As you read this, I’m probably somewhere cooler. It’s been a mild summer in Southern Nevada thus far, but that still means it’s more than hot enough to merit a Fourth of July vacation somewhere cooler. In many ways, I’m living “The American Dream” in that I can freely travel and enjoy good food, good drinks, great scenery, and great company under this lovely summer sun.
So why doesn’t this feel all that dreamy? Well, it’s complicated. And today, we’re finally talking about the full, ugly, complicated truth behind the image of this seemingly blissful dream.
Trigger Warning: This story addresses some very sensitive topics, including frank discussion of suicide, and it includes some coarse adult language. Reader discretion is advised.
There’s no sugarcoating this: “The American Dream” has felt much more like a nightmare for many of my adult years. When innocent children are being locked in cages while the worst perpetrators roam free at the highest levels of power, it’s easy to fall into depression. When people fall into a seemingly never-ending cycle of poverty and discrimination, a sense of hopelessness can take hold and intensify that depression.
Of course, there’s been far more happening in my life beyond just my work life that’s also been quite depressing. Suffice to say, the combination of my line of work and the story of my own life has often resulted in this bizarre roller coaster full of exhilarating highs and harrowing lows.
Imagine covering a campaign event or jumping to an interview appointment just hours after attempting suicide. Been there, done that. Yes, I’ve really done that. And I’m still working on myself now.
So now, I’m finally telling you what happened.
For a while, I’ve been promising you that I’d eventually tell you what’s going on. In the name of proper journalistic transparency, and with the knowledge that so many of you are my friends and family in real life, here I am telling you the truth.
In the past two months, I’ve made three attempts at suicide. While there was a fairly long lull prior to this past May, I’ve experienced serious bouts of depression in the past. And last month, everything just seemed to explode when an otherwise minor paperwork hiccup escalated into a major life crisis thanks to me chalking up all my past life difficulties as failures that require the ultimate punishment.
Considering that my childhood was defined by chaos and abuse, it shouldn’t be a surprise. I guess I’ve just done a better job of hiding it, especially more recently, once I accidentally stumbled into journalism and figured it would be better if I “keep myself out of the story”.
I was ready to end my life on June 13. The next day, I learned some valuable life lessons.
While there’s sometimes value in maintaining some kind of professional distance, I’ve ultimately come around to sharing more of my life and my story with you. After all, how can you trust me, value my storytelling skills, or understand where I’m coming from if you don’t know where I’m coming from?
Still, even now, this feels very awkward and I feel very guilty. After all, kids are in cages and more people are literally dying. And yet, far too many of our “civic leaders” prefer to quibble over nomenclature while ignoring the larger crisis at hand. Fuck that shit. And while I’m at it, fuck me for my own sorry-ass white privilege and my lame-ass depression.
That’s how I felt while covering U.S. Senator Kamala Harris’ (D-California) immigration roundtable and participation in the McDonald’s Fight for 15 strike last month. People are doing all they can to survive, and they’re even sticking their necks out to help others during their own darkest hour. Why is it that these activists can be so strong in living through this struggle, while I have to be so weak when I’m just writing about their struggle?
I know I enjoy plenty of privilege in my life. So why am I still so sad?
I’d be lying if I told you my work doesn’t affect the rest of my life. It does. After seeing all the suffering in this world, especially the suffering that’s so palpable in our own neighborhoods, I can’t just un-see it all when I come home and close all the “heavy news” tabs in my internet browsers. I fear I’m not doing enough to make a positive impact in this world, and I worry we find it way too easy to place all our faith and hope in “saviors” and institutions rather than do what’s necessary for us to save ourselves.
Speaking of saving ourselves, I’m working on taking my own advice. I’m seeing a therapist again. I’m working on improving the work/play balance in my life. This is why I’m out of town for the next week to reconnect with family and rediscover myself.
Even now, I still feel so guilty about all this. My life is too good (or at least comfortable) for me to feel this bad. Our nation is in too deep of a crisis for me to be wallowing in my own personal crisis. But now, I’ve made peace with the fact that if I truly want to help others survive our national crisis, I have to accept help and do more to solve my own crisis.
I suspect this was not the Fourth of July column you were expecting to read. It’s certainly not the one I was originally expecting to write. But if this open and frank discussion on mental health and self-care in times of crisis and hardship can help anyone else experiencing similar struggles, then this will prove to be totally worth it.
If you or someone you know is facing a major life crisis and struggling with thoughts of suicide, help is available. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is always there at 1-800-273-8255 (TALK). So is the Crisis Text Line, where you can start a conversation with a volunteer counselor by texting “START” to 741741. And for LGBTQ+ youth in need of immediate help, the Trevor Project has a 24/7 hotline at 1-866-488-7386 and a text option (text “START” to 678678) available.