Life is kinda like canoeing. Every family is in their own canoe, rowing down the river that is life. Appearing to have all members of your family in synch is desirable. No one wants to be in the canoe that is rowing in circles, or the one that tips or crashes. For some families it is essential to maintain a perfect image.

Image removed

The first time I admitted to having suicidal thoughts, I was eight years old.

It was a perfect summer in southern Michigan. The kind where it's always warm and everything smells like sunscreen. I should have been outside with the other kids, enjoying the cloudless sky before the cool Autumn breeze set in, but instead, I was in my room reading books on my own and teaching myself how to sew.

I didn't know why, but I felt severely lonely. There was a weight in my chest like my lungs were filled with liquid lead. My heart didn't feel like a fully functioning heart, it felt like dead weight. Any time I tried to move or do anything, I felt like I was moving through water. Everything was a chore.

I hated this feeling. I knew I wasn't sick because I didn't have a fever, so I had no clue what was wrong with me. I didn't think anyone had ever felt like this before and that made me feel so alone. I hated myself for feeling these things. I couldn't imagine spending the rest of my life like this.

In response to these feelings, I thought seriously about killing myself. I thought that if no one could relate or loved me here on earth, that surely there would be someone who could in the afterlife.

This burden of carrying myself around and carrying these thoughts around became too much for me. I knew I had to tell someone, so I went to two people that I could trust. One of my best friends, N, and my twin sister, C.

When I told them how I had been feeling, I just needed them to reach out to me. I needed them to tell me they knew how I felt or that they loved me and their lives would be emptier without me in them. This was not the case.

They recoiled away from me. I was an alien. No, not an alien. A creature. I was a disgusting creature that they couldn't quite figure out.

I would have waited for them to say something, but their silence said it all. I went to my room.

When my mom got home from work she called me downstairs. There was anger in her voice as she said, "Did you tell N and C that you want to kill yourself?" I looked at them sitting on the couch. I didn't ask for this. The last thing I wanted was a scene. I only wanted to know that I was loved. At this moment though, I was betrayed.

That evening, my mom struck fear into me. She told me that people who want to kill themselves get locked away. They aren't allowed to have any books or toys, and they aren't allowed to see their families. Every time she added on a new "scare tactic" she would then ask me if I still wanted to kill myself. I kept answering, "yes", because I didn't want to lie.

Eventually, my mom took me into my bedroom and made me pack a bag. No toys or books, only clothes. When I came downstairs she forced me to say goodbye to all of my sisters and then she put me in the car. She made me think that I would never see my family again. She made me feel like I was crazy and I couldn't be around other people, like I truly deserved to be locked up.

When we started driving out of the neighborhood, she ended up pulling into the parking lot of our subdivision's pool. I sat there, crying, terrified that I would never be able to see my sisters again. My mom explained to me that if I wanted to kill myself I would have to go away. Scared, I told her that I didn't want to kill myself anymore, not because I really meant it, but because I wanted to be there when my big sister got married, or when my twin sister and I graduated high school, or when my little sister learned to ride a bike. Those moments were more important to me than getting locked up.

But hindsight is 20/20 and I know now that I could have been there for all of those moments and that I wouldn't have gotten locked away. I know that being suicidal does not mean that you are not equipped to live in the real world, and I know that if I had gotten the help I needed on that day, it would have made the years to follow a lot more easy to deal with.

canoe, pond, and couple image

When it was brought to my mom's attention that I had suicidal thoughts, she saw this as "rocking the boat". She didn't want our family's reputation to be tainted by the information. Her threatening to take me to an insane asylum was her way of telling me to sit down.

I have since forgiven my Mom for the way she acted in this situation but I know that sitting down and continuing to row through life like nothing ever happened was a mistake. So if someone is telling you to sit down, I encourage you to stand up. I encourage you to rock the boat, in fact, tip the whole damn thing over. Do not be silenced when you are in need of help.

Here is the number for the suicide prevention hotline: 1-800-273-8255

xx Lenny