|Posted on June 30, 2018 at 1:10 AM|
Now, more than ever, it comforts me to have faith that at least someone is taking time out of their busy day to read what I share here. I do know there are still at least several friends, family members, and community volunteers who do read my writing. Your unspoken moral support warms my heart so very much. Bless your hearts and thank you. I've also noticed that in the last few weeks my website page views have been active. That makes me feel a special kind of happy. It is with this opportunity I want to share some details about these last two months that I feel are important for me to acknowledge publicly and to be honest about with you.
After nearly two years of sharing these blogs I have come to a crossroads. No, I do not intend to stop blogging anytime soon. I plan to continue sharing of my journey so that other people can find the strength and courage to overcome their own adversity. After all, and this is especially for any suicide attempt survivors out there reading this, we didn't come this far in our lives to give up so easily. We are meant to be here and can still succeed with finding happiness that each and every person deserves to have. Amen. I am only involved with mental health awareness volunteer work (get this) to help everyone. Yes, everyone. I want to save lives and inspire every person that I can. If you are struggling, or know someone who is, I am advocating for you. Please, don't thank me. I would do all of this again in a heartbeat.
Though, in recent weeks I have had to face a stark realization that my advocacy efforts have now likely been met with intentional resistance in my own community. I knew not everyone would be comfortable or acceptant of me as an outspoken advocate for mental health awareness, whom also has prior suicide attempt experiences. I accepted the responsibility for being a public advocate and did my best to anticipate the risks of anyone who would not be supportive of my goals. Suicide is a rightfully sensitive topic that requires a particular attention to care when dealing with it. The reason for this is simply to do more good than harm. And I want to do this advocacy right; perfectionism used for positive goals. But I cannot avoid people who still stigmatize me for who I am, or my mental health, without giving me a reasonably fair chance.
The stigma I have perceived may in fact be because I am an ambitious and outspoken, but mindful suicide attempt survivor. It could even be because I am a straight, white, male as opposed to the more popular cause of identifying as a member of the overly-inclusive LGBTQIA+ community. Perhaps the stigma I have been experiencing is a result of my privately, but respectfully expressed political views being in opposition to a certain community leader whom has considerable influence here. If either of these reasons are true as I suspect, then such reactions towards me are obviously not productive or appropriate behaviors. Back in late 2016, my impression of mental health awareness efforts in this community was that the goal should be to help people. No ifs, ands, or butts. Help people, save lives, stop stigma, prevent bullying, and educate people on mental health. Bend over backwards and do it right.
Not a problem for me, at least.
For one, the National Alliance on Mental Illness (which I am a member of) makes it a proud priority to stamp out stigma targeted against people just like me. For me to encounter stigma anyway because of my mental health, amongst those that I have been interacting with in this community, the possibility that this is true has been very difficult for me to accept. A recent experience of poor judgment, by a member of the community I have been corresponding with, is what finally convinced me to break my silence. But in this person's defense, I will say that aside from the way I was treated the individual(s) involved are good people. I wish no ill will upon them. I have co-volunteered with some of the most heart-warming people the likes of which I have not seen since I regularly volunteered as a member of the PSU Altoona Alumni Society Board eight years ago. No doubt or hesitation; just some absolutely wonderful people here. I have also reconnected with two of my former Alumni Board members whom I owe a great debt of gratitude for their continued support.
Thank you, to both of you.
As of now, however, I can no longer ignore a growing trend of stigmatism and unfair distrust directed towards me. I have said, and proven, time and again in the last nearly two years of volunteer work here that I am not a risk to society just because I have attempted suicide in the past. Identity politics also do not determine whether I should or shouldn't help people. I am who I am and I can help. Help me accomplish that, but please do not go out of your way to make it harder for me. Although in good faith I have shared with some of my co-volunteers the true details of my current mental health, I still continue to lead by example. I have let my trustworthy conduct and professionalism to speak for me. Yes, it is true that right now I am having a difficult time. An untimely reason for my high level of stress, I'd referred to during these last two days, is because next month marks the 15-year anniversary of my 2003 overdose attempt.
