In 2015, I was approached by Lisa Klein, a documentarian, who lost both her father and brother to suicide. Her previous documentary, Of Two Minds, explored living with bipolar and she was looking for stories from suicide attempt survivors and loss survivors for a new film, The S Word (which is open for interpretation-“suicide”, “silence”,”stigma”, “struggle” and “survive”). She said she started the film because she was looking for answers about her family.
At the time, I had just called off my engagement and was navigating my own despair… How could I share my story as a suicide attempt survivor during deep grief? I was so worried about having the “right” recovery story–especially since I felt a sense of deep responsibility to represent the “black community”. I also grappled with being so vulnerable and public. How would I be “perceived” and “judged” by others? Would this impact my future working in the mental health field? Lisa told me to just be honest. She wasn’t looking for perfection.
Here’s what I released/learned through that journey:
- My recovery story does not need to fit into some cookie cutter scenario. It does not need to “people please” or make people feel comfortable. It needs to be real. It is real.
- The black community is not a monolith. I am not responsible for representing everyone. I release that burden.
- I am not meant for everyone. I know and believe the folks who are intended to hear me will. Speaking my truth is the only requirement.
- I am not my trauma.
- I cannot and do not control other’s narrative of me. I know who I am. I do not need to receive “feedback” on my journey. It is mine.
- My experience is my power.
- I am enough.
“When we are vulnerable, we are invincible.”Richard Butler
We started with a few interviews in Oakland and before I knew it, my mother joined the film to provide her wisdom, grace, and poetry. I opened up and spoke about the pressures to hide my pain behind a mask of glitter and light and shared the journey to take accountability for my life. There was laughter and tears and more laughter. I learned that my karaoke stage name may make some folks, “clutch their pearls” and I invited Lisa and viewers to see me on stage, in my healing element and in my silliness. She also sat with me in deep pain, and sometimes turned the camera off. I’m grateful for her story telling skills, but more importantly her friendship.
I could not have imagined the first responses I received to the film, the dialogue that opened, and my sudden realization that there are so many people who are survivors. I am not alone. We are not alone. I’ve traveled with the film from rural communities to urban cities. From high schools and faith based communities to prestigious colleges, and at every location I met people with their own stories. People from every walk of life, race, ethnicity, gender identity-all had their own story.
It is 2020 and The S Word documentary is streaming on Amazon Prime. I’m proud that my story is one of many. This documentary centers the experience of suicide attempt survivors and boldy interrupts silence and stigma. I’ve learned so much since we finished filming, and gained an entire community too. More importantly, I don’t carry the shame of my experience and I know why I’m still here. Thanks for listening and if you watch the film, I recommend you watch with someone and not alone (e.g. watch party) and check out the resources below.
Here’s the link to the page on Amazon Prime: https://bit.ly/TheSWordMovie .
Need help or resources?
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255
Trans Lifeline: 1-877-565-8860
The Trevor Project: 1-866-488-7386
Crisis Text Line: Text HOME to 741741
Warmline.org contains the links to Warm Lines in every state if you’d like to talk to a Peer
24/7 California Peer-Run Warm Line: 1-855-845-7415
Veterans Crisis Line: 1-800-273-8255
Know the Signs: https://lnkd.in/ggQB-4m
*NOTE: Many of these resources could utilize restrictive interventions, like active rescues (wellness or welfare checks) involving law enforcement or emergency services (with the exception of Trans Lifeline). You can ask if this is a possibility at any point in your conversation if this is a concern for you. You can also utilize these resources if you are concerned about someone in your life approaching a crisis.