It seems like suicide has surrounded me for most of my life. I’d argue that it’s been the predominant influence. When I was nine, I remember distinctly sitting in our old Dodge pickup with my hand on the shifter, ready to put it in neutral and roll down the huge hill we lived on. A few years later, an older woman who had been a mentor and friend to me, killed herself when her marriage fell apart. Then my friend Sam, whom I adored, killed himself at 15 years old. At 19 I reached my breaking point, and took myself to the hospital for a one week stay, knowing that if I didn’t get immediate help, I wouldn’t last much longer. This happened again when I was in my early 30s. But, by far, the biggest event that has influenced me to take a more active roll in suicide prevention occurred in early December of 2014. I woke up to find my then-13-year-old child missing from his bed. I knew immediately something was wrong. I ran outside, screaming his name. The sounds of choking drew my attention, and I turned to find my beautiful child, whom I love with everything within me, had hung themself. I ran to him and got him out of the noose and we collapsed to the ground in tears. That moment changed everything for all of us.
Recently I once more spiraled into severe depression after my partner of 10 years and I split up, and my afore-mentioned child broke off contact with me. This last spring (of 2018) I was on the verge of homelessness and I again found myself contemplating ending the pain. But with the help of my best friend Saraa, I pulled back from the brink. Then, this fall, my youngest children and their mother left southern Utah, and moved back to Oregon. I knew I had to make a change, so I decided I would withdraw from school for a year to work and focus on my mental health. Climbing mountains has been my biggest passion in life for 20 years, and I decided I would climb 52 mountains in 52 weeks, one mountain each week. An ambitious plan, but I have climbed around 40 mountains in a year before, so I knew it could be done. But then I thought back to all the people I have lost to suicide, or almost lost, and I knew I had to make this more than just a personal project. And so this campaign was born. Saraa thought of the name Climb to the Light first, but then I thought of the same title a couple hours later, and knew it was meant to be.
It’s simple. 52 mountain in 52 weeks. I am fortunate to live in the desert of southwest Utah, where we average over 300 days of sunshine per year. This climate, coupled with the proximity to Zion National Park makes the project much more feasible than if I lived in a wetter or colder area.
The over-arching goal is to raise money for four groups: To Write Love On Her Arms, Hope for the Day, the National Foundation for Suicide Prevention and locally, the National Alliance on Mental Illness, Southwest Affiliate. Through our GoFundMe Campaign, we have so far raised a little over $258 (as of December 19, 2018), but most of that so far has been used for startup costs. The initial goal is to raise $2000. We have a long way to go.