So Wild, So Open, So Vast.

By Jacob NaldiApril 29, 2013

“Tell anyone you like. My story doesn’t help anyone if I keep it to myself.”

My grandmother’s story takes place in Idaho, right outside of Boise and roughly an hour and a half away from Weiser, where my mom and uncle were raised on the Oregon border. Because this was my mother’s homeland, I seemed to always be traveling back and forth from California to visit family—and I was glad to. There are few people in the world who are as proud of me as my grandma is.

In 1976, my grandmother tried to kill herself. After about 30 years of unchecked depression, low thyroid, and estrogen problems, she decided that to make things easier for everyone else, she should end her life. Luckily, my grandfather found her and rushed her to the hospital. She miraculously survived, although her recollection of the event is fuzzy.

The point of sharing this story isn’t just about my grandma. As far as her story goes, she’s not in the minority. A study in 2010 ranked Idaho with the sixth highest suicide rate in the country, almost 50 percent higher than the national average.

Idaho still very much has a hint of the Old West in it. That’s what I love about it—it’s so wild, so open, so vast. Everyone’s a cowboy, it seems. As a state, Idaho often gets passed over and forgotten, but I like to think of it as one of America’s best-kept secrets.

However, with this background comes the negative side of an Old West mindset. You get back up “on your horse,” and you keep going on. You don’t ask for help, you don’t talk about things. You endure. If it isn’t physical, then it isn’t real.

The problem, though, is that mental health struggles are all too real. Many of Idaho’s geographical neighbors are also neighbors on the list of state suicide rates, and that “keep going on” mindset continues to affect the rural areas of our nation and hinder our discussion of mental health.

I have been to those wild parts. I have waded their rivers, driven their roads, and looked into the faces of the people living there. Those wild parts are a part of me. They are more than a sheet full of statistics or a line on a list. When I see those numbers, I see a lot of hurt and confusion. I see too many stories ending too soon, too many purposes going unfulfilled. But I also see the promise of solidarity.

Those numbers tell me you don’t need to feel alone. They tell me you don’t need to keep quiet anymore because you feel like something is “wrong” with you. As it is with my grandmother, there are people in your life who have their own story and understand what you are going through. It’s time to realize it’s OK to not be OK, asking for help doesn’t make you weak, and hope exists.

I hope for the day when we can drop the stigma and talk openly and honestly about things that affect us. But that won’t happen until some people are brave enough to start these conversations. Recovery isn’t easy, but it’s real, and we won’t begin to fix ourselves if we can’t admit we’re broken. I believe, no matter where you live, you have days full of laughter, joy, and hope ahead of you. I believe things can get better.

Why do I believe all of this? Because 37 years after her suicide attempt, my grandmother can end a long, hand-written letter to me, after sharing everything she’s been through, with the phrase, “Life is good!”

At the end of the day, that’s what I choose to believe, too.

—Jacob, Spring 2013 TWLOHA intern

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Comments (10)

  1. Shelby

    It’s so true. After my friends suicide last year I want his story to be heard. He not once let on the pain he was dealing with and in the end took his life. I want people to know its not ok to hide the pain. It’s so easy to do having been depressed/suicidal myself. That its not going to subside on its on but when you get help. Find the strength to say ok I’m not ok and I don’t know what else to do. You will never know how many people will miss you even at the time it feels like no one. “Hold on, it gets better than you know.” That lyric helped so much. Find the light at the end of the tunnel. It might be hard to see but I promise it’s there.

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  2. Libba Phillips

    Thank you for sharing this story! My grandmother also had terrible depression and anxiety – and suffered low thyroid through out her life. If you don’t mind sharing – would you let me know how the estrogen problem was diagnosed? If there was a specific medical test or ? I suspect many women could have this problem and not know it.

    Will share this post on our facebook page. Thanks for your wonderful work!

    And Come ‘like’ us on facebook!

    Libba Phillips
    Founder, Outpost for Hope
    We shine the light on the population of missing persons who are lost/missing among our homeless with mental health and/or co-occurring substance abuse.

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  3. Poca

    I like Jacob, and his truth about Idaho. But we are seeing improvement. It’s the baby steps that count.

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  4. Melissa

    Thank you for sharing this. I’m very happy your grandma survived, and sounds like she’s living a happy life now. It’s sad that so many people, mostly young ones, feel like there’s no hope in life, and feels like the world would be better w/o them. But that’s the farthest thing from true. I just lost a good friend to suicide 1 year ago on April 22nd, and life has not been easy. But since her death, my purpose is to help others from getting to the state of attempting suicide, & TWLOHA has very much helped me gain my purpose. If ANYone reads this and needs a friend, please please add me on Facebook– & just let me know you saw my comment here. EVERY one deserves to live & be happy <3333

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  5. Rhonda

    Thank you for sharing such an amazing story. I was touched to tears. Life is good!

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  6. Lauren

    Thank you for sharing this. I can really relate because my grandmother also tried to kill herself, but thankfully failed. It always was a mystery to me when at psychologists appointments they always ask for a history of mental illness, and in this situation I heard about my grandmas suicide attempt. Today I get the same happiness when I here my grandma say “life is so worth it.”

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  7. Gail

    I always said I’ll wait until tomorrow if I needed to give up you don’t want to burden anyone…there were times I didn’t know what to do and I felt like I just couldn’t go on anymore then I’d see my kids and look into their eyes and think…they don’t deserve to suffer without me they need me. I held on with them and hugged them sometimes crying on their shoulders letting them know it wasn’t them that made me sad it was them that gave me strength…it was them that I so loved…it was them that made me…me…it was them that I held on to. Just until I made it through…then we laughed together and I learned I was worth it.

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  8. alexis

    My story is ever since i was 8 i started being depressed and at age 10 i beacame suicial and cutting and it got worse from there i have been hospitalized 18 times and one residential

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  9. Anonymous

    Your grandma seems like quite an amazing woman. It may be 37 years later, but the fact she can add “Life is good!” at the end of the letter shows hope.

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  10. Annette Brown

    Jacob, beautifully written, inspiring. I could hear your positive message in my heart. We do need to ask for help when we need it. We do need to believe joy awaits us and we deserve it. Love this. ❤

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