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Tracy McSorley

is a suicide attempt survivor.

this is her story

I survived a suicide attempt.

Tracy McSorley is a veteran of the United States Air Force who dedicated 27 years of her life to service. She was 49 years old when I interviewed her in St. Louis, MO, on September 08, 2015.

I was medically retired in January of 2014. I was diagnosed in the Air Force back in 2007 with depressive disorder. They just said, “You have depression.”

I had some other physical issues. I had a really bad fall, and then the combination of being on painkillers and antidepressants just took a toll. I had my first surgery for a neck injury, followed by more [painkillers]. Then I had a fall and broke my wrist, and that one resulted in three different operations over two years… with [more painkillers] and more antidepressants.

In November 2009, after twenty-something months of being on antidepressants and painkillers, I just lost my mind. I couldn’t handle the pain anymore—the physical pain, the sleeplessness, and the emotional separation that had already started in our family because of my being so sick. I’d always been very physical, and I’d always been very present in my kids’ lives, in my husband’s life. I got injured, and [with] the medications and the surgeries, it just all went away.

Within a week I realized I needed to have some serious professional help, and I asked to be admitted to the hospital.

I tried to overdose in November of 2009, and I wasn’t successful. Within a week I realized I needed to have some serious professional help, and I asked to be admitted to the hospital. I spent three weeks at the Barnes-Jewish Psychiatric Ward. I’ve been seeing my psychiatrist and my psychologist ever since then, but life and living take its toll, in spite of everything. And there’s always these other things that keep happening along the way, so I’m kinda in a transition right now.

I’ve been finally accepted as a veteran into the VA intensive outpatient program. That starts this week. It’s taken a little while to get into the program. I had another hospitalization, because [my marriage ended earlier this year]. I’ve been struggling trying to deal with things, and in July I said, “I can’t take it anymore,” and I made a plan to get out again. [I went to] get some help and made some changes to my meds. They’re still making changes to my meds now.

It’s been difficult, but I get up in the morning, and I have a dog. It’s amazing! The dog needs things, and sometimes it’s easier to satisfy the dog more than anyone in my life, so the dog gets his walk, he gets fed, he gets what he needs, and in turn, I get what I need. I make sure that I eat, I make sure I get out, and I make sure I do what I gotta do.

I’m in a state of transition right now, trying to figure out what’s next. At 49, it’s like it’s half over and there’s half left. I kinda have to think more that my cup is half full, even though I feel like my cup is half empty right now. My husband and I are getting divorced after ten years of marriage and a fifteen year relationship… even though I’m under treatment and medication, it’s been a really rough eight years. Some days get better, and some days aren’t. That’s really taken a toll. I’m grateful that our kids are grown up. Our three children are 24, 22, and 21. They’re all out of the house, and they all seem to be successful adults living their lives, doing what they gotta do. I’m glad and grateful for that, but I’m mourning a loss right now. This transition of being married and in a relationship, and now that being gone, is adding some complications to my life that I wasn’t foreseeing…

Des: Divorces are awful.

Tracy: Worse than death. I handled my father’s dying back in 2005. I didn’t grieve nearly as much as I feel like I’m grieving now for the loss of this relationship—and the fact that it’s not over, it’s still in progress… Divorce is tough, Being a child of a divorce doesn’t help, but it is what it is.

Des: Talk to me about the VA and being diagnosed in active military. Vets don’t really talk.

Tracy: Vets really don’t talk, [even with] as much training as we get every year on suicide awareness—as much as they made a push over the past ten years, maybe. They put us through this resiliency training. But, the culture of being in the military—it really doesn’t matter which service you’re in—you really have a warrior mentality. You have to take care of yourself and you have to take care of your buddies. When you have that weak link, no matter what the reason is, there’s a level of isolation, there’s a level of ostracism. If you can’t carry your weight, whether it’s the pack on your back or your mental health issues, it turns back on you.

That was a very difficult thing, especially after over 20 years of being in the military and being in a senior non-commissioned officer position. After everything I had given to them, I didn’t expect for them to turn on me and not [give] back to me.

The commander I was under at the time couldn’t see my mental illness, except through the veil of her mental illness. She had SAD. [She’d say], “I had Seasonal Affective Disorder. Just take a pill and get over it.”

