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To My Suicidal Self Who Needs a Reminder to Stay

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As I sat on the blue patterned couch in my therapist’s office, nestled in the middle of the soft couch cushions and white plush pillows, I twirled my ponytail holder around my wrist over and over again until I had successfully zoned out.

“Where did you go just now?” she asked.

“No where. I just got distracted.” I answered, as I stared at the sun beams dancing across the window sill.

But that was far from the truth. I had been thinking about life and death, the meaning of my human existence, my excruciating level of hopelessness and how I so badly wanted to end the pain, and ultimately end my life.

I’ve thought about that a lot lately. So today, when my therapist gave me the homework assignment to write letters to myself that I can read during difficult or hopeless times, I thought: what better letter to write than a reminder to stay.

Here it is — my reminder letter to stick around, at least for now:

To the me that needs reminding,

I know things have not been easy lately and the pain often feels like it is too much to bear. Death seems like a more palatable option than sticking around and hoping that things will get better or become easier. You tell yourself that you are broken, chronic and inherently flawed — messages that you truly believe define the very core of your being. You can’t see past the darkness that encircles you day in and day out. The coveted light at the end of the tunnel? It is nothing more than an elusive carrot you are always chasing.

You grow weary from fighting a relentless battle with mental illness. Anyone could understand why you’d be exhausted. It makes sense — just like wanting an end to the pain makes sense. Depression has a way of shrinking your world down to a single, solitary room. You exist within the four walls of your bedroom, barely able to make it out of bed. What you don’t realize is that there is a world behind the dark, drawn curtains that is big and bright and waiting to be discovered. Although it seems terrifying right now to think about embracing the noise, and the chaos, and the light — I promise you it won’t always feel so overwhelming. You just have to hold on and stick around long enough to see that for yourself.

Stay.

Stay when you feel like giving in. Stay when everything in you is screaming for relief. Stay long enough to see the sparks ignite into flames as hope burns within you once again. Stay one more day. Stay to see another person smile. Maybe, one day, it will be you who smiles. Stay to watch another sunset and breathe deep as you take in the cotton candy hues covering the vastness of the sky. Stay awhile, until you get the chance to make your voice heard. You have so much to say and can be a powerful force if you allow your words to carry. Stay so that you can experience one more bad cup of coffee. At least you will know that you have feelings about something. Stay so that you can take one more trip and collect photographs in the form of memories. Stay until you cry one more time. You will be reminded that you are human, and that being human is messy and painful, and occasionally beautiful. Stay so that you can hold someone’s hand. Stay to see the changes happening all around you. Stay when your heart is full and you feel alive, but aren’t sure those feelings will last. Stay to see them through. I urge you to please stay. The world needs more of you, even if you can’t believe that right now. You are worthy and loved and deserve to take up space.

sunset and ocean

So, stick around a little while longer.

Own your space.

Use your voice.

Experience life in all of its messy and broken beauty.

Leave your mark on this world by being around to impact it, no matter how small you may feel your impact can be.

You will be OK. Maybe not today or even tomorrow, but if you choose to stay; then you get to see firsthand, the incredible strength, power and bravery you possess. You, my dear, are a brave one.

Stay.

See you tomorrow,

The me that makes it

Leaving often feels like the safer choice. It would mean relief, finality and an ending to a story I never wanted to own. It is vital, especially when those thoughts feel all encompassing, to have reminders to stay; to remember what it is I show up for, no matter how ridiculous or silly it might sound to someone on the outside. My reasons to stay may look different than yours, and that is OK. Create your own reasons, keep them close and access them when you believe that leaving sounds more appealing than staying. As my therapist once told me, “The world would take a hit if you weren’t here, because you are inherently worthy.” The world needs us, even if we can’t believe it just yet. Stick around a little while longer.

Follow this journey here.

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 “HOME” to 741-741. Head here for a list of crisis centers around the world.

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

Unsplash photo via Ewelina Karezona

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How to Help a Friend Who Is Feeling Suicidal

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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.

This is a hard post to write. This topic is something really close to my heart, but it’s also something that needs to be talked about. You see, September 10th to September 16th is World Suicide Prevention Week, and according to statistics and research, The World Health Organization estimates that close to 800,000 people die by suicide each year – that’s one person every 40 seconds. That is a scary huge number of lives lost each year and a number that needs to be lowered. And one of the way to help lower this number is to bring this subject into light, to talk about it, to break the stigma around it.

