Suicide.

What comes to mind with that word?  I think that generally speaking most people would say that suicide doesn’t affect very many people.  However, after publishing my very first blog post, a multitude of people started to send me messages.  I found out that so many people are either survivors themselves, have thoughts of suicide, or know of a close friend or family member that was impacted by suicide.

Why then, when I first became a widow, did I feel so isolated and alone?  People skirted by me like I was a leper, like suicide, death, or grief were all contagious.  Why did people stare at me and avoid me?

In 2010, more than 38,000 people committed suicide.  (link here)  That means over 38,000 families, friends, and loved ones were impacted by this.  These families and friends are still mourning.  They are all still asking questions and dealing with all of the grief.  This also means that four years later, even more have taken their lives–including my husband.

And yet, we’re afraid of this “s” word.  We freeze when it’s brought up.  Dear reader, be honest with yourself, would you feel comfortable asking the point-blank question, “Do you have thoughts of suicide?”  or  “Are you planning to kill yourself?”  Does it even feel comfortable being read in your head?

I have anxiety.  I am depressed.  I have obsessive-compulsive disorder.  I suffer from PTSD.  I’m a new mom who is dealing with postpartum depression.  I’m an addict.  I’m bipolar.  I have thoughts of suicide….

Mental health illnesses seem so foreign and abstract.  They seem ugly and something that should be hidden away.  We think of psych wards as these horrible places with people who are talking to the walls.  We see celebrities check into rehab and assume it’s something that doesn’t touch most “normal” people.

There were people who bravely told me what they were dealing with.  “I’ve never told anyone, but I’m……”  “I can never work at …….. because I deal with ……….”  “My brother committed suicide.”  “Every time I’m upset someone asks me if I’ve taken my pills.”  “I’ve thought of harming myself.”  “I’ve thought of killing myself.”  “I’ve attempted suicide.”  “I had really bad postpartum depression, to the point where I thought the baby hated me and the feeling was mutual.  By the time I realized what it was, I was getting better.  No one thought to ask how I was doing.”

These were people who were friends and others that I’ve never met.  These, and more, are real people with loved ones and families.  They smile and laugh and cry and get angry.  They are me.  They are you.  No one is above mental illness.  No one should judge what they’ve never walked through, either.

There is a stigma that comes along with mental health illnesses.  People refuse to be seen by doctors, refuse to ask for help, refuse to tell others.  Why?  For fear of judgement, for fear of being reported to their commands (some military members), fear of being fired, fear of not being loved, fear of…..and so forth.

I think it’s time to rip that ugly stigma off of these labels.  I think it’s time to support each other.  People don’t have to have the answers to the problem, they just need to show love and support.  People need to stop judging each other.

The pendulum is slowly swinging to the other side, but definitely not fast enough.  Catherine-Zeta Jones was a brave woman when she publicly came out to say she had been diagnosed with Bipolar II Disorder in 2011.  (link here.)  Some bloggers and newspapers shed some light into Philip Seymour Hoffman’s addictions and his mental health illness.  (link here)  The good in this is that the general public will hear about this whether while watching TV, browsing gossip magazines, or listening to the radio.  This always brings about discussions on these topics.

I can safely assume that everyone, and I mean everyone, knows someone who suffers from something that affects their mental health, whether it’s anxiety, depression, suicidal tendencies, psychotic disorders, personality disorders, or something else.  Some can be resolved, some have to be dealt with through a lifetime.  No one should think this is someone else’s problem.

                              *****************************************************************************************

He sat on the couch, staring at the floor, seemingly in deep thought.  I paused and sat next to him.  “Are you ok, babe?”

“Hmm?” he asked me.

“Are you alright?” I repeated.

“I think I’m depressed,” my husband answered.   I waited.  “Sometimes I think…I don’t know, never mind.”

“No,” I urged him.  “Finish your thoughts.  You can tell me, you know.  I love you.”

He studied my face a moment and then answered.  “Sometimes I think that maybe I could just kill myself.  I’m not sure how, but I could figure out a way.”  I’m sure I looked startled, so he smiled.  “Well, I think that, but I wouldn’t do it.  I have a wife and kid to worry about.  I just think, maybe without you guys….I probably would.  Maybe I would have already did it.”

I thought of our son, only seven months at the time.  “Maybe you should go see a doctor.”

He shook his head like he had snapped out of trance.  “Oh, no, definitely not.  I’ve seen enough therapists growing up.  They don’t do anything.”  He smiled at me again, “I’m fine.  Don’t worry.”  He stood up and walked out of the room and would never say he felt suicidal again.

I sat, hands clasped in my lap.  What do I do now? I thought.

                         *******************************************************************************************

I sat at the dining room table as I picked at the cover of my phone.  My eyelids felt like sandpaper as I blinked back tears.  I didn’t know how much one person could cry, but I felt if I continued I’d never stop.

“Did he ever mention any plans or feelings of suicide?” asked the police officer.

“Um,” I tested out my voice.  It broke, so I shook my head.

He wrote a note in his notepad.

Later when he had asked his few questions he left me alone and I thought back, trying to force my brain to work.  And then I remembered.  He had.  Almost four years before, he had said something.

I failed him, I thought.

                      **************************************************************************************

I know now, that I may never lose the guilt about the suicide.  He did end up going to the doctor at my request, he did try out medications and other treatments before that horrible day.  However, it did take a lot of prodding and crying and fighting to produce any results.  His fear of being reported to his command, his fear of the stigma looming over his head, among other things, prevented him from going earlier on and seeking help on a regular basis.

His childhood story, one I may visit later or perhaps not at all, can be summed up as less than ideal.  He had many hardships including abuse, both emotional and sexual at the very least.  Even with some of his depression and addiction explained by what he grew up enduring, his experience with some health care professionals and blatant disregard to patient confidentiality (perhaps the rules are different for minors) made him extremely distrustful of doctors and therapists.

He was a wonderful husband, father, brother, and friend.  He was just like me.  He was just like you.  And yet he had fears because of the stigma that these words have.

It’s past time we’ve stopped letting these words be “bad” or “scary” or “foul” or “foreign.”  Suicide.  Bipolar.  Schizophrenia.  Depression.  PTSD.  Postpartum depression.  Postpartum psychosis.  Anorexia.  Anxiety.  Addiction.  OCD.  And on and on.  These words do not describe people.  These words are conditions that people, all people, are affected with, because whether it’s ourselves or our neighbors or friends or family members, these conditions/disorders/illnesses affect are there.

Everyone has a story.  All we have to do is listen to one another….without judgment.

One thought on “The “S” Word and Other Foul Language

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