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Thought that I was young
Now I’ve freezing hands and bloodless veins
As numb as I’ve become
I’m so tired,
I wish I was the moon tonight.

My little sister Laura performed an aerial dance to this song by Neko Case on the trapeze last winter. It was a graceful solo piece, brimming with strength and pride. A month ago, Laura killed herself.

I am not here to advise how to heal from a loss. I don’t know how to do that. I do know it is one step forward and two steps back. I do know the pain can be so unbearable that I want to claw my skin off. I paw at my arms and chest and stomach, seeking relief. I can’t stand being in my own body when the agony rips through. There is nothing that will mollify it; I just have to ride out the wave.

woman at the beach

And then the ocean becomes calm for a while. I can laugh. I can work and dream and grocery shop. But still that dull ache follows me, whispering at me to steady myself for the next wave.

On October 29, Laura led our town’s Halloween parade and then took her life in Sunday’s early hours. She was 25. I can’t reconcile my vivacious, giggling sister who had enviable abs and adorable freckles with the suddenness of her departure. What I can do is find metaphors in our world to help me ride the waves of pain and despair instead of drowning.

Suicide adds complicated, twisted layers to grief. You can drown in the “what ifs” and “should haves” and “how could I have nots.” And the anger. That furious internal burning. I want to scream at her and shake her and ask her how she could do this to me, to our parents, to her friends, to her students, to her beautiful precious self. But mostly I want to hold her and help take her pain away. I can’t do any of those things. But I can look to the moon.

My sister and the moon are deeply connected. Laura shone brightly. People were consistently drawn to her beauty and energy. She hosted couch surfers, worked as an aerial artist, marched in protests, and backpacked through Central and South America. But all her life she had episodes of darkness too. Her darkness never lingered long but always came. Then she waxed again, brightly enough that people forgot about the moonless nights.

woman on the trapeze

On the night she died, there was a micro-moon: a new moon that was the furthest away from the earth in its orbit. She was swallowed by the darkness in her backyard, in the pitch black of a moonless night.

Everything in nature is a cycle. When the moon wanes, we know it will wax again. We know it will be back with its light to give us guidance and comfort and a little bit of magic.

Two weeks after Laura’s death, the moon was the largest it has been in more than 60 years. Referred to as a “super moon,” it appeared in the sky and on your Instagram feed on November 13 and 14. It won’t be back for a long time – but it will be back, as stunning as ever.

I’m adapting to my new label as a suicide loss survivor and what that means. For me right now, surviving means searching for peace in the worst thing I’ve ever experienced. It means stepping back and looking at life from a broader perspective. It means remembering our connection to nature and the inevitable cycles. It means not really knowing what life is about but knowing we’re part of something larger and more beautiful.

It means looking to the moon.

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

Follow this journey on MaryConroyAlamada.com.

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We’ve all run into them on the internet. Those social media users who seem to have set up an account for the sole purpose of commenting on posts and seeing how much of a rise they can get out of someone by saying something hurtful. Most use the term “troll” to describe these miscreants, but I say we call them what they are: bullies. According to Dictionary.com, a bully is “a blustering, quarrelsome, overbearing person who habitually badgers and intimidates smaller or weaker people.” This definition fits precisely what these volatile people engage in online. It also explains why I can’t just take the advice to ignore them. They say if you ignore them, they’ll go away. But their words are already on the screen. They’re out there. They still hurt.

There is one particular type of troll that cannot be ignored. Because of the field I work in, I pay attention to the stories I see on social media regarding mental health. Recently, I’ve been reading many posts and articles relating to suicide prevention and awareness. I’m astounded with what I see. By simply reviewing the comments on a video about a man in China who has made it his mission to help those who are thinking of ending their lives by jumping off a particular bridge, I can see bullies that cannot be ignored.

Comments were made in response to people pointing out that the video needed a trigger warning, as it showed triggering footage. Here is a snippet of what I saw:

  • “Trigger warnings are bull****”
  • “Deal with it.”
  • “F*** off, go back to your safe space, and learn to deal with real life.”

More horrific and serious comments were made relating to suicide in general.

Reading these words is heart-wrenching. I can’t even imagine how it may affect someone who may be contemplating suicide or struggling with depression. These “trolls” are sitting behind their computer screens, not realizing that there are real people out there reading
these words. Maybe they do realize it. Maybe they are just so heartless that they don’t care. I don’t like to think about it. What I do like to do is take action.

I speak up for that suicidal person who is reading those words and thinking, “You know what, they are right… no one would care if I was gone.” I speak out and educate others. I speak out and comfort those who are hurting. Sometimes, I just leave the link and phone number to the Suicide Prevention Lifeline as a response to someone’s ignorant comment. At other times, I provide information based on my experiences or I provide links to articles that give more information. I am sometimes met with more ignorance. But that’s OK. I’ve put it out there. I’ve educated someone. I’ve given someone a resource or a person to turn to for help. If we all continue to stand up to the bullies on social media regarding this issue, we can make an impact in ways we may never have imagined. We could even save lives.

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

Thinkstock photo by dan177


Dear New Survivor,

As a person struggling with the loss of my brother, I found there were little to no resources for how to grieve a sibling. Sibling deaths are often forgotten, misunderstood, or just overlooked. I too was guilty of overlooking my own grief. I thought, How can I be sad for myself when my parents lost a child? So here are a few key points I want you to remember when grieving a sibling:

Sibling grief may feel ousted by the grief of other family members.