From someone who has dealt with suicidal thoughts, I can tell you how hard they are to live with. It takes every power and strength in one person to not act when these lies are constantly in your head. And yes, I know the voice and the thoughts of “it’s easier to just end your life,” or “this is not worth it,” “this is too hard and it hurts too much,” etc. They are all lies and none of it is true. But the thing is, when you’re in that moment, you start believing it and you can’t tell what is truth or lies anymore. It consumes your mind and it just takes over. So I just want to say, if you are struggling at the moment with suicidal thoughts, let me tell you that it does get better; maybe not easier straight away, but you have the strength in you to get through this. You are braver and stronger than you think you are. Please don’t give up. Reach out and let someone know what’s happening. You don’t have to go through this alone. And please please please know you are worth fighting for. Your life matters.

For those who are on the other end of the conversation, where you are listening to someone telling you about their suicidal thoughts, or you sense something is up and you are unsure what to do, here are some thoughts and tips I would like to share with you. I hope they will help you.

1. Please just start a conversation with them. Ask them: “Are you OK and is everything going OK?” Genuinely ask them and don’t accept “I’m OK” or “I’m fine” as an answer if you sense something is wrong. Ask further, try to get them to talk. Also, please make sure you don’t ask when you’re passing by in the corridor or in a group setting. They’re not going to be able to open up and share when there’s no privacy. Instead, pull them aside and get them one on one so they are more comfortable with you. This will help them and allow them to share with you if something is up.

2. Do not make them feel bad for feeling suicidal or having suicidal thoughts. Trust me, they do not want to be feeling like this, so you judging them does not help at all and it actually only makes it worse.

3. Don’t try to fix them. In that moment, they most probably not wanting someone to answer them, but just need someone to listen to them and let them know they’re not alone. So be that person. Be their listening ear, their shoulder to cry on.

4. Please don’t jump to conclusions. Let them fully express their thoughts and don’t bring your perceptions or thoughts into the conversation and where you think they’re at. As the listener, don’t label them or what they’re feeling; instead, allow them to word it themselves.

5. Don’t leave the conversation until they’re feeling better, and both you and the person are assured and believe the person is safe and won’t cause harm to themselves.

These five things have helped me to be where I am today — alive and writing this. So, if you are on the listening end, I hope this helps you to help those in your world.

If you are reading this and you are currently struggling with suicidal thoughts, I hope you know you are not alone in this and your story is not over. There is hope for you.

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 “HOME” to 741-741. Head here for a list of crisis centers around the world.

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

Thinkstock photo via MargaretW

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Why I'm So Glad I Didn't End My Life 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.

There have been many times in my life where I’ve been ready to die by suicide. Sometimes the world gets to be a little too loud for me. The walls seem to be closing in and it feels as though ending my life may be the only option. Here’s why I’m so glad I fought through those suicidal thoughts.

If I had ended my life all the times I wanted to, there are so many things I wouldn’t have gotten to experience. Like meeting my husband, whom I adore. Or meeting my dog, who I’ve found is my soulmate. Or meeting my best friend, who makes me laugh like no other. I would have missed out on my parents’ 30th wedding anniversary, which gives me hope love can last forever. Love. How important love is. Without it, what would we, as humans, have to live for? I would have missed out on the cool wind on my face on a beautiful fall day. I wouldn’t have been able to say goodbye to a dog that changed my life, when her life so suddenly ended. I wouldn’t have been hospitalized and realized I needed to change my way of life and my way of thinking. I would have missed so much.

Don’t get me wrong. There are still so many days, (too many days), where I wish my life would end. Sometimes it’s hard to see the point in continuing on. Paying bills, stressing about work, worrying about money. But then I hear a song I find so beautiful, it makes me cry. Or I wake up to a beautiful sunrise and listen to the birds singing their morning song. Or I see my husband smile, simply because he is seeing me after a long day at work. Or I watch my dog stick his head out the window in the car and I realize how little he has to care about. I think to myself: there’s no reason I can’t be as happy as he is with his head out the window and the wind in his face.

If I had ended my life all the times I wanted to, I wouldn’t be here right now  I wouldn’t be able to share my story with other people who struggle with depression, bipolar disorderanxiety, etc. I would be somewhere I’m not even sure exists.

What lies ahead is what keeps me going the most. Knowing that one day I will have a child, or knowing I get to grow old with my husband and some day meet our grandchildren. All the dogs I will get to own. All the beautiful sunsets I will get to see. But most importantly, seeing the person I will grow to be. Seeing the person who will fight tooth and nail to beat this mental illness. I am stronger than my suicidal thoughts. And I will continue to fight those feelings for, I’m sure, the rest of my life.

