Published by Don Gilman on

Life has been exceptionally good lately. Since the year began, I have felt happiness returning to my life in ways I haven’t experienced in probably fifteen years. Hope has returned. The colors, the texture of a life fully lived are starting to seep back in. However, financially I am still standing on the razor’s edge. Without the saint-like patience of my roommate Brian, I’d be living in my car. My rent is way past due, but slowly I’ve been getting caught up. But because I’ve been working on film and theater projects, as opposed to a regular 9-5 job, I’ve had to wait to get paid for work I finished quite a while ago.

I was told I would get paid for my latest film job this week, but then today, I found out that it would at least be another week. Well, my car insurance was going to get canceled today, along with my phone bill. Thankfully, a friend offered to float me a loan until I get the check.

The point I’m trying to get to is this. Before the loan was offered, I was panicking, despite all the positive momentum in my life, and as soon as that happened, my brain went straight to thinking about suicide. Not in a let’s do this sort of thing but more like it’s an option. I was startled to realize how reflexive that feeling is. I think that as long as I live, no matter how well I’m feeling, when things inevitably take a negative turn, my brain will always want to go there. It’s clearly a subconscious reflex that just gets automatically triggered. But today I realized how strong it was, and I think that will be something I can use down the road. Part of a toolkit for combating my mental illness. This is why awareness is so important.

We are, those of us with long-term mental illness, constantly fighting a battle with ourselves, but it should not be a battle of anger or aggression. Our weapons are kindness and compassion and most of all, awareness. We must be peaceful warriors.

Don Gilman

Don Gilman has been climbing mountains for 20 years, beginning with an ascent of Mt. Thielsen in Oregon in 1998. He has been dealing with severe depression and suicidal ideation since he was nine years old. He also deals with PTSD and anxiety on a daily basis, and uses climbing as a form of therapy. In 2014, he woke up to find his then-13-year-old son had hung himself. Fortunately, his son survived, but that event has become the motivating factor that has made suicide prevention the most important cause in his life.

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