It was like, “This is a little more intense than that…” Even though you try to be forthcoming, the consequences start. You try to be honest. They always tell you to be honest, but tell them the story and yet… the repercussions and the retaliations had started.

Fighting to be medically-retired, versus just retiring, was harder. It took four years to get that done. But I was really lucky, because the VA actually came through for me, way better than the Air Force and the active duty Air Force did. The VA has been there for me; my plan and request for assistance was settled relatively quickly. The VA here in St. Louis has had some issues in the news with their dental clinic and things like that, but I have to tell you, their psychiatric unit at the Jefferson Barracks mental health clinic is fantastic.

I wish that more veterans and service members would get out there and say what the problems are. I think that, as the war draws down and there are more people being affected, we’re going to start seeing this. I know that as I walk through the halls and talk to people now, I know that I see more people coming out and saying, “This is a problem for me,” but they’re not in the military anymore. As a veteran you’re retired, so you don’t have the stigma of your organization and your warrior mentality to deal with.

I’ve been really fortunate. The VA has definitely really been there for me in ways that I couldn’t have foreseen; even as a woman veteran, they have been there for me.

Des: The information that has been coming out recently is that most of the [service members] who have died from suicide did not see active combat. We like to assume active combat is the reason they wanted to die, so what is the disparity there?

Tracy: Do you know what survivor’s guilt is?

You just don’t feel like you’re doing enough. You don’t feel like you’ve been chosen for that, and that also kind of weighs on you because you wonder why.

When you’re not in the combat zone—whether it’s something that you’ve chosen, or it’s been chosen for you—you have a tremendous amount of guilt when there are other people out there fighting that fight. Even though you may be in a supporting role, even though you may have a very critical component of fighting that war, but not in a direct combat role, it actually can take its toll on you. You just don’t feel like you’re doing enough. You don’t feel like you’ve been chosen for that, and that also kind of weighs on you because you wonder why.

It’s something that I talk with other veterans about, especially in the NAMI military family support group. As we’ve all discussed it, that is one of the things we seem to think is a problem. There’s a sense of survivor’s guilt, of not doing enough, as much as you’ve done, because you haven’t been in an active combat role. When you know the toll that the individual service members and their families are taking, and you kind of have it a little bit easy, it makes it a little difficult.

The only exception I feel is the pilots and the service members [in the] unarmed aerial vehicle program—the drone program—they’re not directly in the field, but they’re still having a very active role in surveillance and indirectly [killing and eliminating] threats. That actually takes a different kind of mindset, because you’re in this comfort zone, if you will. You’re in this coffee shop, for example, and you’re playing this video game, yet the consequences of this virtual reality… it’s not virtual anymore. It’s very real, and we don’t have the experience yet to deal with what these individuals are dealing with. As they have to go through this process, they get to go home every night and be with their mother, their wife, their significant other, their kids. But they were, just a few hours ago, out there doing surveillance and they had to hit somebody.

[Members of my family] are in Air Force Special Ops. The base they were assigned to in New Mexico has had, over the past five years, quite a significant number of suicides on the base. One of my sister’s troops was one of them. She felt absolutely horrified, because she couldn’t believe one of her airmen would do something like that, but it was something that did happen, and it takes its toll on you, and you don’t realize it. It has its own kind of mental acuity, these situations that we don’t know how to deal with yet. This is a brand new way of waging war. It’s not something we ever did, this remote reality that we’re dealing with. We’ve done [hand-to-hand combat] for thousands of years. We’ve prepared for that to a certain extent. This is a new thing, and we don’t know how to help with people who are doing it and have problems.

Suicide for veterans and service members, a lot of it is from survivor’s guilt of not doing enough either for your direct buddy or your command, or whatever. I know that, to a certain extent, I played a part in it. Having my husband deployed and being deployed… He deployed more than me; we were a joint military family. Between 2001 and 2012, he deployed six times, [for six to ten months at a time]. Those separations took their toll on us, too. My own deployments, supporting missions that I had to take care of, also took their toll.

Des: We hear a lot about assimilating back into society. I’m curious, what is it about assimilation?

