March 3rd, 2010 was a normal day. I had just finished a long day at musical practice; our high school was putting on Fame. I came home bubbly, excited from the time spent with friends and successfully pulling off a dance number which was a huge feat for me...but I came home to a somber atmosphere and some grave news. That day changed my family and I's life forever. And yet what happened, gave me something to fight for and be passionate about.
Suicide is often times a taboo subject, one that triggers emotions for many people who have been affected by it in one way or another. Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in America and on average there are about 121 suicides a day and about 25 attempts per one death. This seems so high for a country in which we have most things that can bring us joy at our finger tips. There are several things that may lead to suicide; many people become a victim due to mental health issues that become overwhelming or go untreated and unnoticed, the most common being depression. Other stressful situations may cause a person to become so overwhelmed that they see taking their life as the only way out to end the pain.
I didn't get to know my biological dad very well before he was gone. I was able to meet him again for the first time since i was 2 years old at the end of seventh grade, and boy was I nervous. I had dreamed of meeting my dad; I had seen home videos from when I was young, and even though I was constantly told not to get my hopes up, I always had that dream in the back of my head. When I met Gary, it was on a warm sunny day at a Rita's. I was nervous and scared and excited and so many things all at once. He strolled around the corner with my oldest sister...he was so tall I couldn't believe it, and he had dark hair and brown eyes, just like me. I don't remember much of what we talked about, but I remember we all laughed together when my younger sister ordered blueberry Italian ice and chocolate gelato - we all thought it was the weirdest combination!
So maybe your asking yourself, what does Danielle fight for? I fight to end suicide. For a few years now, my family has participated in AFSP's Out of the Darkness Walks. These walks happen around the whole country in different communities throughout the year. They bring people together to help raise awareness and funds for furthering suicide prevention. We take a day to walk in our community as families, individuals, teams...all different people from different walks of life who have experienced the loss of a loved one because of suicide.
The time around my dad's passing was really hard. I didn't know what to make of it; I was sad of course, but I found it hard to be so sad when I hardly knew him so most of my emotions consisted of anger. I was angry that he had left us and I was angry that he had caused so much pain. It was hard to speak at the memorial, just when my sisters and I thought that we didn't have any more tears to cry, they would start back up again. The thing that really hit me was a story that a good friend of his told me. You see, my dad had sent out an email a month before to his family members, apologizing for not always being the best brother, son, father, etc. I had replied, basically saying that it was ok, and that he would always be my dad. He was with this friend ordering food when he received my reply. She told me the story and said that when he read it, he stopped and wept...she said that she thought that I had made him hold off on ending his life...I lived for years with this awful guilt that I couldn't make him hold off doing that at all. I questioned why I hadn't written "can't wait to see you soon!" so he would know that he had to keep going just a little longer until he saw us again, and maybe then everything would've been ok. But that guilt has passed, and I know that even if I had any clue, or had tried harder, it may not have changed anything, and it definnitely wasn't my fault.
Another great organization that raises awareness for suicide and self harm prevention is Project Semicolon. They are a nonprofit that takes donations to fight the cause, and also provides information regarding mental illnesses, suicide, on self harm. Their mission: "Project Semicolon is a global non-profit movement dedicated to presenting hope and love for those who are struggling with mental illness, suicide, addiction and self-injury. Project Semicolon exists to encourage, love and inspire." So many people I know show their support by talking about this project, getting semicolon tattoos, or even making creative content based off of this powerful movement.
I had so many questions that went unanswered, and some that still resurface today. But I found more reassurance when I spoke with my Oma, who told me that my dad had renewed his relationship with Christ earlier that year on a men's retreat. So even though there is still hurt and pain and even some questions, I no longer have to carry around such a heavy burden. I know that this part of my life will always bring me up to make a difference, instead of pull me down to hurt me.
If you or anyone you know has struggled with depression or thoughts of suicide, please speak up, please reach out. Find help and remember that there is a God who loves you, and even though it may not feel like it all the time, there are people around you who love and care for you too.