After my brother died, people continuously came up to me saying how sorry they were for my parents losing a child. People would tell me they could not imagine what they were going through. This caused me to believe that my feelings for his loss shouldn’t be this strong. But luckily, my parents were great about asking me how I felt. Before I moved out, we would talk about him often. Now we reminisce about him and talk about what we think he would be up to now.

Going from two to one.  

If you are now learning how to be an only child, like I am, it takes time. Learn how you want to answer those dreaded questions. “How many siblings do you have?” This was a tough one for me. Do I say I’m an only child and pretend he just never existed? Do I say yes and just change the subject, not going further into the topic? Or do I just answer that yes, I had a brother and wait to see if the person wants to delve deeper into the conversation? For me, I am honest about it. I don’t want to hide the fact that I had a brother. A sibling is the first friend you make in life and often your longest relationship. You will witness more life events with a sibling than anyone else. You share genetics, family, and culture. You learn how to communicate with others through talking to your sibling. If people want to ask about my brother, I want to answer about him. I want to share how amazing he was and not feel embarrassed with how he died.

Surviving children may lash out toward each other.

Maybe you were closer to your sibling who passed and now your other sibling feels like they missed out on some of those moments with their lost sibling. Maybe your sibling was closer to them and you wonder why they didn’t see any signs of struggle. The most important thing to remember is that everyone grieves differently, and it is always better to talk about it with each other rather than holding it in.

You will be OK.

At first, it may not seem like it. But you will be OK. People who die by suicide aren’t doing it to be malicious or to hurt you. They are in such a great deal of pain and struggling that they feel there is no other choice. Suicide, mental illness, and addiction are diseases we blame people for. But in reality, people die from suicide just like they die from heart disease. Why it happened… that wasn’t your fault. Don’t blame yourself. Take everything one day at a time, and eventually, you will be OK.

Sincerely,

A Grieving Sibling

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

Thinkstock photo by Kosher Diva


Breaking the taboo surrounding depression, anxiety, and suicide is now more important than ever.

During the days following the 2016 election, suicide hotlines received a record influx of phone calls from people all across the nation vocalizing their anxiety regarding what the future holds.

Although it is unclear how the next few years will unfold, what remains constant seems to be a feeling of separation among us. With a Trump administration entering the White House, the people of the United States are more divided than ever.

Because of the overwhelming emotional responses arising due to the elections results, it will be easy for those struggling with isolation and oppression to sink into uncertainty. If not addressed, those feelings can lead to depression and even suicide over time.

Suicide rates are on the rise. There are more self-inflicted gun violence incidents now than firearm murders in the U.S. Overdoses are wreaking havoc on rural areas. LGBTQ individuals are at great risk for suicide. Veterans are dying by suicide every day, and depression in the homeless community is alarmingly high.

Suicide is not just a United States problem either. It is a global one.

Many people are dying alone, conflicted, and confused. All ages, races, and genders are dealing with pain – and we need to talk about it.

A major problem with vocalizing depressive thoughts though is the fear that others will not relate. However, when looking into the aftermath of the election, there is a sense that many are dealing with deep emotional pain in some way or another. This may allow those struggling with personal problems to see that it is OK to discuss their emotions.

Pain spreads passed political affiliations, gender, race, sexual orientation, religious differences, financial status, and the many other factors that divide us individually.

In my own life, feelings of anxiety and dread seeped in through a suicide attempt by a close family member earlier this year. The sudden change produced a wide range of emotions that was difficult to keep bottled down. This pent-up isolation eventually led to being fired, since I was unable to communicate the pain I was feeling at the time – thus my productivity dropped.

After all that, the importance of transparently talking about “taboo” subjects like suicide has allowed me to heal myself with the help of others. Opening up about my own experience unexpectedly brought in supportive people who had gone through similar events in their lives. This in turn provided strength to help those who are dealing with similar emotions to open up themselves too.

Even though the future is uncertain, we need to band together and reveal to each other that we have a lot of the same feelings deep down. Despite our differences, deep-seeded emotions are something that can bring us closer. Whether that oneness is founded in family connectivity, friendship, romance, or political activism, we must figure out what we can relate to. And talking openly about anxiety, depression, and suicide will allow those who feel isolated to bridge the gaps.

Those who are striking up the courage to discuss issues of pain must have the support of those surrounding them, which is why an understanding of these emotional subjects is important, especially after this sporadic election.

If done properly, our nation can begin to heal ourselves and realize we have a lot more in common with each other than previously thought.

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

Thinkstock photo by hektor2


“All done,” the tattoo artist says.

I look down and see how two phrases that have been rotating in my head for months have been permanently written on my forearms. “Just Breathe” and “Move Forward” written in typewriter font are perfect representations of surviving my suicide attempt.

Since attempting suicide, I have gone through an inpatient program in a psychiatric ward, an intensive outpatient program and a dialectical behavior program, which I am still attending. I instantly regretted trying to kill myself. Going through those programs, I learned what my illnesses do and how they have controlled my life, how to manage with medication and how to use new skills to continue to manage in a healthy way.

One of the biggest skills that works for me, besides mindfulness, is deep breathing. “Just Breathe” is a reminder to take a deep breathe before continuing with what I was doing. Past memories have had me trapped in a cycle of depression over and over again. “Move Forward” is a reminder to look to the future and stop wallowing in the past.

These two tattoos together remind me every day to keep going and keep working on my mental health. There is no magic cure for any mental illness, but with skills and medication, I know I can suppress the evil thoughts that flood my mind every day.

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.

Image via Thinkstock.

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