Hi, I’m Jimm,
I’m guessing you landed on this page because you want to know a little about me and how UMTR2ME came to be, right?
UMTR2ME, which simply stands for the phrase, “You Matter to Me,” is a non-profit organization that offers hope, support and encouragement to individuals who struggle with depression, mental health challenges, thoughts of suicide, and those who have attempted suicide, in addition to supporting their family and friends.
One of the really neat things about being involved with UMTR2ME is that we’ve been recognized in all 50 States and over 75+ different countries and languages. But the reason I tell you that is not so you’ll think UMTR2ME is popular or trending, but rather to validate mental illness and suicide are issues that don’t discriminate based on an individual’s age, gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation or even country of origin.
As a matter of fact, if someone would’ve told me, that one day I’d be part of an organization helping individuals struggling with depression, mental health challenges or suicide, find hope, joy, and purpose in their lives, I wouldn’t have believed it, especially given the place my life was in at the time. But what I thought was my greatest failure in life, my unsuccessful attempt at suicide, has become my greatest success, enabling me to ultimately find hope in the midst of my own hopelessness.
It’s possible that you might know of someone whose taken their life by suicide, or maybe you’ve had those same thoughts yourself. You might even be at that very place right now as you read this. I don’t know. But what I do know, is that I found myself at that same place. A place so cold, so dark and hopeless that I felt the only way I could end my pain, was to end my life.
When I was a senior in high school, I thought I was at the lowest point in my life. I was popular, involved with sports, theatre, I had plenty of girlfriends and was even involved in my local church. Now, you’re probably thinking to yourself, “That doesn’t really sound like a low point?” Well, it was a low point because the person that everyone saw on the outside, from day to day was not person I really was on the inside. And that’s when I made the decision one day to take my life. I wasn’t looking for attention and I wasn’t looking for help. I was simply looking for a way out. I was looking for a way out of the pain I had lived with for far too long. The pain of believing my life was nothing but a disappointment and a burden to everyone around me. The pain of feeling like I had let so many people down like family, friends, teachers, God and especially myself.
You see, there’s no way I could’ve known growing up that I was depressed and struggled with mental health challenges because I didn’t know anything about mental illness, and neither did my parents. As a matter of fact, my parents believed for themselves, and often told me, the reason I was sad and unhappy was because that’s what I was choosing to feel. They told me that if I wanted to be happy, all I had to do was make that choice and that put a lot of pressure on me because what child doesn’t believe what their parents tell them. I mean if they said it, it must be true, right? But if it was true, then why couldn’t I make the changes, because I really wanted to.
So, I believed my inability to make myself feel happy was my own fault, because my friends, my brother and sister, they always seemed to be so happy. Now I don’t want to mislead you, because I did have some good days. Unfortunately, the bad always seemed to outweigh the good. I was confused and began to wonder, is this what the rest of my life was going to be like? I mean who would choose to live a life of such heartache, such brokenness and such disappointment. All I ever wanted growing up, was just to be happy and more than on Christmas day or at birthday parties. I wanted to feel like I was valuable part of my family and friends because most days I felt like I didn’t even fit in. As close as I wanted to be them, I just couldn’t seem to physically make it happen. So, most days I’d isolate myself by choosing to stay in my bedroom, even though I knew I’d feel alone and unhappy. You see, I struggled with the ability to express on the outside, how I thought and felt on the inside. So, I believed if I kept everyone at a safe distance from me, then I couldn’t hurt or disappoint anyone.
I remember when I was just 10 years old thinking my family and friends would be better off without me. I was too young to know anything about suicide, so I decided to run away from home. But the reason I was running away wasn’t because I didn’t love my family. I was running away because I did love them, and it was tearing me up that at such a young age, I felt like I had been nothing but a disappointment and a burden to them. Even though my parents never told me that; that’s what I told myself. I told myself I was hurting everyone around me with the way I acted and since I couldn’t change who I was; I thought they’d be better off without me. I mean who wants to be around someone who’s sad and depressed all the time. I didn’t even want to be around myself, but there was nothing I could do about that.
