September is Suicide Prevention month.
It’s a heavy topic but one that we believe needs to be spoken more about.
As we were reflecting on how we could respectively honor this month, while shinning a light on what suicide prevention month is about, we met Allison Avalon the same week.
In conversation, Allison openly shared that this Fall will be her 5-year anniversary as a suicide survivor.
I’m not gunna lie. I’ve never heard someone say that or share anything like this before.
But she shared her story with such an open heart.
And the more she shared the more we were inspired by her story.
So rather than us googling what this month means and sharing our point of view, we wanted to feature Allison’s story and the amazing product she has created to support others as they navigate their emotions and needs to better care and love themselves.
Here’s more about Allison’s story from our interview with her.
Why is it important to recognize Suicide Prevention Month?
Quite frankly, to be seen. Suicide, suicidal thoughts and behaviors are solitary. When people come together, even if just for the month of September, to say “I SEE YOU” it invites others into your world, a world that feels very secluded, lonely and unrelatable, in turn, reducing the agony of isolation.
Can you share with us your story/journey?
The story of how I reached the point of suicide is a long one. It has many twists and turns but it can be summed up into three words: I lost myself.
As a teenager I experienced a loss that transformed me. There actually isn't a word in the English language to explain the way that event rearranged the cells in my body and formed a whole new me. The new me was terrified of abandonment; a side effect of unexpected loss. The new me also carried around a heap of guilt thinking, in her naive 16 year old brain, she could have changed what happened. So I charged forward into life hiding from myself armed with a commitment pain. I chose relationships that mistreated and mishandled my heart because I knew one day those men would leave but at least I’d see it coming. I committed myself to immediacy instead of longevity. To fermented fun instead of health, to influence instead of intuition. I was devoted to suffering. It felt comfortable (which by the way might be the saddest sentence I have ever typed) because suffering was all I allowed myself to know. Suffering was what I believed I deserved. If you believe you deserve better, you will create better. I didn’t believe it yet.
It was only after I was given a second chance at life that I had become SO exhausted with suffering that I decided it was time to commit myself to something else--finding me again.
It took years. It was messy at times, it was loud, it was quiet, it was joyful and it was sad. But I did it, and I did it through self-care. Asking myself what I needed and making time to honor that need. Learning to listen to my inner voice like I would a friend and getting comfortable in my skin.
What do you want people to know about your story, now that its nearly 5-years later?
The words “I am a suicide attempt survivor” is just the first line on the first page of a much larger story. My story is by lead by those words, but it is not defined by them. They set the scene for a story of renewal. They made way for cooky and caring characters to enter my life and infuse comedy, joy and loving dialogue to flow freely. I learned from the experience, I grew from it, and if it defined anything for me, it defined my purpose: to help others, to see others, and to uplift others.
What do you think is important for people to know about suicide?
The day I chose to end my life the choice was conscious, quiet and peaceful. I was 100% at peace and for the first time in years, I felt good. In fact, I felt great. Hotlines are OK but in reality someone choosing to end their life is not afraid of it. They are not walking around thinking “these are scary thoughts, I need help.” They are thinking “Finally an answer, finally an end to my pain.” There was no way on God’s green earth I was going to call a hotline to talk me out of the first time I felt GOOD.
Chances are if you know someone with extreme sadness or depression that can lead to suicide they have asked for your help a million times--in VERY unloving ways. Constant drama, habitual lying, making poor choices, unhealthy habits, negative attitude, crying. The people who need love the most often ask for it in the most unloving ways.
For me, my extreme loneliness and sadness came in the form of essentially living a double life to hide the fact that the real me was already dying. I compare this to a relationship how we often leave emotionally before we leave physically. Same thing. My heart and mind were gone, taking my body with it was just the next logical step (to someone who is extremely sad). I was very hard to love then. Depression can manifest in many ways. I was always trying to hide my sadness, to outrun it. I was the life of the party, always smiling. Check on all your friends or family--even those with the constant smile. If something seems off, it probably is.
What does it mean to you to feel seen?
