Share Your Story on the Struggle with Suicide
Because our goal is to prevent suicide and raise awareness for this issue, we have created this resource for those who are struggling with suicide directly or indirectly. We have found that one of the root causes of suicide in our community is isolation due to lack of communication.
In order to make a significant impact on the issue, we need you to share your stories and your experiences in order to let others know that they are not alone. Your stories do not have to be solely about suicide, they can also be about anything you’re going through in your life. You can choose to remain anonymous or you can provide your name with your story.
Please share your stories and experiences with us at TheRealCombineColumbine@gmail.com
Letters from Students
I’ve been alone, felt like no one would listen, no one would care. I felt the pain I know others feel, I know it hurts, I know its terrifying. I’ve never thought about suicide, but I’ve been depressed.
For me depression was a continuous, hate for myself, I could never love myself. I’m better now but I want people to know my story and to know your not alone, you’re never alone.
I’m a Junior in high school, and my depression began in seventh grade. In seventh grade, my grandpa was diagnosed with cancer. He sat in the hospital for four months, withering like a vegetable, and I can tell you it sucks to watch someone you love slowly die in front of you. All the time he was dying I never told him I loved him, he later died and I remember looking at him while he died and I couldn’t say I loved him then either.
The guilt I feel eats me inside every day. It makes me hate myself. At this time I refused to cry, or talk with anyone I held it in and was “strong”, it sucked. This when my life started to fall apart.
When eighth grade came around, I still wasn’t talking, and this went on for another two years. At this time I was a Sophmore in high school and life was better. I was happier, still guilty but time makes your forgive and it helped me find religion and a backbone in Christ.
However, second semester, six very important people died in my life within three months. Three of them were suicides, three died of age and natural causes. One of the most important deaths was the death of a man I considered my second dad.
Again, me being me, I didn’t talk, and I stopped going to church. The only refuge I could find was in drinking. The drinking made me forget, the goal was to drink enough so I would not have to think about the hell I was living through. I have stopped drinking now and have began going to church, however, it doesn’t seem to help make sense of things.
Now, as a Junior I have began to find another thing in this world to make me depressed. This time it comes for the hate of myself. I hate how I look, think, feel I hate who I am. If you look up the definition of hate it’ll tell you the want of putting harm onto something or someone. If you cut yourself you’ll understand this. You will understand how much pressure it seems to release out of you, how much hate you can get out of it, its like a drug to make one feel better, it made me happy.
I have stopped that, I have found who I am but still do not like it as much as I should. So who am I? I am an athlete, I am happy, I am strong, I am ready, I am healthy, but most importantly I am better.
I hope that this helps you, I hope in some way anything I just said made you stronger, I hope you know how many people are there for you, once you let them be there.
Zoe Zakrzewski, Combine Columbine CEO
Until freshman year, suicide had always seemed so distant to me–all my friends were happy and none of us were dealing with anything worse than a lot of homework. I never thought that anyone near me would ever even dream of suicide because that just didn’t happen.
Then one day, I was texting a close friend about silly freshmen things when our conversation took a darker turn. He started talking about how sad he had been and that he was thinking about suicide; he thought that he didn’t matter and that no one would ever care.
I was in tears as I tried to explain to him that the world wouldn’t be the same without him. Those little dots that indicate someone is typing were the only things that kept me from losing it. I was so terrified that he would actually do it and I would have no way to stop him–I had never learned how to handle a suicidal situation.
Finally after some of the most excruciatingly long minutes or maybe they were seconds, those dots appeared and I got the message that he couldn’t go through with it. I have never felt so relieved. I also never thought that he would consider it again.
The next days at school he seemed fine; he was back to his normal self. But in just a few weeks the same situation happened again–we were texting and the conversation took that same familiar dark turn. He told me he was going to do it, and this time I was so scared I threatened to call the police. He said that if I did, he would do it. Thankfully he never went through with it that night, but I knew that something had to be done this time.
The next morning, I went in early to talk to a trusted teacher about it since I didn’t want to worry my mom. It was one of the hardest decisions I’ve ever had to make on whether to tell one of my best friend’s biggest secret after he told me not to, or sit and wait for him to try again. I told my teacher and he got my friend the help he needed, but it almost cost us our friendship.
