With one exception, I’ve had the honor of speaking at every Out Of The Darkness walk which has occurred in the Lehigh Valley in the time I’ve been a State Representative. Since I began publicly discussing my struggles with depression, anxiety and suicidal ideation, my role has expanded, and I’ve MCed the event for the past few years. I came back from this year’s event a few minutes ago, and I wanted to discuss it.
First and foremost: Man. It’s really, really tough. People walk around with shirts and team shirts and mottos and anti-suicide tattoos and teams of people and you just feel their pain. There are sweet dogs everywhere.
I always have a tough time – particularly during the Honor Bead ceremony, where you introduce family members and attempt survivors – and that just breaks you. You read these stories out loud of people with life and love and potential, and they are gone. This year, I had the honor of reading the Honor Bead ceremony with Congresswoman Susan Wild, someone I’m proud to call a friend. As many of you likely read, Congresswoman Wild lost her long-term partner, Kerry, to suicide, and has lead a very public fight for suicide prevention and mental illness. I cannot imagine how hard it was for her.
And I’m not gonna lie, I feel terrible feeling emotional. I’ve struggled with depression, and I have been suicidal, but I’ve never attempted suicide. I’ve lost people I’ve known, but never a dear friend or someone I love. And you walk around this event – people come with shirts and signs of their loved ones – and you can’t even imagine their pain.
Please understand, I am not looking for comfort here. I get why it’s hard. I just don’t think my pain compares to those who walk for someone they love. And I don’t expect it to, either.
The one story I don’t think I’ll ever forget was this:
That…yeah. It was hard.
Here’s the dichotomy of the event though, and I suppose it’s more a reflection on the dichotomy of the human experience. It was still, for all the sadness and grief, a beautiful event.
First of all, they raised over $115,000. YAY!!! Oh, you can go here to donate. And you should.
Second of all. It’s not all sadness. It was stories of hope. People who survived and turned their life around. An army vet who survived addiction and multiple attempts to stand on that stage in honor of the 22 veterans who die by suicide every single day. People who walk to remember, and who find each other. I kept watching people talk to Congresswoman Wild and say thank you. But there was a real feeling of community there.
As I said in my brief remarks, everyone who attended and walked was brave. We all know what a prominent issue suicide is: 47,000 died in 2017, and more than 1.4 million attempts. And yet, still. Silence and stigma. Every step that was taken, every dollar raised – that’s a little crack in the darkness. I’ll take that.
So, despite the sadness and pain of an event like this, you have to find hope. It can be a struggle. It can be emotionally and physically draining. But it was such a beautiful event to participate in. People found hope, found each other. And found an awful lot of puppies. Seriously, that really helped. The puppies.
I won’t lie and say I’m fine – it was a hard event to run. Speaking personally, there’s a sense of burden there. You want to do the best job you can, and you want to let people know that those of us in power are listening. And that we share their pain and want to help alleviate it.
As always, thanks for reading. Please leave any thoughts below!
3 thoughts on “The Hope and Sadness: Out Of The Darkness Walk”
It really is an emotional day… I’ll never forget sobbing on that stage a few years back when I was in that honorary bead ceremony… So hard, bless their hearts! I can’t imagine READING the stories, so, Mike… Just, thank you. It is such a powerful, impactful, necessary experience. We are grateful. #stopsuicide
Mike, I never get the chance to participate and help myself because I have no transportation or even worse friends. Some people know I suffer from depression but no one cares. I read your blogs but I feel every day that no one cares if I live or die. I am physically very sick but the depression is going to be my demise I believe.
Oh Margaret, I’m so sad to read this. But I understand completely – unfortunately, being physically sick – as you know – can dramatically limit your ability to travel. And, it can, tragically, also lead to depression.
I will not pretend to understand your pain – physical or emotional – outside of what I see on Facebook. But I will say that, in looking at your profile, you have a beautiful granddaughter who you clearly love and who seems to enjoy you as well. it’s also clear that you have plenty of people who care enough about you to check in and send love and best wishes. I’m not dumb enough to assume that FB is real life, but for whatever it is worth, please try to think through the sadness as best you can. There are absolutely people who care about you. Please pay attention to those that love you, including your family – as best you can. We’re here.
And let me add this – Margaret, if you or anyone else reading this ever feels like you are in danger – please call Call 1-800-273-8255 or text home to 741741.