|Posted on July 8, 2020 at 2:00 PM||comments (1)|
On this day of July, "2020", I would like to make a most humble announcement. Thanks in large part to those many people who have persevered, since June 21st my website has now officially surpassed 5,000 page views.
As I consider the effort by those many people out there, and lastly myself, to share my poem despite censorship and spam blocking... I must regard all of you as much as the troubling times we are enduring together as a people. While sharing the poem, on social media, I have seen many faces.
Many faces, indeed.
Not of one race, color, or creed, but of many people who tirelessly work and to support essential lives. American, international, blue collar, white collar, front line, at home, graduate, as well as retirees with a lifetime of hard work behind you. I wanted to see a picture of as many of you as I could in order to remember who I am with right now. Who I am with right now as we fight this and stand up to reveal the truth about COVID-19. The thousands upon thousands awakened to the truth about the narratives that surround us.
Not of one race, color, or creed, but of many people who deserve the most dignified respect I can offer as but one lowly soul. Never before in my life have I seen so many people face such an uncertain future as I myself have been living for over the last twenty years because of my mental health. I am unemployed, have no significant other, spouse or kids, and not yet a place to live so either. I struggle mightily in ways my new mental health writing will begin to reveal. I struggle through my days as we all do together facing the uncertainty before us.
Of many races, colors, and creeds, we the people of the world have come this far in our lives such as they are. We don't always agree. Believe me, as I stated in my 2018 article on youth and adult bullying, "We all have our days." We also have our days of humble forgiveness and remarkable compassion. Despite any differences, we are still here together. I have said to numerous commenters on social media, you are still here. That's mindfulness. That's empowerment. That's resilience. That takes honest courage to face what we have and still be here.
Persisting as one great river to carve a path through the rock of oppression that lies all around us...
From all my heart I want to thank each and every person for taking the time to read my poem, the patience to read it all (because, honestly, it is long and stressful), as well as the diligence to share it with anyone you know. A big shout-out to Ms. Trina Faith for sharing my poem with her 2,500 followers on Twitter as well. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you very much. Keep my poem alive.
I want to conclude this post in memorandum by quoting my idol, beloved actor Robert Downey Jr., from the 2008 film Iron Man.
"I shouldn't be alive... unless it was for a reason. I'm not crazy... I just finally know what I have to do. And I know in my heart that it's right."
You are why I am still here.
You are an Avenger.
|Posted on May 20, 2020 at 1:00 AM||comments (0)|
"Revealing the Truth about Suicidality" ©
In society today, a simple mention of the word suicide often creates either anxiety or fear-driven stigma. Awareness from news media coverage varies depending upon how well known the victims are. Unfortunately, the positive impact of individual loss victims greatly diminishes anyway within two to four weeks after bereavement. They are no longer here to speak for themselves as capable advocates for change. Numerous reputable studies still show serious mortality rates in many countries, including the U.S. As proven in my Sept. 2019 NAMI Blog, for prevention, “there is no better resource than someone who has lived through this and survived.” Join me as I discuss what I have learned as an experienced survivor of suicide.
To this day, stigma has a constant disruptive influence on how suicide is perceived and addressed. On a basic level, suicide involves the preventable death of a loved one. Feeling anxiety about such a traumatic and personal loss is a natural reaction. However, if you were to ignore what suicide is like to live with and over-react, you can stigmatize others with shame and fear. These reactions make it harder for people to cope with their mental health, thus affecting friends and relatives. Talking about heightened stress is often risky. Coping skills are needed more outside of treatment. Finding someone trustworthy to confide in is difficult. The more I explain from experience, the less likely you will be to react to suicide with fear and confusion.
Since early in my youth, I have found that not keeping my emotions bottled up has been very important. Faking a smile was a common way I saw other people hide from their stress. But this never felt safe or right for me to do. Without expressing negative emotions, through treatment or self-care, your mental health will suffer from the strain. Heightened stress can lead to an increased risk of suicide symptoms. Unfortunately, coping skills take time to learn. So, I was more vulnerable at a young age than I am now as an adult. Although my first symptoms of suicide did not occur until after high school, I did recognize the need to talk about my feelings. I never realized that one of my best coping skills was a habit I already frequently used.
Between Elementary and Junior High, I had few friends outside of school and problems at home. There was not enough positive social interaction for me. Then, I started noticing I was vocalizing my thoughts quietly, while comfortably in my bedroom. At first, this helped me to brainstorm ideas. I just regarded the habit as thinking out loud since talking was socially acceptable. When I encountered negative emotions, it felt natural to express my feelings in the same way. So, I vocalized anger, frustration, sadness, confusion, and anxiety. By expressing them on my own, I felt better and unknowingly avoided a build-up of stress. I kept it private because I felt people would misunderstand and, for lack of a better word, think I was crazy.
Now, I know this secretive habit as a coping skill called self-talking. Why do I still need to be so private about it even now? A lack of acceptance keeps me from feeling comfortable with my mental health. Stigma about suicide frequently causes anxiety. I do not feel safe openly expressing myself as a survivor. Fortunately, for over twenty-five years, I have used self-talking responsibly to cope with negative emotions. I cannot imagine what suicide ideations would be like without it. There have been no problems because few people overhear what I do express. Though, self-talking by itself is not entirely effective. I have found it best to seek proper care by a certified mental health professional, whether secular or faith-based, as early as possible.
In October 2018, after ensuring affordability through case management, I experienced counseling and psychiatry for myself. I have also observed a false impression that counseling should help all the time. From their point of view, when behavioral therapy does not appear to be effective, those closest to you may express concern. I know because people have asked me why counseling does not always help. In my case, I waited too long. There are a lot of delicate factors with mental health treatment. First and most important is finding a counselor you can safely and comfortably talk to about your feelings. Treatment is more challenging with suicide symptoms, but it does still help. You need to find what is affordable and works best for you.