Now while I don’t remember everything about the first time I ran away. Some things do stick out more than others. Like at one point as I was walking down the highway a stranger pulled his car to the side of the road. He opened the door and said, “Hop in.” Without giving any thought what so ever to my safety I climbed in his car. He leaned over me, shut the door and we drove away. After a few minutes the stranger asked me where I was headed and I told him I was going to see my girlfriend. He looked at me and said, “Are you sure you’re not running away?” I’m guessing a young barefoot boy, walking alone, along a hot Texas highway, painted a pretty clear picture of a troubled youth and not some love-struck Romeo going to see his Juliet. I paused for a moment and quietly mumbled, “Yes sir.” At that point, the stranger didn’t ask my name, he didn’t ask me where I lived and he didn’t take me to a public place like a grocery market, gas station or even the obvious police station. Instead he drove a little further down the highway, before pulling to the side of the road, and stopping the car. Once again, he then leaned over me, opened the door and simply let me out. You can’t imagine how many times I’ve wondered what could’ve have possibly happened to me that day? I was eventually found and returned home. Unfortunately, my 11-mile field trip ended up causing problems for my parents who were interviewed and investigated by social services because they wanted to know why I had run away from home. Obviously, my parents weren’t too happy with me, especially my dad, who was a Staff Sergeant in the US Army at the time.
In addition to my depression and mood swings I also had difficulties in school that started in the 4th grade and went well into high school where as a senior I was still taking fundamental math courses. As a matter of fact, when I was in the 8th grade I took a standardized achievement test which showed for the most part that my basic skill set was along the 8th and 9th grade levels. But when it came to math, well, that was a different story. Even though I was in the 8th grade, I tested at 4th grade level math, which wasn’t much of surprise to my parents or myself because for years my report cards had been littered with failing grades.
Just like the depression my parents would tell me the reason I was failing was because I was choosing not to apply myself. But they were so far from the truth. I did want to do well in school, but no one noticed I was struggling. And my teachers, well they weren’t much help. Despite my failing grades, they continued to place me in the next grade year, after year, after year.
I remember my dad would tell me that if I ever failed a year of school my friends would laugh and make fun of me as they went on to the next grade. I often tought it was just his way of trying to motivate me to do well in school. That all changed my last semester of high school. I needed to get a 71 in my creative writing class in order to receive all the credits I needed to graduate. But instead of a 71, I ended up with a 70. I was one credit short and I wasn’t going to graduate high school with my friends. That’s when the reality sank in really quick; I had finally failed and it was time to prove my dad right. I mean what else could anyone say but the obvious; I was a failure and I had just proved it. I couldn’t tolerate the pain any longer, I was physically and mentally exhausted. I was sick and tired of letting everyone in my life down, so at 18, a high school senior, I made the decision to take my own life. For the record, I did consider the thoughts and feelings of my family and friends. I knew they might miss me, for a year, maybe two if I was lucky. But after that, I’d be a distant memory, a dusty photo on a bookshelf. And best of all, no more disappointments, no more failures in life.
I’ll never forget the day I decided to take my life. My mom was in the kitchen washing dishes when she thought she heard a faint banging sound. Since I was the only one home that day, she came looking for me to see if I knew what was making the sound. As she walked down the hallway she could hear the banging getting louder and louder. That’s when she realized it was coming from my bedroom. She tried to open the door; but it was locked. She called out my name; but there was no answer. At this point she decided to go outside and look into my window to see what I was doing and why I wouldn’t answer her.
