I’m rushing to get to the store before it closes, but the traffic is at a standstill. I think there must be an accident ahead. As the cars slowly creep forward, I see flashing lights and eventually the police cars come into view. Something’s happening at the gas station, but I still can’t see what it is. Perhaps it’s a traffic check or maybe a drive-off, but then I see the yellow tape.
Because I watch CSI, I know the yellow tape isn’t a good thing. As I begin to drive past, I see a woman in a small dark green truck. Even from a distance, I can see her pale face, short dark hair and white t-shirt. Her head is resting on the back of the driver’s seat. At first I believe she’s been in an accident, but I don’t see any damage to her truck.
Then I notice there’s a man crawling into the truck from the passenger side; this seems odd. Why is he moving so slowly? Why isn’t he checking on her? I realize that she hasn’t moved. Is she unconscious or asleep? Somehow I know this isn’t the case. It’s been too long and the police are not rushing to give her aid.
Then it hits me with a stomach-dropping certainty. She’s dead.
All this happens in the five or so minutes it takes my car to move pass the scene. Like an image burned into my eyes after looking into the sun, I see this scene again and again. She looked like she was just resting her head…resting in her truck forever.
I later found out through the news that she had committed suicide. That made me very sad; she was so young. I preferred my imaginary ending to the real one.
Learning from a Memory
I’m sharing this story with you because there was a time in my life when I contemplated suicide.
It happened while I was in college and was dealing with my dad’s death. I was suffering from a condition that was loosely described as delayed grief depression, which consisted of me crying most of the time. I was also very depressed. It was a scary time for me, my family and my friends.
I remember sitting on the steps of my dorm thinking, “What would be so bad about dying?” I wanted so desperately to not feel the pain of my grief. Suicide seemed like a valid option. That’s the sneaky thing about suicide; you come to believe it’s an appropriate choice, even when it’s not.
Fortunately for me, I got professional help and was able to recover from my depression. I will never forget about sitting on those steps and contemplating whether I would choose to live or die.
Humans are the only living creatures that can actually choose to commit suicide. Animals may cause their own death and others may follow them, such as whales beaching themselves. Yet, no one has proven that animals make a conscious decision to live or die. People do.
Moments in Life
I look back on the time when I thought about suicide and realize how much I would have missed. I was so young and yet, I fully believed that my life was never going to change.
Depression makes you feel stuck. Consider the lyrics to U2’s song, Stuck in a Moment: “You’ve got stuck in a moment and now you can’t get out of it.”
I was lucky because I had supportive friends and an excellent therapist who helped me through my time of being “stuck in a moment.”
It took me many years to understand that the time I was depressed and had thoughts about suicide didn’t make me a weak person. The opposite is true. I reached my moment of choice and chose life. It’s made me aware that I am a survivor and that I am strong.
Now, as a woman who might be described as “over the hill,” I look forward to climbing my next hill:~) I have learned that life is full of many moments, some sad, some happy, and some absolutely amazing. One of the responsibilities of living is to experience ALL the moments we are given to live.
I still sometimes dream about the woman in the truck and driving past that scene, but in my dreams she wakes up and smiles.
National Suicide Prevention Week
I wrote this post because this week, September 5-11, is National Suicide Prevention Week. It is a time when we need to stop and think about ways to prevent suicide in our communities, towns, states and countries.
Fortunately, there are many resources available to help. Here are a few suggestions I’ve found. Because suicide knows NO nationality, I purposely included international resources:
I want to highlight a blog post, The CPR for Preventing Suicide by Lisa Firestone. I loved this post because she included common sense information about preventing suicide. She also approaches suicide with a humanist touch, rather than seeing it as only a psychiatric disorder.
Befrienders Worldwide – This organization works worldwide to provide emotional support and reduce suicide attempts. On their site you are able to conduct a search by country to find suicide hot lines and other forms of assistance.
The International Association for Suicide Prevention (IASP) is another excellent source of helpful information.
If you know of someone who seems depressed or even suicidal, encourage that person to get professional help, support them and let them know that they are not stuck and will get through this life moment.