Category Archives: suicide

Sign of the Times: Suicide Crisis Lines Now Have Text Lines

I guess I shouldn’t be surprised by this, given the popularity of texting, but in trying to help a friend, I discovered that suicide crisis lines now have options for people who would be more comfortable texting than talking.

This is a very good thing. Most of my friends who have some type of mental illness would rather text than talk, even under normal circumstances. So, I imagine that for many in serious crisis, the text lines could be very useful.

There are several suicide text lines out there. Google them and they’ll come right up. If you have a friend or family member who won’t even pick up the phone, this could be a life-saving option.


I wish I could cry more

Occasionally on Facebook, I’ll see a post from someone who says “I’m writing this with tears streaming down my face.”

First, I think “yeah, right.” But in short order, I become a little envious of this person. Why? Because the only times in my adult life when I’ve had tears streaming down my face was when I’ve been suicidal. So many times, I’ve wished that I could cry more easily. Today’s an example: I had a bit of a rough day today. A good friend who promised he would come through for me didn’t do what he said he would. In no particular order, I was mad, hurt and upset.

I didn’t even consider crying in front of him. As hard as it is for me to shed tears, it’s even harder to let the dam burst in public. When I got home, I tried to cry. I really did. But all I could manage was a slight watering of my eyes.

Maybe this comes with being a man in America. When I tried to pick a photo for this very post, I went to my photo sharing site. Even when I typed man crying in the search field, there were very few photos showing men crying. In most, the men were yelling, slouching over at their desks with their faces hidden, or raising their clenched fists in the air.

But I don’t want to use this as an excuse. It may sound strange, but I believe that if I cried more, it would help my depression. It’s a very healthy release. And lets face it, hurt and pain have to get out of your system some way. The last thing I want is to store it all up. I’ve been suicidal before. I don’t want to be that way again.

If anyone has tips for learning to cry more, I’d love to hear about them in the comment section below.

Tomorrow is World Suicide Prevention Day

World Suicide Prevention Day

Tomorrow, September 10, people in nations all over the world will commemorate World Suicide Prevention Day. This has been going on for more than 10 years, but I’m just finding out about it now.

Anything that raises awareness of suicide prevention is a good thing, and I like the international approach. While stigma here in the United States concerning suicide is still prevalent, it is far worse in many other countries.

So, let’s make people more aware of suicidal ideations, and what can be done to try to convince friends and loved ones to get help. For more info, check out the website here.

This one’s for John

Today, one of my best friends told me he has colon cancer. I can’t say I was totally surprised. It’s been a hot summer here, and about two weeks ago, I saw John with his shirt buttons open. His rib cage looked as though it was about to pop out of his chest. John is skinny to begin with, but I knew then that something was wrong. When one gets that thin, there’s a problem.

John said the cancer is at least at stage 3. He has to wait about 10 days for test results to come back before he knows if it’s at stage 4. The second I got home, I looked up colon cancer survival rates. Between stages 3 and 4, they drop off dramatically. He’s nervous about waiting so long for results, and I can’t blame him.

You never want to hear news like this, but I was glad he told me. I was also glad that he cried when he told me. In cases like this, crying is healthy–and needed. John felt so much better afterward. I only wish I could have cried with him. For me, the tears had to wait until I was alone. It always has been difficult for me to cry around people. I wish I could change that.

John wants to fight this. He is already part of a cancer survivors group. I was so glad to hear this. Like me, John has chronic depression. Like me, John has attempted suicide. But now, he wants to fight. That’s proof to me that he really does he really does not want to kill himself.

I’ve often thought that if I were diagnosed with a serious illness, it wouldn’t be a big deal. I have told myself “I want to die anyway, so an illness would be my excuse.” But, spending time with John today, I realize how wrong–and stupid–it is to think that way.

John is doing the best he can to absorb this news, but there is still so much he wants to do. He wants to spend time with his grown sons. He wants to see every classic movie he possibly can. More than anything, he wants to get Bernie Sanders elected President. As he told me today, “I want to help Bernie start a revolution. I’m a child of the ’60s. I love revolutions!”

Alone now, I cry for John. But I’m not going to tell him that. I’m just going to be there for him. The Last Picture Show is playing on the big screen here in Boston next week. We both love that movie.

We’re going to go see it. That’s all there is to it.

Should I be there for people who HAVEN’T been there for me?

