As the day of the Out of the Darkness Walk becomes closer and closer I find myself unexpectedly emotional. First I am blown away by the generosity of those who have given to my campaign. I did not anticipate raising this much–my team has exceeded our goal–and I certainly didn’t anticipate being so touched by every donation, every word of support, every story shared with me of mental illness or the impact of suicide. I am doing the work I set out to do and it has been a long time coming.
I am also finding myself thinking about my dad, and missing him, much more than usual. I suppose this seems like a natural connection, after all I wouldn’t be doing this at all if it weren’t for him. But it has surprised me. After nearly 11 years, the pain of him not being in my life has receded into a dull ache that makes itself known when something reminds me of him from time to time and only flares into a sharp pain on those days that make his absence most obvious. But that spike of pain behind my ribs has been visiting me more often as I ready myself for the walk. Right after signing up a few weeks ago I lay in bed one night, my husband asleep beside me. I was suddenly hit by a massive wave of longing for my dad. I desperately wanted to hear his voice and feel the rough skin on his hands as he held mine. One of the most distinctive things about him was his laugh, which could often devolve into a cough from his lifelong smoking habit. When I think hard I can hear it perfectly in my mind. I can recreate his saying my name, followed by that laugh, as if I had just said or done something hilarious. That night I thought of his laugh and it played in my head as if I could hear it and I dissolved into sobs into my pillow. It seemed so silly to be crying about something that has been the way it is for so long. But I couldn’t stop the sadness and each tear seemed to welcome the next until I was cried out and exhausted and fell into a fitful sleep.
I tell myself that this is why I’m walking, to spare some other daughter, or mother, or son, or best friend this kind of pain. Although the act of actually doing something is filling up some long empty space in me, I also find myself nervous. I’m not sure how I’ll feel to be with all of those other survivors. I’ve never talked in real life with anyone else that has lost someone close to suicide. I’m not sure how I’ll feel about those walking because they themselves have survived a suicide attempt. My feelings on it are so very complicated. I’m nervous that no one else will even talk to me or that this will be a disappointing experience, when it is something I have wanted to do for so long. I am so very, very glad that two of my best friends will be beside me. I could not do it alone.
So I guess the short story is that this is harder than I thought it would be. This is complicated and it’s bringing up feelings I had long buried. It reminds me that mental illness is such a devious beast that is not always easily dealt with. So this is more than a charity walk and more than a fundraiser and more than the realization of some work I feel is necessary. It is a journey for me, touching on feelings I haven’t wanted to feel. It is a part of the process and I am glad I have taken it on.