Thursday, March 24, 2016

The value of one person

On Tuesday, my friend John posted a message on Facebook about it being the 22nd--and that the 22nd of each month is a day that was chosen to think of veterans that have died by suicide. The number 22 is significant because that is the number of veterans who die each day by taking their own lives. The 22nd is considered a "buddy check" day for veterans; and John, being a veteran himself who has been affected from friends' suicides, posts frequently about it.

I bring this up because on this past Tuesday (the 22nd), one of Jerry's good friends chose to end his life.

I never imagined that this would affect me as much as it has over the past two days. I cannot stop thinking about it. I'm just so very sad about the whole situation. And I feel absolutely terrible for Jerry, who is taking it very hard.


Bill (not his real name) didn't show up for work on Tuesday morning, which was very unlike him, and his family started looking for him. On Tuesday afternoon, they learned that he took his own life.

When Jerry first got the news, all he was told was that Bill had died. He was upset enough about that, but then when he learned it was suicide, he was just so shocked and horrified. He said Bill never showed signs of depression or any sort of mental illness. He immediately started to play the "what if" game in his head, wondering if there was something he could have changed or done to prevent this.

After having Bill's death on my mind for two days, I decided I wanted to write about it in the hopes that I can do my part in letting each of you reading this post know that you matter. Really, you do! Anybody that you interact with--whether it's daily or just in passing--is impacted in some way by your life. I had never even met Bill (I just heard stories about him from Jerry), but I have actually cried and mourned over his death. It has changed my husband, which will then affect myself and my kids. Someone I had never met has made a big impact on me in his death.

I have been very open about the fact that I battle depression, and I have since I was about 13 years old. There have been several times over the years that I have been in a very dark place, and it felt like I would NEVER get out of it. That feeling of being completely hopeless is one of the worst feelings I've ever experienced. I basically had to turn myself on autopilot to make it through those times.

And you know what? Each and every time I've felt that way, it eventually got better. Those dark moments don't last forever, even though they feel like they will. I say this because if you're going through something like that, now or in the future, just keep reminding yourself that IT WILL GET BETTER. One day, you won't feel like that any more, and you'll be so glad that you persevered through that very tough time.

There are people that care about you--I certainly do, and you matter to me!

I don't know if Bill had any idea how many people care about him, and it makes me so sad that he didn't reach out to someone (or maybe he did--but everyone has been very shocked by this, because he didn't show any signs of being suicidal).

When Jerry and I were talking about Bill's death, he couldn't comprehend the thought process that a suicidal person has. The best analogy I could come up with is this: It's like being at the top floor of a burning building. There is no way out (that you know of) and you are just sitting there, suffering, waiting for the building to collapse around you. You could choose to jump from the building, dying immediately and ending the suffering; or you could stay and suffer. That's how it may feel to someone who is suicidal--it feels like there is no way out, so the options are to suffer until death, or just die immediately. I believe that is how some people get to the point of choosing to end their lives. They are suffering, and don't see any way out. (Maybe that's a bad analogy, but it's the best I could come up with.) It's not that the person thinks, "I want to die"; I believe the thought is more like, "I don't want to suffer anymore."

I'd never been directly affected by a suicide before; and like I said, I didn't know Bill, but his death has now had a permanent effect on my life. I wish I could tell him that he mattered to so many people, more than he could possibly imagine; I wish I could tell him that no matter how bad he was feeling, it would have gotten better; I wish I could tell him that even if he didn't feel like it, he was valued. And his life was worth something.

Just because Bill didn't show any outward signs of suffering doesn't mean that he was okay. But Jerry didn't know that--he couldn't have! A lot of people are good at hiding it, and it leaves their family members wondering if there was something they missed. I am so sad for Bill's family, friends, and the loved ones of his friends (like me). His life mattered. I just wish he knew how much.

This post was kind of all over the place, but I want to end with the info for the Suicide Prevention Lifeline:

Here is the website and the phone number is 1-800-273-TALK. The website says to call if you are in crisis, whether or not you are thinking of ending your life. It's confidential, and the crisis worker will listen, and then tell you about mental health services in your area. If you're in crisis, and feel like it will never end, it doesn't hurt to call and give it a try! You do matter, and you are valued, even if you don't believe it.

