Movember Billy Tyler Suicide Prevention World Suicide Prevention Day
Billy Tyler Image by: Movember
Movember Billy Tyler Suicide Prevention World Suicide Prevention Day
10 September 2021

My Search for Life After Suicide

5 minutes read time

They say you should “write what you know,” and well, unfortunately I know suicide. The "S word" that we believe manifests instant death just by saying it. It’s not something people want to talk about. I honestly don’t want to talk about suicide all the time, but unfortunately, I have to. I made a promise a long time ago, and I’ve never gone back on it. It should be noted that I am not a doctor or psychiatrist or therapist of any kind. I am not trained in crisis counseling, nor am I a clergy person. However, I am a Suicide Attempt Survivor and a Suicide Survivor. Some refer to me as “one of the lucky ones,” when in all reality, most times it just feels like “being in limbo.” I feel like a wandering nomad.

I am no stranger to mental illness or suicide. When I was a kid, my dad’s best friend died by suicide. I ended up overhearing a conversation between my parents and their friends and learned that day what suicide was. Years later in high school, I was being relentlessly bullied on a daily basis with homophobic slurs and death threats. At a high school across town, another boy was being equally bullied for the same reason by the same bullies. At 14 years old, he ended his life. At 24, I received a devastating health diagnosis. My doctor said, “You need to be strong for your friends and family.” It was 3 years later after family fights and health obstacles I could no longer “be strong.” I was 27 when I decided to end my life. The doctors told my dad I would not survive the life flight. When I woke hours later, the nurse told me I was “very, very lucky.”

I once heard advice on dealing with grief that really resonated with me. “When in mourning, be louder than the grief.” I started talking about my experiences publicly, and in time, I started to feel better. I told my story, and people started responding with, “Your honesty saved my life.” I realized, perhaps, I could make a difference. I became louder than my grief.

Years later on New Year’s Eve of 2018, I lost a long-time friend to suicide. Six months later, half-way into 2019, I had another loss. It was a friend/mentor/family/big brother. His name was Den. He took his own life. I was with him just days before. I can still hear him saying, “I’ll see you on Saturday.” For more than a year, my mind went back to that moment at least 100 times a day, which led to anxiety attacks and me pulling the hairs in my right arm out as a coping mechanism. I cried inconsolably to myself every day, almost all day. I kept rewinding the tape, wondering if I missed something. If I could just go back, I could fix it. Even at his funeral, looking at the urn, standing in the pouring rain, my mind was still bargaining. If I survived suicide, he could, too. In a desperate attempt to “fix the situation” I got louder than my grief.

I started with raising money and walking for Movember, which led to me speaking with The Good Men Project. From there, I went to talk with high school seniors about Suicide Prevention, and then was invited to speak at a Town Hall meeting to combat the rising suicide rate in a city right outside of Cleveland. I was receiving emails and messages on social media thanking me for being honest about my experiences and some asking advice almost daily. I had finally found the “cure for my grief.”

Then Covid came.

It was the third week of quarantine when my grief got louder than me. It was in the moment I knew I couldn’t risk handling it on my own, so I reached to the Suicide Prevention Hotline. As an attempt survivor, grieving a suicide can get very confusing. I know all too well the moments leading up to that moment so my heart breaks with empathy for those lost, but I still feel the anger, too. I’m so mad that my friend couldn’t say, “I need help,” but I understand because I was there once, too. I was in that void, feeling the world would be better without me in it. This is a lie, I know. But, grief rarely makes sense in the void.

In the last nine months, I’ve learned a lot about my grief, and with the help of therapy and a support network, I found some balance. Truth is, for me, I don’t believe this grief will ever go away, and I’m ok with that. I also don’t believe I have to be louder than it to be heard or make a difference. If there is one thing I want for us, for men’s mental health, it's that we start speaking our truths, allowing ourselves to feel feelings and somehow find a healthy way to be comfortable with it and ask for help when we need it.

Especially now, during this pandemic.

I have been to the end of that road, and I now stand at the end of someone else’s. There are so many people trying desperately to end suicide and change the face of men’s mental health, and I believe it can be done. I now realize I am one of the lucky ones and that nothing I do will bring my friends back, but I can fight and speak for those out there struggling right now because no one should feel like they don’t matter; I don’t want anyone to have to go through any of these griefs.

All I can leave you with is this singular truth: I don’t know you, but I know the world is so much better with you in it. I hope you see that, too, one day soon.

In Memoriam: Robbie Kirkland. Ryan Melton. Den Geiger.

If you or someone you know is in crisis, or needs emotional support we urge you to head to for crisis support options. To speak with someone immediately, contact your local 24-hour support service.