PTSD Awareness Day & My Experiences With The Condition

Trigger warning: discussion of suicide, child abuse, sexual assault, & PTSD flashback

Today is Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) Awareness Day and I wanted to share the ways this condition has impacted my family and me in order to change what people picture when they imagine someone with this disorder.

I learned about PTSD the hard way after losing my uncle to suicide. At the time we didn’t know that was what caused him to leave our family so abruptly, but know that we know the signs and his experiences, a posthumous PTSD diagnosis makes complete sense. He was a veteran of the Marines and served in Vietnam.

I grew up in a military family and most of my uncles fought in wars. I became well aware of issues vets face once they return to civilian life. Most of my uncles never talk about their experiences with anyone else other than each other or their brothers in battle who are still living.

What most of my family members didn’t know was that I was fighting a battle of my own. Being the product of the abusive marriage meant I was born into drama and abuse. I was the constant reminder of my mother’s abuser once they had divorced and he was sent off to a prison thousands of miles away. She took all her anger and frustration out on me physically and verbally and made me an extension of her. Anything good that I did was a reflection of her, not because of my hard work.

I always realized I was different from other kids because of my anxiety and shyness, but it wasn’t until I got into the relationship I am in know that I realized how messed up my upbringing was. Even more unexpected was how it was continuing to impact my life. I get immense jealousy when I see daughters getting along with their mothers.

It wasn’t until seeing a therapist who specializes in ADHD did someone finally label my experiences as what they are – trauma. It was then that I finally felt like I had the permission to view myself as a victim and survivor.

On top of my childhood, I experienced a traumatic incident in which I was sexually assaulted by a guy I was dating because he viewed kissing as consent. I’m a petite 24 year-old petite woman who most people didn’t realize had depression, let alone PTSD. I never considered these things to be trauma because I was taught to believe I didn’t survive anything “major”. I didn’t serve our country in battle. I wasn’t raped by some vile monster who was a stranger like you’d see in Law and Order: SVU.

I was abused by the woman who gave birth to me and was supposed to my biggest supporter in life. I was violated by someone I had trusted. My therapist said that I never realized I had been experiencing trauma because I was constantly being traumatized for so many years that I didn’t have the opportunity to analyze it/label it for what it was. She was also disgusted by the fact that I brought this up to other therapists and no one had even considered my experiences to be trauma or the fact that I have the symptoms of complex PTSD.

I hadn’t realized that I had experienced a lot of the more subtle symptoms of PTSD for quite some time, but it was one day this year when my boyfriend has mentioned something (I can’t remember what it was at this point), I had an episode where I was mentally in an altercation with my mother. It was so terrifying and it felt like it wouldn’t stop. It was as if someone simultaneously hacked my brain to watch the memory and time was rewound to when I was back in that moment. It was my first flashback epsiode and I luckily haven’t had one since.

It’s so weird to add another diagnosis to the roster, but I’ll do whatever it takes to work on myself, even if it means my health chart is expanding a bit. Once I’m done with school and get settled in with a job, I will take this more seriously and hopefully start EMDR therapy and/or other treatments that are forms of trauma-informed care.

Please note that PTSD and other conditions are not a joke and that things like “being triggered” shouldn’t be mocked as it is when someone experiences immense psychological distress a the result of a trigger.


The China Shop

Trigger warning: physical/verbal/psychological child abuse

You were the first person I met,
I knew you even before
we saw each other,
Before I took my first breath.
You were supposed to
Protect me, love me,
Not hide me away.

I guess I was kept a secret
Because you were ashamed.
I was baggage.
I was the product of your
Relationship with a man
Who held your life hostage.
He was the ball
And I was the chain.

I never asked to be
Brought into this world.
To be the constant
Reminder of each hit,
Each instance of
Manipulation and isolation
He forced upon you.

I just wanted love.
The unconditional love
I saw on tv.
The everlasting,
All-encompassing love
A mother is supposed
To give her daughter.

Instead I was your
Verbal punching bag.
Sometimes your literal
One as well.
Your threw punches
My way,
And brutal spankings
And hair yankings
That skewed my
Understanding of love.

