Alone after the home run

I thought we would have learned how to live with each other now, this alien band of brothers that have come to visit. I knew it would be an extended stay but now I fear my guests are bent on overstaying my forced welcome. I’ve tried to get to know them all, they who have come knocking at my door. Grief, Depression, Guilt and Loneliness. They’ve hung around for so long I swear their faces had begun to morph into one another. I can hardly tell them apart and it hardly mattered, given that they’ve all wrought the same devastation on my once peaceful spirit. I’ve engaged with them, maniacally so, trying to understand how they’ve managed to convince my husband that he had nothing to live for. As the days passed I’ve come to understand the conversation they had with Beau and where it brought him. But the longer they stay with me I am beginning to dread where I would be, if, when and how I manage to push them to leave.

I’ve let myself go because I could not let him go. I drink too much coffee, smoke too much, exercise too little. I eat nothing but indulgent poison — the most luxurious of desserts, laden with gargantuan amounts of sugar, chocolate and butter; evil disguised in swirls of happy colored icing, beautiful bronze baked goodies that promise familiar highs, only to be sunk back into an even more dismal abyss when the sugar rush disappears. I need a haircut. I’ve moved back in with the ‘rents and need to start organizing the mess of my life which I had brought with me. I am on a deadline, the time I’ve borrowed from sympathetic employers was running out too fast for comfort and I seem to be on pause. Indeed, time waits for no one and life is in an ironic rush. What does it matter that life as I knew it had changed drastically and without warning?

In the beginning I had gotten on that same train of mad, frantic activity. And everyone was there, cheering from the bleachers as I rushed to cover all the bases. And I did just that.

I tried to understand what happened. I researched, read, consulted, conversed and concluded. Beau was a victim of suicide. The end result of a long fight with major depression likely caused by a genetic predisposition. He could have possibly been bi-polar or had borderline personality disorder; complicated by the trauma of losing a father at an age when he was only beginning to learn about the relationship of “cause and effect”. Freud had discovered it, the construct of “learned helplessness” where a child, unable to process the traumatic event, learns that there are things that happen in this world that are beyond our control and therefore, when challenges come up, no matter how small, he would be powerless to fight it. He told me once before that he had watched his father burn. A child watching a cremation is a nightmarish tableau. Whether it had actually happened is of no consequence. For Beau, it was his reality. Had he agreed to seek professional help he would have discovered he was suffering from post traumatic stress syndrome as well. My own therapists say it would have been a textbook diagnosis, what with the death happening the day after his birthday and the constant reminder of his father’s ashes in the family home. There were other reminders, other questions, too private to share, that had left wounds that festered. He had grown into the body of a man and yet, somewhere inside him, an 11 year old boy continued to stare into the flames.

Apparently there had been prior attempts to take his life before I had even met him, usually triggered by a relationship gone awry. He feared rejection and magnified abandonment, attaching all sense of hope to relationships that he perceived in his mind to be all that he had in his life. I had saved him twice he said, having talked him through the demise of two of his past romances. He had always threatened to end his life at the end of his relationships. I had always thought he meant I had saved him figuratively. Now I know better, too late.

Even if I had known his threats to be true, I would have thought marriage would have put an end to the suicide ideations. After all, the promise of forever keeps the threat of abandonment at bay. And for all intents and purposes, as far as I knew, we had been the giddiest kids on the marriage block. But I suppose all marriages have its own challenges, and the monster that lay dormant inside him waited for the opportunity to rear its ugly head.

I had always envied him for his freedom of spirit. I was jealous that he had built a life of simplicity doing what he loved. But even before we had gotten married he had always talked about wanting to do something else, to find his fortunes elsewhere and to keep climbing as a hobby rather than his career. It had been frustrating for him, and I knew that the conservative man that he truly was, he wanted to prove that he could provide for me somewhat. There was never any pressure on this front, at least not outwardly, and not that I was consciously aware of, although I know that sometimes circumstance itself could create them. I had tried to control the situation at any sign of insecurity, although if there were any, he was such master at keeping them from me that despite my vigilance, it was only in the last three months of his life that I recognized any discontent. I had supported him by asking him to simply pursue what he was passionate about. There was much trial and error but in the end he had still hoped against hope that he could make something out of the sport that he loved. I believe it was his failure to make this happen that was the trigger for his last and final episode.

