Category Archives: Suicide

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Taylor Nicole

I remember driving over the Gold Star bridge as a child (the summer before the fifth grade), on the way to an art fair with my mom, and seeing him. He appeared to be standing on the opposite side of the fence of the bridge, and if I remember correctly he was wearing shorts. My mom tried to quickly divert my attention, but it burned in my memory, and I couldn’t stop talking about it. I came up with a million reasons that day that he was on and on the bridge like that; maybe his friend fell over,maybe he was a spy, maybe he was a bungee jumper, maybe he was repairing the fence. I never had confirmation about what he was doing, or what he did. Eventually I found out the truth, and discovered the word “suicidal.” It hit me like a ton of bricks. I never thought a fifth grader and a man on the ledge would have so much in common.

For years leading up to seeing the man on the ledge I had been suicidal, without even knowing it. The thoughts started back to my adoptive mom passing when I was three, and finding out she was dead two years later. I didn’t quite understand what my social worker was telling me, and my foster family didn’t provide the most comfort, but I remember thinking how I wished more than anything I could join her, and be with her again. I vividly remember my foster dad watching Star Trek, and seeing a shooting scene, an over dramatized death, and wishing it could be me, passing on.

Even after I was adopted into my new, loving home, I couldn’t get the thoughts to go away. For a while they were passive. I didn’t really fit in with the children in my school, and that made me want to die a lot. Sometimes I thought about walking out of my classroom in elementary school, and running into the busy street our school was on. I thought about jumping off the top of the swings and breaking my neck, or sometimes leaping from a classroom window. This continued for years, until the week of my senior year of high school, when I started planning my suicide actively. I had opened up to my mother about my feelings, and she brought me to the hospital. The doctor asked if I had ever thought about killing myself. Immediately I said yes. He asked how, and I watched my mother’s face of disbelief as I listed off the countless ways I had considered hurting myself, as if listing off my favorite songs. I didn’t know that this wasn’t how everyone else was feeling, I didn’t know there was anything wrong with wanting to kill yourself. It was my comfort. That’s when my mother discovered a huge truth about being suicidal; children who are so young can think about thoughts this dark.

The thoughts came again when I had started college. They slowly creeped into my mind, like a familiar stranger. Again, the ideations were very passive; I could jump out my dorm window, what if I stepped into traffic, what if I took too many pills and just didn’t wake up? Depression got the worst of me in college, and I dropped out after one semester, at the age of seventeen. That’s when suicide really took a hold of me. I started cutting, not deep, but enough to punish myself and feel the pain. I engaged in fights with strangers, and sometimes even my boyfriend, in hopes I’d be beat to death. I would take a cocktail of pills, only to wake up with a medical hangover the next day. Nothing seemed to do the trick; I was constantly putting myself in harms way, and constantly trying to die, but still woke up. I finally sought out medical treatment, and again, I thought I was cured.

Time passed; I became a mother and a wife. I became a responsible adult. Dropping out of college and my reckless behavior was behind me. However, the suicidal thoughts weren’t. To this day I live with a dark shadow, always following me; my suicidal thoughts. They might just be whispers some days, a daydream of ending my life. Other days they might be screams, and wanting to start planning or relapse into pass behaviors. I’m medicated still, and I have a great treatment plan, but the suicidal thoughts still linger.

I think being suicidal is a taboo subject, and is often not touched upon. It’s seen in the media often, but rarely is accurately displayed (I honestly think the use of suicide in most media is a sales tactic for a shock factor versus bringing light to a very painful, very real subject). We often see suicide in cases such as Romeo and Juliet; two star crossed lovers not getting their ways, and killing themselves. While yes, events can trigger suicidal thoughts/actions, often times it’s a feeling that has lasted a lot longer than a few hours. It’s rarely a spur of the moment feeling. Suicide starts with ideations; the thoughts of, I could not wake up today, and that would be okay with me. It develops into intent, which is self harming behaviors, which leads into actions; the actual act of suicide. A lot of people live with suicidal thoughts for years before making a move. You don’t have to be harming yourself to be suicidal. Being suicidal is a state of mind, and one not a lot of us can escape.

I’m openly living with suicidal ideation; and while I may not be actively harming myself, it is still a very real, scary, and dangerous state of mind, that needs to be talked about. I have become the man on the ledge; and while I may not be standing on a bridge, I’m constantly in between a state of stability and insanity.

16807056_2224686771089221_107796558172569169_n1Taylor Nicole is a young author and mother based out of New England. Taylor is a foster care advocate, as well as a mental health advocate. She is a frequent blogger, and her memoir “Free Tayco” is set to be released April 7, 2017!

Taylor can be found on her website, Twitter, and Facebook.