Meanwhile, with mental health appointments still on-going, there is something essential that the treatments often cannot fulfill. My counseling sessions and support group meetings typically only take an hour and occur weekly at most. Therefore, regardless of any prescribed medication, this leaves managing most of my mental health outside of those set office hours. Properly coping with thoughts of suicide is much more important too. It is my responsibility to cultivate positive coping skills I can use on my own during this time. Crisis and intervention are available in many locations, but there are other beneficial options you can explore. In fact, by making the most of what is around me, I have been more self-reliant with my mental health.
After attending a mindfulness presentation, I discovered that everyday activities were already useful as positive influences. Some of the best examples include listening to or playing music, watching movies, arts and crafts, hobbies, exercising, or finding ways to relax. I make creative music playlists, watch inspirational movies and interesting gameplay videos, or search for new ideas of activities to do. I can also take something I like, such as a favorite song, and cherish it more to experience a stronger sense of energy and fulfillment. The more I am aware of what is positive and distracts me from a depressed mood, the better I have been able to handle time outside of appointments. Even so, there is still something more helpful than all of this.
From experience, having a close friend or relative who accepts my mental health has been invaluable. Communicating as often as possible with them is very comforting. Though, outside of treatment, finding suitable social interaction is not always easy. It depends on how many people I am in contact with and how much time they can offer. Screening for compatible personalities has been helpful too. If someone is unrealistically positive, I am not as comforted despite even their best intentions. Coping with suicide often involves intense negative emotions. The darker your self-expression, the less willing some people may be to communicate with you. It is beneficial to be mindful of religious acceptance of suicide as well. Sadly though, not everyone has someone to rely on when critical emotional support is needed most.
To adapt, I have to be considerate of my friends’ daily lives, such as family needs, hours of employment, and private time of their own. Plus, with more than one trusted support friend, I have found it helpful not to rely on the same person all the time. Doing this disperses the stress and can be of great benefit to them. The more accommodating I can be will strengthen the friendships and ensure I do not overwhelm anyone with my issues. Balancing my mental health with all this experience has allowed me to focus on being an advocate. Helping others like me is important because stigma keeps many from speaking out. I choose to go above and beyond so that fewer people put themselves at risk. Here are some thought-provoking observations.
Above all, the most common perception I have found is a widely accepted connection between prolonged depression and empathy. People who endure depression are more sensitive to emotions due to the nature of their suffering. Although I do agree, it is not just from my experiences with surviving suicide. At a young age, through mindful self-awareness, I recognized how negative emotions affected me. If I felt miserable from being bullied as a teenager, why would I want someone else to experience that? Not to mention, as a mature adult setting an example for others. I choose to prioritize how I treat people because I take hurtful emotions seriously. So, neither compassion nor empathy requires a life of suffering. Though just being courteous is often helpful and with minimal effort needed.
Likewise, the belief that a person displaying suicide symptoms may be a risk for violent behavior is false. In reality, the heightened sense of empathy makes many people less likely to be a threat. I can confirm this by sharing my history of non-violence, but I am not alone. Any reputable source can demonstrate the ratio of violent crime compared to the majority of the non-violent population. It is the responsibility of the person suffering to be mindful of their self-expression and actions. As someone who may be around them, you are equally responsible for your behavior too. Choosing to fear them without understanding their mental health is how stigma can thrive. A calm discussion to learn more can help resolve confusion and concerns.
Unfortunately, stigma makes communication more challenging because it can easily be awkward for many people. If in-person, someone may overhear and misunderstand what is said. On social media or by telephone, there is no way to judge another person's body language. Or, for example, with autism, sharing too much information can create unintentional problems even with people you may trust. Venting negative emotions is an important part of coping with such diagnoses as major depressive disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, bipolar disorder, and more. I have personally experienced a problem with expressing myself during heightened stress. In two previous incidents, someone close to me has called a suicide hotline. After reflecting on what happened, in each case, I was not careful with what I said, and they over-reacted.
In reality, tragedies have occurred when people over-react and involve law enforcement. Had the police been prematurely called in either of my instances, it is permitted to force taking custody and transport to the hospital for evaluation. However, my parents would have endured an abrupt and highly stressful incident since I still lived with them at those times. My stress would have spiked even higher, probably destroying the mental stability that I diligently manage. There have been cases, such as Osaze Osagie, in which law enforcement intervention has caused tragic and preventable losses of life. Over-reacting due to stigma and starting intervention for someone you are not familiar with can put lives at risk. There are also issues with terminology.
Following publicized incidents of mass violence, I have witnessed people express their belief the person responsible is or must be mentally ill. First, not all information is known, disclosed, or accurately reported to the public immediately afterward. Investigations by law enforcement and psychiatric assessment take time to determine the facts and motivations. Assuming based on emotions ignores the truth. The suspect may not have any mental health symptoms directly responsible for their actions of violence. If they do, you would be ignoring the complexity of their mental health and any unique diagnoses involved. Although mental health and mental illness are interchangeable, misusing them as a stereotype only creates stigma. Doing so makes you more likely to misjudge people you care about, such as friends and family.
Similarly, repeated use of the term murder-suicide in news media reporting undermines critical awareness efforts. Non-violent suicides are instantly associated with traumatizing violent crimes such as mass shootings. Logic proves the term is no longer appropriate to use. A person does not kill another person to end their own life. In these cases, the purpose is to carry out homicide first. Therefore, aggressive behavior is a crucial difference. Keep in mind, empathy and non-violence are common of many who live with suicide symptoms. So, using an outdated term does more harm than good. A suitable alternative would be to use murder-aggressive-suicide. Not only is the trademark aggression identified in the term, but more people may ask what the difference is. Clarifying stigmatized mental health information is always beneficial.