Tracy: From the very first day that you start your basic training, you’re being torn down and then you’re built back up. That tear down is vital, not just for you as an individual, but for every single person that’s in your life there—they’re all there to become airmen. That build up is pretty significant, especially when you take into consideration the Air Force core values, which are: integrity first; service before self; and excellence in all you do. When you start living your life in that uniform to that standard, it transforms you. I mean, when you’ve done it for over 20 years, it’s in you. It’s in your blood. It’s in your DNA. It doesn’t go away.

But then, you’re back out there and you look around, and there’s a lot of people who don’t have those core values. In the corporate world especially, as it exists in our world today. There’s a lot of disconnect and it’s hard to make that assimilation. There are certain venues that most veterans have been sticking to—one is going to the VA. A lot of us have gone back to be Department of Defense contractors or civil service employees within the government because it’s kind of familiar to us.

It’s a difficult transition. There’s such a small minority of people who serve in the military on a volunteer basis, and there’s even fewer that serve in a combat role. The war you see on television and the war you see in the movies is not the war that any of us fights. It’s not that way at all. It’s very personal. Trying to talk to people about it outside of your group, or your battle buddies, is hard. And a lot of people don’t want to hear it.

Des: That difficulty talking about experiences in the military sounds like the difficulties of talking about suicide overall. Is there anything about the military and mental difficulties or suicide, that you want to address?

Tracy: I think they have made strides within the Department of Defense to hire and get the right people in to do the jobs, whether by hiring or contracting out the positions for psychiatric nurses and doctors, psychologists, and social workers. But we have this constant battle of funding for these miscellaneous health programs and funding the weapons system. Congress doesn’t like funding the mental health issues. Congress doesn’t like funding the veterans benefits, as much as they say they’ll do it. They’re already talking about figuring out ways to cut back on it. They have a short-term perspective.

That’s a new battle I see many of the vets getting involved in, becoming activists in our local communities. We’re lucky right now that St. Louis is seriously considering setting up a Veteran’s Court in the surrounding counties and communities… because we are still having problems, and they’ll deal with some of the special issues that veterans have. There is still a huge amount of self-medication, drugs, and alcohol that continue to this day. Part of it is because of that constant battle: it’s easier to take that drink or have that hit than to take your medication, because your medication keeps getting changed. It’s just better to cut it off and not do anything about it, [to say], “I don’t want to deal with it. It’s done.” You’re not feeling anything at all; trying to work through the medications is difficult. I know that I have suffered through that.

There’s this disconnect within our congressional system; they’re becoming more involved and realizing that that’s part of the problem that we’re fighting. It’s not just now. It’s going to get worse later. So, [the veterans] have been getting out there and fighting for that.

Des: I think that’s what I was trying to get at before. It seems like there’s a lot more talk than there is action. That concerns me, because there’s the talk, there’s the media, and a little action, but is it actually real? The VA has been getting a lot of flak. Where is the reality? It’s a shame.

Tracy: It is a shame.

Des: I’m glad you had a good experience.

Tracy: I’ve been very lucky with the VA. I cannot complain about what the VA’s done for me at all. Not since I reached out to them and really got the help that I needed, both financially and medically—the treatments that I needed. They were there for me.

Des: I have a couple of friends who are clinicians at the VA in Baton Rouge. They’re incredible people. Are there not enough clinicians? Not enough funding? What is it?

Some of the veterans are really afraid to go into the system because all they hear are the horror stories.

Tracy: It doesn’t help that our media continues to berate. It’s one of the things that I think more veterans are having a problem with, because all they hear are the horror stories about the VA. There were not enough people out there saying, “I’ve had a good relationship, and I’ve had benefits from them that have helped me cope with things.” There are not enough voices out there for that. Some of the veterans are really afraid to go into the system because all they hear are the horror stories.

[That is] one more reason why I post on Facebook, because I’ve had many good experiences with the VA. If you have a claim, file it. If you have medical issues, make sure you get it in the system, because the only way you’re going to get help is if you say something. You’ve got to be that squeaky wheel before you can get a little bit of grease. They’ve been there for me, even with the funding constraints and problems that they’ve had. I can’t say that they haven’t when they have. Every couple of weeks I get a phone call saying, “Are you hanging in there?” So, I can’t complain at all.

Des: Talk to me about your experiences with medication.

