Trigger warning: suicidal thoughts, thoughts of secondary suicide, self-harm, drug use, and the opioid crisis
My partner and I were driving in downtown Vancouver one afternoon. It was sunny out, the roads were busy, and out of nowhere a person comes walking out right into the middle of the road. They were looking around, completely unaware of their surroundings, wandering into moving traffic.
Maybe they had taken something, maybe not. Either way, they weren’t well.
A colleague of mine was moving into a new role to help with the opioid crisis in Vancouver and so she went on a few ride-alongs with one of the narcotics team ambulances administering narcan, naloxone, to humans up and down the Vancouver East Side. I won’t share everything she saw with you because the stories are too sad, but I will share that she saw lawyers and people in business suits come into the alleys on Friday night to take drugs and crash for the weekend, and then come out on Monday morning to go home, shower and go to work.
Everywhere she went, she saw some people in deep amounts of emotional pain with nowhere to turn except to drugs.
In nursing school I had the opportunity to go for a shift on the Alex Bus, which is a mobile health and safe injection clinic here in Calgary. Unfortunately I didn’t win the chance to go – but it led me to learn more about the program. At the time I was confused why a safe injection site was a good idea. In my mind it sounded like it was encouraging people to use IV drugs and was making it okay. After learning more about it, I completely changed my perspective and there’s a reason why we support the Alex now with a monthly donation.
The truth is criminalizing drugs doesn’t work. There are countless studies showing that this disproportionately affects already marginalized communities such as the disabled, the mentally unwell, and BIPOC groups.
The deeper truth is that it doesn’t address the root cause of the problem – that we as a society are more connected than ever before with social media and Zoom, but we’re also feeling even more isolated and alone now than prior to the pandemic. There are many factors that contribute to this,(https://www.scienceofpeople.com/loneliness-statistics/) but I want to focus on one main aspect.
A number of years ago, I remember sitting in the middle of the floor of my apartment feeling numb, lost, and that a good cry would make me feel better but I couldn’t make the tears come. I was going through something very emotional, something I was struggling with – but I felt I had no one to talk to.
I mean, I did have friends, family, and co-workers. I even had access to a therapist through work – but I didn’t know if I could reach out to them either.
I needed support.
I wanted support, but didn’t know where to turn.
I was so scared of being judged, instead I put on a mask and carried on with my life like nothing was wrong. No one knew. I was very good at wearing that mask.
I remember driving home from a friend’s house one night and it was dark out, raining hard and the roads were wet. I had the thought “What if I got into a car accident and didn’t have to worry about anything for a few weeks? What if I could just be in the hospital and not have any responsibilities as I recovered?”
And then things got darker.
I started to wonder if maybe I didn’t want to get in a car accident and go to the hospital. Maybe I wanted to get in a car accident and not make it.
Maybe I wanted to die.
I remember the corner on a highway in our city vividly of where the thought then changed to: “Why not just pull into the cement barriers here? You’re going fast enough. It might do it.” Everytime I drive by that space I can feel how close I was.
Full disclosure. While writing this out, I took a break right here to go and get a hug from my partner and let him know what I was working on. He’s heard the story before, so he knew where I was emotionally and helped me re-ground myself to be able to come back here and finish this off.
He asked “Are you sure you’re going to put this episode out there?”
And without hesitation, I said “Yes, absolutely.”
I truly believe that mental health affects more of us than society, and social media wants us to believe. We all hear stories of social media icons that step away from the platform because of its impact on their mental health.
And I truly believe that mental health doesn’t discriminate. As I mentioned earlier, from business professionals who “have it all” to social media influencers “living the dream life” or a 38 year old disabled woman teaching burnout recovery, yoga and stress management online – we can all crack from the weight of our demons.
Especially when society keeps sending messages to encourage us to push through, toughen up, and stop being so weak because everyone else has problems too.
Why can’t it be process through the experience, let it out and cry while I hold you close, embrace your sensitivity and emotions as a profound strength, and stop comparing your struggles to others.
Every. Single. Human. Deserves. To. Be. Supported.
Yes. Every. Single. Human.
And I feel confident in saying that because I worked in a jail for years as an RN, but that’s another story.
I’ve decided, for my own mental health and for my own joy, to step back from social media completely. I will cycle through the content I’ve created and still have a presence there – but that won’t be where I spend my time because it’s not what I need right now.
This. This is what I need. True connection. Vulnerable connection and a space to share the difficult stories so that we can all realize that we’re not alone.
We don’t have to go through the pain and struggle alone. We can find someone to walk the walk with us – without the fear of being judged.
There is a song that I’ve discovered recently from a local artist that I saw at an open mic event several years ago. Her ethereal voice and vulnerable lyrics just land so hard for me especially with the story that I shared just now.
In fact, I didn’t even plan to share that story when I started writing this. But as I was listening to it on repeat, the memories poured out and I knew it was right. When you listen to the lyrics, I know you’ll agree with me. It’s called The War by Amelie Patterson.
Now, if you’re reading this and are contemplating suicide, self-harm, trying drugs to escape, or secondary suicide (where you find yourself wishing that someone else would kill you like in a car accident) – if that’s you, please with every drop of love I can give, please ask for help.
I know you feel unloved and maybe even unloveable, but I love you.
I love you.
Don’t believe me?
So many people can choose to hate someone based on the tiniest of things – so why can’t I love you based on the tiniest of things – that I love who you are, just as you are, and want to meet you one day.
That’s the truth.
I love you, and I’d love to meet you one day.
So don’t go anywhere until then.
Reach out for help. (here’s a link to crisis lines across the world: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_suicide_crisis_lines
And if you’re not sure where to go, or who to talk to, send me an email email@example.com and I’ll write you back.
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