He loved bouldering. And the competition which had been named after him was his pride and joy. He had attempted to put up the event a year into our marriage. It had pushed through but at great cost. He had taken it hard, given that I had to step in to bail him out. He declared he was done with the competition, done with climbing in general and moved on. or so I thought. A year after he announced he was going to try to put the event up again and against my better judgment, I supported him once again. This time, despite his constant assurances that the postponements and delays with sponsorship contracts were just minor snags, the event did not push through. We argued about it for a day or two and I thought that was the end of it. But apparently he had again talked to some people about taking his life out of shame and embarrassment. I thought he had gotten over that particular hill, he had decided to embark on a new challenge — to get certified as a personal trainer. But now I know this only added to the weight he carried. He had put all his hope in that basket, telling me repeatedly during those days when his frustration and stress were poisoning our marriage that it was all he had going for him. I tried to refocus his thinking and emotions into positive things, to the dreams we had created together for the future, but he was incapable of looking forward and insisted on collapsing into the past. In retrospect I know now that nothing I said would have made a difference. Unless he was given the medication he needed, he was spiraling out of control towards his own self destruction.

You would think that all of the above would absolve me of my guilt. It does not. A psychiatrist would describe him as a textbook case and any diligent researcher armed with an internet connection and a laptop would agree. The illness is what killed him. It was not anybody’s fault. He was psychologically disturbed and did not have the skills to deal with life’s challenges. Cerebrally it all makes a lot of sense. But as his wife, I look at what happened with different lenses. And what a different story my heart can see.

I remember a man excited for a future. I remember a husband narcissistically proud of a happy marriage. I remember conversations about the children we were going to raise, the trips we were going to take, the long bucket list of things we needed to do. My heart cannot accept what all the research and professional consultations have logically confirmed. I have hit a home run with all the bases loaded. But now the bleachers are empty, the game is over. Everyone has gone on to their homes and life continues on. The numbers on my blog have dwindled. The hundreds of likes and comments of support on my Facebook page have all but disappeared. Very few ask how I am anymore. And I sit in the ball park alone, enveloped in the blackness left by the shut down of the stadium lights.

They wait for me, my unwanted guests. Grief, Depression, Guilt and Loneliness. They took my husband away and now they await me. I am beginning to dread where I would be after all is said and done. Because as of now I am back on first base. Bleachers empty. Alone after a cerebral home run that has done nothing to heal the pain in my heart. Beau is gone. Game over.

The Wailing Psalm by Edward Hays

The Wailing Psalm

“I want to wail and scream in pain,
and not wash my face or comb my hair.
I want to fast from food and drink,
to abstain from music and fun.
I want to kick the walls and beat my breast, and even tear out the telephone.
I’d throw away my mail and speak to no one. but I am ashamed to grieve.

O God, how can I ever be the same again or feel the earth solidly beneath my feet, for ripped to shreds are my daily rituals, my patterns of living, loving and sharing. My heart feels full not of blood but of pain, my lungs filled with screams, not breath. My eyes are blinded to all by my bitter tears, but I am ashamed of my lack of Easter hope.

O God, I know how you felt
on that terrible Good Friday.
So I ask you to say nothing to me now, for nothing can be said.
Only hold me in your love, O God, till the pain passes, if it ever will. And pardon, I pray, my feeble faith

as I mourn like one without hope.”

SOS: A handbook for Survivors of Suicide

Sharing with everyone, Jeffrey Jackson’s entire booklet. It is a concise but rich source of information –practical and realistic, written from a place of sympathy, borne out of a shared experience and spilling with the promise of hope that the pain won’t last forever.

“This book is dedicated to the life of immeasurable value that was lived by Gail Beth Levine Jackson.
May you have found the peace that eluded you when you were here.” – Jeffrey Jackson


If you are a suicide survivor, this is worth your time. Please click on link: SOS_handbook

The Suicide Survivor’s Bill of Rights

I have the right to be free of guilt.

I have the right not to feel responsible for the suicide death.

I have the right to express my feelings and emotions, even if they do not seem acceptable, as long as they do not interfere with the rights of others.

I have the right to have my questions answered honestly by authorities and family members.

I have the right not to be deceived because others feel they can spare me further grief.

I have the right to maintain a sense of hopefulness.

I have the right to peace and dignity.

I have the right to positive feelings about one I lost through suicide, regardless of events prior to or at the time of the untimely death.

I have the right to retain my individuality and not be judged because of the suicide death.

I have the right to seek counseling and support groups to enable me to explore my feelings honestly to further the acceptance process.

I have the right to reach acceptance.
I have the right to a new beginning. I have the right to be.

In memory of Paul Trider, with thanks to Jann Gingold, M.S., Dr. Elisabeth Kübler-Ross, and Rev. Henry Milan. Reprinted by permission of JoAnn Mecca, Center for Inner Growth and Wholeness, 123B Wolcott Hill Road, Wethersfield CT. ©1984 JoAnne Mecca. All rights reserved.