This is why I got into this business and class. My friend should have never had to be scared to admit to thoughts of suicide or to get help, and I should have known how to handle the situation. Look for warning signs and always get help. I could have lost my friend because I kept that secret the first time.
Suicide has a social stigma attached to it because no one believes it would ever happen to them. I’m thankful every day that my friend got the help he needed to and that he found the most amazing strength to carry on because now he is one of the happiest people I know and his life would have been a terrible waste.
For the past year, maybe a little more, I have been struggling with anxiety issues, only I didn’t know that’s what is was. Around Christmas break I finally decided to research the symptoms of obsessive-compulsive disorder.
Just as a short disclaimer, OCD is not solely limited to fear of germs as most people believe. OCD is where you have irrational/obsessive thoughts that you compulsively take action on of no matter how strange to try and get rid of them.
I had been struggling with anxiety over every little choice I made even down to the way I’d use the toilet because I was afraid I was being a bad person or doing something wrong. I had been struggling with irrational fears such as an overwhelming fear that I was going to get murdered and that I might hurt someone even though I have no desire to do so. I had also been struggling with very dark violent and sexual images that would pop into my head, and I wouldn’t be able to shut them out.
I almost wanted to be committed (which would have been the compulsive action) to ensure I wouldn’t hurt someone. Before I knew I had a disorder, I thought that these thoughts were a reflection of me as a person, and I was full of no joy and only shame. I hated myself and was disgusted with myself.
For anyone experiencing symptoms similar to mine, please research OCD. When I did, I found myself laughing with joy because it was such a relief to know that I didn’t have to be ashamed of myself because my symptoms weren’t who I am—they are just a side effect of bad brain chemistry. Please know you aren’t alone, and even though every case is unique, there is someone experiencing something similar to you. Never feel bad for having symptoms and know they aren’t who you are. They can be treated. I am taking medication now, and I have felt so much joy and peace within myself, more than I have known in such a long time.
My story started when I was old enough to socialize. It was very clear that I was an oddball. “Weird” skipped over me and I went straight to oddball.
When I was in 3rd grade I was diagnosed with Bi-Polar disorder, but only my parents knew, and they didn’t tell me. They immediately started medicating me and I was at the age where you don’t think to question why, so I never did.
When I was in 4th grade, my family and I went to Breckenridge for the weekend, like we normally do. We were waiting on our order at the small pizza parlor when my parents finally told me I was Bi-Polar. It finally made sense why I was so different from everyone my age, but at the same time I brushed it off not truly understanding its severity in my life.
Bi-Polar is like your emotions being on a scale. At one end is mania and at the other end is depression. Some people naturally lean towards one side of the scale and others, like me, are naturally balanced in the middle of the scale.
From then on it was one med after the next, and when one finally worked, it eventually abruptly stopped working. It was a continuous cycle. Also, when my parents were making decisions the same question was always asked: how would this effect my Bi-Polar disorder? It was like this from then until my 8th grade year.
I immediately had a bad start to the year. I had gotten involved in some drama with several girls. It only kept going down hill. I was constantly bullied through the school year, I even believed the stuff they told me to the point that I absolutely hate myself. I started cutting. I was also always in bed sleeping during my spare time. My whole 8th grade year I was working myself towards the depression part of the Bi-Polar disorder without realizing it. I was also suicidal with out realizing it either.
That summer (between my 8th grade and freshman year) my parents had enough. Half way through summer, my parents checked me into Children’s Hospital in their mental support program. I spent 7 weeks there. It was absolutely horrible but it changed my life.
Once I got over the traumatizing experience of being back home and got into routine, I noticed for the first time in my life I had self confidence thanks to the hospital. I also noticed how suicidal and depressed I was without even noticing a trace of it. That scared the living crap out of me, and still does today. If I was never checked into the hospital, I probably wouldn’t have made it to my Freshman year.
Today, my parents don’t make our world revolve around my Bi-Polar disorder. I am a successful Columbine High School student with an older brother who always makes sure to show me the light. In the last year I have been able to say truthfully for the first time in my life I am 100% happy with myself and my life.