Gabs

I have never been the one to bring blind optimism into any situation. I mean, I’ve always believed in hope, and having faith, but never that everything will work out exactly how I want. Frankly, the world doesn’t work that way, and I knew this even as a young child.
My parents used to tell me that I’ve always seemed so wise. People would tell them they saw ages of knowledge in my eyes and to research the Indigo Children. I never disagreed with them. You see, I always felt too old when I was around kids my age. I’m not saying I was superior or better than them in anyway, but I just seemed to have different things on my mind. I think that’s what made me out to be a shy kid. People thought I was too scared to speak, and too young to understand enough to converse with adults. In truth, I was just thinking a million things at a time, and could never figure out which question I wanted to ask first, or which answer I would allow someone to receive.
The first time I can remember not fully understanding something was when I was probably about nine years old. I came home from school to find my family all talking in the living room. As I walked in, it was like something out of a movie. Everyone stopped talking, and just stared at me. I of course hate being stared at, so I spat out a sassy: “What?” In response, my parents looked at each other as if to say, “You tell her”, and my three siblings avoided all eye contact with me. I’d never felt more intimidating than I did in that moment. All I was told was that my aunt, who had been living with us, would be going away for…sometime. I also happen to hate mysteries and vague answers, so I demanded to know why. Turns out, she tried to commit suicide while living in my house, in what used to be my room. To this day I don’t know how, but I assume pills because my family has always favored the magic of prescription medication. However, when I found out, the how was not what I was worried about. It was the why. Why would someone ever want to kill them self? In my mind, the act seemed silly. I mean we were put on this earth so why would we want to ever leave it? And honestly, Death scared me, and I couldn’t wrap my head around the notion of willingly meeting her. But that was then, not now.
You could say I was a generally happy kid. This was despite my parents fighting, and my siblings not being entirely too fond of me (perks of being the youngest, I suppose). I like to think that while I was not naive, I did try to find whatever light I could, wherever I could. I tell myself this is why it took my parents years to notice something was wrong. I tell myself that they only wanted to believe that I was okay, and they were doing everything they could for me, so that’s why they never noticed the cuts and scratches all over their twelve year old daughter.
I remember the first time I cut myself was because my brother had said another horrible something to me and I was just crying. I was so tired of crying, though. I wanted to feel something; something besides hot tears rolling down my face and a pounding headache. So, I took my mom’s black and yellow “bumblebee” craft scissors, and went to town on my know-healed ankles. I remember smiling after the first cut. I had been so scared and even thought to myself, “Are you really doing this? Are you really going to be this person?” Cause and effect had the cynical side of me feeling proud once I finally did it. Of what, I’m still not sure, but I felt elevated-better even. It was so weird to me that something that caused me pain was simultaneously making everything in my hazy world seem brighter. I never thought that I would continue though, because I told myself I was better than that; better than someone who, yikes, cut them self. I guess I failed to realize the release was only temporary, and I was not as strong as I thought I was.
The rest of my middle school career I carried around those black and yellow scissors. I’d tuck them away in my pencil bag, or my new UGG boots, as if it was a hidden accessory. A part of me loved having this secret, even if another part of me knew that what I as doing was far from okay.
Eighth grade was extremely bad. I’m not sure what triggered the chain of events, but eventually it led to something I like to call “Even More Twisted Than The Pregnancy Pact”. Every one of my girl friends seemed to be so sad, and hurting, and I didn’t understand. Eventually, they started doing what I did. I would soon come to think it was my fault for giving them the idea, as if I was some sort of trendsetter. Because of this, I tried to help them. In reality, all I succeeded in doing was feeding off of their issues, making everything worse. And as much as I tried to help my friends because I cared, I also resented them. I no longer was the only one in on my secret. What I did didn’t make me any different from anyone else, and I still had all of these bottled up problems, so what was the point? In my mind, there was none at all, to anything.
That year, I watched as multiple friends of mine got carted off to therapy by their parents (with the aid of good-intentioned teachers), and given happy medicine. Meanwhile, my mom still hadn’t noticed her bumblebee scissors were missing.
When high school began, the way things were didn’t exactly change for the better. I lost my two closest friends; not to death, just girl drama, so that didn’t help my situation. At that point, I already thought so poorly of myself. Having people who were meant to always love me and be there for me, tell me everything I already thought was true about myself, was completely devastating. I’m not perfect, but I always tried to be a good friend. Being older, I realize I could have been a nicer person and friend; still could be, but I’m working on that. I’m not a very tolerant person and often snap at people because of what I now know to be sensory over-load, via my therapist (shout out to Dr. G). But at the time, I just saw a terrible person taking out her problems on those who didn’t deserve it, and it ruined me.
I can’t tell you how much time I spent in the years to follow sitting in my room crying. Always at night; and always because of something small that would ultimately lead to me seeing myself as a completely unworthy person. Of what, you may ask? Life, I guess. I would constantly ask, no beg, a god that I had begun losing faith in, to end it. I used to think I was put on this earth to help people, but I only seemed to be making lives harder. I wanted God to take me back. Take me back so the people in my life could be happier, and I would no longer have to feel because everyone knows that angels don’t feel.
Needless to say, God never fulfilled my wishes, no matter how many times I asked him too. I think that’s why I never ended it myself. Either I’m too much of a coward, or I realized that since lightening hasn’t struck down on me, I must still have some type of purpose on this earth. So I’m still going, and still trying to live, no matter how much I sometimes, rather selfishly, despise that my lungs work on their own, and I don’t have cancer cells spreading throughout my body.
I’d love to tell you that eventually “it got better”, and that now I’m sitting here writing to you because everything in my life is finally working out. Like I said, I’d love to tell you that, but I try not to lie (about the important things at least). No, sadly, I’m writing this within the confines of my safe-haven, or bedroom, while sad music plays in the background and I contemplate picking up my newfound razor friend. But, I’m happy to report that it’s easier to tell that razor to fuck off now. I’ve learned that my thoughts can’t control my actions. That I can’t keep hurting myself just because it’s the only way I will feel something other than sadness, or just complete numbness. I’m also truly driven by the completely narcissistic belief that my two best friends wouldn’t be able to live without me-or at least not yet. Or maybe, just maybe, I’m driven by what I hate to admit, is my own will to live. For whatever reason, I’ve been blessed by a life on earth, surrounded by friends and a less-than-perfect family. While I am definitely not okay yet, I have accepted that. I’ve accepted my life here, and that I should do everything I can to make the thing that I’ve begrudgingly realized is not fleeting, something I want. Besides all of that, I never want my niece, my baby, to ask her mother where her aunt went. So, because of this, I will continue to take the life I’ve been given in stride. I will try to make sure that I make God giving me this chance to live worth it. So, while I have not officially said goodbye to my ways of self-harm, or thoughts of leaving this world, I will not take myself out of it. I think that’s all anyone can ask of me at this point, and I think that’s all I can ask of anyone else. I found the small and big “some things” that have made life bearable for me; and I think that if I can, almost anyone else can too. I won’t promise that it will work, even though I will pray and hope that it does. I’m just asking that everyone do the one little thing that took me so long to: try.

Lover of words and books, but too scared to do anything with that love.

Gabs can be found on Twitter.

