Don’t Say A Word – Anonymous Submission

I was 6 years old when my parents left suddenly, without giving us too much information on why.  I stayed at my paternal grandparents and my brother stayed with our paternal uncle while my parents were away.  After a couple weeks they returned and when they did they had my two year old cousin with them.  I remember hearing that my cousin would be staying with us for a little while, but that little while turned out to be forever and my then ‘so called’ cousin ended up being called my sister.  I never got the full story on why my cousin came to live with us or where her mom and dad were. Whenever any hint of this conversation came up it was quickly shut down, until one day when I was about 10 years old… several years after the incident! To this day, I remember it clearly how I was finally made aware of the incident with my aunt. I was with my now sister and her sister’s (my other cousins) when I asked straight out, “What happened to your mom?”  The middle sister told me straight out that her mom died by strangling herself with a rope.  I was in shock and didn’t say a word. I was not the only person to hear my cousin’s words and instantly my maternal grandmother, the victim’s mother, ran towards my cousin to smack and scold her for telling me.  She was smacked across the head 3 times.  I was scared, and what I learned that day was you do not speak about suicide ever. 

My maternal aunt ended her own life, during the first trimester of her fourth pregnancy.  She left 3 little girls at home.  The youngest of the three girls stayed with us and my parents eventually adopted her.  Unfortunately, all the girls were split up and the other two girls ended up living with their maternal and paternal grandparents.

I don’t casually speak of this incident; however, if suicide does come up with others I’m not hesitant to discuss my thoughts and experience with it. Fortunately, I have been able to recover from that specific experience but I’m not too sure that other people that I love have.  My mother now suffers from paranoia, bi-polar disorder, and has had suicide ideation and attempts herself.  Sadly this has all personally affected me as I’ve been witness to my mom’s two attempts of suicide.  My mother relies on me for a lot, especially when she is feeling down.  This at times is draining because it is all on me to step up and help her. 

Depression, in most cases, runs in families and I fear I am the perfect candidate for it, as I am already anxious, shy, and self-conscious, a worrier and an introvert. I try to be self-aware and know when to take a bit more self-care.

I find that the best things for me to do are to make sure I keep in touch with my mom with daily check-ins and regular visits.  It is also healthy for us both to stay active and be around positive people.  I’m trying to also teach my mom and myself to leave toxic thoughts, false expectations, and envy. If I could share a message with others others that are currently going through a similar experience I would truly encourage them to be more open about hurt and devastation.  In my experience, I have found that by my maternal family being closed in, “shut down”,  and not debriefing about serious incidences or loss, that it has only caused feelings to gnaw at them and later do more harm.  The more that these things are spoken about, the more people will be comfortable in sharing their feelings, which in turn, hopefully, will help them to be able to accept and heal.

I believe that we, as a community could be doing the following better:

i) Help people not to be afraid of the stigma in taking medications like anti-depressants.  It’s easier to find support and cope when you have the right chemical balance on your side.   There are some situations where you can participate in all the counselling and use all the strategies you are taught, but if you are not medically well (and have a chemical imbalance) it will be extra difficult to get the results you want.  If you are diabetic and need insulin you take your insulin.  The same mentality should be with taking medications for mental illness.

ii) Not to form a judgement on someone’s actions or words, or from other people’s opinions.  Having said that, it is important to have some judgement to protect us, but remember to allow that judgement to change and not be a permanent image of them.  People do change and everyone has a story.

iii) Advertise support groups or suicide prevention hotlines in schools for children and adults. (National Suicide Prevention Hotline 1 (800) 237 8255 or Kids Help Phone 1 800 668 6868)

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