Amy Bleuel, founder of Project Semicolon, dead by suicide at age 31.
I’m afraid it could have been me, and part of me doesn’t understand why it wasn’t. Please pardon me if I fuck this up.
I saw this news yesterday, but it didn’t really hit me until I saw it again this morning and leaked tired tears.
I feel awkward writing this. I didn’t know her personally, I didn’t have any strong emotional connection to Project Semicolon, and I never identified with the semicolon as a personal totem. I am very careful to not co-opt others’ lives and experiences — and especially in their deaths.
It doesn’t matter that I don’t feel I have a right to my grief. I’m afraid it could have been me, and part of me doesn’t understand why it wasn’t.
Please pardon me if I fuck this up.
Here are some thoughts I’d like to share:
1) Fuck. Fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck.
2) It is absolutely stunning what people can accomplish even while they carry such a heavy weight. I know that, of course, but I hardly ever apply that same empathy toward myself.
3) Amy Bleuel changed U.S. and global culture in a very real way and at a very young age, and it still didn’t fix her suicidality.
4) The work we do might not make us happy. It can certainly contribute, but that peace, that end to chronic restlessness and despair, may just have to come from somewhere else.
5) You have no idea how much the people around you need you. You never do. And that’s okay.
6) One of my jobs is to remind you of that.
7) I founded and direct an intersectional peer-support network and advocacy organization for trauma survivors called Other Lives. I originally founded it in a state of despair after flaming out at another job in my field because my C-PTSD symptoms were poorly managed and misunderstood.
8) Other Lives will not make me happy. It could change the world and still not help my survival. It’s possible that, if I’m not careful, it could actually be an obstacle to my survival.
9) I know that and I’m on it. Don’t worry about me. I’ve got people at my back.
10) I was messaging with a friend last night and they said that people like us are Sin Eaters:
“The families of the dying would place a loaf of bread on the chests of the dying. The bread was supposed to absorb the sins of the dying. A sin eater would be called upon to come down that bread. He was usually already a beggar, but he performed a vital ritual function. I think we are the modern equivalent. We swallow the sins of others. The pain of humanity.”
11) I agreed, but with one caveat:
We’re not supposed to absorb all of that to hold it. We are supposed to absorb it to release it. Our purpose is not to be poisoned or stuffed full. Our purpose is to be conduits.
12) I said that I sometimes think of us as holy whores, temple whores. I said that, by being conduits, we remind people about how to love. They said that we civilize. I said that they are the same thing.
13) If we don’t transition from container to conduit, we will likely die from being overstuffed and poisoned.
14) My friend also said:
“I grew up privileged. White, privately educated. But my tribe are the homeless. Addicts. Prostitutes. I found that out at the shelter [where I lived for a time.] I’d go to war for them.”
15) Words like that can be dangerously paternalistic in the mouth of the wrong person. They weren’t here.
16) Having a brain that chronically wants you dead changes you. Those changes are not all bad.
17) Some of us have no choice but to live with ghosts who speak to us at inconvenient times, but they leave burnt offerings too and the more we accept our calling the more they bring. There aren’t many of us and our culture doesn’t hold space for our work.
18) Perhaps you think this is a bold claim, but the institutional pathologizing of our calling, work, and basic identity is responsible for our deaths.
19) I don’t know if any of this applied to Amy Bleuel. I don’t want to dehumanize her in her death. All I can honestly say is “thank you for your work; your life was not in vain.” Goodbye, Amy. Thank you so much. Thank you so, so much.
20) Thank you so much.
I founded and direct Other Lives, an intersectional peer-led trauma survivors’ network and advocacy organization.
We have our own Medium publication at writing.otherlives.org.