Collage of Amy Bleudel and semicolon tattoos

If Amy Bleuel's Death Leaves You Feeling More Helpless, Please Remember This

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Amy Bleuel When someone dies by suicide, it’s often accurate to blame stigma. If this person had only been comfortable talking about their suicidal thoughts, we think, perhaps they could have been helped. It’s the basis of every “anti-stigma” campaign, really. To end suffering. To pull people out of shadows. To save lives.

That’s why it’s a complex kind of painful to lose someone in the suicide prevention community to suicide. Someone who wasn’t fully in the shadows. Someone who didn’t let stigma stop them from speaking out about suicidal ideation and previous suicide attempts. Someone who actively spread messages of hope for others who face similar struggles.

It’s really hard to lose Amy.

If you don’t know Amy Bleuel, you probably know her work. She’s the reason the semicolon is more than punctuation for many who deal with both self-harm and suicidal ideation. Her nonprofit, Project Semicolon, brought together people who found hope in her message — that just like a semicolon, you can continue even when “your sentence” seems finished. The organization’s tag is: “Your story isn’t over.”

When sharing this news to the mental health community, my heart broke not only for Amy’s friends and family, but for everyone in the mental health community who saw the semicolon as a symbol of hope. My biggest fear was that those struggling upon hearing this news would feel like those who speak about suicide prevention were bullshitting them. I didn’t want our words of hope to lose meaning. I didn’t want people to lose hope for their own stories.

But all this proves is that suicide prevention is complicated, and we have a lot of research and work to do so more lives can be saved.

Suicide prevention work is done almost exclusively by people who have lost someone to suicide or who have experienced their own suicidality. Often, the calling to suicide prevention comes close on the heels of a near miss with an attempt, or the suicide death of someone we love, and it comes with urgency. In that way, it puts many of us in a precarious position: we so desperately want to save others from suicide that we forget to save ourselves. We dive in with our life raft before we learn to swim. — Dese’Rae L. Stage, suicide prevention activist and founder of Live Though This

I wanted to acknowledge the complexity of Amy’s death. I wanted people who feel hopeless right now to know we understand how much this sucks. We’re not going to pretend it didn’t happen. But we will tell you in no way does this taint the amazing work Amy did. It doesn’t make your semicolon tattoo have less meaning.

Amy fought against her own thoughts of suicide, and in doing so she gave so many people the opportunity to share their pain, their endurance, and their triumphs in a way that simultaneously spurred discussion and battled prejudice. For those of us in the field of suicide prevention, we’re reminded of the need to redouble our efforts, work harder, work more effectively, and to ensure people that hope, help, and healing is happening. —  Chris Maxwell, Advisory Board Member for OurDataHelps.org

I wanted to talk to other suicide prevention activists to get their thoughts on where we go from there. All echoed the same theme: We keep going. We keep spreading hope. We work harder.

Yes, Amy may have died by suicide. That is a risk for anyone who has survived a suicide death or attempt, like she had. It only makes her message more poignant and powerful. People in my field react with even more urgency to better understand suicide, and to innovate ways to save lives. I can understand why so many people in suicide prevention have a heavy heart today. I do, too. I’m going to be mindful, take good care of myself and others… and I’m going to keep my focus. On the day Amy died, another 120 people died from suicide, too. And each day it’s the same. My mission is to change that. A loss makes me fight harder to eliminate the blight of suicide in our communities. Amy’s mission lives on, even after her death, and it lives on in me, and thousands more.” — Dr. April Foreman, Licensed Psychologist and suicide prevention activist

If anyone is struggling right now, please take care of yourself. Please talk to someone about it. Please make use of the resources we do have. You can text the Crisis Text Line at 741-741. You can call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. You can call The Trevor Project at 866-488-7386. Or, consider donating your social media data for suicide prevention research at OurDataHelps.

I’ll leave you with one last quote from Dese’Rae L. Stage, suicide prevention activist and founder of Live Though This.

I’m guessing Amy didn’t know how deeply she affected so many people. I’m guessing she didn’t think there was a rescue boat for her, but I think it was just a foggy night and she couldn’t see her lighthouse. 

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, the Trevor Project at 1-866-488-7386 or text “START” to 741-741.

Lead image via Project Semicolon’s Facebook page

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The 'No Big Deal' Acts of Kindness That Helped Me After My Soulmate's Suicide

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As I have published in recent blogs, I am entering another phase in my life (after the suicide of my soulmate Steve in 2015 and my Parkinson’s disease diagnosis eight months later. As such, I am trying to find a new balance in more ways than one. What prompted me to write today is to express gratitude, something I need to do more often.

