Turning The Tide on Suicide
“Things would be better if I just killed myself”. “I’m going to drink this entire bottle, and whatever happens...happens”. “I want to die, but I want to get into heaven. Maybe I will get hit by a truck today”. These are all thoughts that race through my mind when I am feeling suicidal. There are times where I really just want to die, but I don’t want to commit suicide. I use to engage in some high risk behavior that would possibly lead to my death. This way it wouldn’t be seen as suicide and I would still be able to get into heaven.
These suicidal thoughts not only creep in when things are going bad. My life could be great, and suddenly I would start to think about not being here anymore. I ask myself why do I feel this way? I survived an injury in Iraq that every doctor says should have killed me. I have a lot to be grateful for, but there are times when I just don’t want to deal with life anymore.
During these times when I think about suicide I am devoid of any emotion. I don’t feel love for anyone or anything, not even myself. I drink, I drink, and I drink some more. I use to go on long benders of drinking, having unprotected sex, and some of the most reckless behavior imaginable. I didn’t care what the consequences of my actions would be, or who could get hurt in the future. For me...there wasn’t a future.
So what changed? After starting this business I decided to speak about suicide to audiences around the country. I found out that many people have the same thoughts that I have, or have a relative/friend that has. For them talking about was out of the question. “It’s too embarrassing to talk about suicide” is what most people tell me after a speech. These are secrets that we would rather guard with our lives...until we end them. Having the conversation about suicide is the first step in prevention.
When I am on stage speaking there are moments when I can tell that I have connected with my audience. Seeing someone shake their head up and down means they understand. Someone taking notes after I provide an example means they understand. Seeing someones eyes grow as they lean in to hear you better means they understand. The points that I make are powerful and become more prevalent with the audience.
When people feel like they aren’t the only one, conversations become easier. Someone who was ashamed of their suicidal thoughts now finds a safe space to talk about it. For me, this is what professional speaking is all about. Telling your personal story to people you have never met before, hoping they connect to your cause. I aim to be celebrated as a champion for suicide prevention. A conduit for all to channel their thoughts through. Together we can all turn the tide on suicide.