My message to you: this is a legit, frightening cause. If you are ever there, remember even though it may not seem like it, but this is a phase that will eventually pass. Don’t lose hope! There are more people to lean on than you will ever know. Also, please look for the signs in yourself and friends. You may never realize your depressed or suicidal. Remember, help is not a bad thing.
Suicide is something that I have never personally struggled with, but I have witnessed many around me feel the effects of it.
When I was younger, probably about 3 or 4 years old, my uncle committed suicide. At such a young age, I did not know what that meant. When I found out at a later age what it did mean, all I could ask myself was why someone would do that. After the years have gone on, I have seen my family have to live without my uncle. My grandmother lost her son, my dad lost his only brother, and many years later today they are still trying to cope with that loss.
I have never really talked with my family about why my uncle decided to do what he did, but now that I am much older, I think I can make some assumptions. I believe that he was most likely feeling very isolated and lonely, when in reality he had a whole entire family that loved and supported him, and had no idea what he was going through. I wish that he would have felt comfortable enough to reach out to his family and ask for help. If he would have done so, I believe it would have saved his life and changed everyone else’s lives for the better.
That is typically the case in suicidal situations. For anyone going through the effects of suicide, I want them to know that they are never truly alone. In most situations, the people that love you don’t even know that you are going through a rough time. For anyone thinking about suicide, I want them to know that just by reaching out for help and talking to someone (friend, family member, or even a stranger willing to help) it could save their life.
You are never alone. There is always someone around that is willing to listen, especially the students of Combine Columbine. Reach out and tell your story, it could even help someone else make the decision not to hurt themselves.
I remember when I was younger, and suicide and mental illnesses were incomprehensible to me–I had not been exposed to them, I wasn’t sure about what was the truth in it and what was myth.
However, as I got older and got to high school, mental illness became present in the world around me. When I was a child, my older cousin (basically a big brother to me) died. At the time, the cause of his death was not revealed to me. When I was a freshman, my mom told me what really happened–he was depressed, and hadn’t reached out to anyone. This led him to become an alcoholic, addicted to drugs, and eventually take his own life.
That hit me hard. How could he feel so alone? We all loved him very much, we were all here for him. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. Mental illness was becoming more real to me, but the subject was still unclear–no one had really educated me. As high school went on, something that I wanted to ignore, but constantly loomed over me, made itself very prevalent in my life.
At first, I didn’t understand, but my mom began to notice too, and with further research it was clear–I had a notable anxiety disorder. Now, mental illness was VERY real and played an active role in my life. While I have not considered suicide myself, or experienced severe depression, mental illnesses as a whole are a struggle, and different for everyone, and have the power to make you feel like you are drowning, and no one can help you. Like no one knows what its like.
While I know that feeling, and experience it myself, that is the very reason I’m writing this letter and sharing my experience. You are not alone, there are people who understand, and there are people willing to help you every step of the way. I’ve found that in my mom and in my friends, and someone is there for you, too.
Dan Ratliff, Dakota Ridge
Suicide. It had always sounded like such a weird concept. Why would someone want to take their own life? My sophomore year of high school I was attending D’Evelyn. I had oftentimes struggled with feeling isolated, but nothing compared to sophomore year. In November, things started going downhill. I had had many close friendships with people from my church as well as from D’Evelyn, but, for a variety of reasons, nearly every one of these relationships sank quickly at about the same time. I had lost friends before, but losing nearly every one of my closest friends hit me hard. At about the same time, I had left my church and was looking for a new youth group. Every single group I visited I felt isolated in. I just couldn’t make friends.
Depression sank in, and I didn’t have anyone to open up to about it. After a couple of months of this, and no sign of anything getting better, suicide sparked in my head. I’d never have to feel alone again, I’d never have to deal with these issues again, in fact, I’d never have any more pain. Nearly every day for four months I was contemplating suicide. I had a couple of main plans, and almost everywhere I went I had a side-plan for how to commit suicide if I literally couldn’t handle life for five more minutes. I came so close so many times, but the only thing that stopped me? I had seen stories of people whose loved ones had committed suicide before. Nearly everyone, even acquaintances, felt guilty for not stopping them from their actions. I couldn’t do that to my friends, my family, my teachers, my youth group leaders, or anyone that knew of me from school.