My heart was filled with thanks today — so much so, it brought tears to my eyes. This was precipitated by my experiences  that occurred over the past week or so. The common theme with these occurrences is they are all random acts of kindness by some people whom I consider to be very close friends. It is these good deeds that make me realize how lucky I am to have these people in my life. Having them to lean on gives me great comfort in facing some of the obstacles I encounter — obstacles, that in the past, I would have relied on Steve to be there for me through.

Last week, my friend Mike and his wife Ramona attended a Project 9 Line benefit dinner with me. I knew it was going to be an emotional night for me, and Mike and Ramona stood by my side and supported me through my tears. Mike is also a constant figure at my house after every snow storm, shoveling my driveway. I was not alone at the dinner, nor am I ever alone after a snow storm.

My cousin Terry and her husband Allan who live more than an hour away from me drove over 150 miles one day to get me some vegan ice cream and bring me some homemade soup. Since I am on a strict plant-based diet, I have lost a lot of weight. As such, Terry wants to make sure I put on a few pounds to reach a healthier weight. I am not alone.

This week, my friend Judy went with me to my future home to help me choose paint, carpet and tile colors. I have been in such a daze lately, I was pretty much useless in making my choices. However, Judy is so good at asking questions and taking notes, I knew I didn’t have to worry about remembering what I decided, plus I was lucky to have her expert opinion on color selections.  I was not alone.

Yesterday, my rabbit chewed through my computer power cord, rendering the PC useless when the battery wore down. Since I am so dependent on my computer and I knew it would take days for me to get a new power adapter, I reached out to my friend Bob, a former co-worker of mine from IBM. He offered to strip and tape the chewed cable to make it functional again. Once again, I was not alone.

I am so grateful for having these people in my life. They may consider their help to be no big deal. However, what they all have done for me is huge. As I have said many times before, I will always be lonely without Steve, but I will never be alone

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, the Trevor Project at 1-866-488-7386 or text “START” to 741-741.

Follow this journey on Slipped Away Blog.

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When My Psychiatrist Said She Couldn't Help Me Anymore

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I’ve been seeing this psychiatrist for almost two years now. She is someone I would not describe as empathetic, compassionate or warmhearted.

I noticed this at our first appointment, which should have been the cue to change psychiatrists, but honestly I didn’t care at the time. I figured all psychiatrists were this way.

In mid-December, I voluntarily signed myself into a psychiatric hospital for suicidal behavior. After my two-week hospital stay, I was required to set up a follow-up appointment with my psychiatrist to ensure I continued my medications.

As always, I was nervous to tell her I was in the hospital. Every time I’ve told her about relapsing, whether it was self-harming, having suicidal thoughts or another hospital admission, I leave the appointment feeling worse than when I walk in.

My thoughts began racing while sitting in the lobby. How was I going to word it? What tone of voice should I use? How is she going to react this time?

After waiting for 15 minutes, my name was called and I followed the receptionist into my psychiatrist’s office. While waiting for her to walk in at any moment, I was picturing her possible reactions to what I was about to tell her.

She finally walks in and sits at her desk. I hand her my discharge paperwork. She asks why I was in the hospital so I told her about the suicidal behavior.

She shakes her head and asks, “How many times have you been in a hospital, Andrea?” I’m very hesitant to tell anyone the number of times I’ve been admitted to the hospital. I’m embarrassed about it. “About four times,” which I knew was a lie.

“It has to be more than that.” Knowing that was the truth, I stayed silent.

A couple minutes pass by and she is looking through the discharge paperwork, while I am sitting there patiently waiting for her to say something and write my prescriptions so I could leave.

She hands me my discharge paperwork and says, “I can’t help you anymore, Andrea. Nothing I’ve done has helped you. I’ll refill your medications, but it’s a matter of time before you end up back in a hospital.”

Ouch. I felt my stomach drop. It took a lot for me to hold back my tears. I was speechless and didn’t know how to respond. 

She hands me my prescription and I leave her office to walk to the checkout window. She follows me and tells the receptionist I will not be scheduling another appointment with her. I didn’t say anything to her. As soon as I walked out of the door, I let go of the tears I was holding in.

Thinking back, I should have said something to her. Anything besides silence would have been a better reaction, but I was in shock. I didn’t know what to do.

I felt extremely depressed and numb for the following week or so. I stayed in bed every day, questioning whether my life was worth anything. I wanted to stop taking my medications because of her comment. Why would I want to get better when a professional lost hope in me?

