All profits from Tuesday morning's class on September 19 will benefit Project Semicolon - a national organization dedicated to aiding those with mental illness. There will be no extra cost to members and $20 drop in for non-members. This is a really great cause that needs your support. Please come join us and do yoga for some phenomenal causes that are doing great work to make a difference in the lives of people in need of help.
This is a subject very near and dear to my heart so it is somewhat difficult to talk about, but I want to keep this topic open for those who need to talk about it and to share a bit of my story with you in the effort to bring more awareness to suicide prevention and mental health and how you can get involved.
FOREWARNING: This article contains very intense and intimate details about suicide and may be triggering to some.
Most people who die from suicide are sick. Mental illnesses are health conditions that change the way people think and feel. The illness deeply cripples their ability to function and interact with the outside world.
My father was diagnosed with manic depression and schizoaffective disorder when he was in his early 30’s. He was a brilliant man, a Civil Engineer and only lacked presenting his dissertation before receiving his Ph.D. He was a lovely husband and father of three little girls. He loved us, he loved my mom, he was amazing at his job, but he was hurting inside and was deeply affected by the inner workings of his psyche. He sought help, but it didn’t alleviate his pain. Back in the late 80’s and early 90’s very little was known about his illnesses and much of the popular treatment was experimental.
I remember being seven years old and visiting him in the hospital. I had no idea what he was there for or what was going on, I just remember lighting up when I saw my daddy and telling him I couldn’t wait for him to come home.
Then, I remember him coming home and sometimes he and my mother would fight. I remember so little - just bits and pieces - I didn't understand that he was fighting the demons in his mind; ones that never ever left his side. They plagued him, affecting his work, his home life, his dreams and his ability to see things clearly. My dad was a brilliant man, but he suffered daily from these mental disturbances. At the end of the day, he thought his family would be better off without him, he believed the only way out was to remove himself from this world.
On February 17, 1990, he took his own life on the floor of his bedroom. He leaned against a chair, pointed his hunting rifle at his own head, and fired a shot.
I don’t think he was intentionally being selfish in his decision to remove himself from this earth, to end his pain, to stop the terrible cycle that made up his daily life. But I don’t think he understood the repercussions that act would have on his family or how much it would shape our lives. He didn’t realize that by taking his life he forever changed the lives of those closest to him.
My family was cut off from the church that would not bury my father because he died by suicide. My sisters and I were constantly bullied at school by kids who would make fun of us for being the 'children of a man who killed himself'. While my father was alive my mother was a homemaker but after his passing, she became a zombie; she stopped living. We suffered financially because of this as well. My childhood home was foreclosed on and we had to keep moving to keep up with rising bills. We moved countless times, from house to house and town to town for years after his death. There were months when we lived in an apartment without electricity when I was a teenager.
Fast forward to today and I still miss my dad every day. I love him dearly and wish he were here to see my son grow up, wish he could have been here all these years to help me navigate through life. I wish things could have been different, but the past can't be changed and those experiences helped to shape the woman I am today. My childhood - and all the parts that made it - made me whole and have shaped me into the intense and passionate person I am.
I use that passion and intensity every day in my work, my yoga practice, raising my child, cultivating my relationships and giving back to the community. I am passionate about suicide prevention and mental health awareness because of my experience with it and my hope to help those who are struggling.
Medical studies and research have come such a long way in 27 years. There are support systems, higher quality treatments, hotlines and educational recources to better understand and help those with mental illnesses. And for this I am grateful. The more we can educate people, the more we can help people, and the greater a difference we can make. I implore you to get involved!
There is still so much work to be done. We need to educate people on how to identify friends and loved ones with mental issues, and how to get them the help they need when we do. Let's open the conversation of suicide and remove the stigmatization of mental illness. Let's help continue the advancement of research in this field to create better tools for those suffering from mental illness and those who are coping with trauma from the loss of a loved one. Let’s bring more awareness to this issue by helping amazing organizations like the Semicolon Project and New Hope for Kids.
Let’s do something small to collectively do something massive.
If nothing else, come to class Tuesday morning and Saturday afternoon with friends to practice yoga with me and make a difference. Please share this post with your friends and encourage them to come to class!