30 comments:

  1. Such a tragedy. I am so sorry Jerry is going through this and that his friend felt he had no options. We lost my uncle to suicide 2 years ago and it has left a huge boid in our family. So many questions that will go unanswered. I don't think we can try to comprehend this b/c we will, never know the pain that person was going through.
    Thank you for providing a platform for readers to discuss mental illness and hopefully one day our society will understand & accept mental illness as a serious disease so people will get help without feeling ostracized.
    You are right that things will always get better, which reminds me of this quote from Winston Churchill, "If you are going through hell, keep going".

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    1. I'm so sorry about your uncle. I think the unanswered questions are the hardest part! And I hadn't heard that quote before--I love it!

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  2. Sorry for your loss, but appreciative of this post.

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    1. Thank you! Not sure if it will help anyone, but I hope so.

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  3. So sad to hear of this loss! I have had several friends and aquaintatances that passed away from suicide and it makes me so, so sad, I always wonder if there's more I could have done and in some instances I am shocked because I didn't know they were struggling. Thank you for sharing this post as it could help someone who's struggling.

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    1. I'm sorry that you've had to deal with it as much as you have! I think everybody wonders if they could have done something more.

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  4. Thank you for giving time to say what you said. Suicide is a horrible thing. I also have struggled with depression. I have delt with some difficult things regarding suicide. When I was in college my finance and I actually witnessed a man whom we did not know jump to his death. We were the first people on the scene. It was horrific and very damaging to my mental future. My father had died just 2 months before that So I was already quit fragile emotionally. Turns out that 20 yrs later that fiance whom I did not marry also committed suicide. I think of him more now than when he was alive. I have a handful of other experiences with people i know who have taken their lives. Just hearing about suicide can be a slippery slope. It seems to open our thoughts to making it more of an option. Almost like a curse that jumps on you. For those of us who know someone (whether you actually knew them or not) are forever impacted and need to vow that you will be candid with someone about your own pain. Someone. And to also be vigilant and the well being of those around you. Sometimes all it takes for someone to open up is a genuine question like. How are you? Really, truly, I care about you. What are you deepest needs? Hurts? Struggles? I am here for you.
    I also want to add faith in God who can competely free us from oppression and thoughts of distruction. I know because he has done it for me. I cling to God daily because he knows my every thought and my deepest hurts. And who could care more for you than the one who made you? Prayer (talking to God) is awesome therapy! I am praying for you all for a peace that is unexplainable. God can offer peace in the middle of this situation.

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    1. I'm SO sorry about what you witnessed as well as what you've gone through with your fiancé. I can't imagine how awful that must have been to have seen; and then for your fiancé to choose the same route is devastating. I'm glad that you have found peace through prayer!

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  5. We lost a very good friend to suicide about 12 years ago. And just last summer an old neighbor killed his wife and 3 kids before killing himself. It was and IS just devastating.

    It's such a silent disease and so misunderstood. I suffer with S.A.D. and because PUSH myself and go through LOTS of self talk some days to just get up and get to work....then, I come home and drop from exhaustion of putting on the "fake face for work".

    I talk about it all the time with my kids and friends in hopes that more people will talk about it too and get help or just know they are not alone.

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    1. I'm so sorry about your friend. And your neighbor? That is truly heartbreaking. I understand the "fake face" very well--I think a lot of us use it when we're going through something tough. Some people are really good at hiding it. I think talking about it is a great idea--a lot of people think they are alone in their struggle, but clearly, they are not! Take care :)

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  6. What a beautiful post and a great way to honor a lost friend. As someone that has suffered from anxiety/depression for most of my life, I thought your analogy was spot on. Thank you for sharing. I am so sorry for your loss.

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    1. Thank you Amy! I'm sorry for your struggle with anxiety and depression. It really is suffocating sometimes. Take care!

