“I am not my thoughts”

How did you get over the urge to commit suicide?” — one of the last questions I expected to be asked in front of my students by the school counselor. I paused for a moment and said, “I didn’t. “ I told him, “That urge will never go away. It haunts me like a shadow follows someone during the daytime. It will never go away.”

I wrote my first Goodbye Letter when I was 12 years old with the intention of it been found. I wanted my mother or father to find it so they could see how much pain there was wrestling inside me. Instead, my friend Colby found the letter, but when confronted me about it, unfortunately, it was too easy to joke off and move on from. This was the first of many letters I would write. Eventually, these letters transformed into some very scary thoughts of suicide. As the years blurred by, mixing drugs with alcohol, I showed no consideration for my own safety. Every morning waking up feeling more empty from the day before. My attempts to self-harm and self medicate the pain away led me closer and closer to crossing the fragile line between life and death. This road eventually lead me to locking myself in my bedroom with a loaded gun in my hand and the one I loved most screaming on the other side of the doorway, begging me to stay. Finally, I agreed to get help.

These days, appointments with my counselor and psychiatrist are a regular occurrence. I find them to be healthy and necessary. From the outside I have the ideal life. People who love me. A solid career, with a nice place to live. Yet, the emptiness still lurks inside of me. Yes, I still have thoughts of suicide, but for the first time in my life I am happy. I am so thankful for my friends and family who have stood beside me. Especially my wife, Amanda, for never giving up on me. You are all heroes. I have become more open about my struggle, making it easier to confront and eradicate thoughts of escaping this life. The What I Be Project has often been a segue into deeper discussions with the young people I know and work with, giving them an outlet for their own pain, resulting in steps taken towards healing. Therein lies a security and small, yet significant, relief when you discover you are not alone in your struggle. This project has changed the way I view other people, the way other people view me, and, ultimately, the way I battle my illness.