I got an email from a relative, telling me that my aunt, who has cancer, is in very bad shape and is now in a hospice.

I should call my uncle. I really should. Except, I can’t let go of the fact that I haven’t spoken to him in more than a year. In fact, the last time he called me, I happened to be in a hospital–a mental hospital. He wasn’t calling out of concern. He didn’t even know I was in the hospital. He called my cell, and I happened to be a in program that allows patients to keep their cell phones. That’s how he found out I had been suicidal. I don’t remember what I told him. But I do remember his promise to keep in touch with me and check in on me.

I haven’t heard from him–or my aunt–since then. And I’m angry about that. This isn’t the first time they’ve failed me as far as being there for me is concerned. It was the same thing after my first suicide attempt 20 years ago. They knew about my attempt, but never bothered to visit me in the hospital. My uncle did go to one therapy session after I was released, but he couldn’t handle it and never went to another one after that.

And now, I hear that my aunt is dying. And I struggle about what to do. If I don’t call my uncle, it will be out of spite. I probably won’t feel right about that. If I do call him, I will know I’m doing “the right thing.” But I’ll still resent the fact that he isn’t there for me when it comes to my depression and anxiety–and honestly, the rest of my family isn’t much better. A few weeks ago, when I was really confused and hurting, I called my cousin. His response: “I’m in New York on business ’til the end of next week. But when I get back, let’s have lunch and catch up.” That was a few weeks ago. I’m still waiting for that lunch invite. I’m not surprised–and I’m not holding my breath.

And yet, when THEY are in crisis, I’m expected to be there. I thought love was supposed to go TWO ways.

On Memorial Day, remembering veterans lost to suicide.

Every day, an average of 22 veterans commit suicide. That’s where the organization Mission 22 gets its name. Along with providing help and resources for veterans and their families, Mission 22 collected some stark, stunning photos of homes where veterans killed themselves. They were taken by a photojournalist who covered several wars with this camera, then realized after he got back that, for too many veterans, the wars continue long after they come home. This Memorial Day, let’s not forget about the veterans who endured tough field battles, but could not endure the battles within themselves.

Check out Mission 22’s website, and the photo series, here.

Olive Kitteridge was right: suicide is never clean

Last week, I attended a memorial service for a friend who died suddenly.

I didn’t know Debbie all that well, but I knew her as a facilitator for one of my mental illness support groups. She had recently broken her ankle, and apparently, the cast was put on in a way that was too tight. It affected her circulation and she developed blood clots. Apparently, blood clots aren’t necessarily painful, and she had no idea that she had them. When the clots got into her lungs, she couldn’t breathe. She collapsed and died a few hours later.

To say the least, everyone who knew her was shocked when they heard the news. Life is full of mysteries, but you never expect someone to die as the result of a broken ankle. Yet, as I spoke to several people who knew Debbie better than I did, I heard an almost unanimous hushed whisper: Debbie’s life might have been taken from her, but at least she didn’t take her own life.

People have told me over and over again that when someone commits suicide, the grief faced by their friends and loved ones is the worst kind of grief imaginable. After attending Debbie’s memorial service, I think that’s probably true. No doubt, a death as sudden as hers is difficult to process. I really only knew her from support groups, and it’s hard for me to fathom that I’ll never see her again. But suicide would have been worse.

olive-kitteridgeRecently, I watched the HBO series Olive Kitteridge. Olive, the protagonist, is a woman whose father committed suicide. Though she admits to having depression, her father’s suicide affects her in more ways than she realizes. There’s a scene where she talks a young man out of committing suicide. He’s outside in the woods and he thinks no one can see him. Olive tells him that kids live in a house nearby, and they often look out the window. “What if they see you,” Olive asks the young man. “You can plan and plan, and you think suicide can be clean. It’s never clean.”

It’s never clean. Those three words hit me like a ton of bricks. I loved the mini-series Olive Kitteridge so much that I’m now reading the novel that it was based on. Debbie’s memorial service reminded me that Olive is right: suicide is many things, but it is never clean. As someone who has certainly been down in those dark depths myself, I know full well that most people who kill themselves probably aren’t thinking of the pain they cause others, and they certainly shouldn’t be blamed for it.

But at least for me, it’s important to remember what Olive Kitteridge said. And it’s important for me to remember that, as hard as Debbie’s death is to deal with, I am comforted knowing that she did not take her own life.

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