Viola: A Survivors Story

My earliest memory of grappling with the concept of suicide occurred when I was 9 years old; the night before my first day back to school after summer break when my mother was in her room stabbing herself in the chest with a ballpoint pen screaming at my father to let her die. Many people in my life have attempted suicide. Some have succeeded.

It can feel like the trauma and grief of those around me haunt my steps like a hungry ghosts. I live between two bridges from which a client from my office and my daughter’s friend jumped to end their lives last year. Since we moved to the apartment 6 years ago, 6 people committed suicide from the bridges with many attempts in between. On more than one occasion, I’ve walked passed my kitchen window and caught the blue and red emergency lights splashing the curtains above the sink from one of the bridges.

Viola and her daughter Autumn — during their Faces of Fortitude session

I’ve never been so frightened as when my daughter attempted suicide. It was like fighting for her life but having no idea what I was doing, there is no manual, no how-to guide, and I felt like one decision could either save or kill her. Such a powerless feeling. I had all this love and care and worry that I wanted to wrap her in to protect her like spiritual bubble wrap, but I knew in the end she had to grow through her pain to understand her strength and power. I had to trust that despite being a danger to herself, she knew what she needed. How do you negotiate that? I knew I needed to get her help beyond my own knowledge and solicited doctors and therapists.

I reached out to Mariangela to help my daughter see her life through fresh eyes, to see her story and her body as art. While talking to Mariangela for my own shoot, I felt like I was talking in circles, not knowing what to say. When she asked, “What do you do for you?” I had a tough time answering. Truth is, my life is a fight. Being around people drains me, and it’s hard to get up and interact with people most mornings. The ringing in my ears never stops. Most nights I hardly sleep. The only true peace I find is in the early hours in the morning when I’m alone at home or on a trail somewhere with my camera lost in the world I find through its lens. These are the moments that remind me I’m human. This is how I create sacred space. I believe we are meant to work helping one another by putting some light into the world. We have the ability to create sacred spaces to allow us to find strength so we can continue the work. I suppose I do this with my home, my hikes and my photos.

Viola is the Program Director for Serenity House, an org that manages the communities homeless crisis with their support system. In her down time and for self care she takes amazing photos, while creating a safe space for herself to process. You can see more of her work at her Instagram page.

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