guilty.

I am a logical person. I know in my mind it is not my fault she is gone, but my heart tells me another story. A mother should always protect her children. How could I not notice? How can I make my heart understand this isn’t my fault. I feel guilty I survived and she did not.

4. My heart is so broken.

Nothing in my life is the same after September 23, 2015. How do you mend a broken heart that has been torn to little pieces?

5. Suicide took my baby away from me.

I hate you suicide. I will fight you until my last breath.

You will not take another person from me. One by one, I will find my answer, and I will toss these stones into the Tennessee River. I will allow the water to wash away each of my stones, and the river will drag them down to the bottom where they belong. 

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AngelBlackmonStory1

If you or someone you know needs help, visit our suicide prevention resources page. 

If you need support right now, call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. 


At the young age of 5, as I would play and smile with my friends throughout the neighborhood, I was struggling with thoughts deeper than the holes we were digging in our sandboxes. While most of the kids in my kindergarten class were grappling with the question of what “m-e” spells, I was questioning situations I believed had the same answer.

Why do I barely ever see my dad? Why are my parents divorced?

My misunderstanding would lead to continuously crying myself to sleep for the next decade. I was always asked why I was crying or what a young person like me could be so upset about. I answered those questions with an action many people may similarly suggest to someone if they don’t understand depression or anxiety — I shrugged it off. Through my years of elementary and middle school, I didn’t comprehend the difference between myself and my peers, the same way I didn’t understand why a writer would choose a semicolon instead of a period.

When I began high school, I felt as if I was on the same playing field as my classmates, as we entered those halls as freshmen. I soon realized we may be on the same playing field but in entirely different stadiums. Although we were all dealing with physical changes in our body, I noticed many of them didn’t seem to be dealing with the emotional instability I had seen for the past 10 years.

The one area of my life I did see stability in was football. I had played the sport every fall since second grade. Football wasn’t affected by what apartment I lived in, where my dad was living at the time or even my emotional well-being. It was as if my helmet protected my brain from the negative emotional thoughts being introduced to it. While playing football through high school was a great experience, it encouraged me to question and understand the impact of my anxiety. How could I be cheered on and supported by more than 1,000 students every Friday night, yet feel so alone around those same classmates on Monday morning?

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Toward the end of my senior year, I was aimed at taking the next big step in my life. My parents may not have shared the same goals for each other but did share a major goal for me, to earn a college degree. I graduated high school in 2010 and accepted the extraordinary offer to play football at Earlham College in Richmond, IN. I believed changing my environment may change my depressive and anxious thoughts, but after my freshman year, I realized this was not the case.

At the beginning of my sophomore year, I turned the harmful thoughts in my head into harmful actions toward my body. I began cutting and harming myself as I believed I deserved the pain I dealt with when I was younger. This emotional stress soon led to physical issues. I was at a point in which I was vomiting four times a day, every day. I was confused and frustrated that my body was able to rid itself of the food that purposefully entered only 30 minutes before. Yet, I still had difficulty eliminating the thoughts of worthlessness that had entered my brain without invitation nearly 15 years ago.

At the beginning of my junior year of college, I transferred schools, joined their elementary education program and was determined to turn my struggles into a success story. Through the efforts of several non-profit organizations, I was able to pursue a passion I was just beginning to understand. Just like I did several years ago, I was ready to surround myself with nearly 1,000 high school students. I stood in front of them, with a microphone in my hand, confident I had a purpose for being there. I was on a mission to make sure no one would struggle with the feelings I had throughout high school. Whether my story allowed them to open to others or find encouragement through my words, they all left with words to share with themselves or others: You are not alone.

While completing my degree in Elementary Education, I continued to share my story at schools throughout my community, conferences across the country and even the pages within my notebooks. While writing on my own and reading others’ writings, I began to gain a better understanding of the punctuation question I had at a young age: why use a semicolon when you can just use a period?

The answer to this question parallels the answer to when fighting with the question of wanting to end your own life. There is always more to add to your life story, the same way that there is always more to add to a sentence. A semicolon is an opportunity to provide more meaning or even change the context of the words that have already been written.

A tattoo of the word "silence" and a semicolon
Alex’s tattoo

Once I reached this understanding, I decided to use ink to engrave this symbol within my skin. I was determined to add on to the words already written, and the life I had already been living.

As I sit down and write this, at 24 years old, I have not even had the thought of hurting myself since my hospitalization seven months ago. My semicolon tattoo will continue to be a symbol of encouragement for me when I am having thoughts of using a metaphorical period. My story is not at a stopping point. I am currently earning my master’s degree in Psychology on a full-ride scholarship, working full-time in a career I love and using my words to inspire the world around me. As my story continues, I hope to add chapters to the lives of others; the same way the semicolon added chapters to mine.

If you or someone you know needs help, visit our suicide prevention resources page. 
 
If you need support right now, call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255

I have crumbled again. Rock bottom. They say there’s nowhere to go but up, but they don’t know I’m too far down with no GPS or perception.

Times like these are when the hospital crosses my mind. I find it as difficult a decision as any. Do I go? No, I have things to do. I have to go to work. I have to take a placement exam for fall classes. I’m supposed to be a functioning adult and member of society. I’m supposed to know how to take care of my mental health by now. I’m not supposed to get to such a dark place anymore.

Where is the line of life and death drawn? Where does hope come from? When do we lose it? How does a hospital become your home? A place of safety and familiarity? Are the nurses my friends?

I don’t know. It happened so quickly. It always does. The first time I was hospitalized, I was 16 and petrified. I couldn’t believe what I perceived as an insignificant overdose was taken so seriously. Then, a couple months later, it happened again. Then, a couple months later, once again.

Those first few hospitalizations were rough. I was hysterical every time I was hauled in. I couldn’t breathe. I was doing everything I could to leave the world and everyone around me was doing everything they could to keep me here. I hated them for it.

Fast forward to three more stays when I was 17. Countless ER trips, welfare checks and cop rides between that time and since then. Fast forward to a year ago, I had fallen apart after graduating high school, and there I was again. Then, I was decent enough for awhile, but three months ago, greetings from behavioral health. Would you like a postcard? Or do we keep this hush hush?

Perhaps they come in threes and I ought to go. They have become less frequent. So perhaps there is also progress in that. Maybe two steps forward and one step back is progress after all. Maybe going to the hospital doesn’t erase any prior progress, though it sure feels like a failure.

MIGHTY PARTNER RESOURCES

I have been ill for years and so understandably it will take years to become something or someone else. People seem to forget that. It is a strange thing when you have an illness where hospitalization is sometimes necessary, but it is also frowned upon, shoved under the rug and troublingly stigmatized. I don’t think I want the hospital to be my home. However, I have realized it takes time, work and energy to change the cycle, just as it would for you to pack up and move.

Perhaps the hospital is not my home anymore, but I’m still a renter with a room. Maybe that is progress in itself. Maybe one day, it will just be that vacation you can’t afford, few and far between.

If you or someone you know needs help, visit our suicide prevention resources page. 
 
If you need support right now, call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. 

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