A woman kiising her husband on his cheek

As it is with many who lose a loved one, none of us want them to be forgotten. It has now been almost two years since Steve took his own life. With the exception of a few close friends, I feel people are weary of my stories and talking about Steve. My heart is already broken that Steve is no longer with me. The shattered pieces are fragmenting a little more as time goes on as he becomes a distant memory to most.

Recently, someone unexpectedly reached out to me. I received a Christmas card in the mail from a former Team Total Training (Steve’s triathlon team) member. The last year this man was on the team was 2007.

I was so touched by what he wrote in the card: “You and Steve are always in our hearts and minds. Thinking of you and Steve.” This is from a man who I did not know well and who last participated with the tri-team almost 10 years ago. I was so touched by his thoughtfulness and kind words.

This man’s card gives me hope that there are many others who will never forget Steve. However, the silence of so many can be deafening. Left to my own devices, I will ruminate and think everyone has already put Steve out of their minds, especially considering the circumstances of Steve’s death. In reality, these silent friends may still be trying to come to grips with Steve’s loss, and I may just be a sad reminder to them that Steve is no longer here.

Steve may be gone, but deep in my shattered heart, I know he will never be forgotten by those whose lives he so profoundly impacted. He was truly unforgettable.

For more, check out the author’s blog 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. You can reach the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741-741.

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Bottom line…Switchboard saved my life.

Switchboard of Miami is a volunteer organization with liaisons, contacts and links to nearly everything people need in there critical times of crisis.

They do not get a lot of fanfare, or publicity usually, but because of the thousands of people they have helped through the years they are very well networked. Word of mouth. From people just like me who at one time thought their lives were over.

One of the areas Switchboard has helped literally hundreds of people with is the horrible feelings of depression that can lead to suicide. Switchboard has stopped hundreds of people like myself from taking that drastic move.

And I’m one of those people.

The kind volunteer telephone counselor that answered the phone on April 13, 1993 literally saved my life. No joke… no drama here… just the actual facts of that terrible night.

You see I’m what’s known as a “recovering alcoholic.” From the 1973 to 1993, I was a compulsive drinker and steadily heading to the bring of total disaster. It took me till 1993 to finally hit my personal bottom, but when I did, as far as I was concerned, I’d literally and completely destroyed my life and everything I’d accomplished up to that night.

I’d been a successful performing musician most of my life. Not famous, just successful. I worked my “art/craft” for close to 30 years and never ever worried about any other kind of career move as I could comfortably afford to live the life I’d chosen. Drinking all the time day and night, partying with everyone, living essentially how I wanted to with no regard for anyone but myself.

As everyone knows who’s ever had to deal with the Devil as they say… things started quickly to go bad. Got worse and culminated one night when I’d been homeless for two years, and reliant on the charity of the few friends I still had to let me sleep on their couches, shower in their apartments and try not to drink every day for nearly two years and of course failing miserably.

Then came a day when I’d once again failed to keep my promise to myself and my friend to not drink. Got wasted and passed out. I had only one thing I was asked to do that day. 

I was supposed to go down to the elementary school a block away from the apartment and pick up and walk home a mutual friend’s small boy. She was a hard working waitress who worked the usual awful hours of a restaurant, and needed someone to pick up her kid after school, park him at the desk to do his homework till she got home. Short walk and about 1o minutes of actual human contact, and then I was free to pass out and continue to sleep off my drunkenness.

Couldn’t even manage that. At 5:30 my friend came home from work expecting to see her friend’s kid happily sitting at the desk doing his homework. Instead she found me passed out on the couch drooling and no child.

Yes, she freaked. Called her waitress friend to ask if she’d already picked up her kid. Waitress said no, wasn’t he there with you?” 

That panicked reaction was enough to wake me up and we both took off looking for the child. He was nowhere to be found at that moment.

At that very moment I made the decision. I could no longer live with myself. And in the usual drunken way people with alcoholism sometimes rationalize our thinking, I justified my decision to end my life with the crappy, self-serving ideal that: “It was one thing if I wanted to destroy myself with alcohol, but if my behavior had cost the life of a mother’s baby, then even God himself would never be willing to forgive me my trespasses.

And of course the next thing I did was go buy a quart of beer. I began walking and walking and walking. Crying openly and not caring if anyone saw this as no one wanted to be anywhere near me to begin with. I was filthy. Still to this day, I don’t know why some passing patrol car didn’t just stop… I was a mess.

