Losing a Peer to Suicide

***This article discusses suicide. For anyone in need of help, you can contact the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741-741 or call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.***

“Depression takes root when the picture of the past is more powerful than the picture of the future.”
-Amy Bleuel

I wear a tattoo on my right arm that carries a message. It’s a simple design, a heart that doubles as a bass clef which, in part, becomes a semi-colon.

It symbolizes that I am driven by love and harmony, that I have a song to keep singing.
The inspiration for my tattoo comes from Amy Bleuel, the founder of the suicide awareness and prevention movement known as Project Semicolon. The semicolon was selected as the symbol of survival because it denotes when an author could’ve chosen to end their sentence, but chose not to.

Amy, an open, vocal advocate within the mental health community, died by suicide March 23, 2017. She was 31. She was a warrior. Her passing sends shockwaves through the mental health community. Loving tributes are springing forth on the internet in her honor. She leaves a fantastic legacy of mental-health awareness and support for those struggling with suicide.

Her passing also leaves ripples of uncertainty and insecurity. It would be so easy to focus on despair at this moment. I describe myself as “living in recovery.” This phrase reflects my lifelong illness as one that requires ongoing maintenance. I choose it to say, “right now, I’m more whole than broken.” I admit to feeling a bit more broken than usual as I write this.

I have asked myself many questions. How can suicide continue to take lives? How can suicide find a way inside even the best of defenses? What are we missing? Speaking out on my own mental health, I often find myself compelled to stick to the material that makes me look strong, successful, inspirational. That isn’t the entirety of my story. What am I missing?

Recently, I listened to a video blog Amy had posted. She was discussing the low places. She was talking about losing purpose. She pointed out that on the darkest days, the pain was immeasurable. Amy spoke about lifting each other up and making it through together. She was so REAL at that moment.

She did not need to offer me any handy suggestions or therapy tips. I did not need her to be perfectly put together. The impact of her words is not lessened by my knowledge of her passing. We are not alone. We are allowed to feel broken and healed at the same time. We know we fight a battle that can claim us, and we strive to find the best ways to come out on top. Most of all, we know, none of us are immune, and that is a strong reason to keep fighting.