Tracy: Medication has been one of the most difficult things. Early on with my diagnosis, I wasn’t seeing professionals in the psychiatric/psychology sector; I was being seen by a general practitioner. The general practitioner, you know, we talked. They said, “You’re depressed, I’m going to prescribe this for you.” That was good, except I was also on these other narcotics. Over two years, I was on a bunch of different narcotic/opiate prescriptions, as well as being on a couple different antidepressants. Even though I was constantly showing people [what medications I was on], no one was making the correlation that my depression was worsening.

It wasn’t until I pushed to get out of the general practitioner’s office, after my suicide attempt, to actually seek more professional psychiatric guidance, that things started to get a little bit better. I could say, though, that since 2009 and my psychiatric hospitalization, I have been on eight different medications. Just this past year, I’ve been on four different prescriptions, trying to find the right balance, trying to find the right dosage of what’s going to help me stabilize and keep my mind where it needs to be. [My brain is changing. I’m aging. I’m a perimenopausal woman. My hormones are changing. And it’s all hitting at the same time.]

So… medication has definitely been a challenge.

Des: What kind of toll does it take?

Tracy: I’ll tell you, when I was on Cymbalta, I didn’t feel anything. I wasn’t present in my husband’s life, I wasn’t present in my kids’ lives, I wasn’t present in my own life. I was physically there, but looking back, I felt like I was the walking dead.

When I started to fight with my clinician to get off the meds or try to bring down the dosage…it was a fight. I said, “I can’t handle not feeling anything anymore. This isn’t helping me. I need to be more involved. I’m not there. It’s taking its toll on my relationships.”

They said, “You need the medication.”

I said, “Can’t we make some adjustments?”

They said, “No, you gotta stay on them.”

I decided on my own that I was going to ween myself off and down, over a period of several months. I was completely off of meds by [spring] of 2013. No more Cymbalta, no more pain medications, no more anything. Started seeing my psychologist more frequently… That’s really when I started reaching out to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention and other organizations.

Unfortunately, I was at a point of stress in my relationship with my husband. Things had continued to deteriorate, despite trying to do therapy and things like that. There were some stresses with our [family], and I had to get put back on medication…

Des: Do you need medication?

Tracy: I’d like to think that I don’t need medication, but the Lexapro has helped. It’s given me a little more clarity in my brain, a little more focus and attention that I didn’t have. It felt like I was in a fog often as my stressors increased. My body’s self-defense mechanism puts this blind up, this shade between me and what’s out there, and it was affecting other things. It caused problems. This [medication] has helped me to bridge that, and bring the light back in when I was feeling all this other darkness.

I continue to be on the Lexapro right now, but other medications they are trying to implement with it are giving me problems. [I had to come off Wellbutrin because that and epinephrine caused my blood pressure to exponentially increase.] I can’t afford a heart problem, so I had to change that. I’ve taken other medications along the way, but right now I’m sticking with the Lexapro and we’re trying to make an adjustment on the other dosages.

As much as I want to say I don’t need meds, with all the changes that are happening in my head and physically, I have to do something. Doing something is better than doing nothing.

Des: What else helps?

Tracy: Exercise and watching my diet. Since August 2013, I’ve lost 25 pounds. I’ve eliminated red meat, pretty much, from my diet. I don’t drink very often. I’ll have a beer on occasion or maybe a glass of wine. A mixed drink once in a while, but with the medications I’m on, that’s really hard.

Every day I’m at the gym at 4:30 in the morning, and it just makes me so happy to have the right music at the right tempo.

Definitely being out there and exercising. I’ve increased my level of activity as much as I can with my injuries. I have a mixtape that just makes my day. Every day I’m at the gym at 4:30 in the morning, and it just makes me so happy to have the right music at the right tempo. As much as I don’t want to be at the gym at 4:30 in the morning, it’s like, “Okay, I gotta get this tempo, I’ve got to get this started.” Something that was ingrained in me about the military was being at the gym early in the morning.

…And the dog helps! The dog is unconditional love, doesn’t matter how crappy you feel, the dog is there for you. My kids are there for me, but my dog is in the house. My kids are off doing their own thing.

Des: Yeah, there is research that says people who live their lives with animals live longer and are healthier, and it’s so true. The animals know when something’s up and they’re helpful. Just having a dog in my life, even when I’m not feeling like shit… just having her there and annoying her makes me happy.

