Breaking the Silence

Website for the American Mental Health Counselors Association's Breaking the Silence initiative to address mental health stigma.

You Saved My Life

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By contributing blogger Dr. LaMarr Edgerson

“You saved my life.” Those were the words she spoke as I looked into her water filled eyes. Those four words sent from the bottom of her heart, touched my soul as we connected on a spiritual level. Silence filled the room as I searched for a proper response. I felt a shiver travel up my spine. My eyes watered slightly from the intensity of the moment – a rarity in my office.  I replied, “You’re welcome. Your life has value and purpose to me.”

In witnessing this client’s daily life you’d never know the secrets hidden in her soul. A retired military officer with combat wings, she is the epitome of class and style. Anything less than superior is considered a failure in her world. But, this outer layer was nothing more than a mask, worn to protect a very hurt, afraid, and shamed child cowering inside a dark corner of her mind – frozen in time. The mask was perfectly crafted to hide decades of trauma that began in childhood, but didn’t end there. Not even her husband of over two decades knew her secrets of pain and shame.

Many of us spend a lifetime hiding our true selves from those close to us. We wear different types of masks to hide our true emotions. Under those masks is the face of shame, hurt, depression, and trauma. At times physical and/or emotional pain can become so overwhelming that we feel as if it will never end. We become helpless. As the light of hope fades day after day, we increasingly become consumed with the feeling of hopelessness. During those moments it’s easy to fall into an addiction of drugs, alcohol, gambling, sex or any number of vices to feel alive. Naturally, the more of those gluttonous behaviors we engage in the further along the path of addiction we travel until a new crop of problems begin to take root and sprout.

It is often during this time we begin to consider a new solution – a permanent solution.

According to a NY Times article written in April of this year, “suicide rates surged to a 30 year high with an increase in all age groups except older adults.” In 2014, the most recent stats available 42,773 people took their lives. That number is most assuredly low considering the fact that some suicides are disguised as accidents.

It is common knowledge that people are particularly vulnerable for overwhelming emotions during the holidays as we remember and miss our loved ones.  If you are reading this blog and you can identify with what I’ve written, I want you to know that you’re not alone. There are many, many people who want to help you.

The American Mental Health Counselors Association and other mental health organizations are dedicated to the mental health and wellbeing of all citizens. But, we do not know your suffering. You have to reach out to us. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is available 24/7. Call 1-800-273-TALK (8255). For an extensive list of resources please go to our Get Help page. I also offer you a personal invitation to reach out to me if you have a plan to take your life. I will assist you in locating a clinical mental health counselor in your area who can assist you in continuing the fight for another day. Keep fighting. Life is a gift that can be cherished.

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