As a child, I was clumsy
And you were careful,
But not all of my bruises
Were of my own doing.
And the contusions
On my soul
Were not visible,
But still felt.

As I got older and sicker
And smarter,
I was your tool.
I was your means of
Obtaining sympathy
And ego-stroking.
I was never given
An honest smile,
An loving hug,
Everything was a façade.

I try to forgive you
But it’s hard to ignore
The pain of a wound
That hasn’t yet healed.
I can’t forget
All the times you
Betrayed me.
Broke me.
Time after time.

There’s no way
I can ever say I will
Be whole again
When I was broken
Since birth.
Born into a China shop
Filled with bulls.
Left to pick up
The pieces on my own.

Quarterlife Chronicles: So You’re Not Graduating On Time

The Quarterlife Chronicles is my blog series on my experiences navigating life as an almost 25-year-old living with mental illness and lessons I’ve learned.

So you’re not graduating on time for whatever reason. I won’t invalidate your feelings by telling you to stay positive because this situation absolutely sucks. I know from personal experience that not graduating at the expected date multiple times is disheartening. I had to morn the loss of certain life expectations, including graduating in 4 years.

I’ll be 25 and I haven’t graduated college yet. I will be graduation this summer after being in school on and off for over 7 years. 7 years! Old me would just die if I knew this was how my life would turn out. I was an honors student in high school and graduated with a scholarship for my dream school. I thought I had my life planned out. I was going to go to this school on a biology scholarship, get my degree in biology, and work my way to become an epidemiologist at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

I was never a girl who didn’t dream big because it’s what got me through my tough upbringing and I had an intense passion for science/public health. But the biggest lesson I’ve learned the hard way, is that rarely does everything in life go according to plan. I had to leave my dream school after my freshman year (I flunked my second semester due to serious depression and not medically withdrawing soon enough). At that point, I was so sick of biology and everything associated with that school at that point. I went to community college as loved my classes.

Part of why my graduation was deferred was my health. I live with 4 mental health conditions, including one that inhibits my ability to concentrate like the average person (ADHD). On top of getting help for my mental health conditions, I have physical ones to take care of. I’ve had numerous hospital stays, asthma attacks 2 surgeries, underwent physical therapy twice, and in the past 5 months, have had episodes in which I pass out. I don’t share my story for sympathy, just to highlight the fact that taking care of your health when you have chronic conditions can feel like a full-time job.

Another part of what has taken me so long to finish my degree was figuring out what I wanted to do. After realizing my lifelong dream wasn’t necessarily the right one for me, I had endless options. I went from wanting to become an English teacher to journalist to therapist to finally realizing that I could major in Public Health (with a concentration in Health Promotion and Education) at my current school, which could help me get a career like what I got a taste of as a presenter for my local chapter of the National Alliance for Mental Illness.

I love my classes (well, minus biostatistics and health policy), but this journey has been hard. Here are some other tough lessons I’ve learned so far:

1.) The traditional 4 years of school doesn’t work for everyone.

I was the first person in my family to attend college right after high school. I had no one to tell me how hard (or expensive) college is. I wasn’t even 18 until my first day of college classes, so being able to afford college was difficult, especially once I lost my biology scholarship, since I went to an expensive private school. I’ve had to take less classes or miss out on a semester because of money and my health.

2.) Paying your way through school is so hard and there are times when you won’t feel like it’s worth it.

You are allowed to feel angry about the financial situation that you’re in. My parents are well off enough that they could have easily paid for me to go to community college or at least assisted me in paying my tuition, but they didn’t . They didn’t provide emotional support either aside from “feeling bad” about me being in that situation. Not everything happens for a reason and while you might end up feeling proud and accomplished once you pay off school, that doesn’t help you when you’re in the midst of working full-time while going to school full-time.

3.) How long it takes you to graduate doesn’t matter as much once you have your degree.