Tracy: There’s something about that tail-wagging and that look they give you, like, “I like you.” There’s no judgment, just, “Feed me, pet me, bring me to the bathroom, and I’m there for you.”

Des: Do you think that you have a mental illness? How do you conceptualize this? There are a lot of people who don’t believe in mental illness. Where do you stand?

Tracy: You know, in my father’s family… [over] three generations, four individuals [died by] suicide between the 1960s and the 2000s, but it was never talked about. Now that I’m more cognizant of it, I realize where, genetically, this can transpire, [though] there’s also been other traumas and dramas.

I can tell you that I believe in the science. I believe in what we’re learning. I’m not saying we’re one hundred percent right, but there are new disorders that are just now being figured out. This schizoaffective disorder that’s different from full-blown schizophrenia, [for example]. They’re finally getting into the grains, and they’re realizing that there’s a larger spectrum there.

I don’t deny the science. I believe that I have a mental illness. I’m just trying to do what I can to get my illness to be as well as it can. At this point in time, knowing what I know about family history and about my own, I’ll be on [medication] for the rest of my life. I think I had other ways of coping with this before, and I didn’t have the extent of triggers that made my illness blow up the way that it finally did, but once those things happened… it’s going to be with me for the rest of my life. I know that, and I’m trying to deal with that and accept that. It’s like that cup half-full and half-empty thing. I’m constantly trying to find that balance.

That’s been one of the difficulties, but yes, I definitely believe in the diagnosis of my mental illness. I wonder how accurate it is sometimes, because I know that things are changing, but I don’t deny that that is what it is.

Des: I’ve spent the last year and a half trying to figure out whether I believe in mental illness, how trauma plays a role in suicidality, and the nuances of what it all means. I’m constantly trying to figure out what I believe. It will come, and I’m really interested in how others can see what’s happening to them.

Tracy: One of the biggest things I found helpful was the resiliency story of Jessie Close and her organization Bring Change to Mind. I read her story, and I was really intrigued by her honesty and her openness, especially knowing that she has a sibling that is so well-known. I’m really grateful that she decided to take a stand. It wasn’t just for her as an individual, but she has a son who has a very severe mental illness. He is dealing with his mental illness and living the best life that he can, but he is still living with his mental illness just like she is. I found those personal stories really important.

Another story that I found really important was Debbie Voigt’s autobiography. She’s the opera singer who struggled with her weight. She was an alcoholic and also an over-eater, so her story about her recovery and getting to her best self.

The hardest thing I do these days is trying to think what is going to be my “best self” today. That’s the hardest thing.

Des: What is so important about the stories? What’s so important about telling them and hearing them?

Tracy: One, which is the biggest thing for me, was getting away from being so isolated and so ostracized, and not feeling alone in my struggle—knowing that there were other people who were experiencing disorders/psychiatric issues like I was. More importantly, people who have survived their suicide attempt and are trying to have successful lives following their suicide attempt. There is so much shame, and so much guilt. I know the people that I hurt when I did what I did. I know my husband and my kids were affected by what I did.

It’s been really hard because I’m constantly feeling like I’ve got to do more, even when I can’t, because I have to make up for that. But I think that’s one of the most important things—to see other people struggling. Everyone’s level of success is different, and that’s important. We’re all on different continuums of our lives, different ages and stages of where we’re at, and you have to accept that. But when you see other people who are affected by it and dealing with it, it just gives you encouragement.

One of the things that I absolutely lost the day that I tried to overdose—I had lost hope. I had lost hope of living, and loving, and being pain-free. Not having that in my life for a long time took its toll. But, I have that back. It’s not the great big hope; sometimes it’s just a little tiny speck of light at the end of the tunnel. It’s not that oncoming train, even though you think it is. Sometimes it’s just having that light. I started gardening, growing things. I had this saying that I put on my mailbox: “A garden is love sewn and hope delivered.” You’re putting a lot of faith into that seed going into the ground and becoming something that you want, whether it’s a flower, a fruit, or a vegetable. It was something that really helped me cognitively, and helped me start thinking about things differently.

Your reality is not my reality, my reality is not your reality—but that doesn’t make it any less real.

The biggest thing about this is getting the story out there. Talking about it, stopping the shame, stopping the guilt, and educating the people who have some doubts. Because your reality is not my reality, my reality is not your reality—but that doesn’t make it any less real. You just need to have other people saying that and assuring you it’s okay.

