Tooele Transcript Bulletin – News in Tooele, Utah

April 29, 2021
What I learned walking in the middle of the desert for suicide prevention

On April 23 and 24, I participated in the 100-mile Walk to Wendover with the Life’s Worth Living Foundation. 

During the way I met some really amazing people. The people who walk to Wendover with the Foundation each year have all been touched by suicide in some way, shape, or form. Some people have lost family members — even children to suicide. Others have lost friends or have struggled themselves. 

Every single one of these people’s situations are heartbreaking and I can’t say that one situation is more heartbreaking than another. Losing a loved one to suicide and struggling with suicidal thoughts, or an attempt yourself, is one of the worst things imaginable. 

Yes, everyone on the road to Wendover struggled to accept some sort of tragedy and walking 100 miles surrounded by people who were trying to process the very same thing they were — something almost unprocessable — provided everyone with a sort of therapy.

As I walked and rode the tour bus that provided a place to rest for those who needed a break from walking, I realized that all of these people — young and old — have lost someone, or a part of themselves, they once thought they couldn’t live without. 

How is it possible to continue on without your favorite person? How is it possible to face your demons in the form of suicidal thoughts constantly, everyday and continue on? 

Personally, I believe it’s because they believe they have no other choice. We really have two choices when faced with this type of tragedy — completely lose yourself in your grief or find a way of healing and tell your story.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s okay to let grief win for a while. It’s almost necessary — a way of allowing your brain to partially accept what happened, but healing is necessary, because that grief will take you to deep, dark places you never thought possible.

I remember before the walk began, when we were all in the Tooele City Hall building waiting to take off down Main Street to begin our journey, a man walked halfway up the stairs to speak to everyone. 

His name was Bill Schuffenhauer, a retired Olympian and member of the Life’s Worth Living Foundation, who had tried to commit suicide several times. He told us that we all needed to quit being afraid and tell our stories, because our stories are guaranteed to help someone.

This really hit me because I told everyone that I was attending the walk under the guise that I would write about it for the Transcript and because I was supporting my husband who had lost multiple family members and friends to suicide, but I was really walking for myself. I had my own struggle. And up until this point, I haven’t told anyone that.

Two and a half years ago I was diagnosed with an autoimmune disease. I remember the doctor looking at me and telling me that the pain and suffering I had endured for months prior to my diagnosis was permanent, that I might not get better — that I might suffer with this horrible quality of life forever — that I might not be able to get out of bed without passing out again. 

I was devastated to say the least. Prior to my diagnosis I was healthy and I hated being stationary. I just wasn’t that type of person, but now I had to live with this.

When I arrived home, all alone, I remember feeling depressed beyond measure, because it really hit me. 

It was this way for months. I wasn’t able to work or even travel far from my bed most days. A couple days in I started having suicidal thoughts. I refuse to vocalize these thoughts on paper, but they were bad. I even came up with a plan, but never tried to go through with it.

The days I spent along with my depression and thoughts were some of the worst of my life but I knew I had to stay strong for my family and friends. Somehow deep down I knew that I had a purpose. I knew I was meant to do something more, because the thought of ending it all scared me too much and I just couldn’t do it. 

I knew I was loved. I knew people cared for me, but at the time my vision was clouded and these horrible thoughts overtook that in my mind.

Now, I know after some extensive research that depression and these types of thoughts are very common in people with autoimmune diseases and other types of illnesses. 

There was nothing “wrong” with me. I wasn’t “broken.” I just needed to see past those few months filled with pain and sorrow and look forward to what my future could be. I had to see that God has a bigger plan. 

There you have it. There is my story.

Although I haven’t lost anyone close to me to suicide, and although I never actually got to the point of attempting, my story is still as important as anyone else’s. 

Whether you’ve lost a loved one or you are struggling with suicide yourself, there is hope. No one is too far gone to save. No one is worthless. There is a plan for you. Just please hold on and wait out this dark, stormy time.

As I walked, I watched people who had attempted or struggled with suicidal thoughts laugh and joke with those around them. I watched the light come back to the eyes of those who had lost children. 

And in that moment, I took time to just be still and realize that there is so much good in the world. There are so many good people trying to help, like the Life’s Worth Living Foundation. There is light in the darkness.

If you are struggling with thoughts of suicide, please call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 800-273-8255 or the Life’s Worth Living Foundation at 435-248-LIVE (5483).

My husband and I want to thank Chubby’s Cafe, William Licciardone from Cabelas, and all of our friends and family who donated to our $500 goal and made it possible for us to be able to go on the walk.

 

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