A degree is a degree is a degree. It may have taken you longer than other people to graduate, but you still had to learn the same material as others in your degree program. You may also be more prepared for a job than other candidates if you’ve had time to invest in yourself and explore jobs. For example, I will come into whatever job I have knowing that life won’t be as hard as when I worked and went to school full-time and I have been able to be more involved in mental health advocacy and education (my intended job field).

4.) Having high expectations can be toxic.

You can’t have the same expectations as someone else when they don’t have to overcome the same obstacles you do. They are not “winning” at life, you have just been dealt a different hand and have to learn adjust your expectations accordingly. Therapy (specifically dialectical behavioral therapy) helped me get my expectations in check and I nor longer have such ridiculously high standards for myself, which just added pressure.

4.) Even though it feels like the end of the world, it won’t be.

Going to graduation parties, seeing your friends graduate, and seeing pictures of people graduate on Facebook and Instagram can feel like a slap in the face. Please do yourself a favor and take a mini break from social media. Allow yourself to grieve while not getting bitter towards your friends/peers. Their life situation is different than yours. If you have toxic feelings of jealousy, write them down on a piece of paper and rip it up. It’s super cathartic and prevents you from saying things you regret. People may question why it’s taken you so long, but unless you want to disclose, it’s none of your business.

6.) No matter what path you take, try your best and remember no on has their sh*t together.

The idea that people have their lives together is a lie. We’re all lacking in some aspect of our lives and the part(s) that is/are lacking may change, but no one has it all figured out. Working at an organization created by a well-known local university made this abundantly clear. People forget things. People are late. People mess up. We are human. People respect when you ask for help and take accountability for when you make mistakes.

You will make it through this, I promise.


It Could Have Been Me

Trigger warning: Discussion of a suicide attempt and a suicide loss

Last week I learned about the tragic death of a student at the local university I attended for my Freshman year. At first, I just felt sad for the student who died, his family, and the university community because it was a freak accident that some staff and students witnessed, but then student’s death was ruled a suicide. I instantly felt like the life was sucked right out of me when I heard the news. The student who died was only 19 and a Freshman. It took me right back to my Freshman year.

My 18h birthday was the first day of classes at the university. I was elated to be away from home for the first time (even though it was 20 minutes away from home) and instantly loved living in the city! To me, this meant a new chapter and the end of my mental health struggles (boy was I wrong about the latter part!). My first semester was a slap in my face because my classes were so hard (I was a biology major, the hardest program at that school) and I felt like everyone was able to handle the stress of it all except for me.

I fell into bad habits like distracting myself from my issues by getting involved in a million activities. I was in 4 dances for the dance ensemble, American Chemical Society, biology society, etc. on top of having a serious boyfriend. I wanted to do it all like I thought I had done in high school, except I did everything except for take care of myself and make my mental health a priority. After spending too many hours dealing with panic attacks and feeling distraught about school, I decided to change my major to undeclared and enjoy exploring my options.

It was a scary, but positive change for me. During my second semester, I was able to solidify my friendships with an amazing group of friends, I was able to spend more time with that boyfriend, I got to really enjoy dance, and I had straight As. I was living the life I always wanted…until my depression came back with a vengeance. I stopped functioning over time. I isolated myself more, I lost my appetite, I didn’t want to bathe or take care of myself, and worst of all, I started to lie to my dear friends. I would hide in a computer lounge and tell my friends I had gone to my classes. 

I experience a feeling of hopelessness I had never known before. Instead of seeing life through rose-colored glasses, all I could see was gray. I would drink on the weekends and seek excitement, but I felt hollow. I couldn’t share my feelings with my family, who didn’t understand my mental health diagnoses and weren’t really empathetic when I struggled. The thought of telling my friends what was going on would trigger a panic attack. 

 Then came the terrifying daydreams. I would lie on my bed and picture myself dead with a suicide note written in blood on my wall. I was both horrified and comforted by the image, but I knew deep down that it was time to seek help. I asked my boyfriend at the time (who I had been dating since senior year of high school and didn’t live far from my campus) to go with me to the emergency room of a nearby psychiatric hospital to get help.

