I’ve lived in Fairfield County, CT my entire life. I was so grateful to see an event about suicide awareness happening in Greenwich, CT. I was invited as a guest speaker and wanted to share my speech with you all as well!
Surviving Suicide, Self-Harm, & More
“I am someone that has lived with thoughts of suicide and self-harm since I was in elementary school. I didn’t always know that I was experiencing this and didn’t have the right words to express and
understand. But what I did know was the feeling of pain, disconnection, and shame. These thoughts started to express themselves in ways like trying to make myself small and staying out of the way of things… By remaining silent so that I didn’t have to burden anyone… By showing desperation for connection, even if it meant being in a toxic relationship. I didn’t know that some behaviors were self-harm, until they became more ‘traditional’, like cutting and disordered eating. My first suicide attempt was in middle school. And still, to this day, I feel shame in sharing that with my family.
If I were to try to find a blame for suicide and self-harm, it would be trauma, shame, and disconnection. Suicide is too complex for it to be one thing. But these were the emotions I felt consistently throughout my journey. I would turn to anything to feel self-worth and connection. A toxic connection is still a connection, and I unfortunately gravitated towards that.
I ended up experiencing numerous violent relationships, became addicted to heroin, was homeless, and at 22 I was incarcerated for multiple felonies and spent a year in prison. For me, many of these consequences were results of desperation of trying to find purpose and meaning. I continuously wonder what kept me fighting throughout those years… and what I’ve found is that it’s never one thing. It’s many little things, the hope for future things, and the simple things.
Currently, I still live with thoughts of suicide and self-harm… I’ve just learned key differences than before: I know how to express what I’m experiencing…. I know the people and places that are safe to share them with… I have connection to my community, to nature, and with myself. Some days, my most effective coping skill is curling up with a blanket and watching my favorite shows… And other days I cope with therapy, nature, and attend support groups.
It has been ten years since my last suicide attempt and in just a few short weeks, I will be celebrating 7 years in recovery from addiction. I’ve found purpose in working in a career field that allows me to connect with people experiencing the same challenges. I run a support group for anyone in the community that experiences thoughts of suicide and self harm. I work hard to show that there are alternatives to inpatient care and hospitalization… That there are ways to talk about suicide and self-harm and ways to support someone experiencing it.
The most helpful for me is when someone empathizes with my pain, rather than compete against it, dismiss it’s seriousness, or try to problem solve. When someone sits with me and simply says, “wow that sounds terrifying, how can I support you”, [it] shows me that they are listening to learn, rather than rescue.
I’m grateful that the endless efforts of working on myself have brought joy, understanding, and resiliency. I’m grateful to have a great partner, a safe home, a dog and cat, healthy relationships with my family, a career I love, and just recently, I have enrolled back into college to continue my education. I received a full pardon this year and am no longer a felon. I have new milestones and goals to live for… some small, like living for good pizza and walks with my dog… some large, like planning a wedding and being an aunt and godmother.
Every day looks different, and some days are full of darkness. But with hope, connection, and vulnerability… together, we can create a world where people experience self-love, rather than self-harm.“