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Olivia McGinley-Hoy

a matter of staying
I didn’t want to be there. I truly didn’t. But I knew I had to be.
On July 26th, 2016 I tried to commit suicide. I had always dealt with the issues and setbacks of having a mental illness all throughout my adolescent years, but they extremely increased as I got older. I tried to ignore my demons, as if they were just a mere part of my imagination. Really, I had a good father, a nice home, clothes on my back, food on the table, what more could I possibly ask for? I suppose it just wasn’t enough. I had a longing for compassion and to be full. Full of happiness, love, support, intelligence, and just pure bliss. I longed for it so badly. It became an obsession. Therefore, I would try to make others seem as if i were the happiest, most supportive person anyone could encounter. I felt as though, if i portrayed that I was a sane, happy teenager, my mind would believe I truly was one.
Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case. It had only made things much more difficult. I lost interest in many of the things I once loved to do. I had trouble with sleeping patterns, I would either sleep all day, or not at all. I could barely eat, and when I did, my body just rejected it. I truly believed in my mind that I had no will to live, and my body began to listen and agree.
I didn’t notice it was a problem until around the spring of 2016. As the spring approached, I realized I was constantly having to make new friends because I would push my old ones away. Little did I know, I had been doing it all my life. I was becoming more and more irritable, manic, and restless, this is when it truly became bad.
Prior to this time, it would just come in waves. I would be extremely depressed, but I would find something to occupy myself with, and I would slowly forget why I was depressed. This worked until I came to the harsh realization that nothing lasts forever.
By this point, it was far too late. I had pushed everyone I loved away, and treated them with such cruelty and disrespect. I was alone. I truly hated myself, and that just made me truly convinced I had no will to live, whatsoever. I remember the entire week so vividly. All weekend I was working, and I would get so anxious I would have to excuse myself to use the restroom almost every twenty minutes just to get through the night. At this point, I was seeing a therapist, and she explained that I was passively suicidal. That I would love to die, but wouldn’t put the act of suicide into action. It was like this until I was in the bathroom at work, splashing my face with cold water to ease my mind, and to convince myself I could work like a normal teenager without mental breakdowns. I looked at myself in the mirror, with bloodshot eyes, dark circles under my eyes, hollow cheeks, almost sick-looking pale skin. The darkness inside of me, was showing on the outside and I didn’t notice until this point. Or at least I didn’t choose to notice until then. And when I did, I wanted to truly end it all. I was so scared of myself because I knew I’d do it. I was always afraid of going to hell for committing suicide, which was the reason that held me back for so long.
But, I was no longer scared of going to hell. Life on Earth was my hell. I just couldn’t fight anymore. At the end of the night, I went home, showered, and went to bed. I ignored what I thought about that night and days passed. I laid around, just waiting for time to pass. I didn’t want to be here.
It was a Tuesday, I had a hard time getting out of bed that morning, much harder than usual. My friend was over too, and she had been texting my dad because they were extremely concerned with what my behavior entailed. Around 10 AM, i went into my bathroom and just laid on the ground, in complete distress. I laid, and cried. I had the same song on my phone repeating, along with the negative thoughts in my head that repeated with it. A constant circle of negativity. My friend had eventually found me, picked me up and gave me some water. My dad came home from work, and just hugged me and told me everything was going to be okay. I didn’t say much. Just nodded my head, and went back inside. Julia tried to get me outside that day, so I went with her to the Allentown Park. I was truly miserable and regretted even agreeing to coming along. She brought me home around 4:30, and my dad gets off work at 5. I was alone for thirty minutes. I thought I would be fine. I was so wrong. So wrong. And that was enough time to trigger everything I had held inside. I was going to do it. I was crying and I went downstairs, grabbed scissors and sliced my entire right forearm open. The sensation felt so good, to let out all aggression as I was crying. I then moved to my left thigh, and cut it all open as well. I was lying on the ground, watching my blood fall. I felt numb, so incredibly numb. I stood up and grabbed my pills and had a handful. I laid back down and as soon as I was about to take them, my father had walked in, with tears in his eyes, and picked me up from the ground. All he could say is, “We’re going to be okay baby, okay? Listen to me, it’s going to be alright. You’re going to be fine, you’re so strong.” He would just smile and say these things while holding me while he was losing it inside. He held me, and he told me we needed to go. And I knew exactly what he meant.
The day previous, I was at a therapy session with my dad. We had discussed my program treatments because I was not doing well, and my medication seemed to only make my conditions worse. My therapist had suggested an in-patient program due to the severity of my obsession with wanting to die. I said it could wait until I got back from the beach in a few days, and I would agree to go before school started. That was the plan.
As most know, plans don’t work out exactly as planned. I thought I would be able to manage, and hold myself together. I felt like a glass bottle, containing flames. And, I bursted. Completely, and entirely. I let myself go. I wanted to go. I wanted to leave my body in the miserable place I thought Earth was once to be. But as I said, plans just don’t work out how you intend them to.
It was hell. Agonizing hell. I was a mess and as I had been broken prior, just held up with thin shitty pieces of tape that barely helped me get by. But they finally gave out, and my pieces fell and completely shattered. I was already dead. There was no will to live. I was bawling from this pain in my chest of such restlessness on the way to the hospital. It was never ending.
It was 10 hours. 10 hours that I was in a 5-sided room with puke yellow walls. There was just a lonely, cold, stiff hospital bed. It didn’t seem to bother me that much considering my emotions/ feelings were in complete correspondence with the room. Cold, lonely, and stiff.
I was admitted into the adolescent unit for 7 days this time. The first four days weren’t comfortable. It was all order and routine, and I knew it wasn’t helping me. I knew my sadness wouldn’t go away, and my will to live would suddenly come back.
During these four days, I devoured books. Devoured. That’s all I did in my free time. I wasn’t there to socialize, I didn’t want to be there in the first place. I read books about my illnesses, memoirs, love stories, and science fiction. It would allow me to get out of my head for a little and focus on one thing, and nothing else mattered. I would sound all noise out and just absorb the pages one by one. I would wake up, shower, eat, read, pretend to truly participate in group, lunch, hate group, have supper, visiting hours, and then bed. That was my life for the first four days.
It was a Saturday, and most of us crazy kids would be ecstatic to hear a new kid was being admitted. I however, was not one of the happy kids. I thought it was a shitty place to be and nobody should have to be away from home for so long and pretend to get better.
It was a boy that was admitted. Some girls even had the audacity to say he was “cute”. It was so screwy. He was here to get better, not have girls following him around, throwing themselves at the kid. But then I understood.
I first saw him at supper Saturday night. He had these beautiful blue eyes, that had so much sadness within them. He didn’t smile, which was understandable. We kept making eye contact, and I began to feel insecure so I looked away and finished my meal. I was completely intrigued by this boy. I wanted to know him in the worst way. His past, his secrets, his passions, his hobbies, his favorite food, if he loves sunsets, if he ever looks at the stars at night in amazement, if he ever took a deep breath of warm summer night air and felt appreciative, if he believed in God, if he appreciated literature, what his music tastes were, and even to the reason that landed him in this God awful place.
Later that night we talked a little and he seemed so sweet, but so damaged and my heart just broke. I could tell from the moment I talked to him, that he had so much to offer the world and my heart just ached for his sadness. I wanted to be in his life to help him. I just didn’t know how I would contact him out of the hospital, after I left.
We talked a lot throughout my last days in the hospital, I gave him books, and one of my favorite sweatshirts and flannels. I allowed him to borrow my favorite book at the time, the Four Agreements. When he returned it, he wrote his number on the inside of the cover. I just beamed. Truly glowed with happiness at this point, I realized I liked this boy. It hurt me to leave him there alone. We helped each other.
Tuesday came along and I left. He said we would hang out after he got out and I wished I could’ve hugged him, or just touched him. That’s the thing that really got to me, while admitted as a patient, you cannot touch others. I longed to just hold his hand, or trace the outline of his forearm gently with my index finger, or just hug him. But I couldn’t. So a simple goodbye was said.
As soon as I got home I knew something wasn’t right. I didn’t feel right, and there was a circle in my chest that was continuously being filled with restlessness and anxiety. Within 72 hours I landed myself back in the hospital. After the whole 10 hour admission process, I was back on the unit. As I was taken room to room for examinations, I looked for Phoenix’s name on his room. It was erased. My heart shattered. He left. I felt even worse.
As I was walking down the corridor to my seat to wait, I see someone walking towards me, and it was him. I beamed on the inside. He said to me, “Why the hell are you back in here?” as I proceeded to him it was a long story. I was so relieved he was still there. As I was in there for another four days, we got extremely close. I knew I wanted to be more than friends with him. The day before he left he got his stitches out of his cuts on his wrists. Afterwards he showed me at the nurses station, and I just stared in such sadness. I had cuts all up my forearm, but they didn’t compared to the huge gash he had put in his own skin. I slowly ran my pinky finger over the scabs. I looked at him and I apologized. I understood his pain.
The next day at four o’clock he left and it was the saddest thing I dealt with in awhile. I saw them erase his name from his door, and take his sheets off his bed. He was gone. And i cried that night for quite some time until I passed out from exhaustion.
The following day, I finally was released.

Months and months had passed without relief and I had many close attempts and high-strung tendencies and thoughts to act upon, although I didn’t and I wasn’t sure why. There was a feeling that maybe I would miss out on something spectacular. So i chose to just “survive” and wait.


I have found the velvet sun. The light shines a little brighter, and the days get better. It is a struggle, indeed. I have found the small yet beautiful ray of hope in this. I will live. I will graduate. I will go to college and major in psychology, and help adolescents get through their hardships as my counselors have helped me get by. Everyone deserves that person, and I one day, will be someone’s ray of light.

mememeI’m Olivia, I express myself best throughout writing. I recently found this out after I had my first true hit to rock bottom. I am forever thankful for the art of literature.

weskmsgzjdo-volkan-olmez

Justine McNeil

“My arm is a spider web, my brain is a raging fire and anyone who wants to tell me I’m fine doesn’t know what’s going on in my mind.”

That is what I wrote on November 13th, not knowing that just 4 days later my friends and colleagues would be taking me to the ER and I would be getting admitted into the Crisis Stabilization Unit (CSU) at the hospital for suicidal thoughts.

As I sat in the waiting room all I wanted to do was run but it was like I was paralyzed by what I had become even though my mind was racing and I was visibly shaking. I kept getting taken back to answer the same questions over and over again all while denying what I knew what was about to happen, denying that I had allowed myself to fall this far. What I didn’t know at the time though was that taking that step, going to the hospital was going to be the best thing I had ever done for myself.