Consistently, suicide losses are attributed to or suspected of being caused by mental health conditions. From experience, I know diagnoses such as depression do play a significant role. Reporting rhetoric discourages singling out one factor because of how complex suicide is. A wide range of factors can take months or years before leading up to a single active attempt. Contrary to this, I have observed and experienced external factors that escalate suicidal behavior in a matter of months or days. Although commonly disputed by some as a direct cause, the easiest trigger to recognize is intentional bullying. Two recent cases in my community stand out as decisive proof: a 12-year-old Junior High student and a 45-year-old businesswoman.
According to reported information, they were both victims of emotional mistreatment within months or days leading up to their respective attempts. The timing and influence of these incidents are undeniable. As an outsider, I do not have access to their mental health records. Neither should anyone assume they had underlying diagnoses to cause emotional instability. People are responsible for their actions and thus behavior as well. In cases of child abuse, whether or not the abuse results in death, the abusers are still held responsible. Instead, with cases involving bullying, accountability is placed on the deceased victims who succumbed because of their mistreatment. If someone takes their life as a direct result of emotional abuse, students and adults alike should be held accountable or deterred from abusive behavior.
Had the intentional bullying not occurred, both the student and businesswoman would likely still be alive today. This fact alone should void legal precedents protecting public school districts from student-upon-student bullying. Unfortunately, no one involved in the local cases was held accountable for their actions. As a result, the lack of prevention solves nothing. Worse yet, they were only two years apart. The year in between, as an adult myself, I endured bullying that pushed me to the brink of active suicidal behavior. Trusted and influential adults in the mental health community were responsible. One year later, the businesswoman’s suicide was a chilling wake-up call for what nearly happened to me. External factors, such as bullying, must be taken seriously. Without anyone to intervene, bullying-related suicides will claim more lives.
If you think someone you know is in crisis, do not be afraid to help. Many survivors of suicide express a hope that someone would have asked how they are feeling. Most already lack meaningful social interaction, genuine happiness, or a fulfilling purpose in their lives. Providing supportive contact and ensuring they are safe may be all that is needed, just use sound judgment. To keep from adding stress to the conversation speak calmly, and avoid expressing a need for intervention. Once they seem to be out of danger, ask if they have treatment options. A simple follow-up encouraging them to seek appropriate help will see most people through the worst of their ordeal. Being the person to ask if someone in crisis is okay can make a big difference.
Critically, a fact often overlooked by many is the significance of suicide survival stories. With firsthand experience from getting mine published, sharing what I have learned will reveal an essential truth about suicide prevention. Reporting guidelines recommend how to discuss the delicate information involved. These precautions are necessary to help people who have greater difficulty coping with suicide symptoms. I had never written a formal article about my survival experience before. To ensure it would be acceptable for publishing, I needed to abide by the guidelines as well. A recent adult diagnosis of autism added an extra challenge because I had to be careful about my self-expression. I followed my instincts and covered everything I could.
By concentrating on the guidelines, I realized there was honestly no need to discuss the method of my attempt. My survival story was safer to read. I also accomplished something incredibly important. I focused on what was going through my mind leading up to, during, and in the years after my experience. I was awestruck to tears. This information is what people need to understand why suicide happens in the first place. Mental health professionals can study it. Suicide prevention task forces should not ignore it. Youth Aevidum groups can adapt it to help the at-risk younger age groups. The general public will be able to understand it. Stigma does not stand a chance against objectively written firsthand accounts of what causes suicide behavior.
With proper guidance, survivors of many ages and backgrounds can legitimately improve suicide prevention. However, individually, survival stories are not taken seriously enough as primary source information. Suicide still creates anxiety and fear-driven stigma. People still cling to a status-quo that accepts suicide losses as the best anyone can do. Yet, there is no better resource than someone who has lived through this and survived. So, I decided to do something about it. I respect the journey that led me to be who I am today. And I will never stop caring because you are why I am still here. Check out my Jan. 2020 TWLOHA Blog today. Share my courage to help change the fate of suicide now, when this life matters most.
Finally, and perhaps the most helpful fact of all can be realized just by looking at today. Suicidality does not mean a person will not live to old age. Many people do cope with and recover from even the most harrowing experiences. Consider Kevin Hines, who suffered significant physical injuries yet has become an international success story and a positive force for suicide prevention. I also consider myself living proof. At the time of this writing, my first active experience with suicide was seventeen years ago. Seventeen years, despite having sought full diagnosis and treatment only in October 2018. Each day still holds realistic hope for finding happiness and achieving a positive recovery. Give yourself, and tomorrow a chance.
(inspired by the Penn State chant)
© 2020 Jim R. Irion.
My article is protected under Fair Use copyright law.
Formal publishers must contact me first.
This body of writing also serves as professional presentation material (approx. 24 minutes). Interested parties should contact me right away to make arrangements at no cost or charge.
About The Author:
I am a two-time Pennsylvania State University graduate and mental health advocate with over ten years of dedicated community service volunteering. My primary focuses are suicide prevention, anti-bullying and empowerment. Currently, I am a NAMI member trained as an In Our Own Voice presenter. I also have QPR Gatekeeper layperson suicide prevention training.
Be sure to check out my writing today.
|Posted on January 13, 2020 at 2:45 PM||comments (1)|
Thanks to Ms. Becky Ebert, Editor for the non-profit organization ToWriteLoveOnHerArms (TWLOHA), today my first formal article sharing my 2003 attempt survival has been published nationally (#5). This is one of the most important topics I set out to publish. I cannot thank Ms. Ebert enough. Now, more than ever, safely sharing an attempt survival story cannot be underestimated - especially not at a time when suicide is such a serious concern. But there is hope.
