Remember last week when I mentioned blogging more about suicidality? Well, this blog post isn’t turning out how I thought it would. Mostly because my weekend didn’t turn out as I thought it would. This was supposed to be a fun weekend. One where I hung out with friends and like minded people. And for my birthday, I’d planned to purchase myself my first tattoo. A semicolon.
For those who haven’t heard the story, Amy Bleuel began Project Semicolon after losing her father to suicide when she was 18. Though the nonprofit is religious in base, and that’s not an area of interest for me, I do like the message she sends with the semicolon tattoo. She chose the semicolon because it signifies that an author could have ended the sentence there, but didn’t. Therefore, when you get one as a tattoo, it serves as a reminder that this is not the end of your story.
I’ve known about the tattoo for a while, and have wanted it since I’d first seen an article talking about Project Semicolon. I just wasn’t ready to get it yet. Once you have one, everyone that is aware of the movement, suddenly knows you’re suicidal. Or have been at one point or another. This was terrifying for me. I didn’t want people to know that I struggled with suicidality, because it was embarrassing. I mean, I’m an adult. With a good life. So having those feelings, despite my past, didn’t make sense to me.
This was a judgment of myself though. Because the reality is that it makes perfect sense that I’d jump to suicidal thoughts the moment something goes wrong. And unlike Amy’s experience, I’ve come to learn that the religion I was taught, was the reason I began going to suicide as a solution in the first place. I was never told that killing myself sent me to a bad place called hell. That teaching came as I got older. My first teachings around death were always, “They’ve gone to a better place.” This is what stuck. Dying gets me to a better place.
This leads me to Randi, as this understanding came from watching her video.
Randi Jensen is one badass woman. She’s a counselor, educator, and speaker on suicidality. She knows her stuff, and not just because she’s a counselor. She was also suicidal for 24 years of her life before she finally figured out how to shift those thoughts. Randi formed JSP3, Jensen Suicide Prevention Peer Protocol, to help others with their own suicidality.
On her website, she explains some very simple things about jumping to suicide. One being endorphins. When we release endorphins, they act as pain killers. So when we are in a lot of pain and think, I should just kill myself, it releases these endorphins and the pain goes away. It becomes addictive, just like any substance that causes that release. But it’s not helpful, even if you don’t follow through, because what happens is we create neural pathways, and over time, those pathways increase in depth until it becomes easier and easier to jump to suicide over another solution. Randi has great information on her site about all of this, and I suggest watching her video whether you are suicidal or not.
Learning all of this, and struggling recently with these thoughts again, pushed me into going public about my struggle. It’s nothing to be ashamed of. It doesn’t make me crazy. I’m doing something about it by blogging, being public, and shifting my thoughts to create new neural pathways. Which means I’m not crazy, because I’m doing something different.
I’m changing my pattern.
So I’d decided, I wanted to get this tattoo. It meant a lot to me, and was a huge deal that I’d committed to getting it. My plan was to leave early Friday morning, take a train ride south with a friend, and at some point this weekend, get the tattoo. (I also hoped for a little fun at a certain rope event that I’ve sadly missed. Boo) But my plan was sound, I was prepped, ready and excited to go, to take a picture of my tattoo and post it on my blog. But then everything changed late Thursday night.
I got an unexpected call.
My husband had been in a car accident.
For ten minutes, all I knew was that he was unresponsive. For ten fucking minutes, I wasn’t sure if he was alive or dead. It was the worst feeling I’ve ever had.
A friend came to get me and took me to the hospital. I was far too shaky to drive myself. By the time he got to my house, I knew the hubby was conscious and talking to paramedics, but I was still shaky. I knew after hearing how bad the accident was, that we were very lucky he didn’t die.
This changed everything in my head.
In that moment, I realized that all those times I’d jumped to suicide as an option, I’d never really thought about how that would make my family feel. How much pain they’d be in if I ever followed through. Even jumping to that as a solution can cause fear and anxiety in people I love. And while I have no interest in shaming myself or anyone else for being suicidal, I did feel very selfish once I realized this.
I don’t ever want to make my family feel what I felt in that ten minutes. It was hell.
This may not change my head jumping to suicide as an option, but it will provide a quick jump out of that headspace. In fact, it already has.
Yesterday, as I was realizing how much struggle we’re going to have because of this accident, my head went there. You should just exit stage left. But I did something I’d not done before, I actually shouted NO to myself.
Instead, I did what Randi suggested in her video. I looked for solutions to the issues that were making me think suicidal thoughts. And I wouldn’t have known to do this, if she’d not been public about her recent experience, where she had thoughts of suicide after 20 years of nothing. Her sharing helped me not to judge myself when I went there. I was able to recognize that I needed to deal with what’s causing my brain to travel down that pathway, and then get out of the suicide rut.
While this weekend wasn’t the fun one I’d planned, or the great revelation of my suicidal thoughts by posting a picture of my new semicolon tattoo, it still impacted me. On so many levels. I will probably still get the tattoo, but not because I need it to remind me that this isn’t the end of my story.
I don’t need that reminder anymore.
I know my story doesn’t end here, but I will still get the tattoo. Because the more open we all are about our struggles, the more likely someone will see our openness and vulnerability as strength, and maybe it will inspire change within them too. No matter what their struggles are.
I’m leaving this weekend thankful. Full of gratitude for all those that were there for my family. For those that have offered to come over and cook for us, or bring food, help watch the kids so we can do what needs doing, and I’m thankful for the EMTs and first responders. I’m appreciative that for the first time, I’m not jumping to fear and hopelessness in the face of struggle.
I don’t need endorphins to alleviate my pain or stress. I don’t need suicidality. I only need to keep in my place of calm, love my loved ones, and be open to solutions.