Evening came and it got dark, and my mental state got progressively darker as well.

As I was walking, stumbling, crying and otherwise acting the fool, I saw an oak tree in the middle medium of the street and across from there was a Walgreen’s/liquor store.

That’s when everything became very clear and very easy. I knew in a flash exactly what and how to do it. No one would know or care, and at least this world would be rid of one more rotten son of a bitch. A bastard who couldn’t even be bothered to pick up a friend’s child from school a block away from where he was staying. Who would miss someone like that?

Then the miracle happened.

There was a phone booth. (Yes, remember those things?)  And I suddenly remembered “Switchboard of Miami.” I’d actually called them before but wasn’t ready to sober up. Remember the old comedy club joke.. “Suicide prevention, please hold?…”  But for some reason I just thought, “Call them…”

I called 911, and they transferred me to Switchboard. I don’t remember who I spoke with, but something in my voice made it clear I wouldn’t stay on the phone long and it was a serious matter. The operator knew better then to tell me to wait for EMS… they are wise and well-trained people there, and they are street smart as well. He did ask me to hold for just a few seconds, came back on the phone and told me directly that a local rehab would take me in and was waiting for me. Somehow, someway I knew this person was in fact worried about me and wanted to help me. Don’t ask me how my scrambled half drunk wet brain knew this, but it was something in the “tone” of his voice that said I care about you. Please don’t die.

I used the money I had for the pills, booze and Coca Cola to pay for a cab. It was the old  Dade County Detox Center, not the new fancy area of Jackson Memorial Hospital they have today.

But I made it there, and begged the lady at the window for admittance to please help me. They made me wait and wait and wait (I thought when in fact it was only a half hour) and took me in. I did my time there for nine days. While there on my third day they allowed me to make a call. I called my friend and she told me the child was fine. He had waited around for a while, then simply walked home using short cuts he knew and was waiting at the house when his mom and my friend showed up there. Miracles, miracles miracles. And for me daily prayers of thanks to God as I Understand Him for keeping the child safe, and pulling me away from the “Abyss.”

That was 23 years ago on April 13, 1993. I have not had one single drop of alcohol since that day. 

How did Switchboard of Miami Help me? I’m alive and thriving today, with the most wonderful woman in the world by my side, writing, recording our own original music. I am sober, and enjoy and relish every single second of every day I wake up. Think that answers the question.

I owe my life, my sobriety and all the blessings that have come since then to those wonderful, tirelessly hard working, dedicated beautiful people that make up Switchboard of Miami.

Thank you for saving my life.

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

If you need support right now, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or text “START” to 741-741.

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A few months ago, my 11-year-old cousin was telling me about how school was. It was the usual: This person is being mean. This person is my new best friend. The mundane things that go on in the fifth grade.

Then, he said something I never thought I would hear an 11-year-old say. He said two of his “friends” had told him to go kill himself because he did well on a test. This broke my heart. Not only because mental illness and suicide are something that hit a bit too close to home for me, but mainly because I wondered why on earth children, no matter what age, think it is OK to tell another human being to go kill him or herself.

I, of course, expressed to him how valuable his life is, how he is going to achieve so much throughout his lifetime and how not OK it was that his “friends” had said that to him. I am lucky because he is an intelligent boy who knows not to listen to nasty things people say.

What about the children who aren’t lucky enough to know how to block out the negative comments? Who is going to tell them they are worthy and deserve to be loved no matter who it is by?

I hadn’t thought about this for a while until I saw a meme today. Now memes have become a massive part of social media, and with children being exposed to social media from such a young age these days, they are also exposed to memes. Most of them are harmless, silly juvenile images with captions. I won’t lie. I love a good meme, but today, I saw one which made me realize why people think it’s OK to tell people to end their own lives too easily.

The meme was of President Barak Obama running in one direction and then quickly turning around. It was captioned, “When you’re about to kill yourself but you remembered some memes you didn’t post.”

People, not just children, need to be aware of how inappropriate it is to be so casual about someone taking their own life. People think it is OK to turn such a serious and sensitive topic into a joke. It has become something so casual that people send these jokes to each other for amusement.

Suicide is not a joke. It is not something people should take lightly. It is someone being so unhappy they no longer want to be alive. It is a difficult thing for some people to understand someone wanting to take their own life, but take it from someone who does understand — it is the most heartbreaking thing to realize you no longer want to live.