The Suicide Survivor’s Affirmation by Jeffrey Jackson

Someone I loved very much has ended their own life. I will never truly know all that was happening in their mind that brought them to that tragic choice.

However, there are things of which I can be reasonably certain…

  • —  If they were here, even they could not fully explain their mindset or answer all of my questions.
  • —  In their state of mind, they could not have fully comprehended the reality of their own death.
  • —  They could not have fully appreciated the devastating impact their suicide would have on the people in their life.

    As such, by their last act, they made their most tragic mistake, unknowingly creating unparalleled pain in the hearts of those whom they most loved.

    The person I lost is beyond my help now in every way but one:

    I can help them by working to ease the pain they have caused and by not allowing their most enduring legacy to be one of tragedy. They benefit from this help whether or not I perceive them as welcoming it, in the same way that we help the aggressor whenever we nurse his victim—by minimizing the damage he has caused.

    As a result, each and every day, I can help the person I lost by… …enjoying life.

    …smiling and laughing.

    …not dwelling in feelings of sadness or remorse.

    …loving others.

    …taking new steps in life toward positive new horizons.

    …helping those who feel their loss to do the same.

    …and, in short, not letting their mistake continue to create sorrow, neither in the world around me, nor in myself.

    I will try to picture my lost loved one asking me to do this every day—to please help undo the damage they caused in whatever little ways possible.

    And I promise that I will.

A tale of 2 young women: Why suicide survivors should not feel guilty

There were two young women who died by suicide, both about the same age, both after a years-long battle with depression. Each had made several suicide attempts. They would refuse professional help and stop taking their medication just when it seemed to begin helping.

Fearing for her life, the first woman’s mother had her committed — against her wishes to a psychiatric clinic for treatment. While there, despite being on “suicide watch”, the young girl asphyxiated herself with her bedsheets.

The second woman’s mother constantly urged her daughter to seek professional help. However, fearing that she would worsen her daughter’s depression, she refused to force her into any kind of institutionalized care. One day, she killed herself with an overdose of medication.

Afterwards, both mothers blamed themselves for not preventing their daughter’s suicides. The irony is that each blamed themselves for not doing exactly what the other one did.

The first mother felt that if she hadn’t isolated her daughter in that institution, she wouldn’t have lost her. The second was sure that if she only had committed her daughter, she would’ve been saved.

We often fail to realize that, even if we could turn back the clock and do things differently, it wouldn’t necessarily change the outcome.

Was Beau’s death his choice?

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I wanted to hit him.

In the 4 years we’ve lived together I had never felt the urge so strongly. Bile rose bitterly in my throat and the room began to sway in front of me. My heart was pounding so strongly it felt like it would leap out of my chest at any second. Whatever sense I still had about me went into stopping my fist from swinging across space and hitting that perfectly aristocratic nose of his. Instead I heard myself scream.

It was a scream unlike any other I’ve experienced. It sounded cavernous inside me. As if my body and flesh had muffled the anguish and anger and allowed nothing more than broken sobs and a pathetic, tinny whining. But inside, I screamed so loudly I could have sworn my insides could have combusted into a bloody visceral mess. How dare he lie there, his handsome face frozen forever in an expression that would have been peaceful had it not been marred by the thick angry red ligature mark on his neck, left by the rope he had chosen to use to end his life.

If anybody would have morbidly conjured up how Beau would execute a suicide, they would have predicted exactly that —- a death by hanging so technically proficient it left no room for error. From his Jujitsu sessions he knew that cutting off his air supply would put him to sleep and that he would be unconscious when the throes of death claimed him. He knew the kermantle rope can hold many times his weight and that his expertly tied knots would hold. He had tied them many times before, oddly enough to make sure that his life and the lives of others would never be in danger. Indeed it was the way Beau would have chosen to do it.

That made me livid. It made my blood boil so badly I felt pressure in my brain.  How dare he? How dare he plan this so methodically, without thought or care to me, his mother, his siblings, his friends? How can he choose so predictably how to do something that none of us could have predicted?  Everyday, I still continue to see his body lying on that cold, sterile pan. I hear my brothers repeat our questions and our composed answers in a mad attempt to make sense of an act so senseless and sudden. I see his mom crying from a pain I cannot claim to own… the pain of a mother who is forced to bury her son; forced not by the laws of nature, not through illness or old age, but by her son’s own choosing.