After a while of this, my mind then started to wander to how I could make it look like an accident, or frame someone else. I was in a bus accident in the middle of this, and the only thing I could think of after that was “I saw the accident coming, why couldn’t I have just let myself crash through the window and get crushed by the bus?” I had multiple opportunities like this, yet I’m so glad I didn’t think fast enough to act on any of them. I made it through the roughest, longest patch I had ever had in my life. Nobody ever knew I was struggling so deeply, and certainly nobody thought I was suicidal. I hid it so well. The reason I got out? I realized that I was finding my happiness in other people, and I also realized that that was also one of the main reasons I had become so depressed. I found that, instead of relying so closely on others, I could rely on my faith to get me through hard times. Though I didn’t find a good church/youth group to connect with until a few months after this, I knew I had to find my faith on my own instead of relying on groups that I couldn’t get involved in.
Suicide is never the answer. If isolation or a variety of negative events is planting the idea of suicide in your head, please get help. If you don’t have anyone to open up to, find something (for me, my faith) to rely on, and find someone, anyone who has struggled with the same thing and listen to their story, and share with them yours.
Steven Santaniello, Combine Columbine CEO
It wasn’t that long ago that I thought that suicide was rare. The concept was just so foreign to me that I never really gave it too much concern. I really wish I would have now.
My freshman year in high school was hard. I switched schools over the summer and left my best friends and classmates behind, all of which I have lost contact with over the years. All I knew was that I was in a foreign high school, and that I did not really know anyone. Although I did not know it yet, I was the perfect candidate for bad thoughts to surface.
Everything seemed to be going well at the time, at least from the outside. I had made friends, I had straight A’s, and I felt at home in the great environment that was Columbine. But then the thoughts about suicide, the ones who had been building inside so subtly that I did not even know it, crept in. What finally tipped it off some rough experiences with friends and relationships. It wasn’t their fault, it just happened at the wrong time. As most of these situations go, nobody knew until it was bad. One night, in December, at the peak of the depression, one of my friends was tipped off about how I was feeling and reported it to one of my teachers. I felt ambivalent about it at first; I mean, it’s so easy to be scared when you have teachers pulling you aside and counselors calling you down. I felt shamed.
The epiphany finally came. When those closest to me found out and brought it up, I sat in disbelief as tears flowed down their face. If anyone has ever watched someone you love cry, you understand that it is probably the hardest thing that anyone can watch. I felt so bad–I had caused pain to the people that I cherish. That was when I knew. How could I be alone if all these people care about me enough to be so sad? If anyone out there feels alone, I just want you to know that you will be surprised by the amount of love people have for you. Every single suicide affects so many people, and while it may be hard for someone who feels alone to realize, they have to understand is that people do care. Your family cares. Your friends care. I care. Please, if anyone is having similar feelings to what I once had, please come talk to me or anyone of us at Combine Columbine. Let my story be an example of how a once damaged life can turn into something great. I now have an amazing core of friends and loved ones, I get to participate in Track and Cross Country and do what I love, and I have been able to maintain my perfect grades all the way through high school. Your life can turn around too, and all it takes is for you to open up to loved ones, and we will support you. For those of you who are the supporters of those in need, please promise that you will be there for your loved ones, and make sure they know that you are there for them. If we Live United, then there is hardly anything that we cannot achieve. Please help us live together, for if we do that, then the issue of suicide will be eliminated and some brilliant lives will now have a chance to grow. Thank you for supporting Combine Columbine.
Thomas Smith, Combine Columbine CEO
To me, preventing suicide used to be another one of those many charity causes demanding society’s attention, but apparently not getting it. Combine Columbine and the idea of “Living United” never resonated with me when I wandered the halls freshman year. But, before long the world of mental illness, and the reality of suicide, opened up to me.
My story is a bit of a mess, so I’ll start by simply stating that I’m Bipolar. I was diagnosed back in September and have been taking Lithium ever since. My type is unspecified, meaning my cycling between hypomania and depression seems to be random and without any regular intensity. The depression creates intense feelings of loneliness in me that has led me to believe I have no one who cares for me. I have no friends, and my family is just here. All irrational thoughts, but thoughts that have led me to consider taking my own life on multiple occasions. The worst of those thoughts have manifested themselves into a plan, and the least of them linger around in my head as a hope or wish to quietly disappear and cease to exist.
