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Sometime in the early morning of March the first, he took a chair and a piece of rope to the garage.  His wife found him several hours later, hung.

It could have been yesterday, for all the pain recalling the details bring me, but it was 6 years ago.  He was my cousin, and when we were teens, one of my best friends.

He had been depressed, but I didn't know.  Being more than 1,500 miles away from other family members you sometimes don't get news.  And for our family, maybe like yours too, depression or any other mental illness is treated by shame and hushed tones.

And he is dead, for all the silence, he is dead.

It wasn't like there wasn't someone who knew, someone who'd been through the depths of clinical depression before.  Someone who thought she had chosen the more lethal of the two medicines, but did not.  Someone who, if they'd had known, if they'd have asked, would have been there in a heart beat.

Maybe I wouldn't have saved him, maybe he would have been to far gone in his depression.  We'll never know, because they never knew.  My family doesn't talk about such things.

In stark contrast another one of our cousin's had a brain tumor, and we all knew.  We all talked about it, we all looked for cures, either through the internet or hearing something from a friend of a friend, we all knew.  We all fought, each in our own way.

She didn't survive.  But we all knew her brain illness, we all knew it involved the brain. We all were told.  She died a few years before he did.

But we didn't talk about this, this brain illness.  To get a tumor is solid, concrete, okay.  To have, as I believe, your body stop producing the chemicals needed to keep your brain healthy, is shameful, secret -- shhhh!

We don't treat diabetes that way.

My parents knew about what had happened to me, but some how in updating her brothers as to the  status of her children and grandchildren that was missed.  And he too didn't tell her.

Living so far away I had forgotten about this aspect of my family, I should have said something.  Lesson learned.

So there I was on Monday night, 6 years ago, making dinner, getting ready for my programs to start on BBC, a particularly gruesome line up.  

The phone rings
I answer
at first the words are hollow like they haven't even been said
then they reach my soul
I cry out in pain
my knees give way
my husband rushes to hold me
to help me up
to try to take some of the ribbons of pain flowing through my body
into himself for me

When my cousin and I were teens, when we leaned on each other trying to make sense of the world we felt alien to,  I had a dream, more premonition really:

I would be in my kitchen, the phone would ring, the news would rip through my soul and send me to the floor.  And my husband would be the first one to me, first one to try and take the pain away.  I knew that March evening that moment had come.

I can tell you about the swirling darkness, the grayness in front of my eyes when I'd look off into space and lose minutes and hours.  Or the hours the physical pain raked my body, in that first clinical depression.

I can tell you about how I lied to get those two bottles of medications that were supposed to help me.  But my only purpose was to use the one I thought was the most lethal to do what I had failed to do earlier in the day (drive our mini van off a bridge), and end my pain.

I can tell you what spending a night in a mental hospital was like, when I was not safe.

I can tell you how much I had learned from that first clinical depression (because once you've had the first you are more susceptible to it there after) that allowed my second bout of clinical depression to fly under the radar for two years.  How I would cry only in my car.  How I methodically went through my death plans (and there isn't just one - I still remember them).  

About how the tipping point came when I couldn't hold off on the tears until there was no one there.  How my husband found me that morning crying on the side of the bed unable to stop. How he was shocked to hear me say "the biggest mistake I have ever made was not dying in the first three days of my life!" (which I almost did).  Or of how he stayed with me until he could get me in to see a doctor and get me back on Zolof, the only medication that works for me.

I am much better now and through the years have learned many strategies to keep me from dipping so low, and how to recognize the signs. To get to the doctor quickly before "Depression Talk" begins.

I could tell you about all of this, in great detail.  I can tell you what I never got to tell him.  

You may not be able to turn someone around in time, but you won't, if you don't try.

Listen
Talk, no lectures, no judgments, no conversions, no pithy bromides
Stand in the way
Stand WITH them
Observe
Learn the signs
Take it all seriously
Talk
Listen
Listen

If you are thinking about suicide, these words are my own:

Before you walk out that door, talk to someone!

If you are contemplating suicide please talk to someone. There are very few mistakes in life that can't be fixed. There a very few problems that can't be solved. Though with both it may take time. When you end your life, everything that could be learned, every benefit of you, your experience, what you've learned, who you are and your wisdom, is lost too. And all that is replaced with is pain, which ripples through the life of everyone you ever touched. Your death, no matter how useless, worthless, bad or a burden you think you are (and you are not) only creates more pain and problems for those around you, then it solves. No matter what you think and how much pain you are in, the world is a better place with you here.

Instead of reaching for whatever your "death plan" calls for you to do to end your life, reach for the phone. Call your Pastor, your Priest, your Iman, your Rabbi, your Vedic, your Guru, your Shaman, your spiritual leader, your wife, your husband, your partner, your son, your daughter, your mother, your father, your brother, your sister, your aunt, your uncle, your cousin, your best friend, the friend you haven't seen in ages, your sponsor, your counselor, your neighbor, the guy on the radio, the suicide helpline, the police, your doctor, just talk to someone and tell them what you are close to doing,

You may think that no one could possibly understand your pain. But you're wrong, though how you got there may be unique, the pain you feel, many have been there before, and they have gotten through it. .

But whatever you do, whomever you call, don't complete your suicide, don't go through with your "death plan." Hold on for another day, even though it seems that there is no hope. There is always hope. Though you may not see it through all the darkness in front of you, there are two doors. The better one just takes a while to see, but it is there, it is always there.

1-800-784-2433
US National Suicide Hotline (1-800-SUICIDE)
& Hopeline 1-800-784-2433 - or -
1-800-273-8255
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (1-800-273-TALK)

Websites:
Samaritans | Befrienders | Hopeline
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline

*******

I have never condemned Greg, or gotten angry with him for what he did. I have only been able to understand, and to help his widow and to some extent his kids.

I can't and will never call his actions selfish because I've been there.  In that mental state there is no ability to consider your actions as such.

Once a suicide occurs in a family or among friends it's like writing a permission slip for others.  Four months after Greg's suicide we almost lost his son to suicide.

We, as a family, did a few things to get over our grief and make his death mean something

The first thing we did was put his name on the Suicide Memorial Wall.  He is on section #3, since then (March 2004), 5 sections of the wall have been added.  

We joined support groups whether on-line or in person, and we held on to each other, even though we were miles away.

And we put up a website, offering a strategy we thought might help.  

The six stars are for every year he's gone, I just updated the page today.

*******

My heart and thoughts go to Walter Koenig and his family, Marie Osmond and her family, and all those who are suffering from this loss today.

In the year 2000, approximately one million people died from suicide:
a "global" mortality rate of 16 per 100,000,
or one death every 40 seconds, according to the World Health organization.
-suicide memorial wall

*******

The Kristin Brooks Hope Center is having a "Reason to Live" concert starring Blue October

There is also the Pick Up The Phone Tour

And PostSecret events (scroll down)

*******

edited to add Marie Osmond's name (thank you GlowNZ  for reminding me)
and to thank you for being on the rec list.  I had to step away from my computer for a little bit, and returned to find this there.  I will also need to be away from the computer for a long while in about 20 minutes.  I will respond to as many comments as I can get to, but I will be back later in the evening and take it up then (too).

Originally posted to Clytemnestra on Mon Mar 01, 2010 at 11:04 AM PST.

Also republished by Depression and Suicide.

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