First, I want to thank all of you who support me emotionally in my writing and art. I appreciate it more than you could ever know. I enjoy bringing a smile, a laugh or even tears to you. This is another long post and a little you may know already…but this is where I’m at.
I have been going through a lot of emotional upheaval in the last few months – losing my brother to suicide, trying to figure out exactly what I want to spend the rest of my life doing, and both of our kids leaving the nest temporarily (tomorrow.) Our son is gone during the week living and working with friends, but he likes to come home some weekends to spend time with us. He will be going out on an 8-day trip with his crew from the California Conservation Corps. Also, our daughter is going to visit a friend for a while, possibly the rest of the summer!
So…because of all of the things I just mentioned, I decided to do two things:
1) Go back to counseling for a while
2) Go to suicide survivors meetings
Last week I did both which I will continue a few more times. I do not feel at this point that I am going to need to go to either for a really long time. I have been in a good place mentally for quite some time now since recovering from some significant losses three years ago. What is really great is that my counselor can see me in the hour before my meeting starts on those two Mondays every month. Also, I met some great women at this meeting that I want to get to know.
Here’s what I learned at my first suicide survivors meeting:
- I am not alone – suicide has touched almost every family. Survivors feel angry, sad, abandoned, and wish we could have said or done something to prevent it.
- We feel guilty to some degree that we couldn’t stop it or didn’t see the signs.
Some people find their loved ones who died. I can only imagine how emotionally traumatic that would be to a person. Just hearing how my brother killed himself and hearing how people did CPR on him for at least 20 minutes, puts images in my mind that I will never forget. Finding out that his best friend had brought my brother a wheelchair the day he died and didn’t see the signs of suicidal thoughts in him, helped me understand why my brother may have made this choice.
When he called me a few weeks before he chose to die, the last thing he told me was that his legs didn’t work anymore. He said he could barely stand up or walk. I always knew that my brother was a prideful man. He never wanted to show weakness. He was always sensitive, loved animals (whom he knew could love him back,) and I think he just felt out of place his whole life. He was not a follower nor was he a leader. He was determined to go his own way which he always did. He didn’t confide in me or anyone else in our family about anything.
I can relate to some of this. I have felt this way for most of my life. Some may think I am projecting part of who I am onto my brother. However, I would disagree. He and I were a lot alike in many ways that I just never really thought about until now. I will always miss him even though he never did let me get close to him. For some reason I’ll never know, things were just always intense between us.
The difference between us, though, is that I hit bottom at 27 years old, reached out for help, and eventually began taking medications for depression and anxiety. My brother self-medicated from his teen years on, what I believe, was some type of mental illness. Thinking back over a lot of his behavior – his anger, impulsiveness, pride – makes me wonder if he had extreme anxiety which is why he drank. Alcohol is a depressant, though, and he was not one to sit around feeling depressed, which is why I think he became addicted to speed. All of this stuff can really mess up a person’s brain which just complicates mental health issues even more. It is a vicious cycle!
The saddest part of all of this for me is that about three years ago he called me to apologize for how he had treated me most of our lives and tell me he didn’t deserve forgiveness; he said he wanted to quit the drugs but couldn’t. He felt stuck, scared, and defeated. I think he just had not hit bottom yet – until he saw that wheelchair. Unfortunately, hitting bottom for him didn’t mean reaching out for help. I believe he may have thoughts like: “I am not going to become an invalid.” “I will not become helpless.” “I will not become dependent on anyone to help me with everyday things I can no longer do for myself.” I knew my brother well enough to know that this is very close to what had to be going through his mind that last day.
Yet I believe human beings are made to need other human beings. As much as some of us may not want to admit we need people – we do. Isolation is not a solution to relieve anxiety. Desiring to get away from people is natural – for a time. But to stay alone for weeks, months, or years is to disconnect. Disconnection from healthy relationships leaves a person in their own head where they can deceive themselves so easily into believing lies such as:
- I’m ugly.
- I’m not worthy of love.
- No one will ever love the real me.
- How can anyone love me when I am such an emotional mess?
These were some of my very thoughts, along with many other negative tapes playing in my head, from a young age. Some of it came from emotional neglect and abuse that my brothers and I went through from our alcoholic dad. I know now that our parents were probably both mentally ill, (my dad was depressed and my mom most likely had anxiety to some extent) but they did the best they were capable of in parenting us. I think on some level my brother knew this, too. I just wish he could have asked for help. He lived in a trailer park and had some friends, but only one of them knew how depressed he was, yet he didn’t even recognize the suicidal signs that were there. So…
If you or someone you know is struggling with suicidal thoughts, do what could be the hardest things you may ever do – pick up the phone and call your local suicide hotline or the Suicide Prevention Services of America at 1-800-273-8225.
Lastly, please do not allow yourself or anyone you know to stay isolated. Try your best to reach out.
Have a wonderful day, and give someone you love a big hug. 🙂