At this point in time, I suffered greatly from internalized stigma and after waiting hours to be seen, I mustered up all the courage I had, but all I could say was that I was “really sad” instead of saying that I wanted to die. The nurse gave me the number for outpatient services and told me that they couldn’t help me in the ER because I wasn’t “bad enough”. It immediately sent me back to all the times when my experiences and mental illnesses were invalidated because people didn’t think what I was going through was that bad.

I felt like that was it…the end of the line. I did what I was supposed to by seeking help and it wasn’t enough. I was more than ready to stop existing, so after my boyfriend took me back to his place, I attempted suicide while he was in the bathroom. Luckily, he interrupted me and it was the moment that started my long, winding recovery journey. I left that university to go to community college and focus on my mental health after talking with the amazing counselor that was at the school at that time. Unlike me, the student who died at that university will never get the help he deserved and it scares the sh*t out of me knowing that I could have been a body found by someone else.

Since my attempt, I experienced what I like to call “suicidal attacks” where my mind would default to suicidal thoughts when I underwent immense stress, but the feelings lessen after a few hours or after sleeping. I’m very thankful that I haven’t felt like dying in a long time and that I’m no longer depressed thanks to therapy and lot of work on myself. I share my story so that people can feel comfortable talking about their struggles, but I also fight for better mental health care since people can’t get the help they need once they get courage to speak up if they can’t afford doctor appointments or don’t live near a therapist. I continue to live for the lives lost to suicide and to help prevent more people from dying before they can find peace while they’re alive. It’s been 7 years since my life almost ended and I’m so thankful that my story continued. Please keep reaching out for help if you feel like you’re struggling<3

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255

Trevor Project LGBT+ friendly Lifeline/TrevorChat/TrevorText:

Transgender Lifeline: US: 877-565-8860 CA: 877-330-6366

List of lifelines for various countries:



My Mental Health Mixtape

Music has been my sanctuary as long as I can remember. When I would have an awful day, I would drown everything out once I put on my headphones. Sometimes uplifting songs and other times ones that made me feel like someone understood my pain.

Here are 7 songs that have helped me out over the years and I hope they can help you:

Note: I shared the YouTube video for each song and if you want to read the lyrics, click on the song titles.

Let Go by Frou Frou

This song gained popularity through the film Garden State, but I remember randomly finding the song years later when I was a young teen. It always stood out to me because of the symphonic quality of the music and Imogen Heap singing lyrics I needed to hear. “There’s beauty in the breakdown” is still one of my favorite lyrics of all-time.

Help, I’m Alive by Metric

This song got me through many panic attacks during high school. The drumming mimics the pounding of your heart when you’re stressed out and the lyrics articulated the my social anxiety and fear of making a fool of myself in front of others, “I tremble /They’re gonna eat me alive /If I stumble /They’re gonna eat me alive/ Can you hear my heart beating like a hammer…Help, I’m alive my heart keeps beating like a hammer”,
while also being a pep talk,”If my life is mine/What shouldn’t I do?” The song is just a great, modern classic rock song and the singer is a kickass woman.

Feel it All Around by Washed Out

For the days you need to spend decompressing, this is a chill song that’s the perfect soundtrack to that day. With lyrics like, “You feel it all around. You know it’s yours and no one else.”, the lyrics grasp the weight of mental illness while the music is summary and electronic.  Also, for those who are Portlandia fans, it’s the show’s theme song. Washed Out’s music is great for those of us who over analyze when we should be sleeping because it’s slower and helps slow the racing thoughts.

Everything is Alright by Motion City Soundtrack

Ever experience OCD or at least rapid, unwanted thoughts? Have seemingly irrational fears? This song’s for you. The lead singer shares his fears and dislikes (“…I hate the ocean, theme parks and airplanes, talking with strangers and waiting in line”), uncomfortable sides of living with mental health issues (“I’m through with these pills that make me sit still…I used to rely on self-medication. I guess I still do that from time to time”, and some positive sentiments (“But I’m getting better at fighting the future”). I found this song on Fuse when I was 12 or 13 and it has stayed with me since.

