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HACKETT: The silent struggle

Since the moment the idea became a reality, I’ve struggled with what I would say.

Since the moment the idea became a reality, I’ve struggled with what I would say.

Today is World Suicide Prevention Awareness Day and later this month, from Sept. 20-23, the Red Deer Advocate will run a four-part series, in recognition of Suicide Prevention Awareness Month.

We spoke with families who have lost a family member to suicide and they shared extremely personal stories about the struggles and the recovery from such a tragic loss.

I felt an overwhelming sense of sadness hearing these stories, stories about children and families I really don’t even know.

And here’s why I’ve struggled and why I think the conversation has for so long been kept in the shadows. We simply don’t know what to say.

How do you comfort someone who experiences something like the loss of a child or a family member in this way? You feel that words are just lip service or platitudes that don’t reach the depths of the loss they feel.

And for those who experienced a loss, for so long it’s been taboo to talk about– as if your struggle would be too much of a burden to bear for the rest of the world if you share your story.

So, instead, people bottle it up– try and fight the demons on their own that come with losing a loved one. And oftentimes, people don’t even recognize they are struggling.

Which, in some cases is why we lose someone in the first place to suicide. They didn’t want to talk about their struggles; they felt alone or that it was too hard to live because nobody understands what they were going through.

I’ve never lost someone close to me to suicide. It’s only through the words of others that I’ve tried to navigate what it might feel like if I was in their position.

What I can articulate, at least I hope I can, is a deep sense of loneliness that I’ve felt many times in my life, which I don’t want to say is depression because that would be unfair to those who suffer from that horrible disorder.

That loneliness though, has led to thoughts about what the world would be like without me and how the people around me would feel if I was no longer here.

I’ll never know why, but I was bullied as a kid. I was an easy target I guess because I didn’t always fit in. At hockey or on the playground, it felt like it was never going to end. It got better as time went on, but I always carried that sense of being an outcast or outsider with me. It hurt and left deep scars – ones that I still deal with today.

I was reluctant to share those stories when I was a kid because I thought It would make me look like a lesser version of a “man”. Nobody knew what I was going through, I just internalized and got through it. Focused on the next thing until the feelings went away.

As an adult, that loneliness has reared its ugly head many times.

I lived alone a lot in my 20s and early 30s and for those of you who haven’t had that experience, it can be a revealing test of how easily wandering thoughts can cripple you.

In those times I felt extremely sad, that my worth was nothing because I had no one around to share my accomplishments or my life with. I had no one to lift me up so instead, I plunged deeper into my own head.

You would see friends celebrating life on social media and you would think three things: look at how great their life is and hence, how bad mine is – they don’t have time to talk to me, they’re too busy living a great life– and I don’t want to burden their great life with my sad sap story.

All that ends up crushing your self-worth. It makes it harder to wake up in the morning, more difficult to sleep at night and in general, harder to be happy on a day-to-day basis.

I turned to alcohol often to deal with my problems, a long-standing vice that I’ve probably overindulged in and especially during those lonely times. Shockingly, or maybe not, that makes it all worse. Those feelings just become amplified and more painful under the influence.

I look back and I feel a bit sorry for myself that I suffered alone, that I didn’t make that call or try and talk to someone.

Thankfully, those days of struggling are few and far between now. Life circumstances have changed – I’ve learned how to be more aware of what those thoughts mean and how to navigate them when they do come.

For me, journaling is a way to help those thoughts escape from my head and when I read them aloud, it almost has a way of taking back their power.

It may seem silly, but meditation was another way I navigated all that negativity. Just five or ten minutes a day can sometimes really put you in a better place.

And talking. It’s hard and I don’t think it’ll get easier but people are always there for you, no matter what your thoughts are telling you. Someone is there to listen– someone out there cares about you more than you will ever know.

I hope these stories in our series and my own experience can help anyone out there that might be struggling, that might not know where to turn or how to deal with it on their own.

I’m hoping we can all try and lift each other up a little more because you truly never know what someone on the other end of the phone, in a line or on the street is going through.

Check-in on your loved ones– really have an honest conversation about how you’re doing. Text a random friend you haven’t spoken to in a while and make sure they’re doing alright. It all goes a long way.

Of course, this alone won’t rid the world of suicide, but it’s a step in the right direction or maybe just a nudge. But it’s a start and sometimes a start is all it takes.

Byron Hackett is the Managing Editor of the Red Deer Advocate.

Byron Hackett

About the Author: Byron Hackett

Byron has been the sports reporter at the advocate since December of 2016. He likes to spend his time in cold hockey arenas accompanied by luke warm, watered down coffee.
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