Three years ago, after I finished blogging for 128 days to begin my advocacy website, I submitted my first mental health writing for publishing consideration. It was a non-profit organization I'd heard about from local community volunteers. My first impression was that it seemed quite reputable. Their blog was full of rich personal stories about a range of important mental health topics. Although I was declined, to be honest my writing was not well developed yet.
The non-profit was none other than TWLOHA.
Two years ago, I'd taken the training for NAMI's "In Our Own Voice" presentation program. Closer to the summer, I then took and completed the re-training. However, for reasons I cannot disclose, my affiliate either decided against having me involved or the program was not their priority. Perhaps NAMI's single best program, to proactively reach people all over an average community, left to help no one here by the choice to waste the training I'd been sent for. That year was also the summer when I was bullied for trying to pitch my recovery story, and stigmatized as a threat for asking about getting a vendor table.
Hence, why I refer to it as the "Summer from Hell".
One year ago, following my success of having two NAMI Blogs published in late 2018, I busied myself to write about the most important topics I wanted to advocate for. My efforts to branch out into my community had been met with immoral retaliation. I didn't just want to give up what I'd started. Though, I didn't know whether I would get any new writing published let alone to the people who need it. So, I didn't necessarily believe in the success. But I pursued it anyway. Through an incredibly deep passion I've developed for helping people, I set myself on the task because I felt it needed to be done.
“A river cuts through rock, not because of its power, but because of its persistence.” —James N. Watkins
In 2019, the Nat'l Empowerment Center re-published my anti-bullying article (#3). NAMI published my th;rd Blog with my stunning take on goal-oriented suicide prevention (#4). Unfortunately, in between them a forty-six-year-old local businesswoman, Rebecca Hoover, took her life as a result of being bullied. Her tragedy hit me like a brick wall. One year earlier, it could have been me ("Summer from Hell"). Now, I had a much clearer focus and increasing success writing about mental health. I also found my theme too.
Because it does. Prove me wrong.
The local Suicide Task Force refused to consider either article, despite Hoover's preventable suicide loss. Frankly, the excuses I have been given are shameful. It has been hard to tolerate the ignorance of just a handful of 'community leaders' protected in positions of influence. And no, it is not because now I know I have been diagnosed on the Autism Spectrum. I have been telling it like it is all my life. I say what needs to be said, and some of what needs to be said about mental health awareness is what I have learned. If I am being honest.
What did I do?
Shortly after my suicide prevention NAMI Blog (#4), I finally found both the confidence and tact to try writing a formal account of my attempt survival. Much like when I write poetry, sometimes the momentum can drive me to write more. I knew I needed to be careful how I shared my experience. So, I made that my top priority. Several days later, I finished a draft and submitted it to TheMighty for consideration. They declined it two weeks later. I then revised the article into its final form. When I finished this re-write, to be honest I was awe-struck.
I knew I had previously blogged about parts of my attempt experience before. Though, I didn't exactly know how to safely discuss what I went through without revealing too much information. After all, what filters have I had but the drive to openly share my life? This time it was different. Somehow, I managed to not compromise anonymity or violate suicide reporting guidelines by discussing what my method was. Yet, I still included a surprising amount of detail about what was going through my mind.
I humbly believe I proved that survivors do not need to reveal what the attempt method was. Just share what you felt and why. I had potentially created a blueprint for other survivors to follow...
Loosely covering from 1997 to 2008, I successfully wrote about my attempt survival and incorporated one of the most empowering conclusions I have ever written. I took the confidence from my suicide prevention NAMI Blog and put it to the best use. What happened next was yet another surprise. Completely out of the blue, TWLOHA contacted me expressing their interest to re-publish the article. Honestly, it felt like after three years I had come full circle.
Thank you, Becky and ToWriteLoveOnHerArms (TWLOHA). Thank you for giving me another chance. Thank you for choosing to consider what a community leader once referred to as my "unwanted" recovery story. Well, it is not unwanted anymore. I look forward to writing some of my next submissions exclusively for your consideration. Here is hope you can take with you, and the reason...
|Posted on November 15, 2019 at 1:00 AM||comments (0)|
When is a song more than just a song?
When does a simple composition of words or rhythms define something more than just sound? Through the power of inspiration, a song can become much more than the sum of its parts. Words, thoughts, and ideas expressed in lyrical music are capable of inspiring us for all sorts of reasons. Music has also been a central part of human culture throughout recorded history. So, a single song can be incredibly empowering if you identify with and like what you hear.
Losing someone you care about is deeply traumatic in much the same way as music is fundamentally inspirational. Certain tragedies are easier to place blame. Suicide, however, is frequently misunderstood. Why not stay to see what life has in store, or wait for the next person to say hello? That is if you are fortunate to cross paths with someone who is not afraid to care or help. How can you consider harming yourself if surrounded by people who care about you? Whether or not a note is left behind, the only legitimate experience about what motivates and impairs a victim's judgment are stigmatized attempt survivors.
Suicide is difficult to cope with because the losses are also entirely preventable. We are forced to look within ourselves for answers. Was it my fault? Did I miss the signs? Did I not love or care about them enough? Was it something I said? Such conflicted guilt can trigger additional suicides. Hence, how the pain of one is passed on to another. With so many unanswered and difficult questions about suicide attempts, those who survive have had to face a fearful society. Many survivors have little choice but to keep their experiences to themselves.
