And Life Goes On: Four Years After My Suicide Attempt

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“And life goes on…”

Just because it’s cliché doesn’t mean it can’t be true, and for me it’s true.

Four years ago today I tried to kill myself.

My circuitry went haywire in a big way on October 26, 2012. It involved a lifetime of depression and a bad day at work and several dozen pills. But needless to say, I didn’t accomplish my mission.

A suicide attempt generally means at least a few days in the hospital, and after I came home and connected with a good doctor, I heard my diagnosis of bipolar disorder. It isn’t the kind of thing you tend to see on the “what I’ve been up to” messages people fold up in their Christmas cards, but it was big news for me. After all, I was still alive.

Each October 26th, I celebrate the anniversary of that day — the waking up part, not the pills part — here on MariaShriver.com. I share my story and my thoughts about suicide and mental illness. It wasn’t my plan to be a crusader, but I often hear from people that my openness is valuable.

This year, though, I was stuck. What’s new to write about? I go about my everyday life with my everyday job and everyday bills and everyday everything, and what’s interesting about that?

But it occurred to me — maybe my everyday life is exactly the point. It’s the point because I have it to live.

Well over 100 Americans will kill themselves today. People of every gender, race and economic level will kill themselves. Veterans will kill themselves. Kids will kill themselves.

Think about that: kids. Every single day, young people commit suicide and rob themselves of ups and downs, of loves and losses, of successes and failures. They’ll never have a shot at an everyday life like mine.

There’s no question that suicide is a colossal, terrible problem. But what are we supposed to do about it? How do we begin to overcome a multi-headed monster like this?

The word we hear over and over is stigma. People can’t get help — life-saving help — if they’re afraid to ask for it. But it simply has to be acceptable to say “I need help,” just as it’s OK to go to a doctor or other professional for anything else that ails us.

Of course, we need to end bullying and provide psychological support to those who serve their country in the military. We have to make depression and bipolar and other mental issues as easy to talk about as sprained ankles and the flu.

But when problems arise that lead people to believe there is no way out but suicide, we have to be able to help them without judgment. Some great resources are listed below.

Today I celebrate my anniversary, but is “celebrated” the right word when what I have is so mundane?

Yes, it is. I celebrate every day and hope everyone else does, too. Help someone celebrate.

• The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is always, always there at 800-273-TALK.
TEEN LINE is a place for young people to talk to other young people about problems before they become a crisis: 310-855-4673.
• The Military Crisis Line is 800-273-8255, then press 1. It is a free resource for service members or veterans who feel hopeless.

About the Author

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Clay Russell is a writer, raconteur, news junkie, world traveler and husband. He prides himself on his non-linear life path. He has been a professional chef, shoe salesman and private investigator, and he spent seven years deep in California state government. Clay lives with his husband and two cats in rural Mississippi, where he gardens and swats mosquitoes.

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