Tuesday, September 29, 2020

DAY 29 - You're Alive For a Reason - Help is Available

Place your hand over your heart. 
Can you feel it? 
That's called purpose. 
You're alive for a reason, so don't ever give up.
- Joyce Meyer

If you are considering suicide
please remember you are needed in this world.


If you have a plan and the means to carry it out, and feel that your life is in danger - call 911 or go to the nearest emergency room, immediately. 

If you are having suicidal thoughts, there is help available, 24 hours a day, every single day. Reaching out is is the brave thing to do. Your voice matters and there are people waiting to talk to you.

Asking for help is an act of courage and it may be one of the most important things you will ever do for yourself, your friends, and your loved ones.


Other resources:

Thank you to the International Bipolar Foundation for their list of worldwide crisis/suicide prevention hotlines.

Monday, September 28, 2020

DAY 28 - This Blog is For You

As we near the end of Suicide Prevention Month, I thought I would share again the welcome page for this blog. Lighting Up the Sky has had a lot of views and I know that this is not because of me or my personal essays. This blog has a lot to offer, my story is only one small part:

This site exists in order to give a voice to those whose lives have been touched by suicide.

We share comprehensive suicide prevention and awareness resources. In addition, we have three regular features. Our Voices Matter, which shares the stories of others whose lives have also been touched by suicide. The Beauty of Grief, which shares the poignancy of loss and the many beautiful ways that people memorialize their loved ones. And Their Lives Mattered, which features the names, faces, and lives of the multitude of authors, artists, musicians, and celebrities, whose lives were lost to suicide. Finally, the blog shares the personal essays of Chelise Stroud, a two time survivor of suicide loss.

Wherever you are on the spectrum of being impacted by suicide, you are are welcome here. Whether you are a survivor of loss, someone who has struggled with suicidal thoughts, or if you are just looking for information, we want you to know:

You are not alone.
There is always help.
There is always hope.

You can learn more and find links to our regular features, below.

Our Voices Matter

Each post features the story of a remarkable person whose life has been touched by suicide. Some are survivors of suicide attempts. Some are people who have overcome having been suicidal. Some are experts in the field of mental health and suicide. And many are those who've survived the heartbreaking loss of someone they love to suicide.

These are the words of storytellers, activists, advocates, law makers, and loved ones.

Click on the image below to see the Our Voices Matter posts:

Beauty of Grief

When someone dies by suicide, we who loved them are left to grapple with the pain of loss and also with the profound stigma associated with mental illness.

Survivors of suicide loss are often made to feel as if they should not talk about their grief. Some feel pressured to not bring up their loved one anymore. And because suicide loss is particularly traumatic, it often carries with it a prolonged and complicated grieving.

In order for healing to occur and for stigma to be addressed, survivors need to be able to talk about their feelings and they need to be able to keep the memory of their loved ones alive in whatever way feels important to them. Just as with anyone suffering from a loss, it is important that they be allowed to commemorate their loved ones both publicly and personally.

The Beauty of Grief celebrates the artwork, photographs, poems, quotes, and other creative expressions, of those who are grieving.

To see The Beauty of Grief posts, click on the image below:

Their Stories

Their Stories is a series of posts that are dedicated to humanizing the tragedy of suicide loss. The posts are meant to honor those who have been lost. 

The posts also feature individuals who were celebrities at the time of their death. Artists, writers, authors, actors, and musicians. Click on the image below to learn more:

Chelise Stroud's
Personal Story and Essays

One of the most important things you can do on this earth 
is to let people know they are not alone. 
― Shannon L. Alder, Author

Chelise Stroud is a suicide prevention writer, speaker, and advocate. She is a two time survivor of suicide loss.

"I believe in healing. I believe in recovery. I believe in reaching out and speaking out. I believe that every story is important and I believe that all of our voices matter." - Chelise Stroud

You can find Chelise's personal essays and story, by clicking on the image below:

    Suicide Prevention and Awareness
    and Other Resources and Information

    If you are feeling suicidal:
    1-800-273-TALK (8255)
    Lighting Up the Sky
    is an award winning blog.

    Sunday, September 27, 2020

    DAY 27 - Changing the World

    We are rewarded for hiding ourselves. 
     The fact that we can function, at great cost to ourselves, is used to beat up the people who cannot function.

    S.E. Smith
    Not quite six months after John died, I reached a turning point in my anger. Up until then, most of my anger was focused on the mental health care systems that had failed him. I was enraged at the lack of information, lack of adequate treatment, and the industries that prioritized cost effective measures over making mental health resources available to those who need them.

    I was also angry at the lack of resources and support available to those who love someone with a mental illness. I hated that much of the messaging for partners and loved ones is that they either leave, love perfectly, or assert boundaries that are nearly impossible to manage. All of these messages fell terribly short of respecting the imperfection of being human.

