It’s been a while since last update, but I’m back!
I’m honored to announce that I’ll be playing at a show this Saturday in Merced: the show will feature lots of awesome local bands and all proceeds will go to the Modesto Out of the Darkness Community Walk (check out the Facebook event here for the show).
If this is the first time you’ve heard of Out of the Darkness Community Walks, I’d strongly encourage you to check out their website: they are put on by the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, which advocates for better mental health care and aims to shape policy at the local, state, and federal level to prevent suicides. From the policy section of the AFSP website:
“AFSP works hard to create a world in which people no longer die by suicide. While we understand that suicide is personal and complicated, we also know that thoughtful public policies can reduce the number of suicides. To help make that happen, we work closely with hundreds of well-informed and passionate advocates, all committed to educating officials at every level of government about suicide, and persuading them to act.”
In addition to their advocacy work, AFSP also has an active research division and a comprehensive list of resources for anyone looking to learn more about the toll of suicide and what can be done to make things better in the future.
Whether you are struggling with thoughts of suicide, grieving a lost loved one, wondering what you can do in your community to help those who are struggling, or simply curious, I strongly urge you to click around: this effort is so vitally important, and so little discussed. Here’s a good place to start: understanding suicide.
Mental illness – a major cause of suicide – cuts across lines of status, race, age, gender, and any other category you can think of. And it cuts deep. But the stigma surrounding mental illness makes us hide the scars it leaves, makes us ashamed to speak of our experiences, or to let anyone know we are suffering, because we don’t want to put anyone off their dinner (or, for that matter, to lose our friends, disappoint our families, be denied employment or housing… the list goes on).
As foreshadowed by the last paragraph’s pronoun shift, I am one of those people living with mental illness. When I was barely a cub – my identifier of choice is “bipolar bear” – I was very much in the position I just described. Just me on my own personal ice floe, gradually drifting, feeling ever colder and more distant from the pack. The thought that made me say “Fuck this, I’m a bear” and start swimming for my life back to solid ground was this:
You are not alone. There are others like you. They made it, and they made great and beautiful things. You could make it, and maybe even make some cool things. But you have to start swimming right the fuck NOW. Now, now, now.
That was ten years ago this summer. A while back I started working with the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), giving Ending The Silence presentations in middle and high schools about what mental illness is, how to get help, and – the part that still gives me butterflies – telling my young audience about my own lived experience. The first time, I felt utterly naked and vulnerable. Around the fifth time, I had a realization that I’ve ended every subsequent presentation with:
I do this because I wonder how different my life would be if someone had come to my middle school and said this to me.
I could write so much more, but oh my goodness is that the time?
Long story short/TL;DR: awesome music, great cause, this Saturday at 4:30 pm! More details on the Facebook event page.