Those 4 nights and 3 days were some of the toughest I had ever had, the small room with no windows made me feel like I was trapped in my own mind; stuck with my thoughts with no way of getting them out. The isolation haunted me like a cold chill that you just can’t shake and each night trying to fall asleep with the light buzzing overhead, the loud noises in the hallway, made it impossible for my anxiety to shut off.

As I spent those days drowning in my thoughts, drowning in the realization of what was actually happening those who were supporting me in this situation kept me afloat. It was a time that showed who would always be there no matter if I were sinking or swimming and without them the waves of my emotions may have taken over. My emotions were mixed as it came time to leave as I didn’t know just what my life what going to be like on the outside and to be honest, I was scared to finally face my struggles in the open space of my everyday life.

Things were not easy and I tried to jump into things headfirst; ignoring the thoughts that were still running through my mind and pushing myself into pretending everything was fine. I thought I was fine, I thought I was ready but the longer I tried telling myself this the worse I actually got. Until I broke. The details are fuzzy and I’m not sure if the details actually are not there or if I am subconsciously choosing not the remember them, but it was at that point that I learned what rock bottom really was.

Hitting this point and the events of that day are things that I am choosing not to dwell on; they are ghosts that I am not allowing to trap me in a negative mindset. The road moving back up has not been easy, but one thing I have learned is that life is not always going to give you that straight path. The things I have learned about myself from these experiences are invaluable and I can say that I have grown a new set of wings that are only going to help me to keep soaring upwards.

Justine McNeil is a 24 year old child and youth worker honours graduate from Ontario, Canada. She is a passionate motivational speaker, sharing her personal stories to advocate for mental health as well as creating awareness on social and global causes by using what she has learned through travelling with Me to We to Ecuador, Kenya, India and Arizona for their Advanced Facilitation Training. Her speaking engagements have included speaking at WE Day, events for Me to We, Jack.org, Niagara Public Health and various schools and organizations with Ontario. In 2015 she raised and donated $10,000 to Free the Children to build a school in Kenya and her work and stories have been published by Stigma Fighters, The Mighty, in various newspapers and for Me to We marketing.
When she’s not speaking, planning her next volunteer trip or working at a local school, Justine enjoys photography, listening to country music and spending time with her family.

Justine can be found on her website and Twitter.

Megan-Lewis-Headshot

Megan Lewis

The Last Ride
By Megan Lewis

I am thirteen years-old and have just finished a soccer game. Even though I ran my heart out and assisted in the scoring of several goals, I’m unhappy with my performance. I SHOULD have tried harder, I SHOULD have run faster, in short, I SHOULD have been better.

Shoulders slumped, holding back tears, I make my way back to my mom – always at my soccer games cheering me on. I know it concerns her – this intense, unnecessary pressure I put on myself to be perfect. She pulls me close and hugs me and I can feel the strength of her arm and back muscles – muscles that have resulted from hours spent swimming and lifting weights at the local YMCA.

“How about we take a bike ride to Smolak’s Farm?” she suggests.
“Can we get apple cider at the store?” I ask eagerly, my mood instantly lifting. “Yes, and we can even get cider donuts!” she grins.

I bounce up and down in my cleats like a 5 year-old. More than biking, even more than cider donuts, I love spending alone time with my mom. Of course, I love my dad and my ten year-old sister, Brittany, but they just don’t GET it – they don’t get what it’s like to have this strange new body with curves and hair in places they weren’t in before, or these strange new feelings where I’m giddy one minute then crushed or embarrassed the next. (Brittany doesn’t get it because she’s too young and, Dad, well, he’s a BOY so, naturally, he doesn’t get it either.)

But with Mom it’s different – she listens to my endless thoughts and concerns about friends and homework and all the other very important things going on in my complicated brand-new teenage life.

When we get home, Mom makes us grilled cheese sandwiches (whoever created grilled cheese sandwiches should be elected President of the United States). We fill up our water bottles, pump up our tires, and we’re ready to go!

“Long way or short way?” Mom asks as she clips on her helmet. “Long way!”

Through Mom I’m learning the value of exercise, especially running. A lot of kids in my P.E. class moan when we have to run laps around the gym and I moan, too, but secretly I love it. I love the way my heart pounds in my ears. I love the euphoria running makes me feel (Mom calls it a “runner’s high”). I love how strong it makes me feel. But, most of all, I love how it – temporarily – presses mute on my anxiety. I know Mom feels the same way because she told me so.

We ride in companionable silence. Pumping up the hills, feeling the lactic acid burning in our legs and the triumph that comes with making it to the top. Then the sheer joy of coasting down the hill.

The leaves are brilliant shades of yellow, red, and orange – the beautiful foliage that is famous to New England.

I don’t remember how long the ride took us or how many cider donuts we indulged in. The reason this ride stands out in my mind is because it’s the last vigorous physical activity I remember us partaking in together. Because of that, it has an almost mythical feeling.

During this last ride, we didn’t know that soon Mom would be diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis (RA). An autoimmune disease, it stripped her from the body she worked so hard at strengthening. The inability to exercise and, at times to drive and work, not too mention the incredible pain she too frequently experienced was absolutely devastating to witness.

In my naive thirteen year-old mind I thought that if I concentrated on loving her enough it would take her pain away. Unfortunately, it didn’t work that way.

The day my dad called me and told me he’d found her unconscious at the bottom of the basement stairs was the absolute worst day of my life. It was fifteen years since that wonderful bike ride and I was working at a nonprofit in New York City. As I rode the train back to Boston horrible images images flashed through my mind of her laying crumpled and broken after falling down the stairs.

My family huddled terrified in the waiting room of the I.C.U. as the doctors tried to figure out what happened. Was it a stroke? Meningitis? A simple misstep that caused her to fall and bump her head?

Never in my life had I assumed it was a suicide attempt. My world shrunk. The thought of my mom in such despair turned my insides cold and enveloped me in a level of helplessness I never knew existed. Then came the guilt. Living in New York City was so selfish of me. I should have been living closer to home, spending more time and taking care of her. We spoke by phone at least twice a week. How could I have not known how depressed she was?

The next few weeks were a blur. A blur of psychiatrists and social workers and family therapy. I thought it was all bullshit. How could these so-called “professionals” help my mom when her own family couldn’t?

But it did work. Little by little, with the help of medication, therapy, and support groups, my mom became my mom again.

She slowly became as strong as she’d been that day we’d gone for that bike ride so many years before. However, her strength has shifted. It has shifted from the physical to the mental and emotional. She has immersed herself in activities like gardening and playing cards that keep her mind busy and her life social. She’s an avid reader. She has the strength to get out of bed every morning and face the day. She’s the bravest person I know, and I am just so very proud of her.

Megan-Lewis-HeadshotMegan Lewis has a BA and MA in Psychology from the University of Massachusetts Lowell. She currently lives in NYC where she works as the Economic Empowerment Development Assistant at the Arab-American Family Support Center. She loves running, chocolate, and sleeping in.

A photo by Saksham Gangwar. unsplash.com/photos/XggyUb9YCGQ

Stigma Fighters: The ‘Ready to Die But Still Alive’ Suicide Club (and the Life That Follows)

#WorldSuicidePreventionDay reminded him that it’s only the choice of the individual that truly matters.