To anyone struggling, please think of all the things you will leave behind. Every beautiful day with perfect weather, every person you have yet to meet. The jobs you could have that may change your life, like mine has. I have met so many wonderful people I wouldn’t have met had I ended my life all the times I wanted to. There is hope. There is always hope. Please remember that.

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 “HOME” to 741-741. Head here for a list of crisis centers around the world.

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

Photo by Jurica Koletić on Unsplash

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When Suicidal Thoughts Leave You Wondering What Your Purpose Is

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I suppose it’s a little ironic how much I look forward to World Suicide Prevention Day (Sept. 10). Back when I needed it most, I didn’t even know such a day existed. Now I wait around all August for the announcement of To Write Love On Her Arms’ theme. This year, much to my delight, the theme is Stay. Find out what you were made for. That struck a chord with me.

The first time I seriously considered ending my life, that was the question I pondered. What was my purpose? As many people do, I turned to the internet, trying to find someone who understood. I saw little blurbs about how time passes and you become a different person — someone you never could have imagined. A little flicker of hope made me take a pause in my plans and contemplate just what my future might be.

Fastforward 10 years or so, and I am a completely different person. Never would I have imagined the strength I found inside myself so many times over. I’ve faced demons, battled the darkness and I’ve changed my mind about where I’m going plenty of times.

I know that out there somewhere is a person who is where I was then. Someone is thinking about what their life might be — if their life is worth it. I’ve been there a couple of times, and I always kept fighting. I can’t tell them what their life will end up being, but I can tell them that there’s something out there. If you can tap into the pain and suffering and give it a purpose in your life, you’ll find out what your purpose is.

There are a million decisions to make, some of them are small and some are huge. Making the choice to keep going, even when the way is dark and you don’t see any options, is the biggest decision you can make. It will force you to keep making that decision over and over until you finally make a habit of living. It’s in that hindsight that you find little rainbows peeping out. You’ll find your purpose — even if you don’t believe it yet.

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 “HOME” to 741-741. Head here for a list of crisis centers around the world.

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

Unsplash photo via Samuel Zeller 

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3 Things I Wish I Was Told After My Grandad's Suicide

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When I was 9 years old, my grandad passed away. At first, my parents were reluctant to talk to me about how he died. However, after a lot of questioning, they finally admitted to me what had happened: he’d died by suicide.

When I was first told this piece of information, I was baffled. My whole life I’d been taught that people died from heart attacks, from cancer and from strokes. But… suicide? That was something we never talked about.

After my grandad’s death, I had so many questions, yet nobody to provide me with any answers. My only knowledge about suicide was based on stories I’d seen in the media: stories that were sensationalist and demonized the mentally ill. This meant that, overall, I was pretty clueless.

Looking back, I wish I’d known more about suicide. I wish I learned about it in school and had people I could talk to in-depth about it with. I wish media portrayals had been truthful and factual. More than anything, I wish someone had taught me these three things:

1. Suicide isn’t selfish.

For a long time, I couldn’t understand why my grandad — a man with such a loving family and such a “fun” life — would kill himself. I knew he’d been dealing with physical health issues for a couple of years, but I honestly thought the “good” in his life outweighed the “bad.” I loved hanging out with my grandad. He was quirky, entertaining and loved writing just as much as me.

Therefore, when I found out how he died, one of the first thoughts I had was: “Why would he do this to me?” I thought he’d acted selfishly, considering his own “feelings” more important than the “feelings” of his loved ones. For that, I slightly resented him.

Since then, I’ve felt suicidal several times myself, and I’ve come to learn that suicide is far from selfish. Before I attempted suicide last year, one of the main thoughts I had was: “I don’t want to be a burden on others anymore. I want them to be able to continue their lives without constantly having to worry about me.” I thought that by dying, I would be “freeing” the people that I loved.

This shows that suicidal people are far from selfish. I just wish that, when my grandad died, someone had told me that. I wish someone had informed me that people who die by suicide are usually thinking of others way more than they’re thinking of themselves. They could believe that their death will “help” others and so, for them, suicide might be considered a “selfless” act.

2. Even those with a “perfect” life can die by suicide.

One of the things that confused me most when my grandad died was that he had a “brilliant” life. He was financially stable, happily retired and was surrounded by family and friends that thought the world of him. He spent a lot of his life traveling and often told tales of the great sights he had come across when exploring the world. On the outside, his life seemed pretty perfect. That’s why, when he died, I couldn’t wrap my head around it. Why would someone with such a “perfect” life “choose” for it to end?

