December 4th, 2002 – I was 19 years old. That was the night that I lost my hope. I couldn’t find it – had no access to it – it was just gone. Even as I wrapped twinkling lights and hung brightly colored ornaments on my tree, I could only see darkness. Emptiness. A pit inside me that could only connect with the hurt, the loss, the pain that I had endured the previous 5 years. I was in a complete separateness from all the joy and love around me – there were times I could see it and hear it, but never really able to feel it. It had to be me – I was certain that I was the problem. Everyone else around me seemed to be able to do it – to handle things – cope with things. Why couldn’t I? Why was I stuck in the dark?
It all happened so fast that night. I was so tired of feeling wrong. Of feeling lost. I was tired of fighting for hope when it never really seemed to be within reach. I had a flash of absolute clarity – of what needed to happen to find my way out of the dark. I attempted suicide. And almost immediately, as I watched and felt my life slipping away from me, I knew this was not the way out of the darkness I’d been feeling. Thankfully, I was able to grab my phone and reach out for help. The rest of that night exists only as a blurry slide-show for me; short clips and images of frightened faces and concerned voices, life-saving medical interventions, and the look of anguish on my mother’s face in the corner of my hospital room.
I spent two months physically and emotionally recovering from that night and the many years of pain that led up to it. I was lucky enough to be wrapped up in the support of a loving family, wonderful friends, and access to the mental health treatment that I needed. It was hard work, confronting so much of what led up to the night I tried to kill myself. As my physical wounds were healing, I was opening up old, emotional wounds that I had neglected for too many years.
During this process, I realized that my hope wasn’t lost – it was being held and protected by the people who loved me, believed in me, and never gave up on me. They were keeping it safe while I grew strong enough to hold it on my own again. I was incredibly fortunate to have immense support and the strength of amazing people to rely on and lean on when I needed it. I am now 37; it has been nearly 17 years since that night and hope continues to burn brightly within me. Hope for myself – hope for others – hope for us all who have faced complete darkness. Each day, my very existence is proof that there is still hope. I have turned this night of darkness into a career of hope and healing and like my family, I will never give up on others.
Tonight, we hold these candles as a message of hope for those who aren’t able to see any light. Tonight, we hold these candles up for those who aren’t strong enough to hold it up for themselves. We will protect and keep safe the hope of those who are stuck in the darkness. Tonight, our hope will shine bright for all who have been touched by suicide. Together we can be the light that will save lives and end suicide.