As far as an actual suicide attempt is concerned, Sweet admitted he “didn’t really have a plan at all” and was trying to find a voice that he felt had been silenced by the hatred he’d been enduring.
“It was a cry for help, essentially,” he explained. “I was just scared, you know? I was terrified. Initially, before all that happened, people had found out what my address was, what high school I went to … a ton of stuff like that, and it got to a point where I was starting to affect my family with the pride car and everything; it really sent me in the wrong way emotionally. So I thought I just needed to remove myself from the situation.
“I didn’t know what I wanted to do. I just wanted to be gone. I just wanted to leave the situation because I didn’t want to be a part of it. Thankfully,” Sweet said before pausing briefly, “I’m still here.”
In the month since he’s returned home, Sweet has returned to his passion, designing race cars.
Whether they’re fictional variants based off real ideas and current schemes, or paid commissions from sim-racers looking for his work, Sweet has kept himself “really busy” as he’s settled back into what he considers “normal life.”
But he had a memorable opportunity that was far out of the norm when Ally Chief Marketing Officer Andrea Brimmer helped set up a Zoom video call for Sweet to speak with Johnson, who was quick to offer words of support and encouragement.
“That was the first thing I ended up seeing, actually, was a reply from Jimmie on the first Tweet I sent after I got home, about getting the help I needed and starting on the road back to where I needed to be. And he responded to my tweet saying, ‘Stay strong,’” Sweet recalled. “I was baffled. I didn’t know what to do. And the next day Ally set up the Zoom call. I just counted down the days … because I’d been a fan of Jimmie’s since I was like, two years old.
“I was shaking through the whole thing, but once we started talking … he was talking to me on a personal level and just gave me advice like, ‘Hey, you’ve got to have a thick skin in this business,’ but really not to worry about people that don’t know who you are. And that has really stuck with me.”
Sweet said that, while there’s still been interest discussed in his Pride Ally scheme hitting the track, he doesn’t know if it will happen or not.
“(Having the car race for real) was never my goal, that wasn’t even in my mind when I made it,” he noted with a chuckle. “I didn’t even make it for the attention. It was made for people to know this sport is for everyone.”
His bigger mission — and message — revolves around his recent personal experiences.
Sweet wants people to realize that what they have to say and who they are matters, and that their struggles don’t define them.
“Ultimately, I just want everyone to have a peace of mind,” he explained. “It’s an education to be more aware of things like anxiety and depression and intolerance, things that people go through that sometimes we just don’t understand if we haven’t gone through it. When you know about something and have a personal experience with it, it’s so much easier to understand, and it’s the same with how people perceive other people. There’s a bit of an insensitivity to this kind of stuff. It gets thrown around a lot. It gets joked about. But in sheer reality, it’s not a joke. It happens all the time.
“My situation taught me that your options are never gone. That’s something I don’t think people really understand, if they haven’t been there to know what that (depression) feels like,” Sweet continued. “There’s a lot of things that I am doing more of. There are a lot of things in my everyday activities that are different now than what I did before everything that happened. But I truly feel that I’m a better person because of it.
“I want people out there to know they’re never alone. There are always allies. There’s always support. And if talking about what I went through can open up that conversation, that’s a positive in my book.”
EDITOR’S NOTE: The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is 800-273-8255. The Lifeline provides around-the-clock, free and confidential support for those in distress, as well as prevention and crisis resources and other valuable materials.