Even though the majority of suicides do not involve violence to others, stigma still keeps victims and survivors from being well understood. This includes potential discrimination from members of the community, volunteers, national non-profit organization Board members, and the very people on suicide prevention task forces responsible for saving lives. If an attempt survivor is still struggling, but needs to talk to someone about their feelings, who should be called is often a greater priority than considering their input or consent. As well, certain religions regard suicide as an unforgivable sin.
Suicide can affect us in very fundamental ways.
I know from bitter experience, because I am both a loss and attempt survivor. I also consider myself very fortunate to have had the inner strength to endure and write about my experiences in positive ways. My selfless desire to heal such difficult emotional wounds is a responsibility I take seriously for all the lives at stake. After three years of being a mental health advocate, I now consider my destiny to confront fear - the fear of death - and to light the way back from attempting suicide so others can discover the truth about life. This life is precious and so should ours be.
Through the years, one of the best ways I have found remarkable strength is from listening to various forms of music. Whether instrumental or lyrical, music can invoke powerful emotions within each of us because it has been a part of our culture for generations. Music can also be written to reflect personal life experiences and tragedies of all kinds. Imagine expressing something, as deeply conflicted and emotional as suicide, in music with the capacity to inspire so unreservedly.
During mid-October, I was fortunate to connect with a talented singer and songwriter who tragically had lost her former boyfriend to suicide last year. Ms. Katie Hargreaves, an aspiring musician, artist and actress from the UK, used her skills as a songwriter to pen a passionate song in hopes of encouraging him not to give up. As powerful as any of the words are that a person could use, Ms. Hargreaves named her song "Stay". I can think of no simpler or more transcendent expression, in a song that sounds so sweet, for someone suffering from severe depression to hear.
Released on none other than my 38th birthday, October 10, 2019, the lyrics for "Stay" are as compelling as Ms. Hargreaves' beautifully resonant voice. Once she connected with me and shared her story, the song name and origin alone brought me to tears before I even had a chance to listen to it. The fact that someone not only had the talent, but also the courage to express their hope in a form as moving as music was simply overwhelming. Neither of us could have ever imagined getting to know one another with so many miles between us. Yet, we connected so deeply through a single song and shared life experiences.
This inspiration will last a lifetime.
Ms. Hargreaves has been very hard at work with the November 8th release of her latest song, "Interlude", as well as more music to come. I would like to express my dearest respect to Ms. Hargreaves, as well as everyone in her production team, for working together to make the magic of hopeful inspiration come alive through the power of music.
A song is more than just a song when it reflects the human condition, and touches the hearts and souls of those who hear it. One person can save lives the same as a single song can move mountains within us. To take a single word of hope, as pure as to stay, conveys what I humbly believe everyone struggling in life deserves to hear and believe in. "But if you stay, I will be waiting, I will wait here." Amen.
Be sure to check out Theta's inspiring music today.
"Stay", released 10.10.2019
"Interlude", released 11.8.2019
Full EP will be out early 2020. Follow on music & social platforms to keep updated!
Producer: Shai-li Paldi
|Posted on October 20, 2019 at 2:30 AM||comments (2)|
"Why I No Longer Refer to My Attempt as Weak" ©
As an experienced advocate, I am strong enough to understand my suicide attempt better than other survivors can typically handle. This strength enables me to understand the trauma involved in ways I recognize can greatly benefit many people. So, I have addressed the following suicide topics carefully to make sure this discussion is as safe and productive as possible. Despite my effort, there may still be details explained or implied that could trigger certain readers. Please be mindful of this as you continue.
Before 2017, when I began regularly volunteering as an advocate in the local mental health community, I referred to my suicide attempt as weak. That was until a co-volunteer encouraged me to do otherwise. She told me, "Other people have died from less." This person was an experienced facilitator of mental health services in the community. So, I valued her experience as much as I respected her opinion for the empowerment. By shedding light on why I viewed my attempt as weak will allow me to reveal more about surviving suicide than is typically discussed.
In the years before my attempt, I recognized how fragile life could be. During my senior year in high school, I lost a former classmate in a tragic car accident. I prayed and prayed with every fiber of my being that she would recover. She fought hard but unfortunately succumbed to her injuries. A few years earlier, during 1997, I lost a fellow 9th-grade classmate to suicide. The next day, when everyone found out, the hallways filled with so much tearful sorrow it was unlike anything I had ever experienced. I remember asking a teacher if it had been me would everyone be as distraught as they were about him.
By the time I graduated, I viewed the concept of suicide as a one-way trip. You make your choice, commit the act, and that was it. No do-overs. No second chances. It never occurred to me an attempt was survivable nor why my classmate wanted to end his life. While attending college the following year, my own mental health began to decline. "If I cannot decide whether or not to live my life, then no one can make that decision for me." I felt powerless to stop losing my will to live despite being surrounded by dear friends who cared about me very much. I was also deeply conflicted.
I longed to settle down, eventually to marry and perhaps have a family of my own. I had some aspirations for success, financial independence, maybe some sights to see. All I wanted was to have my place in life with a genuine sense of belonging and happiness. Instead, women never seemed interested. Some even retreated from me on dance floors as if I had a dreaded plague. I was also unable to choose a career without feeling I had no idea what to do with my life. Eventually, by 2003, without a direction or purpose, I was willing to let go. How did not matter as much as when or why.
I tried to rationalize the decision itself. I would either be successful, and my suffering would be over, or I would have a near-death experience that would force me to learn from my mistake. Years earlier, I had heard about Dannion Brinkley's brush with death after being struck by lightning. Beforehand, he was an uncaring person and often mean to others. Fortunate to survive the experience, Brinkley had a complete change of character and became a much more considerate person. What more could I lose? No note could begin to explain what I felt. So, I did not leave one. Who would care or understand?
