Why We Must Keep Fighting for Our Mental Health Even After Amy Bleuel’s Death (Published on Thought Catalog)

If the name Amy Bleuel does not ring a bell to you, she was the founder of Project Semicolon, a support community that advocates for mental health awareness. Fans of the Netflix series 13 Reasons Why would know Selena Gomez and the cast’s matching semicolon tattoos. Amy was the woman behind the meaning of those tattoos.

“A semicolon is used when an author could’ve chosen to end their sentence, but chose not to. The author is you and the sentence is your life.”

Amy was an anti-suicide activist who pulled thousands of people out of the shadow. While the world laughed at and bullied people who were battling mental illness, she inspired these warriors to see the light and keep fighting.

On March 23, this anti-suicide activist took her own life.

When the headline first appeared on my news feed, I was at a loss for words. Wave after wave of emotions flooded over me as I processed the information. I never thought I would see the words “founder” “Project Semicolon” “dead” and “committed suicide” stitched in one sentence.

Although the news left me miserable for a week, there was a voice inside of me that told me she was selfish. How come she took her own life when she made it her life mission to save lives? Didn’t she think about how her death would resonate to the thousands of people who believed in her, stood by her, and held onto her words as if their lives depended on them?

Amy was selfish, I kept repeating to myself.

The news bothered me for days. Like Amy, I made it my mission to inspire others to never let the monsters in our heads win. When she lost the battle, I, too, lost all hope.

One night, when I was wallowing in depressing thoughts and contemplating Amy’s death, an idea hit me: I need to reach out to the administrators of the Project Semicolon Facebook page.

Capture.JPG

Me: Hello. I want to know. Now that Amy’s gone, how can you inspire others like me to keep going when the founder herself committed suicide? Hope you can give me an honest answer. Her death shook me to the core. After being an inspiration to many, it seems that one can only handle so much pain. To me, her death means suicide is still the answer.

Project Semicolon: Airen, Suicide isn’t an illness, but in most cases it’s the result of a mental illness. Amy was very open about her struggle with suicidal ideation, she never tried to hide that. She walked the halls of her darkness just like anyone else who finds inspiration in Project Semicolon. She struggled daily to find reason to stay here, and she won many battles but ultimately, she lost the fight against her mental illness.

Amy’s ending isn’t a snapshot of your destiny. She was a person vulnerable to bad days just like you. Her position with Project Semicolon didn’t make her immune to the same symptoms you experience in your own struggle. You continue; to fight for your life! Seek help and stay active in your mental health recovery. We support you;

At first, their response didn’t seem convincing enough for me. Even if I read it over and over, I kept coming to nothing but the following conclusions: that the phrase “Amy’s ending isn’t a snapshot of your destiny” was the administrator trying to belittle my battles; that the sentence “You continue; to fight for your life!” translated as “Amy didn’t continue, so why would I?” and the sentences “Seek help and stay active in your mental health recovery. We support you;” were plain bullshit. If Amy didn’t find comfort in the company of these people, why would I?

I kept justifying these points to my best friends, but now I know.

Amy Bleuel’s death is anything but an act of selfishness. We may have had our fair share of challenges, but each battle is unique and her story isn’t a mirror of my own. The administrator who replied to my message was right, after all. Amy’s position in the support community did not make her immune to the battles she faced. Just because she gave up, doesn’t mean I should, too.

It might have taken me days to realize this, but one thing is for sure. If anything, Amy’s death is a reminder that we should continue to fight the stigma and spread awareness about mental health.

If, like me, you lost all hope when Amy lost the battle, remember your journey from being a worrier to a warrior. You’ve gone a long way and it’s about time we work hand in hand to lift people up, ourselves included.

Remember this when you want to give up: Amy’s story might have ended, but the mission goes on. Continue your fight against the beasts inside and make others see the light. Her story might be over, but yours isn’t yet; Ours isn’t yet;

(This was previously published on Thought Catalog)

Advertisements

Dear Universe, Keep ‘Em Coming

Fine. I know I’m 18 days too late and this post is a shout into the void, but I want to thank the Universe for all the wonderful things that transpired last month. Best. Month. So. Far.

I welcomed February with a Facebook post that said “Dear Universe, Keep ’em coming” and the Universe hasn’t failed me since. *kilig* Here’s a roundup of all the graces bestowed upon me by the Great Universe.

Can you believe all of these happened in just one month? Because I still can’t. If there’s one thing I wish I was able to do, it’s to make more time for my project Humans of Rizal Park. All in all, the month was so perfect I’m afraid the Universe will end the streak. And so, Sir, allow me to plead once more: please keep them coming.

PSA: Being Busy Doesn’t Mean That You’re Living A Full Life (Published on Thought Catalog)

When was the last time you sat at the dinner table with your family?

You were at the office, discussing plans with your team and anticipating the upcoming week because your month-long project is about to come to an end at last. It’s Friday and your workmates invited you for a drink. It’s been a hell of a week, after all, and it’s time to give yourself a break.

Meanwhile, in your humble home stood your mom, waiting to catch a glimpse of your shadow at the door. It’s 8:30 PM and the food she prepared were left untouched on the dining table. Your dad was watching the replay of his favorite football game, munching on the red velvet cake that your elder sister brought for his birthday.

By 11 PM, when you were too tipsy to remember anything, you remembered. It was your dad’s birthday and you should’ve gone home early for dinner.

When was the last time you spent time with your best friend?

She was there for you when you were at your most vulnerable. Remember when you found out your boyfriend was sleeping with another girl? Your best friend, your soul sister, your sister from another mother, was there to comfort you. She made you laugh all the time, brought you to music festivals and museums to help you forget the pain.

Now she’s going through a difficult time, but you are always out of reach. She wanted to break the news personally, but you’re always busy. She wouldn’t hit you up for fear of getting rejected. Lately, you’re always canceling out on your lunch outs and dinner dates. She’d invite you to meet up with her, but then you’re always doing freelance gigs, always taking your work at home because you want to get promoted. She didn’t want to bother you anymore. You’ll have time for her after this project, you’d always say. But the projects at work never ends and her time is running out. She’s terminally ill.

When was the last time you treated yourself to a movie?

You used to love adventures. You’d go backpacking with strangers and conquer the highest mountains, hit the most beautiful beaches with your squad, try new things with your significant other. You used to enjoy what life has to offer.

Now all you ever do is aim for promotion. You want to step up your career for a brighter future. You have side gigs to earn additional income and save up for the future. You keep planning for the future when all that really matters is now. You keep forgetting that all you have is the moment.

You always think about the future, but have you ever considered living for the moment?

You keep planning for old age that you fail to remember that your parents are getting older and older each day. You keep making new friends that you fail to remember the value of true friendship. You keep focusing on your career that you fail to make time for things that matter.

Just because you’re busy doesn’t mean you’re living life to the fullest. Keep your priorities in check and remember that we only have one life to live. If you want to make the most out of it, love who you love and give them your all—the rest doesn’t matter.

(This was previously published on Thought Catalog)