a reflection about charting my own course.
for me, summer is a time of anniversaries. Kevin and I have summer birthdays, we got married in the summer, and my Canadian citizenship ceremony was in the summer; these days are clearly celebratory. however, another summer anniversary creates in me a wider range of emotions; this summer marks the twelfth anniversary of my suicide attempt; the anniversary evokes in me joy, relief, and hope, as well as a sense of something lost.
every suicide attempt survivor has a different level of comfort regarding their anniversary. my relationship with my anniversary has evolved over the past twelve years. at first, I only knew what month my attempt occurred in; this vague sense of knowing made me hesitantly approach the entire month. I then chose to gently unpack my memories with a trusted confidant, which helped me learn the date of my suicide attempt. that process, and other intentional steps since, gave me a sense of closure and allowed me to feel more comfortable when the anniversary approaches.
each anniversary, I take a quiet moment to just be. I focus on the progress I have made, reminding myself that perfection is not a wise goal. I also establish and re-assert intentions for my life: am I drinking enough water? am I balancing my energy output with time for relaxation? am I being nourished by my hobbies, meals, and sleep?
though my suicide attempt had many roots, poor sleep and an unhealthy living environment were two of the contributing factors. trying to get enough sleep was complicated by working night shift, as well as the traumatic, chaotic neighbourhood I had lived in for over a decade by that time.
in that neighbourhood, thriving has always been nearly impossible. it is a place where relationships are as dysfunctional as the infrastructure. a place where quiet ones are taunted as “selfish” and “loud”. it is a haven for gossip, lies, and false accusations. a place that exists by instilling guilt, blame, and unworthiness into people. a place where emotional and physical abuse are normalized. a place where escapism is as common as complications stemming from alcoholism and substance abuse.
that neighbourhood is without empathy. that place gnawed my defences away to the point I could only see my worst parts; in that place, a thought like: “I can be a better person” gets contorted into: “I am the only broken person here”. without empathy, the neighbourhood is not capable to support anyone in a time of crisis; the trusted individuals and counsellors who I confided in after my suicide attempt resided elsewhere.
in the twelve years since my suicide attempt, I have sought out places I can thrive. places where I am respected, seen, and heard. places of embrace, welcome, love. places where people’s experiences are honoured as valid. places of honesty, integrity, openness. places that value relationships built on trust and healthy boundaries. places where people know they are not perfect, where mutual growth is encouraged.
I chose to live. I have the right to choose how I use my life. against the odds of a horrible living situation, I found a way to survive. I sought out safe people and places that provided me shelter, which allowed me to heal. I am under no obligation to waste these efforts to return to an unsafe place, unless such a return is completely unavoidable. my life is worth more than appeasing those people who could not be trusted or confided in that summer I almost died. no, this life is mine. from now on, I go where I am wanted.
go where your time and energy is valued;
go where you are wanted;
go where you have the potential to thrive.