May 3, 2017 – I am aware of the statistics. I know that we lose an average of 121 loved ones to suicide a day, and that suicide is the tenth leading cause of death in the United States. Despite knowing this, I never would have thought in a million years my daughter would die by suicide. Suicide is something that happened to someone else, to people I did not know. It would not personally affect me. Isn’t that the myth we tell ourselves?
My daughter Ayden was a force to be reckoned with. She was petite and fierce, often dancing to her own drum. I would describe her as a non-conformist who wanted to do things her way, on her terms. She would describe herself as a freak who never fit in. Throughout her life, she had hair that was every color of the rainbow. She once shaved it off “just because.” Around the age of 12, she began to struggle greatly with depression and anxiety. She started questioning everything about herself. She questioned her sexual orientation and her gender. She struggled with her identity and who she was as a person.
When I looked at her, I simply saw my child. Her bright green eyes and her amazing eye lashes. I can still hear her infectious giggle. I take pride in her love of photography and her passion for discovering new musicians and poets. I knew she was living with debilitating mental health issues but I denied that suicide was even a possibility, even though she talked openly about suicidal ideation and even after she had a suicide attempt during her senior year in high school. We took the necessary steps, including therapy and medication, and tried to move forward.
When I received the phone call from her best friend late in the evening of April 24, 2013, I think I knew immediately that she had died. It was as if I could feel it in my stomach and in my heart before I even heard the words. In an instant, my life was forever changed.
My beautiful, amazing, talented, first born child had died by suicide at the age of 19. The first few days after Ayden died are still a blur. I don’t remember much; I feel like I was just going through the motions. It was so surreal and I just couldn’t grasp the concept that Ayden wasn’t here. So many times afterward, I texted her only to realize that I would not be getting a text back. I was so focused on the unanswered questions and the what-if’s. What if I had told her I loved her more as a child? What if I had hugged her more? What if I was more patient and yelled less? What if?
I am not ashamed of Ayden or how she died, and I will talk about her with pride and love to anyone who will listen. She is so much more than her method of death. She is music, art, butterflies and dragonflies, she is permanently Lake Bomoseen, and she is everything Christmas. I cherish my memories of her and the things we did and the things we shared, even when she was at her darkest. That being said, I would not wish this pain on anyone. I am a mother who lost her child. Parents aren’t supposed to outlive their children, and we sure as hell aren’t supposed to lose our children to suicide.
Suicide prevention is something Ayden’s family and I will be passionately involved in for the rest of our lives. We will never get over losing Ayden, but together, we will get through it and will always be advocates and protectors of those who struggle. We will continue to spread the message that suicide is preventable and there is help available. We will always attempt to decrease the shame associated with mental health issues. We want people to understand that mental health is just as important as physical health, and that asking for help is a sign of strength.
We’ve become involved with our local AFSP Chapter. We walk in the Walk for R.I.T.A Community walk on the Roses 4 Ayden team in Saratoga Springs, New York, and this year will be my third Overnight walk. I take advantage of the trainings provided by AFSP and I have gotten educated on suicide, suicide awareness and suicide prevention.
Being involved gives me purpose. Being involved matters. I do this for Ayden. I do this to be a voice for those who feel they are without one.
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