If you are familiar with the LGBT community, then you might have heard about the alarming statistics that accompany a person who falls in the T (Transgender) category. If you are unfamiliar with the T, the most basic definition is a person whose gender identity does not match their physical body. In my child’s case, Kris was born assigned female but does not identify as such.
Depending on the source, you’ll read that 40% (give or take a percent or two) of all transgender people will attempt to take their own life. It’s sobering. Especially when you consider that the national average is somewhere around 4%. It’s something that, as the parent of transgender person, remains in the back of my mind at all times. It lurks there in the darkest corner- the fear of losing my child. Each time I read one of those heartbreaking stories of a loss that no parent should ever experience, I can’t imagine being in that position.
24 hours ago-
I glanced at my Facebook notifications, scanning the list, my eyes stopping at a message that my middle child, Kris, had updated his status. I clicked on the notification, idly wondering what was on his mind. With Kris, one never knew what to expect. As the page loaded, my mind did a quick recall of our last text conversation (our most common form of communication while he’s away at school), thinking that I don’t remember him responding. Before I could reach for my phone for confirmation, my eyes skimmed the status (that had finally loaded).
Two words jumped out at me- “dead” and “revived”.
That got my attention.
It was at this point that I became aware of how many tasks your mind can perform in the space of a few minutes because I went into auto pilot. For the next 5 minutes, I felt like an observer as several things happened in a short period of time.
While I was reading the response of a friend-
“Are you okay? Call me!”
I was reaching for my phone to find out when I had last heard from Kris. I was comparing the time of the last text to the time of his post. I was reading his entire post, trying to determine the meaning and validity of my rising panic.
I then asked my husband when he had last heard from Kris and his answer of “a few hours ago” was not accurate enough for me.
While I was talking to him, I had texted Kris and his brothers. To Kris I was asking what was up. Michael and Andrew received messages telling them to text Kris anything that would get a response and let me know when they heard back.
By this time, I was aware of a numbness that spread throughout me. Every few seconds a determined thought would try to break through my consciousness only to be shoved into the background by the part of my mind that was clearly taking the lead on this.
Although my mind was hard at work, it became apparent that nothing else was functioning. I was frozen. My heart wasn’t feeling a thing- only the warm cocoon of being wrapped up and swaddled safe from harm. The only physical action I seemed capable of was checking my phone and giving short terse comments to my husband. And I heard one word echoing through my mind- “Breathe. Breathe. Breathe.”
So that’s what I did. Or at least I tried to. I forced myself to breathe in and out and that simple act, one that we mostly take for granted, was really difficult and painful.
While I was reading the Facebook status to my husband, he shot out a text to Kris. Then he shared the last text conversation he had with Kris, which had taken place a few minutes before that scary status.
Kris had apparently been having an emotionally draining day and due to a few unforeseen mishaps, was feeling exhausted both physically and mentally.
As I listened to the text exchange, I was able to get a feeling for Kris’s state of mind.
And before he reached the end, where Kris proclaimed that he was dead tired and couldn’t wait to get back to his room so he could drop, I heard from him. And his brothers reported immediate responses.
I could feel the binding surrounding my heart begin to loosen, my breath came easier and my mind quieted and slowed down.
Those persistent thoughts pushed their way through the protective barriers, my heart stinging with each panicked but unrealized thought. There was no crisis. Just a huge- “what if?”
As I thought over the those last 5 minutes, I questioned my judgment. Had I overreacted? Was I unable to separate a real threat from an innocuous post? My mind swirled with thoughts of the utter panic I had fought to deny.
And then Kris sent a text
“OMG Campus security just came knocking on my door and making me open the door. My friend called them because she could not reach me.”
In that second I knew that in the midst of those thoughts that were shoved down and silenced were ones wondering if it was time for me to be making that call, looking for Kris’s address to have on hand…. And I told Kris that I was seconds away from doing the same.
I’ve had time to think about that 5 minutes. I learned a few things. I did not overreact. I know that there were even more pesky, terrifying thoughts that couldn’t even reach the surface to try to poke through. And I know that my mind was seconds away from “releasing the hounds” and letting them through so I would/could take action.
But, I also got confirmation that I’m not alone. Whether it’s that faithful friend on Facebook who reacted quickly or my other sons, who did not question me- just picked up their phones and texted, I’m not alone and Kris is not alone. I hope that this experience serves as a reminder to Kris that he does have people who care about him.
Was/Is Kris suicidal? I really hope not. But after him telling me for years that he would never take his own life, I heard him tell his psychiatrist that he was STILL having thoughts of suicide and I’m aware that not all people who attempt it, talk about it.
This episode served as a reminder to me to keep my phone close at hand and keep in touch. Regardless of the actual statistics, they are too damn high and I’m not willing to risk my child’s life.
If you need help, it is available:
Trans Life Line or call US (877)565-8860 /Canada (877)330-6366
It Gets Better Project This page will give you many resources, including The Trevor Project and the GLBT National Help Center.