But anger immediately turned to despair and disbelief, and then to a search for understanding. My fist unclenched with helplessness and I reached to hold his lifeless hand, as if I needed to feel the marble coldness to convince me of reality.  And reality begs the question: Did he really have a choice? Is it not unreal for any human to court his mortality when what is natural is to fight for self preservation? If so, then what would push someone to “choose” to defy nature?

It is an aberration, to be sure. And yet I wonder, what kind of unfathomable mental illness denies us of the freedom of choice? Is a rogue synapse in the deepest part of his brain to blame? Was he somewhat like an epileptic or an autistic child who have no control over the movements of their bodies? What physiological process can weed out love and everything positive and leave and magnify only the thoughts and feelings that cause the loss of hope?

I burn. I burn with anger. I burn with the need to know. I burn with a quest for knowledge of this intangible disease, if disease indeed it is.  While I am still in the process of finding my peace, I came across something that gives me temporary comfort. I share it below:

Suicide is Not a Choice: People Who Die by Suicide Do Not Choose to Die

by Kevin Caruso

People do not choose to have clinical depression.

People do not choose to have bipolar disorder.

People do not choose to have schizophrenia.

People do not choose to have cancer.

People do not choose to have post-traumatic stress disorder

People do not choose to have obsessive-compulsive disorder.

People to not choose to have tourette’s syndrome.

People do not choose to be autistic.

People do not choose to have seasonal affective disorder.

People do not choose to have heart disease.

People do not choose to have dysthymia.

People do not choose to have narcolepsy.

People do not choose to have muscular dystrophy.

People do not choose to have Alzheimer’s disease.

People do not choose to have dementia.

People do not choose to have anxiety attacks.

People do not choose to have delusions.

People do not choose to have psychosis.

People do not choose to have phobias.

People do not choose to be paralyzed.

People do not choose to have migraine headaches.

People do not choose to be victims of crime.

Children do not choose to be bullied.

Children do not choose to be sexually molested.

Children do not choose to be abused.

Women do not choose to be brutally beaten by their husbands.

Women do not choose to have postpartum depression.

Women do not choose to be raped.

People do not choose to be discriminated against.

People do not choose to be mistreated.

So why do some people think that people choose to die by suicide?

Answer: ignorance.

Many people (including some who are supposed to be “professionals” in the area of suicide, psychology, and religion) maintain the misguided, ignorant, outdated — and idiotic — belief that people “choose” suicide.

Over 90 percent of the people who die by suicide have a mental illness at the time of their death. And the vast majority of those mental illnesses are untreated, under-treated, or not properly treated.

People who die by suicide are not thinking clearly — and they cannot possibly think clearly — because their brain is not functioning properly at the time they pass away from suicide.

Their brain is giving them overwhelming signals to die.

They have a chemical imbalance in their brain, are in extreme emotional pain, and their mind is saying “you must die by suicide to end this.”

Again — it is an overwhelming condition.

They do not “choose” do die — their mental illness causes them to die — just like some people die from heart disease, cancer, or other things that are out of their control.

And every time an ignorant person makes the statement that “people choose to die by suicide” the stigma of suicide is perpetuated.

Let me draw an analogy between suicide and obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD): People with OCD have recurrent, overwhelming, obsessive thoughts that compel them to act in ways that others do not understand. For instance, a person with OCD may believe that his or her house is contaminated — even though it is immaculately clean — and thus compulsively washes his or her hands to get rid of the “germs.”

So do people who are otherwise very intelligent simply “choose” to wash their hands 500 times a day?

No.

They have a disorder and need treatment.

Now, someone with severe depression — and untreated depression is the number one cause for suicide — has a similar signal that their brain is sending to them, and that signal is this: you must die by suicide.

That “signal” is incessant and overwhelming.

Again, the person does not “choose” suicide; the mental illness causes the suicide.

One more time: People do not choose suicide; their mental illness causes the suicide.

People who die by suicide are strong, intelligent, loving, caring people — who happen to have a mental illness.

And there should be no stigma whatsoever associated with that mental illness — regardless of what it is — as well as no stigma associated with suicide.

The people who do not understand these basic, irrefutable truths about suicide are part of a serious problem — and that problem is ignorance. And, unbelievably, many psychologists, psychiatrists, suicidologists, and members of the clergy are part of this problem — and thus they actually perpetuate stigma instead of fighting it!

So, don’t be part of the problem. Share your understanding about suicide with others, and help combat this ignorance.

And be as supportive, helpful, and understanding as possible to suicide survivors. They deserve our unconditional love.

And always remember this: People who die by suicide do not choose to die, they have a mental illness — and it is the mental illness that causes them to pass away.