Des: When I first started the project, it was all about positivity. Then the It Gets Better Project came out. I don’t know if that’s [why the project shifted], or if it was kind of organic, but I’m not trying to be positive now. I just want it to be honest. I think there is much more hope in honesty than there is in, like, “Go get ’em, champ!” Because it’s not always going to get better and stay better. I think it’s almost more important to see that you can still struggle, and it can be really, really hard, but you can at least power through it to your best ability, and it may not always be great, depending on the day.

Tracy: No, but it might be good enough for you. I think the hardest adjustment following my diagnosis and getting well was figuring out what my new “normal” was going to be. My “normal” was defined for so long by the military: my boundaries, my parameters, my goals, were there, all lined up—and then that changed. That was the biggest thing: trying to redefine, repurpose, reorganize, and find a new path… I gotta figure out what’s best for me, and it may not be what was good for me yesterday. It may not be what is good for me [tomorrow]. That’s hard for people in my circle to deal with, because they may not understand that this is just what it is. The dishes didn’t get washed and the laundry didn’t get done, but I did a bunch of paperwork and I do what I can.

Des: That’s interesting. I started taking medication again two years ago, and it’s like magic. I’ve never felt normal in my emotional functioning ever, so it took me until I was 30 to see, “Oh! This is what a normal set of emotions feels like.” It didn’t change who I am. Maybe it did in a way—I still can’t explain. But I’m noticing, now that I have those extreme emotions handled, I can see how bad my anxiety is. It was always overshadowed by hurting myself and sobbing until 5 AM, and just spiraling in a different way. Now I’m like, “Oh my anxiety is really bad. How do I deal with this?” So, you’re constantly defining and redefining yourself.

Tracy: It’s like the scales of justice. You’re trying to find that balance and it’s difficult because it’s going to change every day. Your body is this chemical, electrical factory that’s changing every single day, and it’s hard to find the right balance to fix that, whether it’s by medication or exercise/diet—whatever combination you’re using. I don’t think normal people are aware of it. They don’t realize until something happens how delicate that balance is. And once you’re cognizant of it, it’s hard to not think about anything else. That’s been a challenge for me, too.

Des: I’m curious to hear about getting involved in support groups. How did you do it, and how it feels to start doing it, because I know a lot of people are afraid. What did that look like?

Tracy: I think the most productive thing that I did over the last year was the NAMI Peer-to-Peer class. I wish my [family] would do the NAMI Family-to-Family class to make them understand more about mental illness and treatment of mental illness. The NAMI Peer-to-Peer class was really informative to me because… as much as Live Through This and other groups are getting the word out that you’re not the only one going through this and you’re not alone, walking into a group of people and physically seeing them being there, and then having us all talk about our mental illness, was really quite remarkable.

It was a ten-week program that started with about seventeen people and only finished with eight. The two Peer-to-Peer counselors that led the group stayed with us, and six of us stuck it out. The majority of the people left. I don’t think they had an easy time of seeing it, or having assurances that it was going to be okay. I think they were more afraid by what they were discovering. I found it a little comforting to know it’s not just me, to know there are options out there, and to see that continuity of care—people at different stages and different progressions within their disease, whether it was anxiety or bipolar or schizophrenia, made a difference.

One of the outpatient programs at the VA has been really informative for me, too. I have some people in my group that are still living on the street, female homeless veterans. People that want help, but are still not quite there yet. Different levels of diseases. You see that you’re not alone. And I think that’s important, because I think it was a little hard to work in that support group, because you don’t want to admit it. But I said, “I got this, I gotta do something about this. I need to have a voice for myself, and then maybe somewhere down the line I can advocate for other people.”

Des: That’s hard, learning to advocate for yourself. Especially when you’re dealing with the medical community. I think something we definitely don’t talk about enough is learning and doing your research, because you, in that sense, are very much a consumer. You’re giving someone your money or your insurance company’s money to help you, and if they’re not doing you the service that you need to have done, then, “See ya!” Of course, it’s not that easy for everyone. Access to any care at all can be difficult, but in an ideal world, we’d be better educated about how to interface with medical practitioners and have more control of our care.

Is suicide is still an option for you? You knew this [question] was coming. I know you did.

