Chasing Amy

ed591363-c444-4cb7-8723-22e2a4be6ab2-large16x9_CaptureI 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

1 Comment »

  1. “If there is a parking space in front of the tattoo parlor and if they can do this now, I will get my semi colon tattoo.” When I first saw the posting from the Semi Colon Project, I was awaken from my grief torn existence. My 23 year old son Raymond finally succeeded in ending his own life after several tries. Aspen Colorado is known for its high suicide rate. So many…young and not so young. WHY MY SON!!!???!!!
    I read Amy’s story and “liked” her group. I daily read the posts from so many fragile and brave people who took Amy’s story and message to heart and were up-lifted.
    There was a parking space in front of the tattoo parlor and they could tat me right away! It was meant to be…on my wrist where it could be seen and start a conversation. I later enhanced my tattoo, adding a cross of sorts to reveal my love of Jesus.
    I just finished watching a 5 minute video Amy did in January. You could feel and see her struggling. There is no simply cure for the myriad of mental health conditions. Amy’s courage to show herself being so vulnerable should be viewed and viewed again by those who suffer with mental health issues and those who treat mental health issues. Silence and stigma can no longer be a reason to remain silent. Shame should be taken out of the vocabulary and replace with…”I did the best I could…”
    No one called me the day my son lost his job . The only call I got that day was from the coroner…at midnight, 5 hours after he died in the snow packed parking lot near his apartment. Not his counselor, not his friends…not Raymond.
    I wear my semi colon tattoo proudly in honor of my son Raymond and all those who succumbed to their illness. I am eternally grateful for what Amy started and will carry on in her message forever.

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