Within the Shadow of Suicide

An article, link included below and also on my Fynewever Consulting Page, has the full magazine article I wrote in 2015. I repost it now. For the media covering famous people, for the truth in lesser known names, to the honest tell of my own battle.

I reprint it in portion here… because I don’t have new words to write at this time, but I will not stay silent.

Text 741-741.

Call the crisis hotline.

Make one more appointment and stick to it.

Drive over to a friend’s house and ask for a couch to crash on.

Call someone who you trust or you know has been vulnerable and scared before, too.

The overwhelm is huge, but we got to remember we are not alone.

Within the Shadow of Suicide

by Nasreen Fynewever, M.ED

For C’est La Vie Magazine

https://issuu.com/cestlaviethemagazine/docs/cestlavie_issue2_jan2016_final/23

The room fell to a hush. Truth was, it was never too loud to begin with. But today the shuffle of feet and the sliding of book bags felt especially clamoring in the absence of words. Within this there was noise enough that an unsteadied voice whispering, “Dear creatives” was enough to halt movement and volume both. The voice was mine and the room, it held grief, fear, and wonder for all. A blending of eyes wide with expectancy for life and wisdom from their teacher and the grief which simultaneously lowered their gaze to the clenched hands on their laps swirled dramatically in the room.

Their breathing met an edge of fear of the unknown or worry of blame. I recoiled internally with my own fear of speaking of a student suicide. This was not the first time in my teaching tenure that a young life was shortened by the dark grip of hopelessness. I needed enough poise to get through the day and yet enough real to show the raw wound was placed upon my heart as well.

I rarely get nerves to jilt and jolt for the anticipation of speaking. I find energy in speaking words aloud to move messages and missions forward, calling for lives to hold the vibrancy and honesty they can. This moment, however, seared through my typical calm and left the tense chill of fear. We all dreaded the conversation, but this was the opportunity laid before me to state that uncomfortable and painful conversations should not be cowered away from.

I had wanted this very conversation when I was in high school. I had wanted this conversation a month earlier when my own mental health invited worthlessness and death to be bedfellows with my spirit. We needed this conversation to happen a week earlier, a real person willing to voice the plea for life to win.

In this thought, my resolve stumbled about. I slipped out of the present tragedy and let my mind traverse the past the faces of youth who had sat in front of me in class, at speeches I had given, or passed by me in the hallway. Their images held power and conviction. One young lady was blurry in my mind, she was from a school I did not teach at. I had spoken to the student body about being hope chaser. But the setting not intimate enough to see her eyes or carry any of the weight of her journey. The news of her sharp death met me while I reflected in a car outside another school several states away. My energy dropped out and my mind saw the message I was going to deliver as weak and lacking meaning, it would not return life to the girl gone too soon. How was I supposed to walk into another auditorium full of youth and ask them to fight for life?

A student walked in late to the class I was standing in and my mind returned to the room abruptly. Announcing, with a quiet voice, what was known to almost all those seated before me, that a young man had taken his own life over the weekend and the tragic loss for his family had to be felt by us all, whether we knew him or not.

I did know him. I was one of the last adults to speak with him that day. I looked into his eyes, I noticed his wide-smile, I felt our time was too swift and chided myself for letting responsibility push me past the person who stood with words to say. I had been that teenager. I had been that adult. Feeling far too different from those around me. Feeling smothered by the limited ways out of depression. Feeling sorrow for not belonging when I craved a place to stand with pride. I had words to say half my life ago. I had words to say as an adult. And yet I believed that speaking of wanting to die could not meet the air and ears of a real conversation.

This should not be so. I believe we need to hold the ridiculously uncomfortable conversations before people stumble to despair and I believe we need to speak pointedly, even in moments of grief, that suicide is not the answer. We must not let one another believe that we can become so very alone that no one would reach a hand towards us if we spoke. We must learn to listen to the words, uttered and those silent, but screaming out from eyes and actions.

I have resolved to move through the following steps to help those, in the shadow of suicide, to keep light present and accessible.

Ask

  • Do you value life?
  • What makes you answer that way?
  • Do you have someone you can turn to or ask for help?
  • Do you feel like you are seen/known
  • Do you know that myself and _____________ are options? We care for you.
  • Is it okay if I connect you with ________________

Listen

  • Listen for the overt asks/cries for help
  • Listen for the story they want to tell, there are hints as their eyes meet mine for a moment or their speech pattern quickens
  • Listen for the non-verbals of body posture, work ethic, day-to-day choices, and air of loneliness

Tell

  • Tell students they matter
  • Tell people they are seen and heard
  • Tell friends they are goodness
  • Tell struggling women that they hold beauty and purpose
  • Tell them of the professionals and resources which connect to their need
  • Tell people I will check back in a few days (and do so) for accountability and to quietly confirm whether their stability
  • Tell others of my the vulnerable corners of my life that are filled with shadows.

Believe

  • That things can better
  • The current situations are not the sole thing that define us, we get to live into the person we are becoming
  • The hope of faith and the promise of how healing can occur

Can I or those whom I encourage to do this perfectly, can we follow this prescriptively? No.

But there is space to let more grace, mental illness awareness, and movement towards the light to be a goal of classroom conversations, late night coffees, carefully penned emails, timely blog comments, quiet letters, dynamic small group meetings, and our daily lives.