    I have come to believe that the suggestions that are made to the loved ones are born of the fact that we don't have adequate treatment for mental illness itself, and we don't have adequate resources to foster universal suicide awareness.

    These illnesses inflict pain and suffering on not just the person with the illness, but also on their loved ones. Trying to mitigate this suffering, loved ones often treat the person with the illness as if they are the enemy. Sadly, this dynamic exacerbates the shame and fear that mental illness already imposes.

    And if we lose someone to suicide? We disect in excruciating detail the ways in which we'd been in conflict with the person we'd lost. We continue to confuse the illness with the person we loved. How could they have done this to me? But we must begin to replace the words 'him/her/they' with 'the illness,' in order to have an accurate reflection of what was going on.

    Similarly, we ask ourselves: how could I have said this to him? How could I have done this to her?  The answer is that we weren't fighting with the person we lost, we'd been engaged in an argument with an illness.

    Still, whether we are loss survivors or we are attempt survivors - we agonize over what we could not do, what we did do, and what we believe we should have done. We blame ourselves for not having tools and resources, despite the fact that they do not yet exist. We blame ourselves for not knowing many things that are still unknown. We blame ourselves for not being the cure for mental illness - as if that were even possible.

    So yes, in the months following John's death I was angry. And I was also ashamed. I survived only because the people who loved me held me up. I know too though, it was often a struggle for them. 

    My guilt was so incredibly heavy, it dragged me down again and again. I'd lost my mother to suicide. I'd nearly lost my own life. And now I'd lost John. I didn't understand why life was so unfair. Not in a self piteous way, but in all earnestness. How could this be happening? How would I ever be able to incorporate the reality of these losses into a life that might include hope and joy as well?

    It was exhausting. The grief was exhausting. My self flagellation was exhausting. I was tired of the confusion. And then one day I realized that I would never overcome the worst of my pain, if I didn't better understand what had happened to John, and myself, and my mother.

    It is important for me to point out that amidst all of this emotional exhaustion, I remained motivated by wanting to defend John. Because he died by suicide, there was this constant inference that he was selfish. But I knew him well. He was human with many flaws, but selfishness was the least among them.

    If nothing else, I understood that John had lost his life to a mental illness that was beyond his control, and yet he was being blamed for it. I knew that he'd fought extremely hard to rebound from the ways his illness impacted him. I knew this because he told me, I knew this because I saw it.

    When John died, I knew he deserved far better than the fallacy that he'd been weak or selfish.

    I thought about when my mother had died by suicide 15 years earlier. When she died, I was beside myself with grief and guilt. My lack of understanding set me up for years of feeling responsible and years of feeling as if the similarities between her illness and my own meant that I would lose my life to suicide too.

    And then I thought about my own suicide attempt, which had happened less than five years prior to John's death. In the weeks following my attempt, family members stopped speaking to me. People unfriended me on Facebook. I received one anonymous text: "Don't do this to your son." To this day, I don't know if that was supposed to be instructive or accusatory.

    I changed my phone number and stopped replying to messages.

    The truth is, I hadn't known the answers to the questions people were asking. I agreed with the premises though. There was something terribly selfish/bad/wrong with me. I was not worthy of friendships or forgiving. I couldn't understand how I had 'let' this happen either. I, like John, had tried desperately to stay alive, for years. What went wrong and how could I have failed so terribly? The accusations from others and the self blame on my end was agonizing.

    I had bursts of blaming others for my despair, and bursts of feeling defensive of myself. Mostly though, I agreed with what the world at large says about those who are suicidal: I was selfish. All I cared about were my feelings and I was incapable of thinking about the feelings of others. I was rash and weak and not to be trusted. I was not worthy.

    When my mother died, initially I was convinced that I should have 'done something different' to save her. Fifteen years later when John died, I believed that I should have 'loved him better' in order to save him. With my own attempts, I just knew I'd failed everyone who loved me. In all three, I still struggle with guilt some days. This is common for people whose lives have been touched by suicide. Guilt offers very few people mercy.

    Our culture tells us that death by suicide is driven by choice. This belief creates an agonizing contemplation on the part of the loss survivor. 'Why didn't the person I lost choose me over death?' And for the attempt survivor, the stigma driven suggestion that they made a selfish choice only serves to add a layer of shame on top of what is likely already profound self hatred.

    How do we challange stigma and change the unhelpful premises that exacerbate it? We speak up. 

    After John died, I realized that my voice was important. I am the voice of someone who has experienced all these facets of suicide and stigma. I am a multiple loss survivor. I am a suicide attempt survivor. And I am a person who, at times, still struggles with suicidality.

    I have experienced first hand the misunderstanding, the accusations, and the insensitivity. But I have also experienced the support, the understanding, and the love that carries people like me from one day to the next.