Animal by Miike Snow

This song got me through high school. I have always felt like the “other” and that feeling was most prevalent during my teen years. To me this song’s lyrics encompasses my experiencing wearing a happy song while the emotional hurricane in my head made me feel like a monster. The music is super peppy while the chorus goes, “I change shapes just to hide in this place, but I’m still I’m still an animal…”. It also talks about some unhealthy way to “fill a hole” in your life. Seeing this song live was an equivalent of a religious experience for me. It was surreal that I finally saw it live for the first time after I overcame many of the struggles I went through when I first fell in love with the song.

Color by Finish Ticket

This is one of those songs that stuck with me from the first listen. Not only is the singer amazing, the lyrics are relatable for those of use who live with mental illness, especially depression, but with a hopeful twist. My favorite lines are in the chorus, “All my dealings are behind me. Everything was black and white inside, but I’m seeing color.” It’s a feel good indie rock song with good lyrics. What’s not to love?

Tomorrow by BTS


This song, while being the one I discovered last, is probably the most meaningful to me. Fun fact: I love K-pop (Korean pop), but especially BTS, a 7 member K-pop/rap group that I adore. They’re know for their amazing singing, rapping, and dancing, self-produced songs, and meaningful lyrics. Their song “Tomorrow” is a fan favorite because even though it’s not originally in English, it describes exactly what depression feels like:

“Same day, same moon. 24/7 every moment repeats…”

“Every single day is a repetition of ctrl+c, ctrl+v [Copy and Paste].”

“I have a long way to go but why am I running in place?/
I scream out of frustration but the empty air echoes/
I hope tomorrow will be different from today/
But I’m just wishing.”

I remember getting chills and having tears in my eyes because One of the rappers (and my favorite member), Suga, who composed the sop, wrote the first verse, prechorus and the chorus of the song and was inspired by his experiences with mental illness.

On two of his mixtape tracks, he elaborated on how he has had depression, a social phobia, OCD,  and had seen a psychiatrist, all of which are taboo topics in Korea, which has one of the highest rates of suicide in the world.Rap Mon, one of the other rappers, has also discussed he has experienced depression. This song isn’t completely sad though, at the heart of the song are  inspirational messages of why people shouldn’t give up. The verse by J-Hope, the third rapper, encompasses it:

“Tomorrow, keep walking, we’re too young to stop.
Tomorrow, open the door, we see too much to shut it.
When the dark night passes, a bright morning will come.
When tomorrow comes, the bright light will shine so don’t worry.
This isn’t a stop but just a pause in your life for a break.”

The line, “Don’t get too far away, tomorrow” is especially meaningful to me because it made me think about how I used to dread having to wake up another day. Tomorrow was like a 4 letter word to me and now it’s something I look forward to.

What are your favorite mental health songs? Feel free to tweet me @Soupernic to share your faves.

Love and light -Nic



Breaking Free

I had a couple posts planned for last week, but they all seemed less important once last Wednesday came. Before I explain what happened that day, I’m going to share something I’ve wanted to share for a long time.

Trigger warning: discussion of physical/verbal/psychological abuse 

My name is Nic and I’m a adult survivor of child abuse. That’s honestly the first time I’ve ever written that out and I still haven’t said it in those words. It’s taken being away from my abuser for almost a year to be able to process my experiences.

I wasn’t abused by my biological father (well, maybe I was, but I was too young to remember really anything regarding him), but my mother. I was the product of an abusive marriage. My biological father psychologically and physically abused the crap out of my mother. She was isolated from her friends and family. My own grandparents didn’t know about my birth until I was already 9 months old. I haven’t seen many baby pictures of me as a result.

Because this has all taken place in almost 25 years, here’s a summary of the abuse I endured:

-First came the physical abuse: After almost getting child protective services called on her for hitting me in a department store, my mother proceed to beat me in public restrooms. I would tremble in fear any time she threatened me by saying, “Do you want to go to the bathroom?”

