Understanding suicide

By Reade Brower | Jun 14, 2018

Suicide is an issue we push aside, not because we want to, but because we don’t know what to say. The piece below was put on social media with the offer that it could be shared; the author to remain anonymous.

Recently two famous and accomplished people took their lives, leaving young children and loved ones in the wake. Why, we want to know. “Help me understand” is the plea.

I cede my column this week to Anonymous.

***

"When you have depression, it’s like it snows every day.

"Some days only a couple of inches. It’s a pain in the ass, but you make it to work, the grocery store. Maybe you skip the gym or a friend’s birthday party, but it is still snowing and who knows how bad it might get tonight. Probably better to head home. Your friend notices, but probably thinks you’re flaky, or kind of an asshole.

"Some days it snows a foot. You spend an hour shoveling and are late to work. Your back and hands hurt. You leave early because it’s really coming down. Your boss notices.

"Some days it snows four feet. You shovel all morning, but your street never gets plowed. You’re not making it to work, or anywhere else, for that matter. You’re sore and tired and go back to bed. When you wake, your shoveling has filled back in with snow. Looks like your phone rang; people wondering where you are. You don’t feel like calling back, too tired from shoveling. Plus, they don’t get this much snow at their house, so they don’t understand why you’re stuck at home. They think you’re lazy or weak, although they rarely say it.

"Some weeks it’s a full-blown blizzard; you open your door to a wall of snow. The power flickers, then goes out. It’s too cold in the living room, so back into bed, clothed. The stove and microwave won’t work; you eat a cold Pop Tart for “dinner.” You haven’t taken a shower in three days; how could you at this point? You’re too cold to do anything except sleep.

"Sometimes people get snowed in for the winter. The cold seeps in. No communication in or out. The food runs out. What can you do, tunnel out of a 40-foot snowbank with your hands? How far away is help? Can you get there in a blizzard? If so, can they help at this point? Maybe it’s death to stay, but it's death to go out, too.

"The thing is, when it snows all the time, you wear down. You get tired of being cold and hurting all the time from shoveling, but if you don’t shovel on light days, it builds up to something unmanageable on heavy days. You resent the hell out of snow; it doesn’t care, it's blind chemistry, an act of nature. It carries on regardless, unconcerned and unaware if it buries you or the world.

"The snow builds in places you can’t shovel, places you can’t see. Maybe on the roof. Maybe on the mountain behind you. Sometimes, an avalanche blows the house right off its foundation, taking you with it. A veritable act-of-God; nothing can be done. The neighbors say “It’s a shame” and can’t understand; “he was doing so well with his shoveling.”

***

"I don’t know what happened for Anthony Bourdain or Kate Spade. It seems they got hit by the avalanche, but it could’ve been the long, slow winter. Maybe they were keeping up with their shoveling. Maybe not. Sometimes, shoveling isn’t enough. It’s hard to tell from the outside, it’s important to understand from the inside.

"Understanding and compassion is the base of effective action. It’s important to understand how it feels, what it’s like to live with, so you can help people on an individual and a policy basis.

"I’m not putting heavy shit out to make your Friday suck. It feels gross to read, and unpleasant to be around, that’s why people pull away.

"I don’t have a message for people with depression like “keep shoveling.” It’s asinine. Of course you’re going to keep shoveling, the best you can, until you physically can’t, because who wants to freeze to death inside their own house? We know the stakes.

"My message is to everyone else.

"Grab a f***ing shovel, help your neighbor. Slap a mini-snowplow on your truck and plow your neighborhood. Petition the city to buy more salt trucks.

"Depression is blind chemistry and physics, like snow. Like weather, it’s a mindless process, powerful and unpredictable, with potential for harm. But, like climate change, that doesn’t mean we’re helpless.

"To stop losing people to this disease, it will require action at every level."

“Stop fixing your bodies and start fixing the world.”

--- Eve Ensler, playwright and activist (b. 1953)

Comments (1)
Posted by: Richard McKusic, Sr. | Jun 14, 2018 05:59

Thanks for the reminder because there are people contemplating this all around us in these times of angst. A safe place with a listening, non judgmental ear. A smile. A kind word unobtrusively.



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