September 10, 2018 is World Suicide Prevention Day. National Suicide Prevention Week is observed from September 9-15. Why did I choose this topic, you ask? Because suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the US. Because every year about 45,000 Americans die by suicide, which is about 123 per day. And because I am a survivor of loss by suicide.
My mother was very depressed, for as long as anyone in our family could remember. And certainly already before I was born. From the stories I was told and what I had personally witnessed, she suffered many traumatic experiences during her short life, which resulted in an even bigger load of traumatic reactions that we (her immediate family) suffered from with her. It was difficult to navigate the ups and downs of her bipolar disorder, depression, anxiety, over-the-moon-joy to be alive followed by episodes of complete and dark despair.
I had lived these ups and downs throughout my life, until my mother decided it was her time to go. I was 22. Having lost my father at the age of 13, I can tell you that life was pretty challenging then on, without either of my parents.
It is known that when you live a traumatic event, you either fight, flee or freeze. Mine being freeze. My body shut down. My emotions seemed to have escaped me. Of course, I was sad and cried but, because I didn’t want to believe that she had decided to leave me, I carried on with my life as normal. I took care of the formalities after she died, went on with college, graduated from law school, found a job. I carried on but I knew I was not the same. My soul had changed, my body was experiencing post traumatic stress. I knew I needed help, but I could not even verbalize how I felt.
At some point, I went to therapy to quickly realize that the drugs offered by the traditional path of therapy were not doing me any good. I then started to find relief in energy healing and hypnosis, which both helped me tremendously. At that time, I was also practicing yoga but more on a “I want to get flexible” level. And for some reason, I joined a studio where I felt the emotional release I was seeking. By bending my body I expressed out of my soul the feelings of anger, sadness, guilt, shame, abandonment that I had bottled up for a decade.
Energy healing and the practice of yoga have put me on a healing journey, that I later took on to be a professional of. My first thought when I felt this peace was: “I am 100% sure that if my mother had practiced yoga, she would still be here today.” And my belief is backed up by science. There are countless studies that show how yoga can help people suffering from mental illness.
Can I say, today, 17 years later, that I have healed from my mother’s suicide? Certainly not. When I look at my 2 year old son in all his awesomeness, it makes me really sad that she (as well as my father of course) is not here to experience my journey in motherhood with me. When I see moms and daughters getting mani/pedis, my heart hurts. When my son was born, I didn’t have anyone to tell me the stories of when I was a baby. So, no, I have not healed from losing my mother. But I am at peace with her: she decided to face this life, for us, for as long as she could, considering the inner, mental struggle she was in, until she could no more. For that, I honor her.
And I am also at peace with myself. I did what I could at that time with the knowledge I had. When my mother was struggling, I was a child. She was the head of our household, the only parent I had and never did I think she would end her life. I didn’t want to believe it. It was impossible for a mother to want to leave her kids. I was very wrong.
I wanted to share my story with you so that if you know someone close – or even not so close – who is suffering from mental illness and/or thoughts of suicide, whatever level of severity, support them and let them know they have options. Inform yourself on the facts behind suicide, its causes, warning signs and risk factors. There are so many support groups and tools available out there to help individuals suffering from mental illness. Of course, the decision to seek help is personal, but that person who is suffering needs support and unconditional love.
For more information, please visit the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention website: https://afsp.org. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is 1-800-273-8255.