This is a question that is often raised when celebrities die by suicide. From Robin Williams to Chester Bennington, over recent years, the media has been filled with stories about “stars” who have died by suicide. Each time one of these stories pops up, there are always people who respond by questioning how a person with such a “perfect” life could “choose” to die in this way. Surely a person who has a perfect family, their dream career and financial stability in their life shouldn’t want it to be over, right?

From personal experience, I can tell you how wrong this is. Looking from the outside, my life seems pretty great. I have incredible friends and family. I’ve never had any financial difficulties and I’ve always done well when it’s came to academic work. However, that hasn’t made me immune to suicidal thoughts.

For me, suicidal thoughts tend to come about when I’m going through a depressive episode. These “episodes” aren’t caused by particular factors in my life. In fact, they often pop up at times when everything else in my life is going well. Even at times where my life seems “perfect” on the outside, it can be a completely different story on the inside.

I wish that, when my Grandad died, someone had told me this. I wish I had known that even if a person appears to have a “great” life externally, this may not mirror how they feel internally.

3. Men die by suicide too.

When my grandad died, I was particularly shocked because I’d never heard of a man dying in this way. When I’d seen media portrayals of suicide, they’d all been centered around female characters. When suicides were reported in the news, it was usually women who had lost their lives.

The trouble is, it isn’t just women who die by suicide. In fact, men are three times more likely to die by suicide than women. When it comes to men under the age of 45, they are more likely to die by suicide than any other way. Pretty shocking, right?

Since my grandad’s death, I have learned about more and more men who have felt suicidal. For instance, I’ve spoken to male friends who have admitted that they struggle with suicidal thoughts. A couple of these friends have even ended up in the hospital after suicide attempts.

As proven by my grandad, men can seriously struggle with mental health issues. They, too, can die by suicide. To address this, we need to do all we can to raise awareness about men’s mental health, and tell our male friends that it’s OK to talk.

There is nothing “weak” about seeking help. There is nothing “unmanly” about feeling suicidal. If we want to lower the number of male suicides, we need to accept that this is a serious problem that needs to be addressed. We need to ensure that we’re there for our male friends and that we tell them it’s OK to seek help. We need to stop phrases such as “man up” when talking about emotions.

Just because a person is a “man,” doesn’t mean they can’t die by suicide. Heck, even if a person is a wealthy man with the “perfect” life — that doesn’t make them immune. There isn’t a certain “type” of person who dies by suicide. Anyone can be affected.

That’s why we must ensure that we offer support to everyone, regardless of their background. We must educate people about suicide and offer help to those in distress.

Sadly, I can’t bring my grandad back. But I can carry out work in his honor. I can do everything possible to raise awareness about suicide, and I ask you to please do the same.

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 “HOME” to 741-741. Head here for a list of crisis centers around the world.

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

Thinkstock photo via Liderina

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10 Years Later, I Still Think About My Loved One's Suicide Every Day

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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.

Ten years. That’s how long it’s been since I’ve seen his face, heard his laughter, hugged him goodbye.

I was 18. I remember it clearly: the sound of the road under my car, Rilo Kiley and my cat air freshener hanging from the rearview window. The sun was shining, the sky was blue. I had my windows down. I was smiling. I thought about how free I felt to be done with my first year of college. My whole life was ahead of me. Adulthood. Real freedom. I was on my way home from spending the weekend at my boyfriend’s apartment in Madison. I was coming home to Mia, who was then just a kitten, and to my parents, and to my little brother who was only eight.

When I walked in the door, my parents’ phone was ringing. I hadn’t even taken my shoes off yet or said a proper hello. My dad was already reaching to answer it and I could tell almost immediately something was wrong. “What?” He quickly headed for the bathroom and closed the door tightly behind him. Something was definitely wrong. I threw my backpack down and waited with my mom. “What! What!” she yelled. Finally, she opened the door herself and my dad was standing there with a look on his face I’ll never be able to shake or describe accurately. This complete horror in his eyes, the phone still in his hand. Tears forming, for me, for her, for us, for him.

“Erik killed himself.”

It replays over and over and over and over.

After 10 years, that sentence still haunts me. It hits me when I’m standing in line for coffee, when I’m watching a movie, when I’m sitting in class. I can see my dad’s face, hear my mom’s scream. I close my eyes until it’s gone. Time helps, but it doesn’t always heal.