“I know, too, that death is the only god who comes when you call.”
(Roger Zelazny, Frost & Fire)


Since a young age I’ve thought about death, dying, or suicide almost every day—through adolescence when I had my depressive and “serious consideration of self-terminus” bouts, into adulthood where anxiety and despair claimed my quieter hours, and into my 30s where the drudgery and angst of life are just daily coats I hang up because I’ve been alive enough to know about better days, true joy, and the long life of adventure waiting for us.

But let’s be real about the lifers who experience depression and suicidal thoughts for years on end, past those awful teenage years when impulsive actions claim many, and into life after marriage, kids, career, and any post-college enlightenment.

You see, I have a full, wonderful life, but it has always been there, like a grey friend waiting with me, patiently, sometimes giving me strength in those “just let go” moments, when I’m reminded that there is no center to the universe, that failure is okay, and that life always goes on—and feeling this certain way actually saves me a little.

Life goes on—always. With or without you. It’s this bleak point of view that is refreshing, that I get to live another day because I’ve decided to live another day, and that whatever life will throw at me, I’ve already been down so long I can’t help but remind our friend—the it—that I’ve already considered it all, and I’m okay with living.

Because life with me alive is better for everyone, even though some of us know that at the lowest points of depression and suicidal thinking erase those guilty, blessed feelings.

It’s sort of a life-long “ready to die” feeling rather than a “want to die” emotion that we should all be talking about.

And on World Suicide Prevention Day, it was wonderful to see all of these encouraging memes and statements on Facebook and Twitter, but I know that they won’t all work.

And they shouldn’t work, because they can’t always work (and they don’t). Some things—a day of awareness, a friend’s consolation, an intervention—just can’t work long-term for those with persistent, chronic, major, or manic depression, or for those who live with PTSD, grief, ennui, melancholy, or just good old fashion existential angst.

It’s always there, inside your chest, lying to others, and waiting its turn.

It’s just like that.

screen-shot-2016-09-22-at-7-51-38-pm

But that doesn’t mean there isn’t hope for those who are currently or frequently suicidal, or that encouragement won’t work on those who are in the throes of an episode that will lead to suicide.

I just know that for me, it wouldn’t have worked during previous dark times when suicide was on my mind like anything else—variations of the how to, scenarios that seemed inevitable, and periods of deep longing for an end even though everything seemed normal, healthy, and ordinary.

But, for those who have dealt with depression and suicidal thoughts since they were young, there is a secret niche that we don’t talk about, burrowed in the years of wood and stone: it doesn’t always get better—it just gets quieter.

Most of the time.

screen-shot-2016-09-22-at-7-30-44-pmLet’s be real about suicidal feelings

I’m not going to describe in detail my own suicide attempts or share with you the times when I helped and reached out to those who were depressed and/or suicidal, nor am I going to share the stories of those who I’ve known who are no longer with us.

But I will share the inverse of my saving grace from back in the day when it seemed inevitable that I would kill myself, which is:

Just wait until tomorrow

Like a neatly crocheted wall hanging, I convinced myself that “Kill Yourself Tomorrow” would be my daily affirmation until I didn’t need it anymore.

If life felt so awful, I told myself, then let life be a slow death.

And eventually, I stopped being suicidal and learned to live with those feelings, which changed into a livable melancholy that I wear and that changes as I get older.

Almost twenty years ago there weren’t any anti-suicide campaigns, days, or messages the way we have it today, and to be honest, if there had been one, I would have—like many depressive and suicidal people—ignored it because, depending on the level of depression, no one but me could pull me out.

And I pulled myself out.

That is, over time—a long time, that is—I pulled myself out, with the help of close friends, from my late teens on through and toward adulthood.

screen-shot-2016-09-22-at-7-30-26-pmLet’s be real about this—is it okay for men to want to die, even for a spell? 

No amount of semi-colon tattoos on wrists, “it gets better” messages, or encouraging proverbs would have worked.

Religion, friends and family intervention, literature, romantic relationships, and distractions didn’t subside the feelings or make them go away.

And as I get older I realize that some of us just get stuck with these feelings of dread and melancholy, and you have to find a way to live with it.

And when someone does take his life, it kind of makes sense in the worst, most obvious way.

Eventually—in the arc of my mature life—I became too old for suicide—even though that’s a silly assumption—but as a father I wouldn’t want to miss out on a life with my children and wife, or a chance to grow old, or a chance to slow life so that maybeit would finally leave without any trace.

At a younger age, I knew it all—or I thought I did: I was valuable to people around me and of course they would be affected if I had taken my life—but it wasn’t about them. It was about me. Plus, when you’re dead, you don’t feel guilt for dying. But you do leave a mess of trauma, pain, hate, guilt, and depression for those who never were depressed in the first place.

“Do something”? There’s nothing you can do. For some cases. There really isn’t. We smile on #preventionday and then it’s back to a life-long conversation with our friend.

Some would call this cynical, but I think I’m being realistic.

Maybe this is why such a big killer of men gets such little notice, because we don’t want it to be there, undoing men, highlighting what is perceived as weakness when it’s not cowardice at all.

And men on the whole won’t address it possibly because—government intervention or otherwise—of the fear of weakness in men, or the hesitation that if we give it a name, we’ll have to confront this totally normal I want to die attitude in society.

Imagine a war on feeling shitty.

In the end

Although I had close, sympathetic friends who were there for me during many dark times, and some who were compassionate (and those who had no idea or those who did and didn’t know what to do), in the end, it was me alone forcing myself to get over it and stay alive for the next season of life. Then a season more. Then a season more. I decided to give myself life rather than take it.

Some facts:

  1. Nearly 30,000 Americans commit suicide every year—800,000 worldwide.
  2. In the U.S., suicide rates are highest during the spring.
  3. Suicide is the 3rd leading cause of death for 15 to 24-year-olds and 2nd for 24 to 35-year-olds.
  4. On average, 1 person commits suicide every 16.2 minutes.
  5. Each suicide intimately affects at least 6 other people.
  6. About 2/3 of people who complete suicide are depressed at the time of their deaths. Depression that is untreated, undiagnosed, or ineffectively treated is the number 1 cause of suicide.
  7. There is 1 suicide for every 25 attempted suicides.
  8. Males make up 79% of all suicides, while women are more prone to having suicidal thoughts.
  9. 1 in 65,000 children ages 10 to 14 commit suicide each year.
  10. There are 2 times as many deaths due to suicide than HIV/AIDS.
  11. Over 50% of all suicides are completed with a firearm.

So—I want to live, and live deep.

I want to grieve.

I want to endure those feelings of suffering (or not), and experience every moment of my life, whether it be full of dread, anxiety, or other.

It is a wonderful life, that is, all the wonderful parts of it.

And you and I have the power to stay alive, for one day more, and then another—and then another—to meet us on the other side of several decades from its start.

I’ll see you there.

 Jeremy McKeen is a high school English teacher, coach, musician, and father of three. In addition to his writings on The Good Men Project, he is also a Lead Editor. He has been featured on and written for Huffington Post, Salon, Sammiches & Psych Meds, Ravishly, YourTango,  Scary Mommy, BLUNTMoms, Yahoo! Parenting, HuffPo Parents, The Motherish,MockMom, The Gloucester Clam, Take Magazine, and maintains his own site, Nerdy Dad Shirt. You can find him on Facebook and Twitter.

This post is part of a joint series by The Good Men Project and Stigma Fighters in sharing stories of real men living with mental illness.  To submit your story, see below.