So please, educate your children. Don’t make inappropriate memes about a serious topic that needs to be talked about more.

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. You can reach the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741-741.

We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here.

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When you attempt suicide, there’s not supposed to be an afterwards. It’s supposed to be an ending, not the beginning of a whole new horrendous chapter. No one tells you what it’s going to be like to live through the aftermath.

This is what it was like for me.

First, there was the immediate trauma of the ER. Blue lights and sirens, rushing me to the hospital. The police, who’d taken me to the ER, standing guard outside my cubicle in case I made a run for it (not that I could even sit up without passing out).

Lying on a hospital bed with feet muddy from the riverbank I stood on while I swallowed those tablets, hair wet from the rain I’d barely noticed, knowing my husband, mother and friend had never seen me in a worse state.

Needles for blood tests, needles for the IV antidote to reverse the effects of the pills, needles to pump fluids into my body.

People, some kind, some hostile, all of them asking question after question after question that I didn’t want to or didn’t know how to answer.

Vomiting over and over again with such violence that I wet myself.

Collapsing on the floor of the bathroom and not knowing if I could even make it to the emergency cord to call for help.

Hearing voices talking over me, talking about potential liver damage, possible surgical interventions and realizing how badly I’d screwed everything up.

Being moved from the ER to the ward on a trolley, watching the ceiling tiles rush past above me, not knowing where on earth I was.

Wondering how the hell it had all gone so horribly wrong.

Eventually, I was given the “all-clear,” medically speaking. My brain was a different matter, but as long as my liver was working, no one seemed to care about that. There’s not enough money in the National Health Service to fund psychiatric beds, even in a crisis situation, so I was sent home. I remember being physically and emotionally wiped out. There was no chance of me taking my children to school. I simply couldn’t get out of bed.

Although I was lying down, I couldn’t rest, couldn’t sleep. My mind tortured me with flashbacks of what I’d been through. My children came and sat on my bed. I wanted both to hug them forever and scream at them to go away at the same time.

My husband had to take time off work to look after me, look after our kids and look after my medication so I couldn’t do what all my instincts were telling me to do. I berated myself that I couldn’t even manage to kill myself properly. What a total waste of space.

Eventually, I re-entered the world. The first time I went outside, it was as if I’d emerged from underground. My senses felt like they’d been turned up to max. Lights and sounds were almost painfully acute.

Standing in the school playground, I had to fight every instinct to run away. I couldn’t face anyone knowing where I’d been, what I’d been through. Yet, I couldn’t paste the smile on any more and pretend everything was rosy when it was anything but.

Slowly, things changed. Today, thanks to a psychiatrist, who was willing to take a risk with my medication, and a psychologist, who’s helping me unpick the aftermath of my attempted suicide, I’m facing Christmas in a better place mentally than I’ve been in for a long time. Yet, I still bear the mental scars of my suicide attempts. (Sadly, it is more than just the one I’ve described here.)

Those attempts have changed me in a way I can never undo. I’m a different person than I was before. I crossed a line we’re not supposed to go near. I prepared, when I took those tablets, for one outcome. The one I got was entirely different.

I’ve lived through an experience I wouldn’t wish on anybody else. I’m glad to be alive, something I once thought I would never be. I believe I have some residual post-traumatic stress disorder as a result. A suicide attempt is many things: a cry for help, a last resort, the only way out of unbearable pain. However, never let anyone tell you it’s the easy option.

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. You can reach the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741-741.

We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here.

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Even though it has been almost two years since my partner Steve took his own life, there are those who still do not agree with me talking freely about his suicide. Yes, the embarrassment and stigma associated with suicide is still alive and well. I have done a lot of soul searching and sometimes question whether publicizing the cause of Steve’s death is the right thing to do. In the end, I know Steve was a firm believer in helping others, as was evidenced by his career choices as a lifeguard, a coach and applying to FDNY to become a firefighter.

Now, Steve will continue to help others even though he is no longer with us. Bringing the cause of his death out in the open has already helped many. Whether it was from reading “Slipped Away,” my Facebook and website postings or my blog, other suicide survivors have thanked me for my openness. Many of them have said it has given them some small measure of comfort knowing they are not alone in feeling what they are feeling.

