Welcome back. We trust you had a beautiful November, and are ready for December! These holiday months are stressful. Even if you are having a great time, it’s still stress. Some are better at coping with stress than others, and in December we will be presenting a very serious topic: Suicide. This writer decided to move “A Cup of Coffee” into the last week of November’s slot, to prepare us for our December journey.
So grab a cup of coffee and let’s chat…
This month’s blog will be a very intense and powerful topic. We did this on purpose because statistically the holidays are very hard on folks, and much too often this is when they decide to give up hope. We wanted to give folks back their hope, or at least their perspective, so that they can fight to live another day. I’m writing “A Cup of Coffee” ahead of our first week’s blog, by our new Guest DO, Pamela S.N. Goldman, DO, MHSA, FACOI, to prepare all of us for this journey, and to express how important this topic really is. There’s not a one of us that hasn’t been touched by suicide. And yes, it’s ok to say it. Suicide. Get used to saying that word, and even better, get really good at asking the question, “Are you thinking about completing a suicide?”.
You either know someone who has attempted or completed a suicide, or you yourself have had dark thoughts or maybe even attempts. We need to be comfortable talking about it. No, you will not “trigger” someone to complete a suicide by asking them the hard question…in fact, you could save their life by asking them if that’s their intent. Once you get an affirmative answer, the ER is your best friend.
As most DO’s will tell you, our minds and our bodies are connected. There’s no separation. Our mental health can be as simple as a “head cold”, or as serious as life threatening “pneumonia”. The issue with depression is that it can spiral quickly. One moment it’s “just” a head cold, the next moment we find ourselves in a battle for our lives.
My first experience with losing a friend to suicide came when I was pregnant with my second child. His girlfriend had broken up with him, and he took his own life. Every year on memorial day, I would sit at his grave, tears dripping down on his head stone. Why? One more day and life could have looked so much different to you…why? This was so situational…life…it dips and peaks….then dips and peaks again…don’t get off the ride, because that dip will soon be a peak again. If only he would have waited just one more day. If only he’d have waited for that next peak.
My next friend to die suffered from mental illness; she was Bipolar. We were best friends. I would often take her to the ER when she would go off her medication. They would ask her if she was serious about killing herself, and she would say no, so legally they would have to send her home. One day, she came to my house with her Last Will and Testament, something she did often. I accepted it, as I always did, told her I would drive her to the ER, which I then did, my children in tow. They cried all the way home and it broke me. Suddenly, I was angry. As usual, she returned not two hours later, laughing, because they “let me go…bunch of idiots…I’m really going to do it this time!”. I was so angry, and I’m not proud of what I said, but I was young, a single mother, a mother who was stressed that her children were now being affected by my best friends mental health, and I looked her straight in the eye and said, “If you’re going to do it, then just do it…stop torturing the rest of us!”.
She went home, wrote everyone she knew a note and lined them up on her couch, then took all her medications at once, and died. The next day, I went to her apartment to apologize, but was stopped by a police officer who knew us. He gave me the news, then told me she left me a note if I wanted it. I unsealed my note. It simply said, “you weren’t there for me”. That poor officer stumbled over himself saying things like, “Linda, you know that’s not true…you have to know that wasn’t her talking, it was her illness…” He felt horrible for me, and I felt like the worst friend on the planet.
I would like to tell you she was the last friend I know of that has completed a suicide, but she wasn’t. There were three more. Each one, a different kind of pain, but the same regret in my heart. “What could I have done?” “Why didn’t they reach out?”.
I’ve also had those friends, however, who knew they were going to complete a suicide, reached out, and accepted help. They are now living healthy, happy lives, and their time of despair is nothing but a bad memory that they stay aware of, so as to get help early on should the same symptoms come back to visit them.
The blogs you are going to read this month feel very personal to me. I know both of the community bloggers. Both have my utmost respect for speaking out on this topic, and I hope they understand how many people they may have helped by being vulnerable.
Life is rarely easy. Even when it appears to be easy to others on the outside, on the inside our lives can be dark and scary. Our negative internal thoughts outweighing the external praise and love that we receive from those that care about us. Sometimes, depression demands that we live life one heart beat at a time. And that’s ok. Just keep living. Whatever you do…just keep living.
If you or someone you know is talking about hurting themselves, seek help immediately. Don’t wait. Depression kills. It’s an emergency. Go to your nearest ER right now. Help is available. Please remember that if you complete a suicide, you won’t be getting rid of your pain…you will only be giving it to your loved ones.
I dedicate the December blog to my friend, Michael Yazzolino, and his amazing family. Please watch…please listen…this was played eight years ago at his memorial service. Our little home town was rocked to its core. Michael: Jock. Navy. Father. Son. Brother. Friend. If we save just one person. Just one. Ask the question: “Are you planning on completing a suicide?”
Get help. Decide to live. You are loved.
It was difficult when I experienced a dear cousin of mine commit suicide. I didn’t really know what to think or how to feel about it. The experience taught me a lot about depression especially. I contemplated how I would face it in the future when treating patients I will end up caring about.
I recently watched a Ted Talk on youtube that was helpful in understanding suicide through the lens of health called “The #1 Public Health Issue Doctors Aren’t Talking About”
Thanks for sharing Dr. Goldman.