When I was just seven-years-old, I asked my Grandmother how my Mother died. I think she knew there’d be a day when I’d finally process the death and the lingering curiosity would lead to this very moment. Without skipping a beat, she simply told me that my Mom died of a broken heart. How do you explain suicide to a seven-year-old?
Throughout elementary school, kids became curious as to why Morgan Chavez didn’t have a Mom and I’d matter of factly tell them she died of a broken heart. It wasn’t until I started struggling with my own dark thoughts and ideation that I connected the dots that pieced together the last few years of my Mom’s once beautiful life.
My Mother was a gorgeous 22-year-old in her final year of college when she died by suicide. She was serving our country in the United States Army, raising a boisterous 2 year old alone, and trying to fight the dark thoughts that plagued her after being sexually assaulted in the military and after she returned from her tour in Korea.
She had the most incredible family anxiously awaiting her return from Korea but when she came back, she had changed…my Grandmother described her as broken. It took me years to understand what the word broken truly meant but through my own psychiatric treatment-both inpatient and outpatient along with my recovery I can now (four years her senior) understand that word so vividly.
Imagine being in a large room, surrounded by tons of people who love you but still feeling lonely. You’re on autopilot so nobody can see what you’re truly feeling and you internally deny every kind thing that’s said to you. In your mind you’re not worthy of love. The sadness escalates to an unbearable pain that can only be squelched by taking your own life….I’ve been there and it was eerie knowing that my Mom had been too but didn’t survive.
I wish I could go back in time and tell her that she’s not alone and to just talk to Grandma and Grandpa. I wish I could tell her that as judgmental and cold as the world is, her family would never abandon her. Lastly, I wish that the stigma associated with mental illness and suicide was gone so the world could shine a little brighter and I could experience the unknown feeling of calling someone “Mom.”
She suffered in silence but I’ll be damned if I do the same. I know that she would not want me to feel the unbearable heartache she did in her last few moments of life. Everything I do, I do it for her. Taking my medication, staying compliant and going to every psychiatry and therapy appointment, enjoying life, and asking for help before it’s too late. As we wrap up National Suicide Prevention Month, I want to let you all know that you’re not alone. If you see a friend or family member acting a little different, don’t hesitate to ask them if they’re ok. Educate yourself on the Risk Factors and Warning Signs of suicide published by AFSP so fewer lives are lost.