Today is World Suicide Prevention Day. Most of you do not know my high school story. When I wrote this in August, I did not know if or when I would ever share it. Today feels appropriate.

Please know, I am not sharing this to blame or shame anyone or elicit any sympathy. I am better now. I’m sharing this that in the event my story can help one person stop taking the final step, then sharing my story is worth it. Because your life is worth it. My life is worth it. Their life is worth it. The future needs us all.

13 Reasons to Live by Cindy Tschosik

“13 Reasons Why” is a TV series on Netflix, and has wrapped 13 chains around my heart and with each episode, the anchor pulls the chains a little deeper into the ocean. With each episode I feel stuck, puzzled, bewildered, aghast, empathetic, sympathetic, angry, sad, depressed, raw, compelled and motivated. Motivated?

– Yes, motivated to dissect each of the 13 reasons to make some sense out of her fatal demise.

– Motivated to bring awareness to our youth, parents and figures of authority.

– Motivated to make a positive difference in someone’s life.

From the outside, Hannah, the main character seems positive, kind, cool and someone with whom I would immediately be friends. As a new student to the school, she struggles trying to fit into a system that is already established. The system isn’t welcoming or inclusive, except for the one young lady who befriends her just before she moves away with her family. Quickly and quite haphazardly, she takes Hannah under her wing to introduce her to the people she knows. While a very nice gesture, it takes more than that for friendships to blossom.

Through the course of the show, each episode features the schoolmate who has had a negative impact in Hannah’s world. Each plot triggered a different response from me. I found myself in Hannah’s shoes and taking her side. Some plots triggered me to question her accountability in the situation. It is here where I found myself questioning “Wait… what? Cindy, How can you even think about her fault in this? She committed suicide. Certainly, there is no room for judgment.” Or is there?

Being a life-long advocate of believing “we can’t help our feelings; we feel what we feel”, I absolutely had no right to judge her. Every interaction we have in our lives impacts us in some way. And just as importantly, it impacts others, too. It’s our reaction to that interaction that dictates our response and our feelings. Some people have the tools to shift their internal thoughts and the outcome. Some, unfortunately, do not or cannot, especially when the chains keep tugging. Without knowing what to do, they eventually drag you down. For some of us, the life preserver seems out of reach, so the chains pull and pull and pull.

Fortunately, I found a life preserver. I remember the day, 34 years ago, like it was yesterday. I was in the high school library. I had asked Karen to meet with me. I was going to tell her because I didn’t know who else I could trust.

I grew up in the west suburbs of Chicago, a nice 4-bedroom home, 2 parents, 4 kids, and numerous dogs. From the outside, we looked “normal.” On the outside, I appeared the happy, bubbly, positive girl I always was, kind to everyone and a goody two-shoes. Very similar to Hannah in the first few episodes.

We walked on eggshells never knowing when the explosion would hit. My parents were constantly fighting, and us kids were miserable. It became too much. At 14 years old, I knew it was my fault. I was the oldest. I wanted to join school activities, and it cost money. I knew it was all my fault because I wanted to go on field trips with school or weekend festivals. Or maybe because I didn’t clean my room enough or do enough chores. Whatever it was, it was all on me. At some point, it became too much, and I couldn’t take it anymore. I started believing the world would be better without me. I started plotting and planning. In the back of my mind, I felt a twinge, small glimmer of hope. Karen. I was hesitant because I was already planning. But, somehow, in my darkness, it was a good feeling. I knew if anyone could help me, that I could trust, it was Karen.

I met her at the 3rd table from the left by the book stacks.

“Karen, You have to promise you won’t tell anyone.”

“What is it, Cindy?” She held my hand.

“I don’t want to live anymore.”

“What? What do you mean?”

“It’s too much. My parents fight all the time. It’s my fault. I can’t take it. They would all be better off without me.”

“Oh, Cindy, you’ll be in college in a few years and away from it. Don’t you want to see who your husband is?”

“I don’t think I want a husband, Karen.”

“Don’t you want to see your kids?”

“My kids? Yes, I want to see my kids.”

So, I vowed not to do anything, put my nose down, do everything I could to make my parents happy, and I joined all kinds of clubs at school, preferably the ones that didn’t cost anything. I was going to go to college, get out of there and have kids on my own. With or without a husband. After all, it was the 80’s and a test tube baby had been born!

