I lost my dad to suicide when I was 13 years old. He had just told me a few days before that how much he was looking forward to the rest of his life. Dad was vivacious, hilarious, a real class clown. Until he wasn’t. He struggled with Bipolar most of his life, and his manic episodes lived out through aggravation and aggression. I had a real love/hate relationship with him the year he died, because I adored his fun side, and I hated his destructive side. My last conversation with him was over the phone, when he got upset at something I said and hung up the phone on me. He died less than 12 hours later.
It took nearly 20 years before I stopped blaming myself for his death. I didn’t realize in the moment of that phone call, that his last words, “you’ll never have to see me again,” were a premonition, not a threat. I spent my teens and twenties hating myself as a way to try to pay back the cost of his life being taken too soon. Many aspects of my life hung in the balance “in neutral”; I didn’t put much energy into building a future for myself because in some ways I didn’t think I deserved it.
Faith, family, friends and therapy ultimately got me through the self-blame. For me, the saying, “you can’t have one without the other,” is very true. I needed all of them to get through the self-loathing. But above all, God gave me life again. And in giving me my life back, I believe I was called to be transparent about the realities of suicide with people in my life, whether a close friend or a distance acquaintance, because I truly believe that what people need most in that moment of having suicidal thoughts is someone who will listen without judgment and help them think objectively through their unclear thoughts and realize that, whether they believe it or not, they will not always feel this way. I want to tell people in that place that they are not a burden to their family and friends, despite their brain telling them so. Depression is a sick communicator that tells us lies to hurt us and trick us. Real burdens are what we leave our loved ones if we act on our suicidal thoughts.