We are doing things a little different today over here on SMT. One of the reasons I started SMT was because I wanted to help educate, inspire, and get women thinking of being self-reliant. The core of my mission is about wanting to help people and so I would be remiss if I didn’t use this outlet and the platforms I have to do just that. Self-reliance is a great thing we should strive for in some aspect of our lives but that doesn’t mean you should, need, or can do it all by yourself. It’s okay to ask for help.
So when the husband and I were talking about this weekend, he made a mention that he thought he might want to write a post on SMT about why we were going to participate in this walk. I thought it was a great idea. I hope you all take the time to give this a read and help someone you know that might be suffering.
Tomorrow we will be participating in DC’s Out of the Darkness Walk. The Out of the Darkness Walk’s mission is to raise awareness and funds that allow the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP) to invest in new research, create educational programs, advocate for public policy, and support survivors of suicide loss. While September is national suicide prevention month, these walks take place all year long and all over the country. The statistics on suicide are frightening. The social stigma surrounding the act doesn’t help move forward the conversation. The AFSP and events like the Out of the Darkness Walk are trying to change that. Sure, I knew a problem existed. I see the news, our veterans, and Hollywood celebrity’s that take their own lives. It’s sad but it’s distant and I lacked a real understanding. That all changed 4 months ago. I joined a club that no one wants to be a member of.
This past summer, my best friend Matt took his own life. He left behind his wife, a 3 year-old daughter, an infant son, his family and his friends. We go way back. We first met in high school. We roomed together in college. We were teammates in XC and track. We kept in regular touch after graduation. Several times a year our group of friends would meet up somewhere for a long weekend to reconnect and have fun. Those trips became more infrequent as he got married and started a family but that was ok. Everyone was busy doing their own thing. Besides, he was just a text message away.
Leading up to his son’s birth (his 2nd child) things just started to change. His wife will tell you it’s like a switch turned off. He acted up and it was costing him his job and his marriage. I didn’t necessarily agree with his actions but was encouraged by my wife to reach out to him to check in and try to support him. About a year ago I learned through a mutual friend that Matt told his wife he tried to hurt himself when he was living in his new apartment. He said he tried to suffocate himself but it didn’t work. I remember thinking “Is he ok? Did he really try to do that? “ A big part of me didn’t believe he actually did that. We didn’t talk about it ever again. Time went by and he was ok. He was working on a new job and being a good dad.
It was a Tuesday morning in late June around 9:30am when I got a text from a friend that said Matt missed his divorce hearing at the court house. Matt’s wife was panicking. It was around 11am that I got a phone call. “He’s gone, man” said the voice at the other end. “The police found him at his house.” Not much more was said. No note. No goodbye. Hearing his daughter ask when her dad was coming home was the absolute worst.
As I am writing this I go back to all the early warning signs that I missed and, even more painfully, ignored. If I would have done… If I could have just said… I often catch myself wanting to text him something funny I came across and see what witty response he has back. I know now that those that get help and treatment almost all find some relief from their symptoms but first it has to be recognized that there is a problem, that he has a disease. If my story starts off similar to yours then I encourage you to do what it takes to get your loved one or your friend the help they need. It won’t be easy and you may never really know if you changed that person’s outcome. We hear this saying all the time – it was an early cry for help. I’m smart, I’m compassionate, but I let the early warning sign be ignored since my friend projected afterward that he was ok. Don’t dismiss or ignore a cry for help. He wasn’t ok. Talk about it, get a group of loved ones together to encourage help, provide some doctors, offer to drive, do something!
I’m thankful that I have a good support group around me. The AFSP states the fact that each year suicide claims more lives than war, murder, and natural disasters combined. Yet it’s kept quiet and in the darkness. So, I encourage you to start that conversation with yourself, your loved ones, and your friends. Someone’s life may depend on it.