On March 23, 2017, Amy Bleuel died at the age of 31. She died by suicide.
Many people die by suicide. In the United States alone, an average 121 people take their own lives each day. What makes Amy’s death stand out was her work in suicide prevention. She was the founder of Project Semicolon, a mental health advocacy and suicide prevention group dedicated to offering hope and love to people struggling with mental illness, suicide, addiction, and self-injury. The semicolon was chosen as their symbol because that punctuation mark is used when an author could have ended their sentence but chose not to. You are the author of your life, and you are encouraged to continue. This resulted in many people getting semi-colon tattoos over the last few years.
My biggest fear was that those struggling upon hearing this news would feel like those who speak about suicide prevention were bullshitting them. I didn’t want our words of hope to lose meaning. I didn’t want people to lose hope for their own stories.
I understand that fear. I’m a survivor of multiple suicide attempts. I’ve shared my experiences in videos, speaking engagements and my book, . Many people have even told me I saved their lives, but that doesn’t mean I feel amazing and thrilled to be alive in every single moment. It was only about 18 months ago that I was on the verge of ordering some poison online for myself. Does that mean everything I’ve shared about how I turned my life around is a lie? No. It means I transformed from someone who was sure they were going to die by suicide to someone who might have suicidal thoughts every few years.
One person losing hope doesn’t mean all the hope they experienced and shared until that point was fake or doesn’t matter. The way that any person dies doesn’t erase all the good from their life. Robin Williams’ death doesn’t mean we can’t laugh at his work anymore. The power of lived experience when it comes to suicidal thoughts and behavior is pulling it from the shadows and dissolving stigma. Having open discussions, sharing and helping people realize they are not alone, is healing for all involved. The desire to just have everything stop is common. Sharing your suicidal thoughts, sharing your pain and being open with your feelings does help, but it isn’t a cure; it doesn’t mean that pattern won’t show up again. What I find is those old thoughts can show up, but there is more hope with them too, more willingness to get through it, there is a knowing sense that it is just a crappy old thought surfacing on its way out.
In my experience as an attempt survivor, getting better doesn’t mean there is never another bad time. “Better” is a continuum, not an end result. Getting help means always being willing to ask for help. Amy’s death is indeed sad, but it in no way diminishes her work or anyone touched by it. Your story isn’t over yet.
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