Surviving Suicide

The recent deaths of designer Kate Spade and TV personality Anthony Bourdain have been a conversation starter for mental health and suicide all across the internet.  It’s also been a trigger for me, who has seriously contemplated suicide several times.  Kate Spade brought happiness to millions with her designer bags.  Anthony Bourdain inspired many to travel and experience other cultures away from the tourist traps.  It’s so heartbreaking to experience the loss of such talent.  At the same time, there are also people much closer to home who we can’t afford to lose.

There have been three times in my life where I seriously felt suicide was my only option.  The memories still haunt me.  I remember each event like it was yesterday.  I remember the incident that sent me down that path, the intricate planning of when/where, the music playing and more importantly, how I got out safely.  The last time has cruel irony; Megan found me in the closet.  I hadn’t yet publicly come out as transgender.

Years ago when at my lowest, I bottled up my feelings and my struggles and felt that I had no option but to end my life.  I felt unworthy to live.  I felt like a bother and didn’t want to inconvenience others by talking about how I felt.  By the time I turned 27, I wanted to die.  I believed I had everything; I’d gotten married, had a great career and accomplished all of my life goals.  I didn’t feel there was any hope for me to come out, and I believed that the best had already happened and there was nothing more to look forward to.

It’s frightening to think how easy it is take your own life.  There is so much hate out there, and it’s so hard to shut it off in the days of television and social media.  In 2016, a man was elected president of the United States. This man who once claimed to be an ally now seems to bully the LGBTQ community, immigrants and the media. As a member of all three of those groups, I’m feeling especially vulnerable. Then just a few days ago, a man was selected to form a government in Queen’s Park (the Ontario legislature) who has promised to scrap current sex-ed standards, which could erase LGBTQ visibility from schools. Lately I’ve been reading a lot of trans-exclusionary blogs and articles to try and get a better understanding of why people have turned to these leaders.  I have found there’s too much fear stemmed from misunderstanding and lack of education. Now it seems that fear is being legislated. All of this has made me feel very unwelcome in my current home in California and now in my native Ontario.  How can you not feel hopeless when our peers elect these people to office?  Why did my identity become a political issue?  Words matter and can not be unsaid once they’re out there.  Visibility matters because the LGBTQ community is not going away. It’s a good reminder to be careful what you say and do, because you don’t always know what others are going through.

Some statistics (from the CDC and WHO via Suicide Awareness Voices of Education)

Depression affects 20-25% of Americans Over 18 in a given year.

Suicide takes the lives of more than 38,000 Americans each year.

LGB youth are three times more likely than heterosexual peers to attempt suicide.

LGB youth are more than eight times more likely to attempt suicide if rejected by family.

41% of transgender adults have attempted suicide. That number jumps to 61% if they’ve been physically assaulted.

You are not alone.

When considering suicide, I reached out to some people.  I was often told “suicide is cowardly” or “there’s a special spot in hell for those who kill themselves.”  Using labels and threats really isn’t constructive.  It is brave to get up out of bed each day when you don’t feel like living.  If you reach that point, never be afraid to share your feelings and ask for help.  Don’t allow the bullies and the haters to have power over you.   I know it’s not easy, because it’s something I’m still learning myself.  More importantly, if you feel like you have a friend struggling, also don’t be afraid to reach out.  It’s often too hard to ask for help.

I’m now approaching 31 and I’m so grateful I didn’t choose suicide.  I’ve made stronger bonds with friends, renewed older friendships and really got closer with my spouse and family.  I’ve also been able to shine as I live my best, authentic life as an out transgender woman.  Life is worth living.  The best is yet to come.

In Canada:

Canada Suicide Prevention Service: 1-833-456-4566, text: 45645 (service aussi disponible en français) (crisisservicescanada.ca)

KidsHelp for 20 and Younger: 1-800-668-6868 (kidshelpphone.ca)

Trans LifeLife for all ages: 1-877-330-6366 (translifeline.org)

In the U.S.:

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255 (suicidepreventionlifeline.org)

Crisis Text Line: 741741 (crisistextline.org)

Trevor Project for LGBTQ youth: 1-866-486-7386 (thetrevorproject.org)

Trans LifeLife for all ages: 1-877-565-8860 (translifeline.org)

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