I Don’t Know What to Say
Sometimes there is so much to say I don’t even know where to start. Like I used to feel when I’d go grocery shopping and the fridge would be so full of food I couldn’t decide what to eat. “I dunno – this olive loaf looks interesting…” That last example is a lie – I’ve never bought an olive loaf before – but it’s a safe bet that I will, now that I’ve written about it. One Hundred percent guarantee that I’ll look it up and at least find out what it is.
Is it bread? Is it meat? I love olives… questions answered here. …but I digress.
I don’t usually have that problem anymore – with the food I mean. I buy what I need, what I like, and what I plan to eat. I limit my choices so I don’t have to think about it. It doesn’t matter – this post isn’t about food or nutrition.
You: “Really? Because so far that is literally *all* you’ve written about. Assuming Olive loaf is a food. IDK. I haven’t clicked the link yet.”
You’re right. I’m stalling. I’m stalling because this past weekend was the Out of the Darkness Walk – a walk to prevent suicide and there is just so much to say about it that I’m not sure how to get into it. Like with the food, I try to limit my difficult topics in life so I don’t have to think about them – and this…This is the mother of all “Olive Loaf Topics” if there ever was one.
My girlfriend Katie introduced me to the Walk 6 years ago. Her cousin Kim and Husband Wayne had lost their daughter Morgan to suicide in 2009 and started a foundation to help others affected by suicide. She has lost friends to suicide and has close friends who have attempted suicide.
I only know one person (I think) who has died of suicide. I know only a few people who have attempted suicide and still more who suffer from depression… but – I don’t have the first clue what to say about it. I don’t choose to talk about it in everyday conversation. I am not practiced in talking about it and for those reasons I tend not to say much – which leads to less talking about suicide and prevention – which does NOT help people who suffer. It is a negative spiral. Many forms of human suffering are all affected by this same spiral.
Why? I have to guess that we’re afraid of it? We don’t understand it? We are ashamed that we are not taking care of each other? Deep down we know we could be nicer, more connected, more concerned? Or maybe we don’t believe this particular form of human suffering is part of our world – that it does not affect us.
Until it does. And then we are utterly alone.
But if we’re lucky, someone like Katie’s cousin Kim will be there to help us. Someone who truly knows what loss is – and who can prove to you that living on is not only possible, but essential. She will not blink when talking about suicide or when she asks you to ask her about her daughter Morgan – who ended her 16-year old life by suicide in January, 2009. She will not apologize for talking about how she feels or for reminding us that suicide is a terrible thing that is happening in the world and that there is more we could – SHOULD – be doing to prevent it. She will not look away when you tell her your story. She will understand and stay with you until you know that you are not alone. (Learn more here.)
I am not Kim Beverly. I don’t have that kind of courage when it comes to loss of any kind. So I don’t say much in real life. But I am not all together afraid to write about it online so here I am. This walk – raising awareness and money to fund research around suicide and resources for prevention and people affected by suicide – is my small way of trying to break the spiral. (If you’d like to help by way of donation you can click this.)
I ran alone. Thinking about the day ahead and what it meant to me personally. More on that later.
The walk starts at the Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium – within running distance from my place. So that’s the direction I started. I planned on timing it to run 13 and meet up with Katie before the walk, but (bonus points if you saw this coming…) I decided to sleep an extra 45 minutes knowing that I could run 10.1 and then finish my milage with the 3 mile walk.
I ate a rockfish reuben and sweet potato fries, Brussels sprouts and buffalo wing cauliflower the night before. Not exactly “night before you run” food so as I got close to the stadium dinner was doing a number on my stomach. I remembered Kim (not Katie’s cousin) lives near there… Her van was in the driveway but I thought better of dropping in to use the facilities. I’ve known her awhile and we’ve logged some miles but… it did not seem like *the move*. Plus – Dan lives *right* across the street from the stadium so I would just swing by there.
But he was not home. (Yikes!)
