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Out of the Darkness Walk
I walk a lonely road The only one that I have ever known Don't know where it goes But it's home to me and I walk alone I walk this empty street On the Boulevard of Broken Dreams Where the city sleeps and I'm the only one and I walk alone"Boulevard Of Broken Dreams" – GreendayWe are not walking alone, we are walking in the darkness dark enough that you can’t see the person five feet away from you who is walking down the same dark road. This darkness, is created by stigma, something that was fought by over 2000 warm bodies on Saturday night who were walking for an estimated 5000 in the Out of the Darkness Walks.It’s surprising how alone one can feel on crowded streets. Where no one gives you the time of day. Screaming out for help and no one can hear you. Giving up on life, losing hope, and deciding that it’s not worth the pain anymore. Deciding to commit suicide, is not a decision one makes lightly. Take it from someone who has been there. What you don’t realize is the number of people whose souls are crushed when you leave, the number of people (even if it doesn’t seem like it) who are left crying in the corner wondering why. Blaming themselves.I never realized the impact it had until I walked the street with people who lost someone. Friends, sisters, brothers, moms, dads, grandparents, husbands, wives, girlfriends, and boyfriends. Over 2000 people. All who lost someone, and many of whom had suffered with mental illness themselves.Each walker had beads to represent the people who they lost.I think what hit me the hardest was the youth. Young people, younger than even me, had 4 to 5 names on the back of their shirts. One girl had 14 buttons on her backpack dedicated to people she knew that died by suicide. Even in the mist of all this sadness there was hope.People laughed, cried, collapsed, made new friends and fought through the entire walk. People shared stories of their loved ones lost, made jokes and hugged random strangers. There was no way you could feel alone in that walk. Everyone there knew what you were talking about. They understood, or at least tried their hardest to.It was completely normal to have people come up to you, and ask you who you lost. Want to hear your stories and speak openly and freely. In New York City?! A city known for its rudeness?! This is unheard of.As the miles passed by, people dropped out of the walk. Some people lay in medic tents tired, others took the support vehicles to the end stop. Or even to the end. The numbers slowly started to fall. People pressed on, blisters growing larger on their feet while the image of a loved one glowed in their heart.There were many times that I considered that stopping might be a good idea. Around 2am I was so tired, and my feet hurt so much that walking for another 2 hours seemed unreasonable. But you keep motivating yourself, one more mile, one more rest stop. Eventually, we were on the Brooklyn Bridge and there was no turning back.We started getting excited about ending the walk. Passing the 16 and 17 mile markers. Eventually, we got to the end of the bridge. Expecting another mile to walk, we turned a corner off the bridge to realize…We were done! We did it!18 miles finished at 4:00 in the morning on June 5th, 2011. We were so tired but so excited all the same. Walkers were getting breakfast, treatment for their blisters, and post marathon foil blankets. We walked back up to the stage area past the luminaria. Hundreds of paper bags lit with candles lining the path to the stage area, and the steps to the stage in rows. Each one representing someone who was lost to suicide, or lit for the personal struggles a walker faces themselves.As you looked upon on the walkers who made it, it was hard not to smile. Numbers had definitely dropped, but people had stuck through the entire walk. They made it, at the expense of their feet and a good nights sleep.I will be honest though, finding people became a lot harder. Originally, my fellow walker and I had been wearing pink shirts. Many other walkers also had different coloured shirts dedicated to who they were walking for. With the foil blankets however, everyone just looked the same baked potato.Tired, blistered and cold, I laid down for a nap on the greens facing the stage. Quickly realizing that I should probably get a foil blanket to combat the cold part, I got up and limped over to the medics tent.I met the most lovely nurse, who badged my feet to the point where it looked like I had shoes on, when I did not have shoes on. As I was getting my feet taken care of, I couldn’t help but notice the woman laying on a cot next to where I was seated. She was in a lot of pain, and the medics started freaking out. Turns out, she finished the last mile of the walk, while having a heart attack. When asked why, she said, my son died by suicide, I had to finish for him. The determination of people in this walk, to do something for the ones they have lost. To gain some control in their life and feel as if they can do something good to prevent this from happening to other people, show a lot of strength. Many people walked without support from friends and family, but their determination prevailed.My biggest lesson learned from this walk? If you want to do something, do it. Do it in the name of whoever you want, but mostly, do it for yourself. If this helped them get closer, or feel control or hope again, even if people closer to the one lost didn’t approve, I think they did the right thing. Always fight for what you believe in.I will end this post with a song that got me through that night (and the help of my fellow walkers of course)“You've gotta swim, swim for your life, swim for the music that saves you when you're not so sure you'll survive. You gotta swim and swim when it hurts. The whole world is watching you haven't come this far to fall off the earth. The currents will pull you away from your love, just keep your head above. Swim” - JACK'S MANNEQUIN
Alicia is a mindyourmind volunteer and public speaker. Because the whole cat whisper thing didn't work out. She loves to write, speak and just finished her undergrad at uwaterloo. One of Bell Let's Talk campaign's Faces of Mental Illness, Alicia works to reduce stigma and open up the conversation on mental health. Read more of her blogs on Mental Health Superhero.