Releasing the fear of discomfort for the opportunity to move away from death and into life shared together is worth every ounce of nerves, time, conviction.

Chase hope and light with me–one shadow at a time to reduce suicide one conversation at a time. Reach out your hand for others. Grip some one else’s if you need it. #life

 

 

Asa Nasreen

Stand another day, even when it seems impossible. 

That’s what I typed today, to myself and to others.

Do I believe it?  Do I buy into this stand again, rise again mantra? Do I believe mercies are new each morning?

I love my husband more now than when I married him. That’s good, right? We stood on promises when life buckled a bit.

I am a more complicated daughter now than when I was adopted. That’s intriguing, laced with possible pain, and worth exploring, right?

I have seen more of the world in the past five years than the previous thirty years.  Why is that? Have I been more places or did I just slow down to be present and see people lately?

I have been devalued and dismissed in places and by people who I will turn and defend and celebrate none-the-less. Is this okay or does it make me open for blind-sides and hidden hurt?

I have flare ups of depression and trauma demons, yet as I walk others through and amid theirs, I find allies and staying power. This is why I write–to be the fragrance of restoration and persistence of person, faith, and future. Safety of spirit is not yet something we measure like the data we collect on homicides, war, and poverty. Yet there is much work still to be done for both the known and unidentified troubles of this earth if we are willing to stand to spread the good. Depression doesn’t own me; I get to contribute to the communities I am in.

Grief riddles gaps in our steady and we are compelled to pray for peace–peace of land, peace of people, peace of mind. I still pray, although my anchor feels buried further from my sail than I would like.

I have friends who show their stories and hear of mine. Isolation is distant somedays until I beckon it near and believe it is my closest companion. But those around me chase it far again and let love stay the day. This is a gift to me.

So standing–do I believe in it?

Yes.

We get to.


Life can hollow us, but it can not deny that we are created to thrive, hope, acclimate, and overcome. We are not expected to do this on our own, ever, but rather together.  Encouraging one another…

So stand, even when we do not know the answers or the journey, even when it seems impossible–

STAND…

…in your marriage, in your work place, in your journey, in your parenting, in your cities, in your beliefs, in your friendships, in your hard seasons, in your joy, in your you

STAND ON. 

“If you fell down yesterday, stand up today.”H.G. Wells

“For a lot of people, Superman is and has always been [a] hero. He stands for what we believe is the best within us: limitless strength tempered by compassion, that can bear adversity and emerge stronger on the other side. He stands for what we all feel wewould like to be able to stand for, when standing is hardest.”

J. Michael Straczynski, author

A new month, a new tattoo, and that movie LION

It never seemed quite right…

Life.

I felt like an outsider.  The skin was dark, my anger was big, and a family fused together through adoption seemed mysterious and inaccurate to me.

They wanted something for me–my adoptive parents. They also wanted something from me. And they took it.  They rounded out their family the way they wanted and paid the price not only for the adoption, but for a frustrated kid who knew trauma and brought discord.  It could be painted as a glory story, but I found it to be unsettling and convinced throughout much of life that there was noplace on earth okay for me to be.

Adoption has beauty; it also has a hellish hurt. For multiple people and sides of the reality, it can hurt in the actualization or in the decades to come.

Is that okay to write?

Isn’t easier and more safe to watch the turmoil of adoption from theater seats, cry our tears from limited view, and smile with the hopeful spirit of Lion on the big screen around our nation?

I recommend the movie, truly.

I just also know it is easier to watch from the fifth row up than to be okay with someone in our own lives who is seemingly lost when she should feel found.

I have been recommended to read the A Long Way Home memoir the movie was based on a few times, but I always wonder why when I live with my own taunt and displacement.

Suicidal thoughts kept at bay for most of life.

Finding connections in certain seasons with family and friends allows me to believe I can attach to others.

Depression was chased by exercise at-large and medication a time or two.

Vows and covenants keep bonds that might otherwise be broken.

Jobs held, success had, lives touched, strengths found–and yet none of these fill the hollow or empty the overhwelm.

Life will always have a heaviness.

I have found peace in my faith journey and chaos in my existence.

It is a both/and.  Always.

But I rise to face three little ones and hundreds of teens.  In this, I own my grief just as I declare my hope.

I will find a way through the resurfacing of memories. I will manage the angst of not having white skin as a child and even now as an adult.  I will breathe on despite those who have passed away before me.

And maybe, just maybe, home is growing from within instead of out there somewhere.

Fight for hope with me.

Acknowledge grief with me.

They are not enemies, they are people-shapers.  They comprise our stories and make us who we are.

Hope and grief… welcome to February, we got some life to live.

Join me? Where ever you are, whatever your story… breathe again and live life.


I only tattoo upon my body that which has been etched upon my heart for a lifetime.  

gravis: Latin word for heavy, weighted, grief. 

Semicolon replacement for the i: semicolons are used when a sentence could end, but the author chooses to continue the sentence.  It has become the one of the symbols for breaking the stigma of mental illnesses.  It allows people like myself to take a visible stance to claim life when suicide could have ended it. 

(My previous wrist tattto is the Bangla word for hope. I have the same tattoo on my ankle.  Wherever I go, whatever I do, I am marked by Hope.)