Many years ago when I was around 12, I got a diary with a lock on it. And even though it had a lock on it, I feared that it would be broken into. Within a week my brother did just that. From then on, I didn’t write anything “real” in that diary. I was too afraid to expose my inner most thoughts.
Decades later, when I lost my son Charles to suicide, no one asked me about my son, as if I erased him from my family tree. Not only was I hurting, I was angry.
As a parent, our greatest fear is that our child will be forgotten. I realized nothing was stopping me but a stupid tradition of silence that was clearly not worth keeping.
I decided to honor my son’s struggle with mental illness and subsequent death by suicide. I didn’t hide that he was an imperfect person that suffered from multiple illnesses including addiction to heroin. I thought it people would find it “depressing” and I didn’t expect anyone to read it.
They did and it ended up being a top trending newspaper article for weeks and the number one most read article of 2016 with over 25k shares. What I realized is that others saw their story in mine.
And although I had heard the statistics, it wasn’t until I read all the comments that I realized how widespread this epidemic is. (These comments disappeared when RTD launched a new website)
It took me from August 2015 to December 2015 to write that article. Agony? You bet. But while writing it was so hard, I realized that writing was helping me alleviate the pain of my unrelenting grief. There was a release to it. Like Charles, it was helping me cope.
So I started this blog and called it Emotionally Naked because that’s how I felt. I have owned the url annemoss.com since 1999 so it was easy enough to install the software and get started right away which I so needed to do. Because I hurt deep-down, ugly emotional pain like I have never experienced in my life.
Instead of worrying about someone breaking a lock or finding what I wrote and telling everyone, I would just make it all public. I didn’t care what anyone thought.
Who would share posts about suicide on their Facebook pages anyway? Who would read articles on addiction, grief, or mental illness? Those were all “downer” subjects, right? But surprisingly people did. Not only did readers here encourage me, send me messages, tell their stories, comment and share, they became a support system. So while I was helping myself by writing, it turns out I was helping others and the village of support here was helping me back.
I didn’t plan it that way but you helped me shape it. And this village of voices keeps getting louder and reaching more and more people. People that had never told their story or talked about their loved one. People who were considering suicide and decided to reach out for help. Others who suffered from substance use disorder and went into recovery. Moms and Dads traveling a similar journey, and those who hoped it wouldn’t come to that.
I have met many of you in person who’ve come up and introduced yourself. (Sometimes you’ve had to do that more than on once!) You put a face to the stories, comments and emails. The truth is, we have reached way past Richmond, Virginia to other states and even countries I have not even heard of. All over the US and worldwide.
557 posts1, 334 comments, over 70k shares, 166k people reached in 15 months. I am only good for about 3 shares per post. The rest is all of you.