I received a letter in the mail from her the other day. It was a basic letter stating I need to find another psychiatrist because she is no longer going to help me.

After reading the letter, I realized I can’t allow one person out of the seven billion in the world tell me I will never get better. That’s her opinion and I have mine.

Recovery is not linear; it isn’t a roller coaster that only goes up. We don’t just take medications or go to therapy and feel better for the rest of our lives. Roller coasters go down as well.

I’m in the process of finding a new psychiatrist. Someone who is empathetic, compassionate and warmhearted. Someone who recognizes that progress isn’t just uphill, but when we fall down there is always something positive to gain from it.

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, the Trevor Project at 1-866-488-7386 or text “START” to 741-741.

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

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Suicide Will Not Be My 'Cure'

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

I don’t want to die. I just don’t know how to live the life I have been given.

I don’t know how to accept myself as I am. Mental Illness consumes everything for me. Whether it is the battling of the everyday effects of chronic major depression, borderline personality disorder (BPD) and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), or the incessant search for more information on my diseases in hopes of relieving some of the symptoms, it is a 24/7 task. To be quite honest, it is exhausting.

Sometimes it is difficult to accept that this is my life. For the most part, I believe this is as good as it is going to get. I don’t mean to or even want to sound so negative, but it is my reality. As my therapist said, I believe I’m not going to see the day where I can say I kicked depression’s ass. I am about to be 43 years old. I have dealt with this every day of my life for as far back as I can remember. On a day-to-day basis, I just want an “out.” I don’t want to suffer through the ongoing treatment and hospitalizations to simply survive. I see suicidal thoughts as the only hope to an end to the torture my mind puts me through. All other hope has came and left for me.

I don’t want to “give up.” I have a loving family who loves me unconditionally and they are the reason I am still alive. I am not proud to say though that despite them, it still has not stopped the suicide attempts. Just because they say I am not a burden does not stop me from feeling like one.

But… the fact is mental illness hurts emotionally and physically. Many suicides are about wanting an end to these pains.

Chronic pain is hard and takes incredible strength to keep the will to live going. If you are fighting any type of chronic pain and are still here, give yourself some credit for what you endure. It’s OK to want to end the pain — I do too — but suicide can’t be the “cure.” We fought too hard to get this far. We will survive by taking it one moment at a time.

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, the Trevor Project at 1-866-488-7386 or text “START” to 741-741.

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

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The Email I Received From a Friend of My Daughter Who Died by Suicide

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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

Just the other day, my eldest daughter rang to say that a friend of Kathryn’s contacted her, to see if it was all right to send me an email. Immediately my heart cried “yes!” Yes, someone, talk to me about Kathryn! Yes please, tell me more.

As I got off the phone I crumbled. I felt as if I had been kicked in the stomach. The intense grief, as if I had just been told of Kathryn’s suicide, hit me with the full sickening force of that devastating morning.

She was real — someone other than me and her sister and brother knew her. Someone was touched by her existence.

I initially thought it would be a school friend. A friend who just, for whatever reason, felt the need to reach out that day, to make contact.

I was wrong.

The email was from a young man, living across the other side of the world. He had known Kathryn online. They met through Tumblr and four years ago, when they were teenagers, spent time sharing their passions, angsts and woes.

He expressed his concern that his email would stir up painful memories and he pondered his reasoning behind his need to reach out; he thought that closure was his motivation.

His email was moving and so very welcome.

Yes, I cried and cried. I spent two days experiencing the first onslaught of grief all over again. Even that was welcome. I found myself thrown out of that endless, dull ache of grief and into the absolute agony of loss.

She lived!

Kathryn touched the life of a young man a world away. On the morning of her death, he found himself having to sit through a lesson discussing Shakespeare’s “to be or not to be” and all he wanted to do was escape the banal routine of school and make sure the world knew of the beautiful soul he knew.

I have spent the last four years slowly building up routines and rituals to mark Kathryn’s place in a world without her. Each action, be it overt or private, says, “Kathryn was here, she was loved, is loved, will always be loved.” There are times those rituals will fill my heart with an ache so powerful that tears inevitably fall.

This young friend of Kathryn’s need not have worried about dredging up an old hurt. My life has reformed itself around a gaping hole, the place where Kathryn existed. I feel bereft of a limb. Every step I take is taken that way because she is not here.

At my age, this is not the first time I have experienced grief. My mother died when she was 58 years of age and my father 10 years after that. As we all must eventually do, we say goodbye to our parents; it is the “natural” way of things, the circle of life playing out as it should.