SF

Stigma Fighters is an organization that is dedicated to raising awareness for the millions of people who are seemingly “regular” or “normal” but who are actually hiding the big secret: that they are living with mental illness and fighting hard to survive.

The more people who share their stories, the more light is shone on these invisible illnesses, and the more the stigma of living with mental illness is reduced.

For Stigma Fighters’ Founder Sarah Fader’s recent profile in The Washington Postthat discusses how more and more people are “coming out” with their mental illness, see here.

GMP

The Good Men Project is the only international conversation about the changing roles of men in the 21stcentury.

Mental health and the reducing the social stigma of talking about mental health is and has been a crucial area of focus for The Good Men Project.

As Dr. Andrew Solomon stated during his interview with us, people writing about their own experiences mitigates each of our aloneness in a profound way: “One of the primary struggles in all the worlds I have written about is the sense each of us has that his or her experience is isolating. A society in which that isolation is curtailed is really a better society.”

We are partnering together on this Call For Submissions, because our missions overlap and because we want to extend this conversation further.

♦◊♦

If you are a man living with mental illness, and want to share your story, we would love to help.

To submit to the Good Men Project, please submit here.

To submit to Stigma Fighters, please submit here.

Submissions will run in both publications.  When you submit, please make sure to let us know you submitting as part of this Joint Call for Submissions with Stigma Fighters and Good Men Project.

♦◊♦

Any Questions?

Feel free to contact us:

mkasdan@gmail.com  (Good Men Project)

sarahfader@gmail.com (Stigma Fighters)

allieburkebooks@gmail.com (Stigma Fighters)

Stigma Fighters: Jenna

Talking about mental illness is weird. Everyone has these ideas of what depression looks like, what anxiety looks like, what schizophrenia looks like… But really they wouldn’t be able to tell someone with these illnesses if they knocked on their front door.

Imagine your house is on fire. It’s been burning for a long time, as long as you can remember. You know there must’ve been a time before the house was on fire, but you can’t remember it. You finally call the fire department and after trying to explain all the ways the fire is affecting you, they say “why did you wait so long to say anything?” and you feel so stupid because the only real answer you can give is “I just hoped it would go away.”

So, just a show of hands, how many people here grew up suicidal? And I’m not joking, honestly; how many people here grew up wanting to kill themselves?

I’ll tell ya the first time I remember wanting to kill myself: I was around 8 years old. I had gotten into an argument with my sister, and I remember furiously scribbling in my diary that one day I would hold my breath until I died, then she would realize how mean she was to me. I later learned that what I experience is called passive suicidal ideation; that although I didn’t have any really specific plans to harm myself, it was always an available option in my mind. A weird sort of fallback plan.

It took me many years to realize that this type of thinking is NOT normal. People don’t usually go through their daily life trying to find ways of convincing themselves to stay alive. Every time I drive over a bridge I’m filled with fear because I don’t trust myself to not pull the steering wheel. And the weird thing about growing up suicidal, you just don’t plan past a certain point. You always assume that at some point you’ll get the guts to do it and that’s that. Again, there’s no specific plan or intent; just a vague notion that if all else fails, suicide is waiting there for you, and some part of your brain assumes it’s the way you’ll go. I’m 22, and I’m winging absolutely everything I do because I legitimately didn’t think I would make it this far. It was halfway comforting and halfway scary to have these thoughts in my head, but after long enough they just became my normal. Minor inconveniences led my mind to “Welp, should probably just kill myself” on a daily basis. Again, I have to stress the fact that I thought EVERYONE thought about death as much as I did–something that intrigued me, yet also sent me into panic attacks if I thought about it too long. I fell into a cycle: self hatred, suicidal ideation, anxiety about death, return to neutral, repeat. I had zero control over my emotions and they swung any which way erratically. I deprived myself of food and slept as much as I possibly could when I was feeling low. One low swing even lead me to quit a job that I loved and irrevocably ruin a relationship with someone I respected very much. I’m actually in the midst of that low swing right now (I’d say the lowest I’ve ever felt), exploring my options. I’ve tried “positive thinking” and the like; I’ve tried many medications but none seem to have any effect. My everyday life may seem mundane to most, but in the battlefield that is my mind it’s hectic every second that I’m awake. I am usually pretty anti-organized religion, but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t sometimes find myself praying to something, anything that my pain could be eased for a while.

I’m writing this because I’ve never spoken any of this aloud to a soul; this is more raw than what my own therapist hears! But I needed to get it out, just in case there’s anyone else out there that feels the same way. You are not broken; you are sick, and you need help. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Don’t let your house burn any longer than it needs to. The fire department is there because they want to be, not because they’re paid to be–remember that they’re volunteers! Never forget your support networks. They can be crucial to you sticking around a while longer… And the longer you’re here, the more of a chance you have at seeing things get better.

Jenna is a 22 year old mentally ill queer woman living in New York.

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Stigma Fighters: On Suicide

Kevin Hall’s ruminations on his own suicidal thoughts.

Yesterday—in front of my two younger children—I nearly choked to death on my grilled chicken dinner. What should have simply released a heavy sigh of relief in my wife’s ear at bedtime contorted into a sleepless night of revisiting another recent near miss: Last month I wanted to take my own life.

The two brushes with death are incredibly same, but different.

Similar, in the end result: cold bodies either way.

But different, in the legacies:

The choked version simply was seeking nourishment. That nourishment took an unfortunate wrong turn at the split between esophagus and trachea, blocking the proverbial airway. The mechanics are well understood.

“Accidentally choked to death” is relatively straightforward to say to a stranger. It carries no moral overtones. Yes, it was the recently deceased who put the food in the mouth, but Joe Doe is absolved from that moment onward.

On the other hand, “Accidentally died by suicide” sounds like a phrase that might be used in a really bad standup routine, or maybe a Darwin Awards situation. It doesn’t ring quite right, even for me as I sit here trying to advocate the perspective-giving potential of thinking of death by suicide as accidental, like choking on chicken at dinner time.

I allow myself to think: suppose I didn’t make it last month. Suppose that, instead of going into respite, I had driven off a cliff like my troubled mind kept telling me to do. Suppose the pivotal nourishing thought went down the wrong pipe, so to speak.

Friends and peers, some time after the initial anger subsided, would perhaps have written things about me. Maybe those things would transmute the grief and transcend the impossible-to-understandness of suicide. Or, maybe they would read more like Jonathan Franzen’s New Yorker article eulogizing his friend David Foster Wallace. It was written two and a half years after David’s death:

“He was sick, yes, and in a sense the story of my friendship with him is simply that I loved a person who was mentally ill. The depressed person then killed himself, in a way calculated to inflict maximum pain on those he loved most, and we who loved him were left feeling angry and betrayed. Betrayed not merely by the failure of our investment of love but by the way in which his suicide took the person away from us and made him into a very public legend.”

I don’t know Mr. Franzen, and I didn’t know David either. But I do know that when I have been just a chosen chicken bone from death, it has been calculated to RELIEVE my family and friends of the supposedly-interminable ineluctable burden of supporting a depressed person, day after day, with no laughter, considerateness, or even personal hygiene in sight.

I recoil every time I re-read Mr. Franzen’s words. Perhaps I am missing the context which softens them, in which case I do hope he or someone else will write to me and fill me in.

I can’t speak for everyone who has died by suicide. What I can say is that when I’ve drawn another breath instead of leaving the planet, it has been more like an accident than a willful choice.

And the accident is to forget, for the briefest of moments, that part of my own family has told me they’ve felt “disrespected by my mental illness behavior.”

