When you work in the field of public services, when you are a helping professional, when you volunteer for suicide prevention, when you are me… you feel like you should not need validation. You tell yourself it is not needed. I have told myself over and over that if I am doing enough, if am enough, I should not need validation. Today so much of my faulty thinking hit me straight in the face.
It is no secret I struggle with self worth. I am the poster child for imposter syndrome. I constantly second guess myself and always feel like I should be doing more than I am.
Four and a half years ago I was asked to serve on the board for the Central Texas Chapter of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. I was honored and was so excited for the possibilities. Little did I know this one step would lead to so many experiences and opportunities. Three years ago I became the board chair for the chapter. I must admit the journey the last three years has not been easy. Our chapter has gone through many ups and downs. More than once I considered walking away… I questioned my ability, I was afraid, I felt like I was in over my head. I kept moving forward with remarkable individuals in the other board members and AFSP staff.
Each year AFSP holds a Chapter Leadership Conference. It is a time for all the leaders from the chapters to come together to learn, share, and grow. We hear from the national staff on new programing and advocacy efforts. We hear about the research our fundraising efforts supported. We come together as a community and celebrate the work we all do 365 days a year. A highlight of the time together is the awards ceremony. It is a time to highlight those chapters that have excelled. It is always a fantastic time and we cheer each other on for the accomplishments. Each year we hope we will be acknowledged, but know regardless of an award, any work we are doing is life saving work.
This year the conference was 100% virtual and I must admit I missed the energy and excitement of all being together. Today was the awards ceremony. When Central Texas was named for the Outstanding Social Media Award I squealed. Nicole, our go to social media leader, has transformed our online presence and I was thrilled her work was recognized.
I wasn’t prepared for what was coming… Chapter of the Year Awards. When they announced Central Texas for the midsize market, I started to cry and I must admit I have continued to cry all day. As much as I have tried to tell myself recognition doesn’t matter, it does. If the chapter could win such an award, we (or I) must be doing enough.
When your mom dies by suicide when you are 19, it changes your entire world. I realized quickly, I didn’t want anyone else to have to feel like I do. I didn’t want them to have to carry this pain, I didn’t want them to have to carry the guilt and shame for a decade. These feelings motivate me, yet I always question if I am doing enough… and I must say for the first time, today I feel like I am… and I keep crying… because feeling like you do enough… feeling like you are enough is a freeing feeling.
I miss my mom tonight. I know she is proud of me… not just because we won an award… but because I learned to turn my grief into advocacy, I learned to turn my sadness into empathy… and for once I feel like I am enough.