Several years ago I uploaded one of the hardest posts for me to share: my struggle with suicide. While I haven’t felt that way in a very long time, I know that darkness is a part of my story. I don’t live in fear anymore. I know where to find the light, and I try my best to share it. One tiny light bulb in a darkened room will struggle to be acknowledged, and eventually dim. Being swallowed in the darkness, and left alone to fend for itself. But a thousand tiny lights? That is almost impossible to ignore. The same thing happens with our struggles with suicide and depression. The more of us who stand up, stand together, and speak out, the stronger we become. I can’t tell you how many people have messaged me saying “I always felt that way, but thought I was the only one” or “Thank you for saying what I was too afraid to say myself.” And I’m just ONE person. That is why I always encourage others to share their story because it will create a ripple effect. The light will always find a way.
You have been hearing my side, and opinions for over three years. If I have learned anything in my 24 trips around the sun, it’s that a different perspective and viewpoint can be the BIGGEST breath of fresh air. I decided that World Suicide Prevention Day is the perfect time to finally introduce collaborations on my blog.
It has taken me a while to figure out who I wanted to be my very first guest on The Butterfly Empire, and it felt wrong for it to be anyone other than CaraGina. She has been a friend and a supporter of mine from the very beginning, and I am so blessed to have her in my life. Cara was one of the first people that I saw being open about her struggles, and it inspired me to do the same. I found hope in her bravery. She is outspoken, fierce, compassionate, wise and incredibly kind. I know you will love her just as much as I do. Make sure to follow her on Instagram too (@skinsaglow)!
I asked Cara six questions focused around suicide awareness, and I hope that you embrace her words with an open mind. Talking about such a heavy topic is never easy, but sharing our stories can break the stigma. We’re stronger together.
CaraGina Newman is a mental health advocate and free spirit. She loves photography, collecting Funko Pop figures and Marvel. An avid Disney fan she visits Walt Disney World often. She is passionate about protecting our oceans and marine life. Cara worked in Radiation Oncology for 16 years before she became a stay at home mother. She is married and currently lives in Florida. Born in New York she loves big city life. Favorite quote: Spread kindness life confetti.
Sharing only what you are comfortable with, what is your suicide story, and what was your breaking point?
My story doesn’t come easily to share but hopefully it will help someone else. I’m a 5 time survivor. 5 years ago was the worst of the 2 attempts that I’ve ever tried. They were back to back. I stopped breathing and was brought back. Then right after I got out of the hospital I tried again. That time the only thing that saved my life was dialysis. I have had many breaking points in my life. Living with many different mental health disorders sometimes life feels like it’s much harder. The darkest point in my life I wasn’t mentally well and I couldn’t see past anything but total darkness and I just wanted all the pain to stop. I had no rational mind left. I just felt I needed the pain to stop and that was my only way I could end my suffering. I never saw light. All I heard was a voice telling me that I needed to end my pain in any way possible
What or who helped pull you out of the dark, and convinced you to stay?
Many times I’ve been pulled back from the dark. It took a lot of hard work on my part and a lot of soul searching. I didn’t want to look at myself and really make the changes. It was easier to push my feelings down then to really deal with them. I’m lucky to have a great support system. Which includes my therapist a few friends and my family. I’m still working on a better version of me.
What are some steps or life changes that you have implemented into your routine that help keep you in a better headspace?
Therapy has been a lifeline. Without therapy I’m not sure that I would of been able to get past a lot of my pain. I’ve tried many types of therapy. I’m not ashamed that I needed help in fact it’s nothing to ever feel ashamed of. I’m glad I’m still going all of these years later. In fact I’m not sure I’ll ever stop going. Also Kevin Hines made a huge impact on my life. His story truly inspired me and he gave me my voice. Without his inspiration I’m not sure my path would of turned out the same. I read his book daily it sits at my bedside table. It’s like my bible. I also workout and keep a healthy lifestyle. A complete balanced lifestyle is key for me that means getting enough sleep every night. Also learning what my triggers are and knowing how to handle myself when I’m triggered is really important. I think that’s individual to each person but once you learn that it helps tremendously.
Have you ever lost friends or family because you opened up, and shared your struggles with them?
I have lost friends. In the beginning of my diagnosis some people just didn’t completely understand. They were more worried why I couldn’t be there for them at the time and I had to put myself first. Something that shocked people. I never in my life had to put myself first. I took care of everyone. 24/7 if you needed me I was there. Many people took advantage of that and they didn’t like when I finally had to distance myself for myself to get better. That’s okay though it’s better they are gone. Family, well, family is family. Sometimes I get unsolicited advice but they are coming from a place of love. You just have to learn the balance of being able to say look I’m okay thank you for your concern or if your not okay being able to actually say it.
How do you deal with the stigma and judgement surrounding suicide awareness?
Just because you cannot see it does not mean it’s not there. Many people think suicide is selfish. In fact at the time it’s one of the most unselfish things you think you are doing. I thought that leaving my family was me doing them a favor. It was going to help them no longer have to deal with me. I couldn’t see past anything but wanting to not cause them pain. That’s not logical. When you are in that much pain you want it all to stop and you think your family will be much better off without you. That of course is so far from the truth. You will transfer all of your pain to your loved ones. They will suffer pain. Immense guilt. My family and friends still suffer the what if and I’m still here. There is a lot of judgement that comes along with the theory suicide is not selfish. Imagine being in so much pain you didn’t want to breath one last breath. You cannot see you have people who love you. All you see is darkness. Zero hope. Like I said you think everyone’s better off without you. Unless you have felt that it’s a feeling that’s so hard to explain as I wish more people would try and understand it. I wish more people would see it from another perspective. Maybe one day they will. That’s my hope one day there will be no more stigma and that you can share what your feeling with no judgements. Many more people wouldn’t be afraid to come forward and I believe many lives would be saved.
In what ways do you advocate for mental health, and what are some tips you have for someone that is also looking to share their story?
I believe when I share my story I’m helping to advocate. I’m helping to give someone a voice that may of not have found it yet. I never imagined being able to say I’m survivor out loud. I was so afraid but you don’t have to be. It’s ok to not be okay. It’s not okay to not ask for help. There are many people who suffer in silence that do not need to. Find your voice in your own time and when you do use it because I believe each voice can help save another voice who has not found theirs yet. Together we can make a difference and we can change the stigma surrounding mental health and suicide awareness and prevention.
Everyday, but especially today, I ask you to be the light. Everyone’s story is different, and they are all equally important. Sharing your struggles may open a door to a conversation that could potentially save a life.
When you are spreading your light, please don’t forget about seniors. They have the second highest suicide rate according to AAMFT (American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy). A lot of them are lonely, grieving, and in desperate need of companionship. Also, a majority of them do not have access to or know how to navigate the internet. That means we have to reach them the old fashioned way. I’m not saying help them cross the street like they joke about in the movies (although you should if the opportunity presents itself), but just be aware. Lend a hand where you can because a lot of them simply want someone to listen and care.
As always, I am here if you need someone to talk to. Or you can message CaraGina! We know what it’s like to feel alone, and do not want anyone to suffer in the same way.
Let’s shine, and end the stigma together.
All my love,