-Any time I was “bad”, she threatened to kick me out and ship me off to live with my abusive biological father who lived almost a thousand miles away. When I threatened to call the cops, she said she would tell the police I lied and get me sent to a nearby juvenile detention center.

-My mother, a nurse, forced me to get numerous tests after I had my first panic attack at 13 and after they came back as inconclusive and told it was “all in my head”, she refused to ever talk about it again.

-Once my mother married my stepdad, with whom she had a tumultuous relationship with, we had to move into his small bachelor pad.

-After I became nearly emaciated due to gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) and not being able to keep food down, instead of supporting me when I cried in the dressing room of a popular store about not being able to fit in size 00 jeans, she told me, “You look like a 10-year-old boy.” I was 15.

-My mother pretended to be “Super Mom” by being a band parent, substitute school nurse, and super involved in my life because she “loved me” but it was really so she could see what I was doing.

-She allowed me to go to a punk show with my best friends (we were 15 at the time) on the condition that my stepdad wouldn’t find out (he was super overprotective) and once he found out, my mom told him that I had snuck out of the house. I told him the truth and they fought, causing him to leave for a few hours. She told me that if they got divorced, it would be my fault.

-When I came home early from hanging out with friend and didn’t tell my parents, I opened the front door to my house and was welcomed by a loaded gun to my face that was held by my stepdad. We later learned that he had severe anxiety, but that’s not excuse for putting a gun to my head and not taking it away from minutes.

-My parents downloaded a tracker in my phone because they “couldn’t trust” me (meanwhile I couldn’t drive and was terrified to talk to boys because they were so strict).

-My mother refused to take me to see a doctor and once I was, demanded I was highly medicated. I slept for 2 days after a single dose of Klonopin.

-My mother threatened to crash the care numerous time and once swerved into traffic nearly killing us.

-She refused to sign up for the FASFA on time every year I have been in college. She also never trusted me with her tax information, so I couldn’t do anything myself. This caused me to lose thousands of dollars in financial aid and have to put myself through college mostly without loans.

-Parents offered to help pay for things (tuition, my car, medical bills, etc.) and then I was stuck paying for everything myself.

-They don’t help pay my tuition, yet offered to take my boyfriend and I to Mexico for al all-expense paid trip. We can’t take off work because we support ourselves financially and I have to work to pay for my tuition.

-My mother refused to go to family therapy, not once, but 3 times. She also said, “I’m sorry you feel that way” when I explained that our relationship was strained because she resented ever having me (which she had said to me numerous times) and continuous denies abusing me.

-My parents illegally claimed me as a dependent on taxes for years. Since I already filed as independently this year, I got a lot of money back and realize I missed out on thousands of dollars.

-My mom texted my boyfriend (who has been fully aware of this situation for all of the almost 4 years we’ve been together) to manipulate him to thinking I’m the bad guy to get me to talk to her. Oh and last month, my mother had her dear friend who was like an aunt to me message me on Facebook to guilt me into having a relationship with her again.

-Lastly (now this is a biggie because I don’t have the best health), my parents texted me Wednesday to tell me that they’re no longer claiming me as a dependent and because of that they will be kicking me off their insurance. Now, I knew they didn’t care about my livelihood all the times that they only called me once every few months to see if I would hang out with them and their friends and play a little happy family, but this was the nail in the coffin.

I knew it was coming, but it still was a shock. I was terrified. I had just had a sleep study the other day because I might have a disorder and my health is the worst its been in a while, but even my grandma giving them updates about this stuff didn’t even stop them. What was immensely insulting was that 90% of the reason why I seek mental healthcare is because of my parents and now I have to worry about getting a new insurance policy.

Even though this situation sucks, I no longer have any ties to them. The memories of what I’ve gone through haunt me sometime (my therapist is 99% sure I have PTSD because of the flashbacks I get), but I am free from my abusers. I’m graduating from school in the summer and I have the best damn boyfriend in the world. I am at a slightly terrifying, mostly amazing point in my life. No longer am I accomplishing goals in spite of them – I am doing this all for me.