When she looked through the glass of my bedroom window, what she saw was one of the most horrific sights a parent could ever see. She saw me, her first-born son lifelessly hanging from a closet door. My face, shades of blue and purple like she’d never seen before. At one point I vaguely saw her crying and banging on the glass, trying to get to me. I remember thinking to myself how much I wanted to stop. How much I wanted to stop the pain I was causing her. The pain of her seeing me like this. But there was nothing I could do to stop, even if I wanted to. I was “committed” to my suicide. I never saw my mom leave my window because I went unconscious but was later told she was running through the neighborhood screaming at the top of her lungs, banging on the doors of neighbors, pleading for anyone to save her son. She eventually found a neighbor who was able to break into my bedroom and after taking me down from the closet, began giving me rescue breathing until paramedics arrived to take over.
The first time I had enough consciousness to open my eyes after my suicide attempt, I found myself lying in a hospital bed. As I lay there I had two thoughts ran through my head. The first thought that rushed in and burned the most was the thought, I’m such a failure I can’t even kill myself, and now, I just added an unsuccessful attempt at suicide to my growing list of failures in life. I realize people are become uncomfortable when I refer to my suicide attempt as being unsuccessful, and I can appreciate why they might feel that way. But I need you to understand, that’s exactly how I felt at that moment. You see, I believed at that moment in time, that was my greatest failure in life. But the truth is, I was fortunate and very lucky to have survived because most often those who choose to end their pain by suicide, they don’t get a second chance at life. And for me, it wasn’t so much that I wanted to end my life. I just wanted to end my pain.
The second thought I had as I lay in the hospital bed, watching my parents cry was the thought, if they had lost me to suicide, their pain would’ve lasted a lot longer than just the one or two years I had thought. Losing someone to suicide is a pain that never goes away because there’s never a sense of closure. After high school, I continued to struggle for the next 10 years of my life, blindly fighting my depression and moods swings, which
were now manifesting as anger and silence. They were starting to define who I was as a young adult as I struggled to keep jobs, friendships, and relationships.
When I was 28 I was hospitalized and clinically diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder 2, ADHD, OCD and a few other mental gems. Believe it or not I was kind of happy to have a mental illness because it meant there were things going on inside of me that I couldn’t control myself. It wasn’t a choice as I was making like my parents had thought. While I was in the hospital I came to the realization that my illness was not going to change or just go away by simply taking a pill or attending therapy. I needed to take ownership of who I was and be my own mental health advocate. Instead of wanting help, I had to be my help. With the support of my family and friend’s I was able to be the advocate I couldn’t be for myself when I was younger. I decided my mental illness wasn’t going to define who I was as a person, but would rather be just another part of who I was as a person.
Since August of 2007 I haven’t filled a single prescription or attended even one counseling session. It hasn’t been easy and at times it can still be difficult because it means I have to manage my mental wellness 24 hours a day, 365 days a year and that in itself can be pretty exhausting at times. Today I manage my mental wellness through clean and healthy eating, maintaining a positive and active lifestyle, and the support of my wife and faith. I’m a stronger person because I fought through my toughest and fiercest battles. And I’m a stronger believer because my faith was tested and proven. But there’s still one thing that I’m not; I’m not alone and neither are you. Everyone has his or her share of struggles in life and no one is exempt. Anything can lead a person to believing suicide is the only solution. What I don’t want, is for anyone to try to handle things alone and end up resorting to negative coping mechanisms like drugs, alcohol or self-harm. And I certainly don’t want anyone getting to the point where they find themselves backed into a corner with the disillusioned idea that suicide is the only option.
I have never been embarrassed or ashamed to talk about my suicide attempt or the struggles of understanding and coping with my mental health challenges. I know all too well the feelings of hopelessness a person struggling with these challenges faces and I want others to know that it is possible to find hope in midst of one’s own hopelessness. Using my experiences with suicide and mental illness I launched UMTR2ME-You Matter To Me, in August of 2012 to offer hope, support, and encouragement to those who struggle with some of the same things I struggled with. I invite you to l explore our website to learn more about UMTR2ME and the unique programs and services with offer. You can also follow us on several social media platforms but searching for UMTR2ME.
Thank you for taking time out of your busy schedule to learn a little bit about my personal story and my passion for helping others though UMTR2ME.