You Are Not Alone: 18th Annual Breaking the Silence Walk Happening This Month
On the boy as he excitedly hurries up the steps of his house. He is 14 years old and just talked to the prettiest girl in school. He is having a better-than-average day. He opens up his front door, walks in, and immediately notices that it’s a lot darker than usual. His mother always kept their house pristine. She also kept it extremely bright. The sunlight shone through the enormous picture window in the living room, and it seemed to light up the whole house.
Which is why, on this day, the boy was confused. The shades were drawn, there wasn’t the typical sound of daytime TV playing in the background; it was all very different. He walked up the stairs and entered his kitchen. There was a note lying on the table. This was nothing new. Every day after he got home from school there was a list of chores waiting for him- a list he didn’t ever actually need, because he did the same chores every day, day after day, for years. But this note was different. Instead of a checklist consisting of sweeping, vacuuming, dusting, check! - it was a short note, written in his mother’s beautiful handwriting.
“Be good. You’re in my heart always. I love you, Mom.”
The boy wasn’t sure what this meant. Where was his mom? She was always there when he got home from school. He went down into the garage and saw that her car was, in fact, still there. Confused, he walked back up the stairs and entered the living room.
That’s when he saw her.
His mom was passed out (asleep, he thought then) on their couch. He tried to rouse her but she wouldn’t respond. He immediately called his father, her ex-husband. He came right over, walked inside and he saw her too. He quickly took his son to the car and told him to wait there. The boy started towards the door, but looked back over his shoulder to look at his mother one more time. She was beautiful.
My mother first attempted suicide when I was 14 years old. Her note, a note I keep tucked in the last page of a photo album I call the 'Me Book,' is one of the only pieces of writing of hers that I have. The only other thing is a poem she wrote for me about 4 months before she died. Both are two of my most cherished possessions.
She died when I was 18, on the day of my Senior prom. This time, it wasn't pills. It was alcohol. Charles Bukowski called alcoholism the slowest form of suicide and that's true. I can attest, because my mom was an alcoholic and so, too, was(am?) I.
Those in the "rooms" call addiction a disease, but I've always likened it to more of a symptom. Addiction isn't the 'cause of,' it's the 'result of.' For me, it was the result of childhood trauma, abandonment issues, depression, and anxiety - all things I inherited from my mother, who inherited it from her parents, etc., et. al.
To say there were times in my life that I felt suicidal would be to say there were times in my life that I felt hungry. Or tired. That's a better word. And I was tired a lot. I was tired of feeling like I was disappointing everybody in my life. I was tired of feeling like a failure. I was tired of feeling, period. So I drank. A lot. And though I never attempted suicide (at least, the quick forms of it), there were many nights where the idea of killing myself comforted me to sleep.
Luckily, I got better. I had help. I stopped drinking and I talked to a therapist and I got on some medication and things started to slowly but surely get better. It wasn't an overnight thing, but it happened.
I was one of the lucky ones. But there are many, many people who weren't.
For those people, and for the people that loved them, there is the 'Breaking the Silence' walk.
The 'Breaking the Silence' walk, now entering its 18th year, will be held in Casper on Saturday, September 18 at Crossroads Park. It's an event that is open to the public, reminding those affected by suicide that they are not alone. Whether they have lost someone, or are feeling lost themselves, the 'Breaking the Silence' walk exists to show those people that they are seen, they are felt, they are heard, and they are loved.
"September is Suicide Prevention Month," said Brittlynn Adame, the Coordinator for the Natrona County Suicide Prevention Task Force. "There are a lot of 'Breaking the Silence' walks throughout the nation during the month of September, and it just started as a time for people to come together and remember those that they have lost to suicide. It's done to bring awareness to suicide."
This is especially true in Wyoming. Currently, Wyoming is ranked number two in terms of suicide rates in America. We're trying desperately to grow out of the 'Cowboy Culture' that we've been indoctrinated with, as we learn new meanings of what being tough really looks like.
"It's really important that we have this walk," Adame said. "The stigma that's revolved around suicide in Wyoming is so huge. It's huge in the United States, everywhere really. And so this walk is just a place where people can come and know that others have lost somebody to suicide, they can get resources on different support groups that we offer for those who have lost someone to suicide. And if there's anybody out there struggling, it's a place for them to go and find resources and know that they're not alone; that there are other people out there and that there is help."
There is help. The Natrona County Suicide Prevention Task Force is one of the organizations that offers it. They also partner with other organizations within the community, including the Central Wyoming Counseling Center, who recently added texting services to their suicide lifeline.
There are resources in Natrona County designed specifically to help people, and to save people. All of those resources will be on hand at the 'Breaking the Silence' walk.
The event starts at 3pm. Various musicians will be stationed along the path, providing tunes throughout the entire walk. The first 300 attendees will get a BBQ lunch. It will be an afternoon of peace, of remembrance, and of healing. It will be an afternoon to break the silence and to remind each other that it's okay to not be okay.
"There's help out there," Adame said. "You just need to reach out for it. There's people everywhere that are willing to help. There's a suicide hotline you can call. You can get involved with the task force. There are counselors. There are so many people that are there to help, to be a part of breaking that stigma."
Sometimes, depression makes us feel like we're drowning in an ocean. And every time we try to catch our breath, another wave crashes over us. I think that's how my mom felt, and she tried to send out an SOS but her message got lost in the bottle. Mine did too, for a long time. But finally, I got tired of drowning. I got tired treading water. I reached out my hand and, luckily, somebody was there to grab it and take hold. That's what the 'Breaking the Silence' walk is; its somebody, many people, reaching out for each other and taking hold and saying "We will not let you go."
So let's reach out. Let's take hold. Let's break the stigma and, most importantly, let's break the silence.
For more information, visit the Natrona County Suicide Prevention Task Force website.