Other survivors have shared with me how they now feel empowered to talk about how their loved one died, even though it may have been years since their loved one took his or her own life. Keeping it a secret or denying it for so long had weighed so heavily on their shoulders.

Then, there are those who have shared with me that they have contemplated suicide. After reading about the pain and collateral damage left after a loved one takes their own life, it has given them pause. They told me they had previously thought their loved ones would be better off without them, a sentiment expressed by Steve in some of his final writings. However, my writings have convinced them otherwise.

The burdens carried by suicide loss survivors are way too heavy as it is, and having to hide the cause of our loved one’s death is way too much for anyone to have to bear. Who better than a suicide survivor to articulate the pain and sorrow that results from the suicide of a loved one? I have been given a gift to articulate my thoughts in writing. I will continue to tell Steve’s story as I feel people are helped by it. I believe Steve would have wanted me to choose this path so that something good may come out of his pain and suffering.

The cost of telling Steve’s story has been high in lost relationships, and I have sacrificed my own privacy. Now, when you Google my name, you will find all sorts of references to me, something a few years ago would have caused me to freak out. Now, I look at this in a positive light in that Steve’s story is reaching more and more people.

Is it worth it? Yes, and I will end with two quotes that continue to inspire me in my mission to raise mental health and suicide awareness in spite of what others think or say:

“Be the change you want to see in the world.” — Mahatma Gandhi

“When we deny the story, it defines us. When we own the story, we can write a brave new ending.” — Brene Brown

For more of Jean’s writing, follow the Slipped Away Blog.

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. You can reach the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741-741.

We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here.

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Editor’s note: If you experience suicidal thoughts or have lost someone to suicide, the following post could be potentially triggering. You can contact the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741-741

I was supposed to die on December 27, 2016. It would have been the perfect day; I had been dog sitting for the past two weeks for my best friend/roommate. It was with a concerned look on my counselor’s face, knowing that for two weeks I would be home alone, that I had to assure her I would stay alive for the dogs. They were my responsibility.

On December 27, my friend came home, and my plans, my ideas for how the day was going to play out had changed. I woke up feeling burdened by the thoughts that consumed me, that fueled me to write letters, to start making a “goodbye book” of all my favorite memories. I was sick. But I was not going to die that day.

Though what scares me, and in part why I’m sharing about this, is that my mind had been made up for months. I went to visit my sister in the States, my brother on the coast, reconnected with my dad, had good visiting time with those I loved… It felt like a perfect time to go. The depression fueled my suicidal thoughts, and my suicidal thoughts calmed me into thinking that “all will be OK.” My thoughts told me, I am a “burden,” I am worthless and unlovable. When I said goodbye to my friend two weeks before, I sobbed when she left. Right when I saw her car pull out of the driveway, I believed that would be the last time I saw her and her kids.

That’s the thing with suicide that I have been learning. When I lost my best friend in June, it completely debilitated me. It made me question everything and everyone. It left me with so many questions that will never be answered. It is hell. I have spent my whole life trying to make people happy, and these thoughts in my head told me, “Killing yourself will make people happy.” I believed this for months. So what changed? Why am I writing this instead of finalizing my goodbye note?

A week before December 27, I was working on a small project — just assembling pictures and writing out my favorite memories, and I got a message from an old friend. My phone lit up, I glanced at it and looked back down at my paper. All it said was “Hi, thinking of you.” It was like the cloud of “irrationality” lifted, and for the first time in a very long time I could see I had a choice. Chose wellness or die.

To someone who is in a rational state of mind, this might seem like an easy answer. But it’s been a battle, every day. For me, it’s a choice every single day. I have to sneak around the thoughts that fueled me and kept me going this long. I have to tell myself, “Well, you can always choose to die.” I know I am sick, but I am healing. I started eating well, doing yoga again, bringing the dogs for a walk twice a day. I started to tell my mind to start seeing things differently, to put all the energy I put into hating myself into building myself up.

I guess the point of sharing this is that there can be so much power in reaching out to someone — even if it’s just a “Hi, I’m thinking of you.” It might change someone’s life; it changed my life.

If there’s someone on your mind, please let them know. Spread kindness, and educate yourself. Educate yourself of signs and symptoms of mental illness; it’s real and it’s taking our loved ones away.

Be kind to yourself, friends.

Image via Thinkstock.

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 or text “START” to 741-741.

We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here.

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