To notice the details, the effort, and to acknowledge a person’s why. The stuff the world sees: accomplishments, accolades, etc, those are the culmination of a lot of hard moments. See those. Celebrate those.
If you could go back to 5-years ago you, what would you tell yourself? Hindsight is a tricky thing. I can look back now and see how that event and the series of painful experiences leading to it were just a catalyst for what would soon become the best years of my life. I can look back and say “it’ll get better,” “You’ll be ok.” But if I was really able to sit down with that girl, on that night, I would have just held her and told her the one thing she needed to hear the most: I love you.
Tell us more about the self-care planner you just launched?
The book is a Self-Care Planning Guide, IM POSSIBLE Planner. It asks that each week you check in with yourself to discover your needs that week and then plan in time to nurture that need. It is brimming with self-care, self-love and discovery activities, journal prompts, challenges and even offers the opportunity each month to write a letter releasing something (habits, negative thoughts, toxic relationship, etc) that is no longer serving you and then follows up with a welcome letter where you will choose something positive you want to usher in and create a plan to do so.
What I found through my journey is that if you are filling your cup with the wrong things you may feel full, but you will never feel nourished. This book is your pathway to total nourishment.
What advice do you have for people with a loved one struggling?
Ask them twice! When you ask, “How are you doing?” first ask their emotions, and second ask their actions. If a person responds with “I’m fine” (or similar), allow for that response. Understand is automatic and it is protecting them from crumbling under the overwhelming weight of feeling like their pain may be a burden to you. Next, and here's the hard part, notice a behavior that seems destructive and ask about it. “how was Saturday night? Man, you’ve been partying a lot lately. Don’t you feel tired?” “I noticed you keep going back to Dave. I haven’t spent much time with him, tell me more about him. what is it that you love about being with him?”
Expect some defensiveness, know it may be awkward AF and accept this is not your platform to judge or advise. You are saying “I see you; I hear you, and I care about your life and choices.” They will drop nuggets of truth that can lead you to answers on how to help them. And if nothing else, they will feel seen, and sometimes that is all it takes to begin the shift.
What advice do you have for someone contemplating suicide or someone who is in a dark place?
OOF, this is a hard one. We are hardwired to advise therapy or talking to someone about our pain but from my experience those things are not always attainable. When I was suicidal I was also broke. I recall, the early stages of my depression, wanting to go to therapy and being unable to afford it which just catapulted me into a deeper depression. I couldn’t even afford to care for myself. I felt utterly worthless. I also recall trying to talk about my pain to friends but quite honestly there was so much of it that I became “drama” to those I leaned on. Whether or not they actually felt that way I am unsure, but I felt that way and that was all that mattered.
We often tell people to look for the good in every day. Good doesn’t exist in that dark place, and if it does, the depressed mind will decide it is fleeting or there to trick and betray.
Instead the best advice I can give is to look for light. Collect moments of light in your day that don’t scare you or trigger you. Simple things that bring you simple joy. These won't come from others, they will come from inside of you. A flower growing in concrete to remind you that anything is possible, a puppy in the park chasing its tail to remind you there can be joy in the little things. Build up your muscle for seeking and appreciating joy and soon that muscle will defeat the one that has been holding you down. Baby steps, we all started with them, and at some point in life we all take them again. It is OK if that is right now for you.
Allison, We see you!
We are honored that you are willing to share your story and how you are allowing your story to inspire and positively impact people around the world.
Your IM POSSIBLE Planner is a priceless gift that has tangible self-care practices to help anyone.
We think it’s fitting you celebrated and recognized YOURSELF with an I See You® Candle on your IM POSSIBLE Planner!
This anniversary is a milestone and we are celebrating YOU, the love you are pouring into yourself and how you are using your experience to pay it forward.
Simply put, it’s amazing how Allison has allowed her experience as a suicide survivor to live in her purpose and surround herself with joy.
Thank you Allison for creating a product that supports and teaches us all to have a self-care practice.
If you, or anyone you know is struggling and in need of support, please do not wait a second.
We hope you join us in in recognizing and supporting this woman for sharing her story in such an honest and true fashion!