Everything that I knew about life changed on June 22nd, 2015. On this day, I learned that my mother took her own life in my childhood home. She was 53 and I was 26 at the time.
Devastating is not quite the word I would use to describe this type of news, and I still haven’t quite figured out the words to describe how I actually feel about everything so I’m not going to try and cover that yet.
My mother was the type of person that was always lively and made friends easily. She was well known and loved in our hometown, so her death came as a surprise to many. It was a shock to me as well. I knew that she had experienced some hard times recently and had a short episode of depression about a year ago, but I didn’t know how bad things really were.
She was actually diagnosed with Chronic Manic Depression. I never knew about this diagnosis because she never told me about it, I only learned that she had it when I was reading her death certificate. At that point, it was a little late to be learning of her true condition. What I now realize is that whenever she talked about her experience with depression and what was actually going on, it was always masked with religion. She would say things like “I felt like I was in a fog or being held by a demonic force…” or “God brought me out of the darkness and now I’m healed…”
I have nothing against religious beliefs and practices, I am a Christian myself, but in this situation we have to realize that there are other things at play and not just religion. Our community has a hard time talking about issues concerning mental health and I feel like much of it comes from the stigma that is unjustly associated with it. People feel as though they have something to be ashamed of because they are struggling with a mental disease. Mental illness is just that – an illness. Do people feel ashamed for catching the flu? For having cancer? No.
Mental illness is just as serious and debilitating as any physical illness or disease and we need to start treating it as such. If my mother had felt more comfortable with actively managing her condition and speaking out about it, things may have been completely different. I say may, because they may have turned out exactly the same.
Even still, talking about these things allows everyone to be on the same page. If I had known that my mother was actually suffering from a mental illness then I may have been better able to recognize the signs she was clearly showing before she decided to commit suicide. I may not have been able to stop her, but I would have been given the opportunity to try.
My mother’s suicide is hard to talk about, but it needs to be discussed. I’m not ashamed of how she died because I am proud of how she lived. I know that in her final moments, she was struggling with a unbearable pain that she was simply tired of fighting. This keeps me from wondering why she left us here and why there was no letter to explain her decision. She just wanted it all to stop because she thought there was no other alternative.
Now that I have experienced this, I want more people to step up and talk about mental illness and suicide prevention. It may not be a fun conversation to have and it may not be a very comfortable experience, but it is necessary. We need to stop minimizing the importance of mental health and start talking about how to change the way we think about it.
115 thoughts on “My Mother’s Suicide”
I had the honor and sweet pleasure of meeting your mother. I would go linedancing at her place and she was so sweet and had a beautiful spirit. I work in the mental health and substance abuse field. You are correct that there is a stigma attached to getting help so much so that oftentimes when we ourselves could benefit from seeing someone we choose not too or try to work through our issues alone. Life happens meaning that there will be good days and we will have troubling times. We in the mental health and health field deserve the same right to be seen professionally when we need help without worrying about backlash or it making us seem unable to work effectively in our careers. I am very proud that you are speaking out in a positive manner about this taboo topic. It shouldn’t be kept hushed and I pray that God blesses this to help others facing difficult times who can’t seem to see a ray of hope.
I am sorry to hear about your mother but I definitely appreciate your strength and transparency in sharing about your mother. I love Jesus but I go to counseling when I need it. We all need someone to speak to at times and there isn’t wrong with getting help. One of the things we as the body of Christ and African American people need to do is not be ashamed of getting the help we need.
Bittersweet all the way around. . Its great that someone in the AA community is speaking out but the topic is unfortunate. . I send my heartfelt condolences to you and your family and am proud that you are taking a stand. . Way too often Religion is used a an answer for untreated mental illness and people may be misguided and untreated. . Religion should always be used as an aspect of medical treatment but never as thee only treatment. .. the stigma definitely creates issues but as with all other medical issues/diagnosis we must remain treated properly to maintain proper health. . Comparitive to an STD that needs to be regularly treated to avoid getting worse. .. in the future, your courageous act of speaking out may help to encourage someone that TREATMENT is available. ..