The accident is to forget that people think I should just “try harder” when I am depressed.

The accident is to forget the ubiquitous shame and stigma around mental illness.

To forget that the medical model essentially says I’m broken until medicated.

Suicides are perpetrated to relieve, not to inflict, maximum pain. What bystanding survivors (clearly) don’t easily see is that it is their pain which is targeted for relief.

Kevin A. Hall is an Ivy League graduate of Brown University, and despite being diagnosed with bipolar disorder in 1989, he went on to become a world-champion Olympic sailor, as well as racing navigator for Emirates Team New Zealand in the 2007 America’s Cup match. A two-time testicular cancer survivor, Hall has spent a successful 25 years as a racing navigator, speed testing manager, and sailing performance and racing instruments expert. His memoir, Black Sails, White Rabbits; Cancer Was the Easy Part is Hall’s first book. He currently lives in Auckland, New Zealand with his wife and their three children. www.kevinahall.com andhttp://www.testicularcancersocietyblog.org/survivor-spotlight-kevin-hall/

This post is part of a joint series by The Good Men Project and Stigma Fighters in sharing stories of real men living with mental illness.  To submit your story, see below.

SF

Stigma Fighters is an organization that is dedicated to raising awareness for the millions of people who are seemingly “regular” or “normal” but who are actually hiding the big secret: that they are living with mental illness and fighting hard to survive.

The more people who share their stories, the more light is shone on these invisible illnesses, and the more the stigma of living with mental illness is reduced.

gm[The Good Men Project is the only international conversation about the changing roles of men in the 21st century.

Mental health and the reducing the social stigma of talking about mental health is and has been a crucial area of focus for The Good Men Project.

If you are a man living with mental illness, and want to share your story, we would love to help.

To submit to the Good Men Project, please submit here.

To submit to Stigma Fighters, please submit here.

Submissions will run in both publications.  When you submit, please make sure to let us know you submitting as part of this Joint Call for Submissions with Stigma Fighters and Good Men Project.

Dr-Margaret-Rutherford-Round

Stigma Fighters: Dr. Margaret Rutherford

One Man. Talking About His Life With Depression.

“I’m ready to tell my story. It’s time.”

That’s what I heard from Stuart Walker, owner of Clubhaus Fitness, a tall, muscular guy with a boisterous laugh and incredibly busy schedule.

He knew I was researching Perfectly Hidden Depression. He had listened to me talk about how the stigma against mental illness keeps people from seeking treatment. We had chatted about what other factors keep folks from considering help, or even thinking of themselves as depressed.

And how men are specifically affected.

Stuart wanted to help, by revealing what was underneath the beaming smile and bright welcome he gave to all who walked through the doors of his gym. He wanted to share the dark thoughts that could kidnap his mind, after working tirelessly as a dad to three kids (one with autism, a second with severe medical problems). He was a boss to hundreds of employees, a supportive coach to those trying to tighten abs or shed a few. And a husband who didn’t have much left to give, and felt guilty about it.

And he came very close, on a daily basis, to ending his life.

He, in many ways, epitomized Perfectly Hidden Depression, looking like he had the world by the tail. He constantly heard comments like, “I can’t believe how well you handle all the pressure you must be under. You and Missi (his wife) are incredible.”

While inwardly, he knew the secret of his mental and emotional exhaustion.

Until he finally broke.

In a new series of videos on YouTube (available below), Stuart talks vividly and openly about the road from severe depression to new purpose.

His story is profound. It is universal.

It could be you. Or someone you love.

the road from depression to new purpose.Stuart has found ways to revel in his life like never before. The struggles have not changed. Problems have not disappeared.

Not by a long shot.

He has worked extremely hard to get better. Physically, mentally, and emotionally. He and Missi took a long look at their relationship, and now are doing better than ever.

Stuart has found a way to cope with his condition — accept it and go on living.

You can learn from him, if you open yourself to it.

That’s what he wants.

“Knowing that I have had some issues…. it would be cowardly for me not to share it.”

This is Stuart — talking about feeling suicidal every day. And how he handled it.

Please consider seeking treatment if you recognize you are depressed, or if others are suggesting to you that you seem more negative – that you aren’t participating the way you used to in things -if you are getting more irritable – you can’t tolerate things that used to be piece of cake. All of these could be signs that depression is a factor. It runs in families. Maybe your dad or your mom experienced it. Maybe a grandparent or an uncle.

You can talk to a doctor about potential medication, and/or look into therapy. Both can work together as a team.

Therapy is not all about sitting and talking. It’s about taking action. Changing your choices.

And your life.

Note: Mr. Walker was a patient of mine in the past. It should be made clear that I did not approach him about being interviewed. It would have been unethical for me to do so. We discussed potential implications, after which he restated his desire and readiness, with the full support of his wife, Missi. I am sincerely grateful to both of them for sharing with all of us what is hard-earned wisdom.

Please share with others who may learn much from Stuart’s story!

Dr-Margaret-Rutherford-RoundDr. Margaret Rutherford, a psychologist and blogger, has been in practice for over twenty years. Writing about mental health and midlife issues, her work has been featured on The Huffington Post, The Good Men Project, The Mighty, Midlife Boulevard, Better After 50, Vibrant Nation and others. She’s also been cited for her expertise by Readers Digest, The Cheat Sheet, and The Huffington Post, and her work and personal story can be found in “Surviving Mental Illness With Humor” (A. Herzig) and “StigmaFighters: Anthology II (S. Fader).

Dr. Margaret Rutherford can be found on her website, Facebook, and Twitter

This post is part of a joint series by The Good Men Project and Stigma Fighters in sharing stories of real men living with mental illness.  To submit your story, see below.

SF

Stigma Fighters is an organization that is dedicated to raising awareness for the millions of people who are seemingly “regular” or “normal” but who are actually hiding the big secret: that they are living with mental illness and fighting hard to survive.

The more people who share their stories, the more light is shone on these invisible illnesses, and the more the stigma of living with mental illness is reduced.

gm[The Good Men Project is the only international conversation about the changing roles of men in the 21st century.

Mental health and the reducing the social stigma of talking about mental health is and has been a crucial area of focus for The Good Men Project.

If you are a man living with mental illness, and want to share your story, we would love to help.

To submit to the Good Men Project, please submit here.

To submit to Stigma Fighters, please submit here.

Submissions will run in both publications.  When you submit, please make sure to let us know you submitting as part of this Joint Call for Submissions with Stigma Fighters and Good Men Project.

Stigma Fighters: Zachary Mallory


There’s so much that I could truly say, but would it make sense whenever I said it, probably not. But it’s always worth a shot right. Truth is, even whenever it seems like its not the right thing to do, don’t be afraid to take a chance.
That’s what I live by. What doesn’t kill you… Makes you stronger.

My name is Zachary Mallory. I am a Mental Health and Suicide Prevention Advocate from Kansas City, Missouri. Born and raised. I have never been the type of person to open up and talk about myself, but I feel like it’s truly that time to do so.

Growing up, I guess you could say I had a normal childhood, but what’s Normal anyways? Throughout school, it was like a putrid hell for me. I never knew what to expect whenever I was walking down the hallways. Was I going to make it to class on time, or am I going to get thrown down the stairs, yet again. It was like a reoccurring nightmare that just wouldn’t go away, no matter what I tried.