I remember curling up in a ball on the kitchen floor several months after my mother’s death. I held my father’s hand as he took his last breath and drove home with such despair, that to this day I’m amazed that I made it home unscathed.

Yet, to lose a child to suicide is an agony beyond description. To lose a child in any manner is unfathomable, even to those who have had to drown in such devastation — yet we must endure.

I imagine it is difficult for someone who has not had to caress the lifeless lips of their child to navigate social interactions with a person who has. All I can say is, don’t avoid that beautiful name.

If you knew the child, share in the memory of her or him — if not, listen to the memory being shared and use her name in your responses to those utterances.

She lived.

She was loved.

She is loved.

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, the Trevor Project at 1-866-488-7386 or text “START” to 741-741.

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

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How I Came to Believe Life Is Worth Living

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

So much of my life has been shrouded in darkness, consumed by thoughts I couldn’t control and overwhelmed by anxiety. However, piece by piece, year by year, I kept progressing towards the very simple idea that it’s a good thing to be alive and I should celebrate that. While this story of mine isn’t filled with giant triumphs, lightning strikes or one specific moment that changed the course of my life, it is an honest take on what recovery and hope have looked like for me personally.

I haven’t cut or self-harmed in 11 years — something I celebrate. I also celebrate anybody on day one or week one, because that’s how 11 years happens — one day at a time. So let’s you and I first make one thing extremely clear; recovery happens one day at a time, which builds into weeks, months and then years. Don’t ever feel shame for being on hour one, day one, or week one. Your victory is your victory and as bad as it is to let someone else lessen that, it’s even worse to let your own brain dampen the celebration party. So, celebrate today for whatever stage you’re in.

However, at the same time for me, until six months ago, I was still begging a God I was losing faith in to take my life and end my suffering. All I could focus on was everything mental illness took from me. My record deal, the friends I left, the girlfriends I hurt, the family members I let down, and most painfully the judgment I was placing on myself. I was consumed with negative thoughts, but I didn’t want to die by suicide anymore. This was a victory for me — not winning the entire war, but still a victory. I just didn’t want to be alive in the first place.

Here’s where I would love to say I started yoga, weightlifting, met the “right person,” found Jesus, started meditating or that something culturally relevant had saved my life and gave me hope. However, even though I do go to the gym when possible, I was a pastor, I do meditate, I am married and I even read cheesy self-help books — which all left me tired with a feeling I had expended all options to no avail — I had no hope to hold onto until I met my current doctor/therapist.

It was therapy — real, legit, hard, sometimes painful therapy — that gave me hope. Yes, I take meds that do keep me stable and checked off all the aforementioned “solutions” to mental illness, but it was therapy that made me want to live again. Therapy gave me a space of peace within the war silently raging inside my head. Therapy taught me I wasn’t “crazy,” wasn’t bad, wasn’t a failure, wasn’t less than anyone else, and I was just another human. I am another human sucking down oxygen from innocent trees, who was allowed to be broken but also allowed to have hope.

If I’m honest, it feels anticlimactic not to have a big bold claim about something that made my life worth living. I’m not out saving orphans, I’m not suddenly going on tour playing music, I’m not a vegan and I’m not even back in school like I dream to be. What I’ve learned in therapy has shifted the paradigm in my head. I spent my high school years cutting myself for a myriad of reasons. I spent my early 20s having moved past the desire to self-harm only to meet the desire to have never been born in the first place. At 26, I can honestly say I want to live and therapy gave me the peace, acceptance and the ability to feel this way.

I may not wake up every day like Captain America — insert super hero of your choice here. I may feel much more like Deadpool — insert self-deprecating and begrudging hero here — but I am at least thankful to be alive. Thankful I can play guitar and sing with the audience of my faithful and energetic Blue Heeler pup. I’m thankful for the many the breaths I inhaled while writing this. Quite bluntly, I’m just thankful I believe life is worth living, because of the fruit that hard work in therapy produces.

Find your path to recovery and fight for a life worth living that you can believe in. It will probably look nothing like mine on paper but I’m rooting for you every step of the way, as are all the Worth Living Ambassadors and the mental health community at large.

You can win this war inside your head that was never asked for. You can feel hop. You can believe your life is worth living.

Here’s to you and the story you’ll tell someday about what recovery looked like in your 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, the Trevor Project at 1-866-488-7386 or text “START” to 741-741.

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

Thinkstock photo via fizkes

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