I’ve been here before. When the sadness is so thick it can choke me, and I have terrifying thoughts swirling in my mind trying to seduce me with an escape plan from my pain- it can be horrifying, especially because I am a suicide attempt survivor. Being a part of “The S Word” documentary has really made me reflect on my recovery, and how I get through really difficult times like this past year. I’ve learned a lot about loss with the ending of my engagement and uncertainty of my future. Recently, I was harassed by someone who violently attacked me years ago. This triggered some familiar shadowy thoughts.
But this time was different. This time I asked for help. When it was too scary to be alone in my head, I reached out. I’m lucky, I have a fantastic support system. I called my mom, my therapist, and my friends to let them know what was going on. My mom immediately booked a ticket to California. During filming of “The S Word”, I admitted to Lisa that I wasn’t in a good place. We stayed up till 1am talking, and she listened and held space for me as I cried. My friends and family offered love and support, and we worked on a plan of what was going to get me through this difficult time.
This is how I showed up. I was honest and accountable. I told my loved ones what was going on and that I needed their help, time, and support. I didn’t lie and pretend that everything was okay when it wasn’t. I stopped trying to “power through” or “be strong”. I remembered that everything I put before my mental health like relationships and jobs, I’ve lost. So this time, I put my mental health first. I took some time off of work, and decided to focus an entire month to my mental health treatment.
This is how my friends showed up. When someone is physically sick, people know exactly what to do. They bring casseroles, they send flowers and cards, they make phone calls, and they think about what someone who is in pain needs. I don’t think it should be any different for folks who are feeling suicidal. But I get it, it’s scary. What the heck do you do? What do you say? How do you show up for someone who is going through darkness you might not understand? I don’t know the answer for everyone, but this is how my friends showed up.
When I was so depressed I couldn’t get out of bed, my friends brought me groceries. My friends took me to poetry readings and hiking in the redwoods, brought to me to dance classes and karaoke, invited me to dinner, and sent me inspirational texts featuring unicorns and/or vampires. One friend made sure we had a weekly walking date to check in on me, and give me some physical activity. A friend in New York sent me an adult coloring book and crayons.
Another friend brought me to an art exhibit called the “Black Woman is God” where I got to see beautiful creations from black women all over the world. Some friends called, other friends sent letters or emails.
One of my closest and oldest friends did something pretty phenomenal. She wanted to make sure I didn’t feel alone during my month of recovery, and that I had a daily reminder that I am loved. So for each of my 30 days of mental health recovery, she left me presents- all numbered to open. Every morning I’d wake up and unwrap something lovely. She sent lavender which is under my pillow for sleeping, sage for cleansing, chocolate-because well chocolate is healing and delicious, and letters of our fondest memories and inside jokes, and reminders that I can get through this.
None of these acts of kindness required a background in therapy-just plain old thoughtfulness and care which any human is capable of doing. Nothing was too small to make a difference. What I needed was connection and an interruption to the isolation and negative thoughts in my head.
The work I’m doing with “The S Word” is so important to me, because so many people live in silence. I know I did, I pretended everything was okay while I secretly broke down. If we can create a world where the stigma of suicide is decreased so people speak out when they are in pain, maybe we can prevent anyone else from dying. And fighting this stigma and silence, well that’s how we can all show up.