There was no way to know whether specifically what I chose would cause any serious harm. Although I knew what would, I no longer cared about my safety and blindly took the chance anyway. Because of how I carried out my attempt, I felt every bit of my experience and was wide awake the entire time. Regret, anxiety, guilt, fear, anger, misery, all incredibly strong. For five to six hours straight, my mind defied the limits of sanity. I survived. No one could see it in me that I had given up. I still looked the same. However, I felt terrible guilt not just for what I did, but how poorly I did it and for still being alive. I felt like a coward.
Why? I survived when others had not, such as my fellow 9th-grade classmate. Neither did I lose consciousness or suffer serious injury compared to other attempt survivors such as Kevin Hines. Therefore, I regarded my suicide attempt as weak. Was I being hard on myself for failing to carry it out? Perhaps. I was still responsible for the decision to attempt. No life-changing near-death experience. It was nothing more than a sleepless night wracked by pain and guilt. Either way, this was now my burden to bear.
Less than a year later, in 2004, a familiar type of tragedy tested my fragile recovery. A childhood friend and next-door neighbor perished in a car accident not far from where we both lived. Unlike my former senior high classmate, he did not suffer. Where I had been selfless and more concerned with praying for her recovery, my reaction to his passing was drastically different. I wanted nothing more than to take his place despite knowing he was already gone. I was still willing to throw my life away. Eventually, I moved on. However, I refused to face my past or what I had done to myself.
It took me four more years before I finally came to terms with my suicide attempt. My paternal grandfather lived with my parents and me for one year before passing away in 2008. I had only ever seen my grandparents once or twice a year before then. One night while eating supper, my grandfather and I made childishly funny faces at each other across the table. In that moment, I made a one-of-a-kind connection with both him and my dad. I now saw undeniable value, happier memories, and positive personality traits that defined who I was as a person. I no longer felt disgraced about my past or undeserving as a human being.
I now valued myself and my life for both the bad and good.
For 14 years, I considered my attempt as weak. Regardless of the outcome, I should have been more concerned about the choice and effort to harm myself. The best course of action would have been to seek out some form of treatment, counseling, and psychiatry. The mental health co-volunteer was correct to encourage me to reconsider how I felt about my attempt. She turned this powerful negative into an empowering positive experience I could share with others. She also helped me believe I was not an unwanted recovery story.
Being alive is not something to feel ashamed of. You are meant to be here just as much as me. If you are comfortable and willing to, you can share your story as I have and should not be misjudged or feared. As sharing mine has shown, there is someone very special at the heart of the story: You. You own this moment of your life and can do so many good things with it. If by few others, I will always hold a special place in my heart for you. Why? Because I do not hide from who I am anymore. I respect the journey that led me to be who I am today. And I will never stop caring because you are why I am still here. You are my reason to be.
© 2019 Jim R. Irion.
My article is protected under Fair Use copyright law.
Formal publishers must contact me first.
• ToWriteLoveOnHerArms ( 2020, January 13; IPR). https://twloha.com/blog/why-i-no-longer-refer-to-my-attempt-as-weak/.
This body of writing also serves as professional presentation material (approx. 10 minutes). Interested parties should contact me right away to make arrangements at no cost or charge.
About The Author:
I am a two-time Pennsylvania State University graduate and mental health advocate with over ten years of dedicated community service volunteering. My primary focuses are suicide prevention, anti-bullying and empowerment. Currently, I am a NAMI member trained as an In Our Own Voice presenter. I also have QPR Gatekeeper layperson suicide prevention training.
Be sure to check out my NAMI Blogs today.
|Posted on September 25, 2019 at 5:05 PM||comments (2)|
One year ago, I faced challenges which seemed to end my future of being a mental health advocate. Where could I volunteer, or be an advocate, if not first where I live? Those involved are well known and highly respected members of the mental health community. Individuals who are not only older and wiser than me, but whose collective reputation and connections far exceed my own. People whose past and present accomplishments dwarf anything I have ever done. Their hard work has helped a small percentage of this community's residents in ways that are priceless.
My "unwanted recovery story" cannot compare.
Yet, before each of the incidents those involved already knew I am a suicide attempt survivor. They knew "(Stigma) harms the 1 in 5 Americans affected by mental health conditions. It shames them into silence. It prevents them from seeking help. And in some cases, it takes lives." NAMI's Cure Stigma PSA Campaign Manifesto. "In 2017, there were an estimated 1,400,000 suicide attempts." AFSP.org Suicide Statistics.
On local social media, I have seen "Not being a part of the solution makes you part of the problem" rhetoric being posted. I disagree. I am part of the solution. NAMI certainly thinks so. My first two Blogs talk about being an advocate while in recovery and what to do if you face discrimination. To persist, on June 20th I self-published a stunning article on anti-bullying that NAMI Submissions had already first considered to publish earlier this year.
Entitled, "It Matters How People Are Treated", does not take a side. It takes a stand. Against youth and adult bullying that affect people every day even to suicide, my article takes a stand when it should. Not next week if you feel like being mean to someone. Not next year because of political differences. Now; when this life matters most. I am not a suicide victim. I am a human being seeking to be a "victor" instead.
Pick a side…
I have. It's called life.
Bullying behavior and stigma continue to affect people much like mental health conditions and suicide symptoms do: regardless of whom you are. In late 2016, I made the conscious decision to face my mental health, because I knew what th;s was like and all the lives at stake. I didn't stop with helping only myself. I accepted the challenges I knew I would face. I chose to help others even though I am still facing th;s worse now than before.
Su;cide is universal.
At the end of each day, suicide should bring most or all of us together with serious determination to resolve it. If you were to ask a suicide attempt or loss survivor just how important life actually is, you should get a very honest answer: life matters. Thanks so incredibly much to NAMI Submissions and Oryx Cohen of the National Empowerment Center, my published writing has helped me endure what I face in my community. Now I can focus on critical issues that need addressed as of yesterday.
