Anonymous Stories in Motherhood: I’m a Suicide Survivor

0

Trigger warning: this article contains talk of suicide.  

I’m a suicide survivor….but that may not mean what you think it does.

The month of my 18th birthday, my dad went missing. His phone went straight to voicemail even though we called repeatedly. Daily. His truck wasn’t parked at his house. His neighbors hadn’t seen or heard from him in weeks. He had seemingly disappeared.

You see, my parents divorced when I was in middle school, and my sister and I lived exclusively with our mom. Dad thought that two teenaged girls needed their mom and didn’t want to further complicate our lives by fighting for any type of custody. At the time, it felt like he didn’t care.

But now I see it differently.

I see it as an act of selfless surrender. The cause of my parent’s divorce was my dad’s addiction to alcohol and his unwillingness to seek help. After the divorce, my sister and I saw our dad as often as we could and did our best to call and check in between our busy schoolwork and extracurricular sports and activities. But we failed to truly see his loneliness, his isolation, his addiction, and ultimately his depression.

My dad had a girlfriend at the time and would frequently go on trips and cruises where he would be unreachable. The first week or two of 2007 didn’t seem too unusual. We had spent a wonderful Christmas with our dad, and I can vividly remember telling mom “He seemed better than ever.” But after three weeks, a sinking feeling set in as everyone exhausted all resources trying to find him.

And then one day, it happened.

I walked in from high school and my mom said “Sweetie, I just got off the phone with Aunt Paris. They’ve found your dad.” That was it. Those two sentences changed everything. In a moment, I knew my dad was gone, and I knew suicide was his cause of death.

In the weeks that followed, we found letters addressed to me and my sister. We found evidence of a level of unhappiness he hid so well. We found an addiction coupled with a mental health disease that had ultimately taken over and taken my dad from me.

In my counseling, I learned a lot about mental health. About the very real disease that is it, and the very devastating effects it can have. About how it took drop after drop and day after day of negative thoughts, feelings, and emotions to cause his cup to run over and for him to lose the fight.

I learned that I am a suicide survivor.

If you’re like I was, you may be thinking that a suicide survivor is someone who attempted suicide but survived. The term for this is ‘survivor attempt,’ but a suicide survivor is someone, like me, who lost a loved one to suicide. If you’ve walked this journey, I am deeply sorry. I wish I could offer some piece of advice that would make your deepest pains go away, but I cannot. I can offer support, though, and I genuinely mean that. If talking through my story (or yours) can help you, please text me at 205-427-3204. I’m anonymous, and so are you. Send me a text, give me a call, and let’s connect. It doesn’t get easier, but we can join forces and walk this journey together.

What I can also say is that life is too short not to slow down and ask the hard questions. Ask how a person really is doing. Yearn for them to get the help they need, the help they deserve. Don’t take no for an answer. Don’t take ‘I’m fine’ when you know they aren’t. Help your family, friends, neighbors, and coworkers to see mental health as it is. A very real, very devastating disease that needs to be handled carefully by medical professionals.

If you or someone you know is battling mental health issues or addiction, you are not alone. I see you. I pray for you. I pray for a world where the stigma is erased. I pray for the healing of all mental diseases. This February marks 15 years for me as a suicide survivor. 15 years of learning and growing. 15 years of wishing my dad was here. And I wouldn’t wish this on my worst enemy, but I can honestly say, it’s shaped me into a stronger woman. A stronger mom. A more caring friend. My eyes are open to the disease that is more prevalent than you may know. And if you’ve read this article, I hope you find that yours are too.

*If you or someone you know is suffering from substance abuse issues, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) is a confidential, free, 24-hour-a-day, 365-day-a-year, information service, in English and Spanish, for individuals and family members facing mental and/or substance use disorders. This service provides referrals to local treatment facilities, support groups, and community-based organizations. Callers can also order free publications and other information. The phone number is 1-800-662-HELP (4357).

The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is a national network of local crisis centers that provides free and confidential emotional support to people in suicidal crisis or emotional distress 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. The phone number is 1-800-273-8255. If you or someone you know is in immediate danger, please call 911.  

Read more from our Anonymous Stories in Motherhood series:

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here