Fortunately for me, the stadium bathrooms were open because of the walk. I took care of that and thought I’d check in with Kim and Wayne who were there early to get the Team Morgan tent set up. I said my hello’s and went on my way. I was only about 5 miles in at this point.
I had hoped to run over the Naval Academy bridge and on to the trail but I knew without too much math that I didn’t have time. I told Katie I’d meet her at 11 for the 12pm walk so to play it safe I ran “the big loop” in West Annapolis and then back around the stadium. I knew Katie would be there by then so I decided to take a break – I mean – say “Hi”.
After a quick hello I set off for a couple more laps around the stadium and got my 10.1 miles.
Before the walk there is a ceremony. The AFSP talks about their mission and the specific actions they take with the money raised in order to research, advocate, educate and communicate in the community. After that, different people are called up to stage and their story is read as they pour colored sand into glass jars. Each color represents their story:
White – Lost a Child
Red – Lost a Spouse or Partner
Gold – Lost a Parent
Orange – Lost a Sibling
Purple – Lost a Relative or Friend
Silver – Lost First Responder / Military
Green – Struggled Personally
Blue – Support the Cause
Teal – Friends and Family of Someone Who Struggles
It is heart-wrenching but it is their reality and as sad as I get watching it and hearing their stories I know that I have not suffered. Not through cancer. Not through Alcoholism. Not through depression. Not through divorce. Nope. I’m… ok.
We also wear beads of the same colors when we walk so others can know why you walk without having to ask. Without you having to say. But people do ask and others do say. Because this is a safe place. During the walk sometimes you talk to someone who wants to talk or listen and it helps. I feel like it helps even more when it’s a stranger. We can see how possible it is to care for one another.
I don’t say much. Because I’m not practiced at it and I don’t have a story to tell and because I don’t want to say the wrong thing. I don’t want to cause other people pain. I’ll get better – if I keep trying.
I wear Blue and Teal and Purple.
The walk starts at the stadium and goes into downtown Annapolis, loops back around and comes back. In years past we have gone as far into town as City Dock, but this year we turned around at Church Circle. I think we are too large now to clog up DTA for an hour midday on the weekend. I have mixed feelings about this.
One hour and 3 miles later I have my 13.1
Not the Run (or the walk)
So here’s some more about me that isn’t really about me. Something that brings me closer to suicide prevention. I’m the father of an AFAB non-binary gay trans kid. (definitions here) . What does that have to do with anything in this post? I’ll tell you – In a national study, 40% of transgender adults reported having made a suicide attempt. 92% of these individuals reported having attempted suicide before the age of 25. (From the Trevor Project)
Which means… well it means I need to remind my kids Every. Single. Day. that they are loved and they are not alone and that if they need me I am here for them. No Matter What. And I know that may still not be enough. I am already touched by suicide. I’m moved, saddened… terrified. I’m already affected because I know – while I’m not completely powerless – I understand how little control I actually have.
I’ve been on some runs where folks have questions about it. (The long runs are for talking) “What’s it like for you as a parent?” or “just what is this gender stuff all about anyways?” And maybe I just have amazing people as friends – but not a single person has ever been anything but respectful and curious and it makes me feel so good to know that we can be like that. Humans. We can be curious about something without fearing it. We don’t need to understand it to accept it. I am hopeful that this is what they encounter in the world also.
When they were a baby, I didn’t have any “plans” for them. Sure, I wanted them to become an astronaut because at the time I just wanted someone to take me off of this planet – but ASIDE from that – I didn’t have any idea who they would become. I just wanted them to be happy. I didn’t see a doctor or a lawyer or a musician. Of course I *could* see all of those possibilities (and more) in them but I just wanted them to be happy. To feel that they belonged and that they were loved and that they matter.
And so when they began to transition it was never hard for me. Sure, there have been some awkward weird moments but no one escapes the teenage years without some of those. And… now when I look at them I still don’t see a doctor or a lawyer or a musician. I don’t see a girl and I don’t see a boy. I see a wonderfully beautiful human being who can be an asshole sometimes (like their old man) but who cares about others and who wants to use their intellect and talents to help people.
What else is there to say?