"People keep telling survivors to move on. Some do, but not me.
Even if there's a small chance, I owe this to every moment of silence to try."
(adapted from Avengers: Endgame trailer #2).
If at first you do succeed, try, try and do more. Push yourself as far past what you once thought was nothing you could accomplish. Challenge your impossible. Own it: i'mpossible. Reach for the stars. Read my perfectly timed th;rd NAMI Blog to find out more about how suicide prevention is possible and imperative to take seriously.
(click on title for web URL)
|Posted on September 24, 2019 at 2:45 AM||comments (0)|
"You are not alone" has yet to be helpful, because no matter how identifiable someone is my life situation has still remained relatively unchanged. That does not mean I have been sitting here obsessing over negativity with too much time on my hands. You are not alone is a positive form of honest encouragement to share with someone who may be dealing with challenging mental health symptoms. When I encourage others to believe they are not alone in their struggles, I say it with conviction. I am an honest, tell-it-like-it-is kind of person. I would also rather be realistic so I can tailor my encouragement to each person's needs and make a stronger connection. Even while I struggle to hang onto my own life by a bare thread. What makes my experience with mental health more difficult is with how I blend in so well to even my friends around me.
Typically those with my degree of prolonged depression and advanced anxiety symptoms have poor hygiene. I dress well and when volunteering in the community always present a professional, well-kept appearance. I was also raised to be this way. There are people whose mental health inhibits them from functioning or learning to the point of disability. I have a college degree; a Bachelor's of Arts degree in History with a Criminal Justice minor despite having Autism and ADHD. I come from a middle class background and happen to have a roof over my head still because my parents can afford to. This doesn't make me a spoiled rich kid who is lazy when it comes to making career decisions. My appearance, intelligence, functionality, or economic background should not be the basis of judgments.
When I admit not having much left in my otherwise normal looking life to keep me here, I should not be regarded as a heathen either. Suicide attempt survivor or not. I am being honest and shouldn't be stigmatized no matter how negative I am. When I reach out it isn't because I want to be a pain in your ass, or look its Jim Irion he's got issues. I won't respond or I'll ignore repeated messages he sends on social media. When I don't reach out it is because I am either paranoid of having offended you, feeling guilty for messaging too much, or doubtful that you want to hear about my otherwise under-achieving life. Despite all this, I still have people insist I talk to someone about my feelings. Well, the problem is I have tried and failed. My needs versus someone's happy-go-lucky life. Stalemate.
I suppose the biggest paradox of all is how I live and breathe while people know 'my signs' yet seem oblivious to my mental health. Numerous times in recent weeks I have contemplated, for only moments, what if I just ended my life right now to see who would actually care. It's a shame I couldn't do a 'George Bailey' from It's A Wonderful Life with Clarence the guardian Angel. I despise how people say they wished they'd seen the signs after a person's suicide. I am as close to another attempt as I could ever hate to be. Yet, people all around me know about my mental health and seem I don't know... blissfully ignorant? As I continue to exist under such extreme emotional stress, I can still be a capable advocate because of who I am.
I am sincere. I am considerate. I am compassionate. I am passionate. I am loving. I am forgiving. I am mindful. I am alive. I am also honest.
So, when I say that suicide prevention needs to be taken more seriously I am literally speaking from fresh, first-hand experience. First-hand as in the mere minutes before posting this.
|Posted on September 24, 2019 at 2:45 AM||comments (0)|
One of the scariest things I could admit right now…
…is just how close I feel to letting go.
Make no mistake about both the honesty and reality of my answer. Yes. I honestly do not feel enough is keeping me here invested in my life. Is this a suicide note? No. I've never written one even though that didn't stop my attempt sixteen years ago. Am I trying to be the center of attention? Only for as long as it takes you to read this. How recent are these feelings? Mere minutes ago. Why haven't I gone to the local Crisis Center? They cannot help. Believe me. I've considered it more than once. But Jim! You must. Or at least talk to someone who can help you get through this moment. I've tried but fewer people have reached out to me or who are capable and willing to listen. Most are rightfully busy with their own lives, their own families, children, pets, and hobbies. Some happen to be overwhelmed with their own mental health issues...
Can you see a pattern beginning to emerge?
There are a lot of contradictory facts about my experience which do not fall within common "norms" for mental health. What will really bake your noodle later on is the fact that I could easily keep going. Allow me to demonstrate. My not wanting to go to the Crisis Center is not from being stubborn or resistant. I am an over-thinking person. Therefore, for me many cognitive behavioral therapies often do not work. I simply defeat the purpose by assessing myself and knowing what I feel would help. When I say that Crisis cannot help I am telling the truth. When someone tells me I am not alone I never really feel comforted. When someone tells me not to give up I struggle now to hang on, because I've already given these issues a chance to be resolved.
Oh you will find someone someday only for it to be twenty years later and no special 'someone' at all. How very discouraging.
What may strike you as remarkable is that I am still here within minutes of saying such negative statements. But I am an advocate for positive mental health awareness. I need to be positive whether for myself or anyone who reads my writing. Smile. Things will be alright. Things will be alright when people stop labeling me like everyone else they see. I love to take different points of view in my writing. So, why not take a page from my own advice. Several times my counselor has asked me how I expect to help people if I actually feel so lost. What would I say to myself as a mental health advocate? There are people all around me. People who can and eventually will listen when I need someone to reach out to. However, during the last two weeks, I have stopped messaging people on social media to test what would happen. Few people have reached out to me...
