Shh. Don’t talk about it. Don’t bring it up. Don’t write about it. Do not share it. You are strong and that is not you, was not you.
But it was.
Last weekend, the girls and I — with several family members — attended the suicide awareness walk. This is an amazing event that has taken place in Allen County for 12 years. The goal is to raise awareness and reduce stigma.
Many people shared stories of losing loved ones to suicide. I watched and listened to all of these people who were left behind. To most people there, I was attending as someone who had lost a loved one to suicide, which is true. My family and I got behind this movement in 2015 when we lost my uncle. But this awareness effort means so much more, and only a handful of people know this.
I didn’t want to share this.
I did, but I didn’t.
I still don’t, but I do.
So, here I am. I am all about showing support to all who have lost a loved one, as it is a huge step in raising awareness about suicide. But I couldn’t help but notice this imaginary line that was drawn, forming two sides — those who have passed by suicide and those left behind. And yet, there is a third group that was not even mentioned.
They are the survivors.
Maybe there aren’t many. I don’t have the statistics. Or maybe they are hiding behind masks of regret, too ashamed to open the discussion for fear of being judged or being accused of seeking attention. Maybe most succeed. But, by the mercy and grace of God, I didn’t.
I can hear hearts break everywhere. Opinions are forming of this unstable woman who has been feeding you life stories week after week with this kind of past. Who allowed this?
But hear me out. This wobbling woman was once a young girl who was scared to go to college. In fact, during my physical to head out into this world, the doctor decided I was very anxious and needed to be on something — which, in my opinion, was the turning point.
And as I listen to each and every story of suicide told to me, every description of weeks before, days before, even hours before, they all have a common thread — antidepressants, prescription meds.
Look, I am not here to bash the doctors or pharmaceutical companies nor am I saying that people need to deal with their mental issues on their own. I am a firm believer in the right medicine for the right people at the right time with the right dosage. But it needs to be monitored by a doctor who specializes in it and is not just out to try the latest and greatest and hope that it works.
And please, for the love of it all, stop giving these meds so freely to our children.
Children, teens, young adults already have so many emotions and life-changing events coming at them. There is no reason to add a mind-altering drug that may help them to deal with normal, everyday pressures of school and sports — but may also drive them to end their life.
Look, I know there are exceptions where there may be no other options. I am not referring to that. I am talking about the copious amounts of drugs thrown at otherwise normal children who bounce their legs too much in school, speak out during quiet time or cry over a lost friendship or a break up.
These are important lessons and character-building opportunities that they will need to learn to embrace as adults. Sure, there will be anxiety — that time of life is so hard. We need to be there for them physically and emotionally. And we need to assure them they will find their true friends and find exactly what job fits their talents. But in the meantime, we have to help them deal with the situations in front of them without medicating them.
I sure wish that option was proposed to me by my doctor.
Because, believe me, you can try to block out the punch in your gut from the pain in your mom’s face — but you never forget it. Or the talks and encouragement through tears from your sisters — the “why?” and not having an answer. Because you, too, have no idea why. It was not you. I promise, it was not me.
But it was.
Yet, for some reason, God gave me a second chance. He wasn’t done with me. I failed at the best thing I could ever fail at, which is why it has been my goal since then to make every day that I am blessed with a successful one.
As for my amazing parents, they were only doing what they thought was best — what the doctor told them was best. But, because of one survival story, we now know more. Which helps me as a mom attempt to pave a future for my girls that, God willing, doesn’t include the regretful decision of my past.
And, even if this has been the most frightening and uncomfortable topic for me personally to share, if it helps just one person — one less suicide — then every emotion I am feeling right now is worth it.
Survivors, it’s time to speak out.
Sarah (Pitson) Shrader was born and raised in Lima. She is a Lima Central Catholic and Tiffin University graduate. Sarah is a full-time working mama who enjoys writing about her somewhat crazy, always adventurous life as a mother. She lives in Bath Township with her husband, Paul, and their daughters, her writing inspirations, Maylie and Reagan.