Yesterday, my daughter, fiancée, and I completed the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention’s 2017 Out of Darkness walk in Orlando, FL. The event was a 5k walk around a beautiful lake, with humans, dogs, bunnies, and tortoises (no, that’s not a joke) all joined together to promote suicide awareness and encourage people around the world to help us end the stigma surrounding mental health struggles.
Signs, stickers, and posters featured phrases such as “I’m walking for” with the name of a loved one who died by suicide filled in the empty space—which reminded me of the empty place this type of loss leaves behind in a lot of our hearts. I thought about my own mental health struggles. I thought about my own suicide attempts. I looked at my fiancée and daughter, and thought, I never want them to have to fill my name in the empty space.
I never want to have to fill your name in that empty space, either.
We don’t simply overcome mental health struggles. Depression and anxiety do not dissipate overnight. Bipolar disorder does not go away when it gets bored. Thoughts of suicide cannot simply be turned off with a switch. These types of darkness don’t seem to have a light switch, and that can be hard for people to understand. But I understand. And I want you to rise up.
I want you to rise up out of the ashes (and darkness) like a phoenix. Scratch that. I want you to rise out of the ashes like a Sri Lanka Frogmouth. I know you’re trying to figure out if those last three words are the product of some type of autocorrect system wild on caffeine, but no—
I want you to rise up out of the ashes like a Sri Lanka Frogmouth.
The thing about this bird is that it is awesomely weird—much as I imagine you are, which is why I really don’t want to be filling your name in that empty space the next time my family walks. We need more awesomely weird people in the world, so I hope you’ll stick around. This bird is so underrated. But it’s not underrated to me—just like you’re not underrated to me.
This bird has a special call it makes every dawn and dusk. It cries out when the sun sets, but it’s also there to cry out again when the sun comes back. It has small wings…yet it flies. It flies quietly but with purpose. The best thing about this awesomely weird (and let’s face it, weirdly named, as well) bird is that it often disguises itself as a broken tree branch for self-defense. It’s apparent brokenness is what can save it at the end of the day.
So after walking with over 2,000 people who have been personally touched by suicide, I still manage to feel light. I know these people are hurting, yes, but they are using that pain to do something worthwhile. And I know many of us, myself included, are heavy with the weights of depression and anxiety, among numerous other types of mental health struggles…but remember this—
You may look like nothing more than a broken tree branch. But you are something solid, strong, real, graceful. You can take flight—you can glide. You are awesomely weird. And you are going to rise from those ashes, just like a Sri Lanka Frogmouth should.