I am experiencing both the effective and ineffective points of view as a mental health 'consumer'.
|Posted on September 6, 2019 at 2:45 AM||comments (0)|
(originally posted on TheMighty.com)
"So many battles waged over the years... and yet, none like this. Am I destined to destroy myself, or can I - can we change who we are and still live? Is th;s fate truly set?"
(adapted from Patrick Stewart, X-Men: Days Of Future Past film)
Unlike before I chose to face my mental health in late 2016, every day since has been an almost daily battle for me. Yes, it is true I made an extra commitment to advocate for awareness. This was also done without anyone to mentor me. So, when I say I am a grassroots mental health advocate I really did start all on my own. All alone. I felt a calling to help people like me because, knowing what th;s is like, I could not live with helping only myself.
Regardless of having chosen to be an advocate, with extra responsibilities and stress, I still had to 'know thyself' too. I needed to reflect on past and present experiences in order to learn from and share them with other people. Mental health recovery takes time. However, I also began to over-think my daily life in ways I had not done before. The passage of time also played a greater role as I turned thirty five, and now soon thirty eight. Not old but I have been around long enough for my symptoms to have had greater consequences.
Because it took me until October 2018 to reach out for full treatment, several of my affected personality traits are tough to address. Not impossible, but still challenging. Sixteen years ago, my suicide attempt bears a striking resemblance to my life today. My days were numbered. I was living on borrowed time. It seemed as if I was on the verge of emotional collapse despite appearing outwardly normal. What about now? Forget seeing my reflection in a mirror every day. Simply letting my mind wander, to think where my high school classmates are compared to me... Too many words for a simple sentence.
Sure I can say I'm still here. Sure I can reassure people they can each overcome their issues. Even suicide ideations, losing a loved one, a dear friend, or themselves having attempted too. Sure I can be honest that not everyone will make it, and offend some people in the process. Heaven forbid. Although I don't have a life-threatening illness, or live in poverty, I can say that still being here is not because I am "privileged", special, or have it easy. I am hard on myself enough as it is. As my counselor describes, I am my own worst bully.
When tomorrow is as fearful as the day that never comes...
...even being only in your late thirties can feel like a death sentence. But I can also tell you something much more unexpected coming from a suicide attempt survivor. Something that isn't clouded by doubt, skin color, gender, political views or voting preferences, not by race, economic background, intelligence or religious beliefs.
Choose a side? I have.
It's called *life*.
|Posted on August 18, 2019 at 1:00 AM||comments (0)|
Thanks to Mr. Oryx Cohen, Chief Operating Officer of the National Empowerment Center, on August 9th the NEC was the first formal publisher to accept my article on youth and adult bullying. An article which, earlier this year, the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) had considered for publication as well. While I cannot thank Mr. Cohen enough, it is not overselling to emphasize the impact bullying has on our society.
Unfortunately, now more than ever.
I am an unknown in the mental health community burdened by the experiences and knowledge of what th;s is like. Much like actor Robert Downey Jr.'s character, Tony Stark, I am also a futurist and with the Advocate personality (INFJ). For the last three years, I had to put employment pursuits on hold because of crippling career indecision. "All these years, I have never been able to choose an occupation without feeling I don't know what to do with my life." Who can relate to that? I have no retirement fund flush with ample preparation contributing funds towards my future. What future? Though, all things considered, not nearly as bad as some even I will admit.
Oh I'm still young being in my late thirties.
To be fair though, consider some of the feelings I have lived with for a decade and a half or more - and - without conventional treatment until last year.
Am I happy? Why am I here? Why am I still here? Do I belong in this life? Am I meant or ever going to find true love? Am I worth it? (I know much more about my diagnoses now, but still) what is wrong with me? Why am I so cursed that I cannot decide on a direction for gainful employment? Most other people have. They have their families, children, and social circles. One of the worst of all is feeling as if I am running out of time. I may potentially be diagnosed with Chronophobia, or the fear of time-related stressors such as New Year's Eve. Perhaps one of the most ironic fears to have as a human being who was born, lives, and eventually will die. It is inescapable.
Yet, here I am. Still. What grips my heart more than all of this intense sorrow is having lived in a world where children younger than age twelve, when my first mental health symptoms emerged, have already taken their own lives. Many of whom have been victims of abuse and bullying that never should have happened in the first place. Let alone as they've grown much older into adulthood. Consider all the facts and circumstances you want. Blame skin color, economic background, who foolishly voted for who. It is unacceptable to go out of your way to be mean to someone else unless it is swiftly followed by the most sincere and honest apology.
I know not where my life will take me in the dreaded next '10 years from now'. Yet, I recognize a problem I can do something about. Not for me. For everyone else but me. I feel a great sense of responsibility. So, I am taking the pieces of my life, of my heart and soul that are left, pressing my feet into the ground, and motioning with my right hand to bring it on. Standing alone on the battered hill near the end of the film, Avengers: Endgame, Captain America knew he stood no chance. Yet, as I quoted in my first NAMI Blog, "I can do this all day."
Whatever ;t takes.
My article on youth and adult bullying does not take a side. It takes a stand. Against youth and adult bullying that affect people every day even to suicide, it takes a stand now when your lives matter most. It matters how people are treated started here, but it will not end here because Mr. Oryx Cohen has been the first to give it a chance. Hopefully, the first of many.
To my credit of having watched so many cartoons as a kid, I created an inspiring Success Kid meme demonstrating my unabashed gratitude for Mr. Cohen's decision to republish my article. And, no less, under their Trauma section. Upon receiving this meme, he decided to share it on the NEC Facebook page as well. When tomorrow is as fearful as the day that never comes, opportunities like these are what make me possible.
Thank you, Oryx and the National Empowerment Center. Thank you very much.
Alas, I am a nobody no more.