I had hoped to return from vacation to share some fun and inspiration about the importance of relaxation and bonding with loved ones, and I will, however, I sit here at 1:00am unable to sleep thinking about her; Amy Bleuel.
Our mental health community suffered a devastating loss this week upon receiving the news that the Founder of Project Semicolon had passed away from suicide. Now, I didn’t know Amy personally. I hadn’t even had a Twitter conversation with her, but I followed her work and her organization since the very beginnings of Where is the Sunshine? Her semicolon became ubiquitous in our world; telling us that our story wasn’t over. If you’ve ever seen a tattoo semicolon, you can thank Amy.
After crying for the past two days, I thought about why this has hit me so hard. The answer was simple. It made me question the mortality of everyone I know in our mental health army. How could a person with such massive success and a following in the tens of thousands, could still feel that they no longer matter? Why can a person who’s so beloved and respected by our community not know their worth? It’s this disease. Depression is powerful. It can destroy a person and that’s the honest truth.
If the tables were turned and someone had reached out to Amy about their own thoughts of suicide, you bet she would tell them how much they are worth. Yet, it doesn’t work that way when it comes to your own illness. Depression is a beast; more fierce than any dragon. If you don’t stay 5 steps ahead of it, it can swallow you up whole. And once you’re drowning, without the right support, it’s hard to keep your head up.
I told a friend and fellow advocate tonight that it’s hard practicing self-care when you’re running a non-profit, have a family and other responsibilities. Yet, we have to be diligent. We must stay on top of our game. We must use our support system and resources. We must reach out when we need help AND WE CANNOT BE AFRAID TO ASK FOR IT! This is a vicious illness; one that can only be stopped by us. There is no radiation or chemo for depression. There is no cast or stent. All we have is us and each other.
As I type I’m thinking of my fellow mental advocate friends who are out there pounding the pavement everyday fighting stigma, educating, inspiring and saving lives. These are people whom I respect; who are friends. Are they taking care of themselves? Are they taking their meds and following up with their therapists and doctors? Are they practicing self-care?
See, what happens when you’re an advocate is you sort of become “Mom.” You make sure everyone else is clothed, fed, and off to bed before you think about yourself. These past few days, I have felt like “Mom.” This can put you on an emotional island…just you, alone with your thoughts, exhaustion, and struggles. Not a good place to be. It’s not like winning Survivor, I assure you.
My heart hurts for Amy. My heart hurts for her friends and colleagues whose Facebook posts have me tearing as I scroll through my feed. My heart hurts for her family. If Amy is somewhere in this universe, I hope she has found peace. I hope the pain that brought her to such a dark place is replaced by light and sunshine. May she now rest peacefully.
RIP Amy Bleuel