On July 18, 1993, I attempted suicide. I was at the point where the emotional pain was just too much for me. I had struggled with depression as far back as I could remember. As a child at the time, I didn’t know it was called depression – I was just sad. I wondered why I was on this planet.

In 1993, I was a Marine stationed in North Carolina and received a phone call that changed my life forever. My brother — who was my closest friend growing up — died in a car accident on March 21, 1993. This grief and trauma on top of my underlying depression put me on a downward spiral. I tried to be the brave son for my parents; I tried to act like everything was okay. But inside my mind, I went from wishing I wasn’t here to deciding I needed to die.

This is why I get so angry when someone says dying by suicide is selfish because I can promise you, when I was in my darkest moments, I wasn’t being selfish. I thought I was doing what would be best for my family; I thought I was doing something that would benefit my family. And for several months it was my everyday battle to stay alive because even though a huge part of me wanted to die, a huge part of me didn’t. But I felt like a burden to everyone.

I sought help twice, directly telling a total of three people. Unfortunately, none of the three people I reached out to really knew what to do or to say.

I ultimately picked July 18, 1993 to be the day to end my mental pain — my 20th birthday. Please note, it wasn’t really about me dying, it was about stopping that pain. I was getting so tired of trying to fight to find reasons to stay.

From 1993 to 2014, I kept this attempt a secret. I didn’t want anyone to know. In those years, I told two people — both of whom didn’t know how to respond: a psychiatrist and a friend of mine who was a counselor.

During those years of me keeping my suicide attempt and depression a secret, I felt a lot of shame and guilt. I continued to have regular thoughts about dying. I had promised myself not to kill myself again, but I was sad and often felt alone.

In July 2014, I finally shared my struggle with a friend and, for the first time, I felt a little bit of a relief. Heather didn’t judge. She said she was sorry I experienced that and told me she was there if I ever needed to talk — that she never wanted me to feel alone again.

That fall in 2014, I was asked to speak at the Out of the Darkness Walk in Cape Girardeau, MO about what was being done with suicide prevention. I felt like a fraud. Up until this point in my career, I had worked with people who were suicidal or had attempted suicide. I had organized four community suicide prevention conferences and told everyone not to be ashamed — these thoughts and attempts don’t define you — but the only person I ever told about my own attempt was Heather. So, I decided to share my real story at this walk in Cape Girardeau in front of around 300-400 strangers to which I felt so connected. I told my parents and my children the night before the walk so they didn’t have to hear about it from someone else.

This was such an amazing turning point in my life. I went from hiding and being ashamed and worried about how this would affect my career, to feeling alive. I found my voice. Now, I share my story openly when appropriate. I consider myself very lucky. For one, I survived my attempt, and in that attempt and in my healing, I found my passion; I found my purpose.

Today, I believe a big part of my purpose in life is to provide training. We need to educate and train everyone, making this world safer and preventing suicide.

In my professional capacity, I get to be involved with doing a lot of training and education on mental health and, specifically, suicide prevention and awareness.

I also use my voice to talk to family and friends about suicide and suicide prevention.

I hope that by sharing my voice, I can help others find theirs.