Tracy: Yes, I did, and actually, it’s something I discuss with my psychologist. The fact of the matter is: suicide is always going to be an option. Not just because of my personal history, although that’s part of it… there were four members of my family who definitely said that was the solution. And there’s a part of you, a part of me, that says that’s a solution. What I realize, though, since my own attempt, was that it wasn’t the right solution that I needed. It wasn’t the right solution for the people that I care about.

When I realize that I am one of many—within my own family group, within my own organizations, within the larger community—I realize that even just one makes a difference, for better or for worse.

I was so hooked on that tree, I definitely couldn’t see the forest. Now I see the forest. When I realize that I am one of many—within my own family group, within my own organizations, within the larger community—I realize that even just one makes a difference, for better or for worse. I have an impact on my life and on people’s lives. Suicide is not the option that’s going to give me the best return on my investment as an individual. I still have hope to give back more to my community, to my family, to the causes that I believe in and care about, and that’s one of the things that definitely keeps me going.

So, suicide… it’s there. It doesn’t not come to my mind when something bad happens. [My relationship ended] May 9th. May 10th, I was like, “I’m done. I don’t want to be here anymore,” but I got through May 10th. Woke up May 11th, had a doctor’s appointment, and I went to see my doctor. It’s the little things that you kind of look forward to that get you through. So, it’s an option, but it’s not the option that I’m taking today. It’s not the option that I’m looking at taking tomorrow.

Tracy’s story is sponsored by a grant from the hope & grace fund, a project of New Venture Fund in partnership with global women’s skincare brand, philosophy, inc. Thanks also to Susannah Laragresty for providing the transcription to Tracy’s interview, and to Sara Wilcox for editing.

Want to support us?

Live Through This is made possible in part by donations from incredible humans like you.

If the project moves you and you have even a single dollar to spare, please consider donating. Every dollar donated goes straight back into the project. These funds allow for gear, web real estate and hosting, travel associated with the project, professional fees, conference attendance, and more.

For more ways to support us, be sure to check out our merchandise, subscribe to our mailing list, and join the #STAY campaign by sharing a picture of you and your Live Through This gear!

Want to support us?

Live Through This is made possible in part by donations from incredible humans like you.

If the project moves you and you have even a single dollar to spare, please consider donating. Every dollar donated goes straight back into the project. These funds allow for gear, web real estate and hosting, travel associated with the project, professional fees, conference attendance, and more.

For more ways to support us, be sure to check out our merchandise, subscribe to our mailing list, and join the #STAY campaign by sharing a picture of you and your Live Through This gear!

About Live Through This

Live Through This is a series of portraits and true stories of suicide attempt survivors. Its mission is to change public attitudes about suicide for the better; to reduce prejudice and discrimination against attempt survivors; to provide comfort to those experiencing suicidality by letting them know that they’re not alone and tomorrow is possible; to give insight to those who have trouble understanding suicidality, and catharsis to those who have lost a loved one; and to be used as a teaching tool for clinicians in training, or anyone else who might benefit from a deeper understanding of first-person experiences with suicide.

More Information

Tax-deductible donations are made possible by Fractured Atlas, a non-profit arts service organization, which sponsors Live Through This. Contributions for the charitable purposes of Live Through This must be made payable to Fractured Atlas only and are tax-deductible to the extent permitted by law.

Please Stay

If you’re hurting, afraid, or need someone to talk to, please reach out to one of the resources below. Someone will reach back. You are so deeply valued, so incomprehensibly loved—even when you can’t feel it—and you are worth your life.

Find Help

You can reach the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255, the Veterans Crisis Line at 800-273-8255 and pressing Option 1, the Trans Lifeline at 877-565-8860 (U.S.) or 877-330-6366 (Canada), or The Trevor Project at 866-488-7386.

If you don’t like talking on the phone, you can reach the Crisis Text Line by texting HOME to 741-741, or check out the Lifeline Crisis Chat. If you’d like to talk to a peer, warmline.org contains links to warmlines in every state. If you’re not in the U.S., click here for a link to crisis centers around the world.

Live Through This is dedicated to the lives of so many friends and family members lost to suicide over the years. If you would like to add the name of a loved one to this list, please email me.

Live Through This is dedicated to the lives of so many friends and family members lost to suicide over the years. If you would like to add the name of a loved one to this list, please email me.