Karen was my life preserver. Literally. We all have one. Every one of us has at least one. Sometimes, we must look harder to see through the darkness. Sometimes, it’s the crisis hotline number. Those volunteers are living to help us. And, let me tell you, reaching out to catch the lifeline is totally worth it because Hannah’s life and my life and your life are worth preserving. Why?

Here are 13 Reasons Why Life is Worth Living.

1) This moment in time is temporary. Whether you are in high school, in a job you don’t like, in family situations that are not ideal or any other chains, it is small part of your big picture of life. Reach out for the life preserver and hang on. Once it pulls you in, the darkness will fade away.

2) You have your whole life ahead of you. Think of something, one thing that you can care about. Make it your bulls-eye and focus on it.

3) What do YOU want for your future? There is something in your heart – granted it may be buried right in this moment – but there is something. Find something(s) that make your heart sing, even if it’s very softly for this moment. Tune into your heart. It is waiting.

4) You have a PURPOSE. You and every human being are on this earth for a very important reason for there is a role you are filling or need to fill. There is a difference you will make at some point. Without you, the purpose is unfulfilled. You are the only one that can fulfill your purpose.

5) People care about YOU. It may not seem like it now. Reach for that life preserver. Who is it for you? They will be able to help you recognize those that care about you. There is nothing like knowing who really and truly loves you. They would be devastated that you didn’t reach out, and they will never forgive themselves if you didn’t lean on them for support. They are waiting to help you. Just speak out, reach out and share. They will pull you to shore.

6) There is nothing you have done that is worth dying for. What is it that you feel is so grave that you should die? Nothing is unforgiveable. Everything can be amendable in some way. If you assess each of Hannah’s experiences, you will notice that in some, she internalized a lot of people’s reactions. No blame on her. It’s our human nature to take everything on ourselves. You see, I learned 20 years later that my parents fighting had nothing at all to do with me. They were having serious marital problems, but I internalized it and felt at fault. Kids and adults do that. We think we can fix and should fix everything, but we can’t. We are kids. Look at your situation. It’s not about you. It is mostly about others. It’s very difficult to recognize this, and there are many, many resources available to help you through your struggles. Live for another day. You will be glad you did.

7) Your tribe is waiting. There is a group of people that is special enough to want you to be with them. They care about you, and they will be the source that makes getting through these struggles worth it.

8) Future Significant Other. At 14, I wasn’t sure if I would ever be married. When I was 24, I married my best friend of 5 years. I met him in college. He makes me laugh. He makes me feel good and helps me through everything. “There is a lid to every pot out there.” You will find yours, if you choose to be with someone. And if you prefer the single life, there is tons of fun in that life, too. Finding the right person to share your life with is worth living.

9) Future children. Do you see yourself with children, whether yours or other’s children? You are here to make a positive difference in their lives and to help make the world a better place. My three kids bring me great joy and fill my heart with a love I never knew. They are worth it, and I’m glad Karen reminded me about a future with them.

10) Extended Family. Most of us have extended family whom we respect, are drawn to, love, trust or hold a special place in our hearts for them. How would they feel without having you in their life? Think grandparents, aunts, uncles, brothers, sisters, cousins, friends, parents, neighbors and anyone else that is important to you. Reach out to them. Trust them. Let them help you. They will love you for it and will be forever grateful you leaned on them.

11) There is no going back. When someone takes their life, there is no going back. Hundreds, thousands of people are impacted forever. It’s final. Nothing can be changed. Family members feel guilty because they would have rather helped you than no longer have you in their lives. Their lives are never the same without you.

12) Your future depends on you. Without living your future, the future changes. Have you seen “A Christmas Carol.” Imagine you in the ghost role, and identify how your family, friends, community, world would change without you. For there is something good you bring to others and do for others. You are worthy, and your future needs you.

13) You are loved. Your life preserver is waiting. Reach out. Talk to someone. If they can’t help you, keep reaching out until you do. Someone will be there for you. Being cared for and cared about is the best feeling in the world. Save yourself and reach out. Let someone help you. They are waiting. 34 years later, I can truthfully say that it was worth reaching out. Live for your future. You are worth it, and this world needs you.

Please, if you are in a crisis, reach out for your life preserver. Someone Cares. I care. Reach out to me. No matter your age. We will get through this. You will never regret it.

Crisis Phone Numbers

CrisisTextLine.org

Text CONNECT to 741741 in the United States

SuicidePreventionLifeLine.org

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline – 1-800-273-8255

Nacional de Prevencion del Suicidio – 1-888-628-9454

Sincerely,

Cindy Tschosik

August 29, 2018