The tragic death of 30-year-old former Miss USA Cheslie Kryst this past Sunday is heartbreaking for many reasons, but what makes her death so incredibly painful to me is that her future was so bright. And judging from outward appearances, she had it all.
That was clearly not the case. Her mother said Kryst suffered from depression, which "she hid from everyone." And her father told the New York Post that her suspected death by suicide may have been the result of “family dysfunction.”
We’ll probably never know exactly why Kryst’s took her own life. But something in her life may have been amiss. Kryst’s story resonated with me. When I was around the same age as her, I seemingly had it all. I was an attorney working at a big national law firm. I was just starting to do television appearances. I was writing columns for The Washington Post. I was dating a great-looking guy with a great job. My star was seemingly on the rise.
But on the inside, I was suffering from depression and sinking deeper in an emotional hole. I experienced several devastating life events back-to-back that involved loss, grief, emotional trauma and unhealed family dysfunction. I was so down, I thought death was the only way out. I never attempted to take my own life, but I was falling into a space where wanting to die was ever-present in my mind. I eventually snapped out of it, but not without help.
Kryst was also struggling. And the beauty queen and Emmy-winning TV correspondent’s death is a reminder of the deceptive face of suicide.
I’m grateful I asked for help, and I wish I had done so sooner. My family, regrettably, was not there for me. But I had an amazing row of engaged friends in my life who saved my life. Literally. They cared. They acted. They loved me.
But we must also remind ourselves, especially during a global pandemic that is wreaking havoc on our mental health, to take care of ourselves. Selfcare is not just going to a spa, meditating, or taking a weekend with the girls. That is respite. That is relaxation. True self care is digging deeper and asking yourself, “What do I want? What do I need? How do I feel?” Then, you must act on it.
Finally, it’s important to remember you are not your family. You are not their dysfunction unless you choose to be. You have the power to change your story.
What set me free was going to therapy (I still do), reading self-help books and joining support groups. And I finally admitted to myself that I could not change anyone other than me. It was only then that I felt truly strong enough to love and help others. I wish I had known Kryst, so I could have told her that she had an amazing, full life ahead of her, no matter how dark the present moment may have seemed. It’s a lesson I think we all need to embrace when we are younger, so that we can live to experience the blessing of growing older.
If you or someone you know is at risk of suicide, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255, text TALK to 741741 or visit SpeakingOfSuicide.com/resources for additional resources.
Sophia A. Nelson, Esq., is an award-winning author of three non-fiction books. She is also the author of the forthcoming book “Be the One you Need: 21 Life Lessons I Learned While Taking Care of Everyone But Me.”(April 2022). Nelson is a contributor to NBC News and Know Your Value, and is a frequent guest on MSNBC. She is a contributing editor to The Grio, and a columnist/contributor to USATODAY & The Washington Post.