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  7. What a beautifully written post. I am so sorry for the loss however and will keep his family as well as yours in my thoughts. When I was very young, one of my uncles committed suicide. I was too young to remember him very well now or the situation but I know the huge impact it made on our family, especially with his kids. My one cousin even moved out of state because he just couldn't be at home anymore. I'm glad to hear you talk about it here, it really is a misunderstood disease and hopefully the more people talk about it, the more tragedies like this can be prevented.

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    1. I'm so sorry about your uncle, Amanda. It's amazing the impact that a single person can have on our lives. I hope your family is doing better!

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  8. I really hope this helps anyone that reads your blog who is suffering. The guy who was my first boyfriend killed himself when I was 16 and he was 18. And it was my first funeral. Suicide might end suffering for that person, but it makes many others suffer.

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    1. I'm so sorry about your boyfriend--I can't imagine dealing with that kind of tragedy, especially at such a young age.

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  9. This is a very tough situation. My brother in law committed suicide and my husband struggles with is grief as a result. It happened three years ago and just recently my husband finally had a meltdown where he simply just yelled at his brother. I don't know if it helped. But his grief has caused him to be depressed. Which he finally admitted. But it's affecting our marriage and I'm urging him to get help. The problem is that you can't force anyone to get help. I do believe that these people want an end to suffering. Unfortunately the people the leave are then left to suffer. All death affects you in various ways, but this has got to be one of the hardest to move on with.

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    1. I'm sorry about your brother-in-law, and I hope that your husband finds a healthy way to deal with his grief.

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  10. Do you have permission to post his full name and picture? You have some very specific details about his tragic death. You've now made it so that his death by suicide is going to be memorialized on the internet forever, and I don't know that that's your call to make. As someone who has been affected by suicide, I would be devastated to find the nitty gritty details of my loved one's obviously very sad last day on earth written by someone who doesn't even know him. I would respectfully suggest that you reconsider the level of detail in your post, out of respect for this man and his family.

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    1. I was concerned about that as well, but his family posted a memorial page (publicly) first, including these details. However, I just removed his picture and changed his name, just in case.

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  11. Katie, I appreciate you bringing awareness to suicide prevention but please reconsider posting this man's full name and picture. You made a choice to put your personal life on the Internet, he did not.

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    1. I was concerned about that as well, but his family posted a memorial page (publicly) first, including these details and lots of photos. However, I just removed his picture and changed his name, just in case.

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  12. I'm so sorry for what you guys are going through. We are going through the same thing. On Saturday a friend of my husbands from his work (they have worked together for 13 years) committed suicide and we are heartbroken. He left behind his wife of 26 years and his 4 kids. I also suffer from depression and severe anxiety however my anxiety comes from thinking somethings going to happen to me and I'll leave my family so it's hard for me to understand suicide. Anyway, I'll be thinking about you guys!

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    1. I'm so sorry to hear about your husband's friend. How tragic for his wife and kids :(

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  13. I am so sorry for your loss Katie. I can't imagine the grief you and Jerry must be going through. Please make certain to take care of yourself during this difficult time. xoxox If there's anything I can do, please let me know.

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  14. I am sorry for what your family is going through. It is a rare family that cannot share a suicide story. I like the idea that your friend has about choosing a date to check on friends. I am sending hugs.

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    1. Thank you Judy! I had no idea just how many people have experienced this--just reading through this comments has made me realize that it's much more common than I thought. So sad.

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  15. I'm soo sorry to hear about your husbands friend. I think it's great that you guys talk about it, and I have always admired how open you are with your struggles. Thank you for this post, I'm sure it'll touch more lives than you think <3

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  16. I'm very glad that you not only posted this, but also shared your own struggles with depression. I'm a case manager at a mental health facility, and I work with those struggling every day. Unfortunately part of the reason people don't reach out is because there is such a stigma attached to mental illness of any kind. Stories like this help end the stigma. Thoughts go out to Jerry as he tries to find acceptance with this.

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I'd love to hear from you! I read all of my comments, and if you have a question, I do my best to respond; sometimes, however, I get busy and forget to go back to reply, so if it's important, just email me! :)