I slept and I didn’t sleep. My mom didn’t leave the couch. We sobbed, we ate in silence. My mom left to be with my aunt, and I couldn’t stomach facing it. How could I ever go back there without him there to greet me? How could I possibly attend his funeral? How could I ever live a normal life again? I forgot what it felt like to be free, to have the same feeling I had in my car just days earlier. I was trapped in a nightmare.

Suicide. Losing someone this way is unlike any other death. To imagine someone you love going through the steps to end their life on purpose is not something I’d wish on anyone. These series of questions flood your brain at all times. You go through stages of helplessness, desperation, anger. Nobody fully understands this type of death unless they have personally lost someone the same way. There’s stigma, labels, that same look of pity. Questions like, “Did you know he was depressed?” “Why did he do it?” “How did he do it?” “Did he leave a note?” You’re in a constant state of numbness and surrounded by the unknown.

I stood in the hallway at his funeral while Sondre Lerche played from his iPod that my aunt set up for the service. All of his favorite music. All music I introduced him to. Songs I’ve sent him, mix CDs I’ve made for him. I stood by the window and watched the storm rolling in while “Wet Ground” played over the speakers. Tornado sirens were roaring outside and all I could think was how appropriate it would be for us all to be taken away in the tornado. I wanted to find it. I wished for it, even. I was calm.

I miss him. I’ve watched his little brother grow up, turn 16, and then suddenly become older than Erik was when he died. I’ve watched my little brother do the same. My nephews are all almost older than Erik now. Time passes fast but slow. Where did 10 years go? How can a decade have passed, but these memories still feel like yesterday?

Erik liked the feeling of getting into a hot car in the summer, feeling that radiating warmth, if only for a second. He liked disc golfing. He loved music. He was kind, funny, smart. We were going to travel. We were going to do so much. When he left, he took a part of me with him. I’ve grown up, but not a day goes by that I don’t think of him.

You never forget the people you’ve lost. They come in and out of your life all the time because you see pieces of them everywhere. I’ve seen Erik on street corners, in groups of teenagers, in movies. I even saw him playing in a band once and had to run to the bathroom to cry. (I’ll never forget the sweet girl who didn’t ask any questions but just stood there and hugged me until I was OK.) Erik has come to me in my dreams over the years, too. Sometimes he’s knocking on my door, desperate for help, on the run from something but never able to tell me why. Other times we’re at the beach or mini golfing and it’s like he never left. For a year after he died, I would wake up and have this strange feeling that it never actually happened. I wanted to believe he really did run away. I thought up every possible scenario for other ways in which maybe he could have died. Anything but suicide. I just couldn’t make sense of his death or why he would choose to die. It’s something I’ll struggle with for the rest of my life.

Some days it doesn’t feel like it’s been that long. Others, it feels like it’s been an eternity since I’ve seen him. My heart aches for him all the time. I never stop wondering what could have been, I’ll never forgive myself for not being able to help and life is always a little bit foggy.

But I guess that’s why they call people like me, “survivors.” Somehow, some way, we survive in a world full of unknowns. We keep going, we pick ourselves up over and over and over again. The pain is deep, haunting and always hard to talk about. But I have hope.

My hope is that someday, we’ll be able to talk about mental health in a way that isn’t shameful. I hope the dark cloud that depression brings will finally be understood. I hope someday, people will stop saying, “get over it,” when talking with or about someone who struggles with depression. Because let’s be honest… Nobody wants to be depressed. Nobody chooses to be depressed. Depression isn’t fun. If it was something a person could just “get over,” don’t you think they would?

I made a promise to myself earlier this year to be honest and careful with myself. I want to take care of myself and pay attention to the areas of my life I’ve neglected for so long. My own mental health is one of those areas. So, I needed to practice what I preach. I started seeing a therapist for the first time ever last month and I finally feel like I’m breaking open the parts of myself I’ve tried so hard to ignore. So far, I have no regrets. And because I don’t want “therapist” or “depression” to be considered dirty words, I wanted to talk about them here, openly and honestly. This is my safe space. And if you’re here and reading this, thank you.

Erik was one of the many, many people the world has lost to suicide. Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the United States and is the 2nd leading cause of death for youths between the ages of 10-24. Each year for the past six years, I’ve walked in Erik’s memory with AFSP, the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. Walking among other survivors is powerful and healing. If you’re a survivor, I recommend it. Talk about suicide, share your story and find a way to heal. I hope you practice self-care in your own life and reach out to those who you suspect might need help or guidance. We’re all in this together. We’re all stronger together.

Follow this journey on Little Tranquility.

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.

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

Photo via contributor.

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