In Loving Memory of My Uncle

Yesterday was the 20th anniversary of my uncle’s death. We sadly lost him to suicide. I wanted to honor his life and encourage people to reach out to someone, anyone, when your are struggling with suicidal thoughts. Here’s his story:My (Great-)Uncle Rick was the middle of 6 children and one of my Gram’s 5 brothers. He was a lively kid and like most of the men in my family, he joined the military, specifically the Marines. Unfortunately, he was drafted to fight in war (so many of my family members have fought in war that I honestly can’t remember if it was the Korean or Vietnam war) and even though he made it home safely, the scars of his experiences stayed with him. Hidden in the back of his mind.

Rick later met my Aunt Carrie and had 4 kids, 3 girls (1 set of twins) and a boy. The family was so happy and perfect. Eventually, the kids grew up and Rick’s first grandchild (my cousin who is a 4 years younger than me) was born. He was his pride and joy. Rick wrote poetry about how much he loved that boy and how life is so beautiful. My Gram has some of his poems and I was really blown away by how sweet they were.

Unfortunately, we didn’t realize he was suffering. Behind his smiles and hopeful poetry was a man who was tormented by his mind. One evening, he put his grandson, arguably the person who made him the happiest, to bed and then moments later our family was changed forever by his suicide. He was only 48. We lost him in the 90s when PTSD just wasn’t a thing that happened to people nor was it in anyone’s lexicon, but my family and I know that diagnoses explains what he experienced after his time in battle.

It’s strange to lose someone when I was so little (I was 4 1/2) because I feel like I know him through stories and pictures. The only way I can see him is in pictures, his children and grandchildren’s faces, and their caring personalities. Uncle Rick never got to see kids walk down the aisle. He never got to meet 8 of his 9 grandchildren. He missed holidays, baptisms/birthdays/First Holy Communions/Christmases/graduation parties, the time his wife battled cancer, the times his sister and brother almost died from heart disease, and the same brother beating cancer.

He missed out on seeing one of his granddaughters develop her volleyball skills to the point where she got recruited by a college. He missed her sister who has a rare, incurable genetic disorder beat the odds and prove everyone wrong all while constantly wearing a smile. The loss of him is felt at every family event, especially family reunions. My cousin (one of my Uncle Rick’s daughters), wrote this as a tribute:

“Today marks the day that I lost a piece of my heart! It’s so hard to believe it’s been 20 years! My heart still aches in sadness. My silent tears still flow. For what it meant to lose you, no one will ever know. Thinking of you today as I do every day. Dad, you are so loved and greatly missed!!! Forever your Sugar Bear!”

There’s a piece of all of us that’s missing and a sadness behind our eyes at our family celebration, but his story motivates me to keep going. I was able to honor his memory at the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention Western PA’s Out of the Darkness Walk around my birthday last year. My friends and I, who all live with mental illness, are attempt survivors, and mental health advocates, celebrated the lives who are still here while honoring those we lost. [Note: I attached some pictures from the walk, but not of my uncle for privacy reasons.]


Two of my friends and me (on the right) at the AFSP Western PA walk

It was a beautiful day (thousands of people were in attendance!) and something I wish my family would band together to spread suicide awareness and honor our Rick. I hope that one day we can all enjoy this event together.

I know what it’s like to feel the temptation of suicide and to understand when depression clouds your judgement to the point where you think it’s the only way to end your suffering. But trust me, it’s not. Suicide leads to years of suffering for those who love you. If your family, friends, teachers, etc. don’t support you, help out there. Calling a local crisis helpline helped me make the decision to get help for my issues. Here are some options for when you feel suicidal (or are struggling in general) that I know can help:

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255

Their crisis chat link:

The Trevor Project (LGBT+ friendly) Lifeline: 1-866-488-7386

Link to their crisis chat and texting services:

Transgender Lifeline (amazing service ran by trained trans/nonbinary folks for the trans/nonbinary community) US:877-565-8860 Canada: 877-330-6366

Sending love and light to you! You’re never alone in your fight<3