Some People Just Suck
Carefully maneuvering to grab the third plane of the day, I reached the line to board. Dressed in royal blue, the gate agent made his first announcement. “Anyone who needs assistance, extra time, or has a disability may board now. I approached the front of the line. “Pardon me.” I said to the older fella next to me. He wore a bright white tee, black khaki shorts, black socks, and a perplexed look upon his face. While I was well in ear shot he aggressively proclaimed, “You’re not even dragging a leg…that ain’t right!” Pre board rules are clear, if you have a disability, or need extra time, (like I do) you may enter prior to any of the first tear boarding sections. What the gentleman who made these remarks did not know, could not know, was the copious amount of physical pain I was in at that very moment. What he didn’t know, was the momentous pain I live in daily. How could he, I don’t visibly appear to be in tremendous pain, aside my furrowed brow it is a cross I must bear for the suicide attempt I made at 19 years old. I hide it well. As he said, I don’t walk with a limp. I take my light pain meds and muster through it. I don’t complain about it to anyone besides my better half. Nor should I, it’s a mostly private reality. When I am flying, anywhere, it is exacerbated. Let’s face it no airline I know of has ergonomically correct seating. Sometimes I am in so much pain, it brings me to tears. So I just sit there balling. For those who don’t know me my physical suffering is rather invisible. This fact however, does not make it any less of a reality.
I would love to place this guy, and all like him in my shoes for just one fly day. My guess is, he wouldn’t last 5 minutes. The injury to my formerly broken, and shattered back was extensive after my attempt. My lower back was fitted with a great deal of titanium. I am not only blessed to be mobile at all, but clearly blessed to be alive. In the year 2000 while struggling with mental illness, I leapt off of the Golden Gate Bridge, in order to die by suicide. That day, my brain was trying to kill me as I desperately fought to stay above water.
Today, I travel across the United States and the globe. I speak publicly about my experience. I talk about my survival, and my ongoing recovery. I do so as I continue living with chronic pain, and chronic suicidal thoughts. But that’s ok, because I AM ALIVE!
I get the amazing ability to be a part of this world every single day.
I am not alone in this regular occurrence. People like me come from all over the world. We have what most call disabilities. We are those whose suffering is not apparent, and thus the constant discrimination ensues. Some call it stigma. Do we call bigotry, racism or sexism stigma, no we call it by its real name discrimination and prejudice.
I know how lucky I am: I still have the gift of life. In a moment it can be taken away. I get to kiss my wife every morning that I am home. I am allowed the opportunities to speak about my brain disease to in need foundations, hospitals, universities, conferences, law enforcement, high schools, grade-schools, and the military, etc.
There are so many people at airports around the globe who look on in judgment as I board. From the questioning gate agents, passengers, onto the flight crew. The passengers especially glare on. They screw their faces at me as I board. Others peer on with nasty stares, and yes some spit out sly comments.
They do so as if those living like me have just committed some heinous air crime. They are the apathetic, without the ability to hold concern. There’s is a sad life, cynical, judgmental, angry. I hope this blog opens some of their eyes. But at this very moment, as I key in these words, I cannot continue. The pain is too much to bear. Tears are beginning to flow. You get the point. Love on, live long, and find a modicum wellness, because your brain health matters as much as your physical, and emotional health. Frankly, both should be considered and treated as one…just health. Keep waging this courageous battle #StigmaFighters I am right by your side.
Kevin Hines is an award-winning global speaker, bestselling author,
documentary filmmaker, and suicide prevention and mental health advocate who has reached millions with his story of an unlikely survival and his strong will to live (www.kevinhinesstory.com). Two years after he was diagnosed with bipolar disorder, he attempted to take his life by jumping from the Golden Gate Bridge. He is one of only thirty-four (less than 1%) to survive the fall and he is the only Golden Gate Bridge jump survivor who is actively spreading the message of living mentally healthy internationally.
Through his tireless advocacy and policy efforts of over ten years, Kevin has been a leading champion for constructing a suicide prevention net on the Golden Gate Bridge and was instrumental in success of the approved funding on June 2014.
In the summer of 2013, Kevin released his bestselling memoir titled Cracked Not Broken, Surviving and Thriving After a Suicide Attempt.
He was awarded a Lifetime Achievement Award by the National Council of Behavioral Health. Kevin has also been awarded by SAMSHA as a Voice Awards Fellow and Award Winner, an Achievement Winner by the US Veterans Affairs and is a recipient of several military Medals.
Kevin also sits on the boards of The International Bipolar Foundation, The Bridge Rail Foundation (BRF) and The Mental Health Association of San Francisco (MHASF). Kevin has spoken and testified in congressional hearings alongside Patrick Kennedy in support of the Mental Health Parity Bill. He has been a powerful voice for the lived experience movement for over 15 years.
His will to live and stay mentally well has inspired people worldwide. His compelling story has touched diverse, global audiences within colleges and universities, high schools, corporations, clergy, military, clinicians, health and medical communities, law enforcement organizations, and various conferences. Thousands have communicated to Hines that his story helped save their lives.
His story was featured in the 2006 critically-acclaimed film “The Bridge” by the film director and producer Eric Steel. His story is being chronicled in the forthcoming film Suicide The Ripple Effect. He has been featured on CNN, Fox, Time Magazine, New York Times, Newsweek, Vanity Fair, Good Morning America, ABC’s PrimeTime Live, BBC World, among several other international media outlets.
Kevin believes in the power of the human spirit and in the fact that you can find the ability to live mentally well. His mantra: “Life is a gift, that is why they call it the present. Cherish it always.”
I was completely moved by your words and your ability to share your story. I’m truly happy that your suicide attempt didn’t claim your life. You obviously have a gift, and I’m glad to witness it here. I hope to have the privilege of hearing you speak in the future.
Thank you for sharing this.