National Suicide Prevention Day

On National Suicide Prevention Day, I posted a picture on Instagram that received more likes and comments than anything else I’ve ever posted. 

This was the caption:

I took this picture on a night that I almost killed myself.

I said, “I don’t know if I’m going to make it through tonight, but if I do, I want to remember it,” and so I took a selfie as a reminder. And I think it’s worth noting that, even though I was fighting what felt like an impossible battle, I look so incredibly normal. I look just like I do every night, but on this night I wanted to die. I was fighting a battle inside of my head and no part of me felt strong enough to win. It may seem weird that I took this picture, but I never want to forget the fact that I can survive the worst of the worst. I never want to forget how miraculous it is that I’m still here.

I want this picture to do two things. First, I want it serve as a reminder of how invisible mental health issues are. Suicidal thoughts are invisible, tricky, and unpredictable. I went to work that day. I talked to my roommates. I took my dog out. I did what I had to do, but barely. I was miserable, but I played my part. I showed no one how bad it was. I hid before crawling into bed that night and crying for hours until I fell asleep, willing myself to stay alive. It was April, this April, just four months ago. It was a month I can hardly remember because my depression was so intense. It was a month I didn’t know if I could survive because something outside of myself but still somehow inside of myself was telling me that it would be better to give up. I wanted to die, I felt like I needed to die, and nothing could convince me that surviving would be worth it.

Second, I want it to prove to myself and anyone else that we can make it. Despite depression, anxiety, heartbreak, and anything else, we can make it. We can want to die one night and love life four months later. We can survive the worst of the worst as we desperately hold onto hope with white knuckles and gritted teeth. We can survive beyond the nights and days and seasons that swallow us with their misery and pain, and we can help others do the same. 

It’s National Suicide Prevention week and I’m glad to be here. There are hard days, sure, but with therapy and medication and the grace of God, there are so many good days, too. You can swipe through to see some of the moments I would have missed if I’d died in April. You can swipe through to see what’s made surviving more than worth it. 

 (End Caption.. See the post here)

The photos I included were from some of the happiest days I’ve had in the last few months. The smiles were real and the photos were taken so I could remember them. From time with my nieces and meeting my new nephew, coaching soccer, my best friends getting engaged, and even just being with my pets, they were moments that made life feel possible. There was a photo of my graduation, which is a big deal because the last year of grad school felt so impossible. There was a picture of my friends and I dressed up to go see Arianna Grande and another of my dad and I out on the boat. Some of the moments were big and loud, like the Ari concert, but most of them were just simple. Time with my people, living amidst the rhythm of life. The best part is that there are so many more moments, ones not posted on Instagram, that have made staying alive worth it. From simple Sunday mornings on the couch with my pets watching TV to starting my first full time job and going to (another) friend’s wedding, these moments have been worth it. There are hard things, too, and times that live feels overwhelming and impossible. I take medicine everyday to help with that and most of the time it works. 

People are often surprised by how candidly I’ll talk about suicide and depression. It’s hard to admit that I’ve wanted to die and I imagine that it’s hard to hear that as well. But, it’s important that I keep talking about it. Sharing my story helps others, which I was reminded of on National Suicide Prevention Day. Sharing my story in all of its brutal and shocking honesty helps break the stigma that says we shouldn’t talk about mental health. I’m going to do what I can to stay alive, to see my story through, and as long as I’m breathing, I’ll keep talking and keep sharing. I feel as though I have to, and so I will. 

Ashton Ray