Everything which had bogged me down then is still unresolved and even tougher for me to deal with now. Make no mistake. The next six to twelve months of my life will determine my future. Though, I am only just beginning to coordinate an effective mental health treatment plan. It is working and needs time to coalesce. I am an honest person, and so I see no reason to lie about the truth with the people I have been volunteering with. If some people in this community feel that my honesty and realism constitutes the right to fear me... If I am simply not a priority or not taken seriously when it comes to matters of administration or activism... I have some very appropriate wisdom for you. Truth in the form of an inspirational phrase card that was actually provided by my local NAMI affiliate office at last year's annual recovery conference.
"A river cuts through a rock not because of its POWER, but because of its PERSISTENCE". Make the StigmaFree pledge today at NAMI.org.
Thank you, NAMI. My thoughts exactly.
As mental health professionals in my community, if your goals are not to advance mental health quality and awareness with fairness and conviction... Well, let me put it this way. I know what my priorities and my goals shall continue to be. From this point on, if the stigma continues you will only prove me even more correct. What was it that I said is a rather defining attribute of mine two days ago? Restlessness? I just can't sit still sometimes. I will not sit still while other people, like me, continue to be unfairly stigmatized. I will not sit still while people struggle each and every day; they suffer in silence when I could be out there advocating for them. Should I just sit still as not only more celebrity suicides occur (Kate Spade*, Anthony Bourdain), but more pre-teen, teenage, and young adults in their twenties continue to end their lives in droves...? Should I sit still while bullying progressive Liberal and radical Conservative influences continue to tear this country apart??
Restlessness doesn't even come close. I have already found my voice; a raging thirst of desperate ambition that will not be quenched before I help change the course of mental health here and elsewhere.
I know what this is like.
If I do not speak out, and say what needs to be said, then the next person will be even less likely to have a voice and guide anyone towards the help they need.
The right thing to do is to act.
The right time to act is now.
Not next month. Not next year. NoW.
And I will not be deterred by indifferent agendas or failures. Why? Because lives and livelihoods are at stake every time we do nothing. The fewer suicide victims weighing on my conscience then the better I will feel.
Consider what I have lived through regarding my mental health diagnoses for two thirds of my life, and before I mercifully found the empowerment and finally the courage to do something about myself. If you had any idea about what this has been like... Two thirds of a person's life just doesn't go away in the instance of a single smile. I did not set foot on this path of helping advance mental health awareness and suicide prevention to fail at achieving my goals. Right here, right now, this is ground zero for me. And fifteen years ago, in mid-July, marks the anniversary of the one time I lost all hope, saw no way out, rationalized something a lot of people never experience, and tried to pierce the veil between my beginning and my end. Think of how many people who don't even make it as far as I have... And I was never the same after my experience... On the other hand, I think this quote from Lewis Carroll's Alice In Wonderland says it best:
"I Can't Go Back To Yesterday... I Was A Different Person Then."
I am a stronger person now because I have been fortunate and have chosen to endure. I am here to stay. What I have learned in the last nearly two years has made my ambition so much stronger when it comes to advocating for mental health awareness. Should members of this community feel intimidated by my determination? Not intentionally, no. What do I intend to do about the apparent stigma I have started to see emerging here? Not much really. What can I do? When influential people decide to intentionally ignore my requests for information or communication, to regard me with unfair distrust, to be unprofessional, or not to allow fair opportunities to publicly advocate, there is nothing I can do. I am powerless to people acting in such a way. You win. I am a nobody. And I feel terrible about the prospect of this situation continuing any longer than it already has. Absolutely terrible...
Fortunately, I am now testing the waters of an alternative option in which I may be able to get myself out in the community to advocate. To ensure the chances for success, I shall keep the details of this new approach to myself for the time being. While I will share the details at some point if it works out, I will also fully intend to continue my involvement with the two local non-profit organizations (NAMI, AFSP) so that I may see this stigma through the right way. By not backing down. Pure and simple persistence. The triumph of the river over the rock. To persist despite intimidating odds of people who fear me, while I strive to make a difference here as well as elsewhere.
I do also intend to update all of you about new developments with my mental health recovery, and the coordination that has been going on in recent weeks to strengthen my treatment plan. Right now, though, I feel it will be best if I wait until I have a more cohesive treatment plan in place. Within a month or so I should be able to better explain the changes to my mental health recovery. Until then, thank you all for tuning in these last three days.
Have a safe and fun 4th of July holiday - whether you are a Liberal or a Conservative - in this country.
And remember, I want to see you back here next time with all of your fingers, toes, and everything else.