    This is why I use my voice. Because it is those who speak up who are making a difference. If those who read learn something, that can potentially lead to life saving advocacy and action. And for others, knowing that they not alone and that they are understood can save a life too.

    There is an African Proverb: Not to know is bad; not to wish to know is worse. If suicide has touched your life, I encourage you to reach out, ask questions, and learn more. Educating yourself is the first step toward compassion.  

    And I believe that knowledge and compassion have the capacity to change the world.

    [The essay above was first written in June of 2018.]

    If you are looking for resources and organizations that promote suicide awareness or prevention - click on the image below to reach our Links/Resources/Learn More page.

    Saturday, September 26, 2020

    DAY 26 - Terry Newton

    Terry Newton was an English professional rugby league footballer who played in the 1990s and 2000s. He played at representative level for Great BritainEngland and Lancashire, and at club level for the Leeds Rhinos, the Wigan Warriors, the Bradford Bulls, and Wakefield Trinity Wildcats. Newton was one of a handful of players to feature in each of the first 15 seasons of Super League.

    In February 2010, Newton was given a two-year ban after being one of the first sportsmen to have tested positive for human growth hormone. Seven months later, he died by suicide. Terry Newton was 31 years old when he died.

    Terry Newton 

    November 7, 1978 – September 26, 2010

    Friday, September 25, 2020

    DAY 25 - Alejandra Pizarnik

    Alejandra Pizarnik was an Argentinian poet. She was born in Avellaneda, a city within the Greater Buenos Aires metropolitan area. Her imigrant Jewish parents were from Rowno (now Ukraine). 

    Pizamik was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship in 1968, and in 1971 a Fulbright Scholarship. Her best-known books of poetry were: Los trabajos y las noches (1965), Extracción de la piedra de la locura (1968) and El infierno musical (1971).

    Pizamik had a difficult childhood, struggling with self-esteem issues, as well as having a stutter. Due to weight gain that upset her, she began to take amphetamines. She became strongly addicted and struggled with long periods of sleep disorders that caused insomnia.

    Despite her writing and academic successes, Pizamik lost her life to suicide just one year after receiving her Fulbright Scholarship. She was 36 years old when she died.

    Alejandra Pizarnik 

    April 29, 1936 – September 25, 1972

    Thursday, September 24, 2020

    DAY 24 - Peter Bellamy


    Peter Franklyn Bellamy was an English folk singer. He was a founding member of The Young Tradition but also had a long solo career, recording numerous albums and touring folk clubs and concert halls.

    Despite significant early success and acclaim, Bellamy did not like to market himself and his performance career declined. Family and friends say that he became increasingly depressed over his lack of scheduled concerts. In September of 1991, Peter Bellamy died by suicide. Bellamy was 47 years old when he died.

    Peter Franklyn Bellamy 
    September 8, 1944 – September 24, 1991

    Wednesday, September 23, 2020

    DAY 23 - Brodie Panlock

    Brodie Rae Consance Panlock 

    March 25, 1987 - September 23, 2006

    In September 2006, 19-year-old Brodie Panlock ended her life after enduring ongoing bullying by her co-workers at a café in Hawthorn, Australia.

    The tragedy of Brodie’s death was compounded by the fact that none of those responsible for bullying Brodie were charged with a serious criminal offense under the Australian Crimes Act 1958. Instead, each offender was convicted and fined under provisions of the Occupational Health and Safety Act.

    Brodie’s death was a tragic reminder of the serious consequences that bullying can have on victims, their families and the community. It illustrated that there were limitations in the laws that prevent conduct involving serious bullying. Anti-bullying activists believe that bullying should be subject to criminal sanctions.

    [The information above was taken directly from the Brodie's Law Foundation.]

    Tuesday, September 22, 2020

    DAY 22 - Current Events

    Looking for the latest news on the world wide web about suicide awareness and prevention?

    Lighting Up the Sky is curating some of it on Paper.li.

    More education means less stigma and better understanding of suicide as a whole. Check out current suicide related news on our own Paper.Li paper, today.

    [Note the Paper.li is an automated curating site. It curates by topics selected by Lighting Up the Sky. This blog does not personally preview or necessarily endorse or verify the accuracy of articles on Paper.li.]

    Monday, September 21, 2020

    DAY 21 - Charles Jackson

    Charles Reginald Jackson was an American author widely known for his 1944 novel The Lost Weekend.

    As a young teen, Jackson experienced a significant trauma. When he was thirteen years old, his older sister Thelma and younger brother Richard were killed while riding in a car that was struck by an express train.

    As an adult Jackson struggled with alcoholism and addiction. He suffered from mental illness and in the years prior to his death, he was repeatedly suicidal and hospitalized more than once. 

    Jackson did have years of sobriety, but at the end of his life he suffered a relapse. Charles Jackson died by suicide on September 21, 1968. He was sixty five years old.

    Charles Jackson 
    April 6, 1903 – September 21, 1968