But it hasn’t been just me. Everyone whom I’ve grown close to and has opened up to me has their own story. They all struggle with some form of depression and have considered or even attempted suicide. Some on several occasions. These people are my lovers, my friends, my family, and watching all of them struggle with their own feelings of loneliness or isolation has broken my heart over and over again. Going through pain is one thing, but watching your loved ones go through pain is exponentially worse.
So that’s why I’m here. That’s why this cause, now, means so much more to me, because these past years have opened up my eyes to the terrors torturing my loved ones’ minds and even my own. I am blessed enough to say that no one close to me has ever committed suicide, but it feels like an imminent threat every day.
One day, I’ll be a therapist. I’ll have my own office, my own team, combating this plaque of mental illness and the bi-product of suicide. Until then, I encourage anyone to come forward and tell their story on this issue. To, by opening up, smash the stigma surrounding this issue. To console and be consoled by those around you who have shared in the same battle, either through their loved ones’ struggle with suicide or their own.
In every dark corner I’ve encountered, there was isolation. The thought that “I am alone in this fight.” Nothing can be farther from the truth. Please, tell your story, and let those struggling know that they are not alone.
That we can be Living United.
Letters from Teachers
James Woodruff, English
Chuck Sandoval came to me just the other day and asked me to write a letter outlining my experiences with suicide.
Just this morning, as I was preparing a lesson, I opened to the first page of Albert Camus’s The Myth of Sisyphus and read: “There is but one truly philosophical problem, and that is suicide.”
The poet Amiri Baraka wrote the liner notes to one of my favorite albums, Coltrane Live at Birdland. In it he said that for him, Coltrane’s music “is one of the reasons suicide seems so boring.”
In the past two years, I have spoken at length with different students who reached out to me during the summer because they were struggling with suicidal thoughts. Every year, I receive several signals—we could call them ‘cries for help,’ I suppose—from students in my classes. Every one of my colleagues has had to deal with the death of a student by his or her own hand.
Every year, we teach the ninth graders Romeo and Juliet. In it, the (presumably) God-fearing Friar Laurence advises Juliet to fake her suicide so that her parents believe she is dead so that they bury her in the family mausoleum so that Romeo can come and awaken her and when they realize that she’s really not dead, that she’s in fact alive, they will be so happy that she is alive that they will forget that she has married their mortal enemy and mortgaged their estate to that enemy. Unfortunately, Romeo doesn’t get the memo, so he kills himself; Juliet awakens from her faux-suicide, sees that he’s killed himself over her faked death, and she, also and for real this time, kills herself.
This otherwise inanely stupid plot does contain one extremely important message: at certain times, when you experience overwhelming grief, sadness, or despair, part of that feeling includes the illusion that the feeling will go on forever. The experience is so convincing that it leads a lot of people, who are otherwise intelligent and vital, to make a devastating and permanent decision to end their lives.
I will say this to you. I have been to those ragged places of despair and grayness and spaced-out carelessness. It’s not very far from suicide itself. It may be “normal.” I honestly don’t know. What got me through these times? Sheer, dogged, stubborn, bull-headed will to live. The one thing I found—or maybe it found me—was a musical experience—John Coltrane. This happened in my late teens. Intuitively, I knew I could come back to this music and find strength and refuge. I didn’t find Amiri Baraka’s observation about Coltrane until much later.
I love the business of living and growing. I am wildly curious about every aspect of living. But I also know the experience of having that curiosity, passion, and hope disappear. I have known long stretches of time where life felt stupid, bland, pointless, and full of nasty, evil people. At least that was my perspective. And for better worse, our perspective is all we have. Where it goes, so do we.
Not one of us has an answer to suicide. I don’t know if a person can prevent it. I do believe that every single one of us has the power to create a place where suicide is no longer necessary—where it isn’t even a thought. What might that place look like? More than anything it would be affirming, respectful, and actively kind. It would welcome everyone. It would nurture adventure, inquiry, art, and all manner of celebratory performance including sports.
It would look a lot like Columbine High School.
Letters from Parents
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