Coming home to my parents was my biggest challenge. Not because they didn’t accept me, but because I didn’t know how to tell them what was wrong with me and it depressed me even more because I was basically living a lie. I knew that I had to tell someone, but how. I came home after school one day, and it was after being pushed off the bus and having the bus doors closed right in my face. The bus was leaving and I was late getting there because I got held up in the hallway by a high school jock and was forced to do something that I never imagined in life I would ever do. I won’t go into detail about what happened, just know it was very much embarrassing, in the school hallway of all places. He threatened me and told me that if I didn’t do it, he was going to run around to everyone and tell them that I am a “queer”.

In my mind I’m thinking, what the fuck is a queer. Is there something wrong with me. I went around asking everyone about what a queer was, and they looked at me like I was stupid. I had heard the word before but thought it was normal to be a queer. I thought queer was one of those new hip words that everyone was throwing around like “ratchet” or “thot”.

I finally broke down and wrote my parents a note about what I was going through at school and told them that I was truly feeling suicidal. They took me to a local mental health facility and they admitted me. While being in there, all I did was sit in my room and cry myself to sleep countless numbers of times, and I would wake up screaming because I kept hearing voices telling me to just end my life, no one cares anyways. It truly felt like I was alone, the nurses would always come running into my room and I always told them I was fine and to leave me the fuck alone. They would let me calm down because they knew I was going to be okay and I would talk whenever I felt like talking. I never figured out what my triggers truly were.

I sat through the group discussions, but whenever it came time for me to share my thoughts and feelings and to mention about my emotions to certain topics, I never paid any attention and sat in the back of the circle and listen to music in my head, even though I physically didn’t have any music, there was still music in my mind.

Days went on and I was finally released from what seemed to be forever in that place. I call it “the hellhole” because that’s exactly what it was. It did absolutely jack shit for me. I still felt the exact same as I did before I went in there, whenever I thought the purpose of going to something like that was to make me feel a thousand times better, but in honesty, I felt a thousand times worse. The worst I have ever felt.

A couple weeks went by and the same feelings were getting way worse than I knew how to truly handle. I went to bed that night and couldn’t for the life of me get to sleep. It was like something was forcing me to stay awake. I tried listening to what my heart was telling me to do but unfortunately, my brain overpowered me, as always.

It was getting to the point where the only thing I could think about, even while being at school, was to kill myself.

I was sitting in the classroom one day and the teacher was sitting right there at the desk while I was cutting my wrist with a blade that I got from a friend of mine. There’s a puddle of blood on the ground. People would look directly at it and laugh and would point at it as it’s running off my wrist. You would think someone would do something like tell the teacher or go get the nurse, but no all they did was sit there and continuously laugh. It made me feel truly alone. I even tried raising my hand to go to the bathroom, but the teacher just kept talking, ignoring the fact that I could drop dead at any moment.

In the hallways, every single time I walked by someone, they would point and laugh at me because I had gauze wrapped around my wrist, at least I got the bleeding to stop, but it left a major mark on my wrist and it’s been sensitive to the touch ever since.

I attempted suicide for the first time shortly after being diagnosed with Manic Depression. I attempted suicide by taking a knife to my throat in front of my parents. Hearing those sirens screeching, heading directly towards me made me want to never be alive again. All of my emotions and all of my feelings were coming in my mind and right before I took a slice at my neck, my mom took the knife from me and hid all the rest of them in the house. I have always struggled with my anger and depression, but never this bad. It took everything in me to admit that I was attempting suicide to the paramedic and they strapped me down in the ambulance and they went to the hospital where I was placed on psych hold until a opening at the same mental facility that I was at the first time had a bed open for me. They told me “you’re going back to the mental hospital” Oh yay me.

Whenever I arrived back at the facility shortly after 9pm, I walked down the hallways past the room that I was in before. There was already someone else in that room. It brought back memories of sitting in the dark, screaming in pain and agony, and no one paid any attention to it. Maybe I truly was alone. This time at the mental hospital wasn’t all too bad, but it wasn’t good at the same time. I actually opened up about how I was feeling.

Shortly after being released from the mental facility the second time. I came out as gay to my high school, friends and family. Everyone was very accepting and assuring that I was going to be okay. It’s like a huge sigh of relief whenever you here “you are here because you’re strong and because you have a purpose in life.” I went to my very first gay pride festival in Kansas City that year. It was amazing because I was around people who were accepting of me and didn’t have to worry about anything, until I went back to the school the next day. The same people who were bullying me before had even more of a reason to bully me, and that they did. The bullying got worse. Now whenever I said everyone was accepting of me, I was referring to my family, friends, teachers, etc. I never said the entire school was, and that they were not. Shortly after I came out, about 6 others did to. Not all as gay, but at least I wasn’t alone. This was how my Freshman and Sophomore year went. I attempted suicide two more times after all of this. One was by overdosing, two was by attempted hanging in my friends basement.

Towards the end of my Junior year, I got a phone call from Nickelodeon saying I was nominated for the HALO Effect Award, which stands for Helping and Leading Others. I was nominated for my bravery and honesty as well as my mental health and suicide prevention, LGBTQ+ advocacy. I flew to NYC where I attended the annual HALO Awards show. I met some very amazing and inspiring people and of course, I met Victoria Justice and Carlos Pena Vega(from Big Time Rush). I was having the time of my life. Oh, did I mention I took selfies with Nick Cannon and Victoria Justice? Well, that happened too!

I came back home and had interviews with the local news media. It was the first time that I’ve ever even talked with the news stations and newspapers.

It was a whole new experience, and seeing myself on TV for the first time, was truly amazing. Shortly after the first news station interviewed me, the rest followed and my phone was blowing up with people requesting interviews. It was amazing and I had so much fun doing it. I got less nervous and more used to their questions the more interviews that I did.

One night, I was watching spongebob then the commercial that they highlight the HALO Effect Award honorees came on and I saw myself. I hate my own voice whenever it’s being recorded but at least I was on there.

I felt like I truly did something with my life, and I did it big. I never once imagined I would ever be on a nationally known television channel, but like my Mother always told me “Expect the worse, but hope for the best” and damn, was she right the whole time.

Let me tell you a little about my mom. She is my everything. She’s my best friend, not just my mother. I can tell my mom anything, and she will never judge me for it. I can be myself, I can trust her with my life. She’s the one person that was there for me besides my Grandma. My grandma passed away, unfortunately, on February 20th, 2014 at 4:45am. I remember it vividly. That was a true living nightmare was being right there and watching my grandma take her last breath. It’s a experience that you never want to relive.

The first person that I actually came out to as gay before I did it with anyone else was my grandma. I called her at 3am, I don’t know how your Grandma is, but mine was pissed, but once I told her what was going on, she was reassuring and told me to calm my silly ass down and that she knew all along that I was gay. That was the best day of my life. She saved my life. I am forever grateful for that.

In all honesty, if it wasn’t for my mom and grandma, I wouldn’t be here sharing my story with the world and inspiring others to do the same. I started a project back in May of 2016. It’s called the VoiceMatters Project, a project focusing on Mental Health, Suicide Prevention, and LGBTQ+ advocacy and inspiring others to share their stories regardless of who or what they are and identify as.

Thank you for taking the time to read and hear me out. It truly means alot. One piece of advice is never give up and keep up the good fight. You are brave, you are beautiful and most importantly, you are NEVER alone.

Mental Health and Suicide Prevention Advocate. Founder of soon to be Non-Profit Organization VoiceMatters Project, a project focusing on advocacy for mental health, suicide prevention and LGBTQ+ advocacy by empowering others to share their stories.

Zachary can be found on Facebook and Twitter.