Suicide - Losing A Loved One

by GEM Magazine / Jan 10, 2016 / Comments

“Just stop obsessing about things and think better thoughts,” I told him. “You can do it!”

I was trying to help my younger cousin. He had just confided some disturbing things to me and he was acting, well... wild. I didn’t know what the hell was wrong with him, but he looked up to me. So when he asked if I would join him for a ride out into nature, I agreed.

He didn’t shut up. Not for a moment. I was uncomfortable with him, but I tried to listen – to be there for him.

It was impossible. His thoughts and ideas were an unending torrent that left me exhausted.

“I can’t turn my brain off,” Tim said. “It’s like I’m holding my tongue against a nine volt battery!”

I gave him my advice. When I finally dropped him off at our Grandparent’s house where he was living with his Mom, I was relieved and extremely late for work.

A few weeks later, the phone rang. It was in the morning and I was making scrambled eggs. My mother, Tim’s aunt was on the phone.

“Tim committed suicide,” she sobbed.

“What?”

“He died yesterday.”

I listened in stunned silence as she detailed the tragedy - how he had slipped out of the house with a length of rope, walked to a small, hidden park nearby and hung himself in a tree. I hung up the phone and stared at the burning eggs.

“Stupid fucker,” I screamed and I threw the spatula at the wall. It struck blade first and left a cut in the drywall surrounded by a splatter of egg.

Breakfast was ruined. A metaphor for a ruined life.

It took me a long time to get over it. I hid my thoughts and feelings – even from myself; shame for not trying to do more for Tim, for the relief I felt when I dumped him off after our last trip together, the hatred for his cowardly act – an ultimate “fuck you” to everybody who cared about him, and embarrassment for the ineffective, insipid advice I gave when he turned to me for help.

I tucked it all away and struggled with my feelings for months before I finally decided to bring them into the light. Naturally, I used writing to wrestle with my feelings.

I looked up the statistics. I was staggered by its prevalence of suicide. According to The Canadian Association for Suicide Prevention (CASP), nearly 4,000 people die of suicide every year. For each completed suicide, there are 100 attempts. Every suicide directly impacts six to 10 people, family and friends. This means one in thirteen people are directly or indirectly affected by suicides.

I put out a request to interview people who had struggled with suicide, and that is how I came to meet Corrine; a vibrant, energetic young woman. Not a person I would ever suspect could harbour suicidal tendencies. We joked and bantered back and forth before we began, but when we started, she leaned forward and spoke with sombre authority that can only be acquired from personal experience.

"I suffered severe sexual abuse as a child," she quietly confided. "I guess the depression initially started when I was twelve years old because I didn't understand what was happening in my life."

She paused. A momentary echo of pain crossed her face.

"I learned to distrust people. I learned I didn't have a right to think or dream. I came to believe reality was cruel and people were mean, full of badness.”

"When I tried to kill myself, it wasn't that I thought I was going to a better place; I was trying to get out of this place."

She took 40 Amitriptylene at once. Amitriptylene is a powerful drug; seven pills will stop your heart. She ended up in a coma for three days, during which they had to restart her heart three times.

"I was very angry when I woke up and I found out I was still alive," she recalls. "So angry that they had to restrain me. I was angry because I thought I was finally going to be free. That was my big thing, freedom. I’d even wrote a couple poems about suicide."

Corrine’s story made me realize people in a suicidal state aren’t purposely spitting in the faces of their love ones. The impact their death will have doesn’t occur to them.

"When you're in that state of mind, you don't think about other people. Questions like; 'who will look after my kids?' or 'how will my Mom react, what will my friends think?' don't even come into your head. You don't think about other people because, in your mind you've already failed them. All you want is for the pain and the hurt to be gone.”

I also interviewed my Aunt Gwen – Timothy’s mother. It was an emotionally cathartic experience for both of us as I finally learned the whole story of my cousin’s end.

Four years previous, Tim called his mother and told her he was depressed and worried.
"The doctors couldn't find anything wrong with him." Gwen recalls. "He never came to trust them because Tim was an excellent presenter."

A presenter is a medical term for a person who can dissemble well in front of people and appear completely normal.

"At home, he could be curled up in my arms crying his eyes out one moment, then if someone came to the door, he would stand up straight, shake the visitor's hand and act like nothing at all had happened," says Gwen.

But something was wrong.

“He was completely depressed," says Gwen. "He talked about suicide by the hour."

She didn’t know what to do, so instead of shying away from the topic, she tried some reverse psychology.

"OK, that's it! Give me the keys, let's start the car and let's get it over with. I'll go to jail, but if you have to do this, let's get it done."

Gwen says her son was taken aback, but he got into the spirit of the conversation. He decided carbon monoxide poisoning wouldn't work out too well.

"I'll go get a needle with some air in it then," she said.

"Won't that hurt?" he asked.

"Yes, but there will be a little pop and you'll be dead," she replied.

"The conversation got really bizarre," she recalls. "We even planned a trip to Africa so we could arrange for an elephant to step on his head."

But the desperation she felt and the depression he was experiencing lifted as they laughed together for the first time in a long time. Tim smiled and told his mother he hadn't felt so good in months.

The reverse psychology worked, though Gwen wouldn't recommend others to use it casually. That was the beginning of a turnaround for Tim. He went back to his job, began to consider attending college and often called his mother to marvel about how well things were going for him.

After two of the best years of his life, Tim became manic. He lost his job, lost his girlfriend, crashed his car and became irrational and paranoid. His mother knew he was planning suicide again, and she asked her son to hold on a little longer until she could get him help. He honoured her wishes for a few days, but he made his plans to escape his pain. He hung himself from a tree.

For years, I felt like I should have been able to do something or say something to make a difference to Tim – to save his life. I struggled with his suicide. I railed against it. I even came to hate Tim for a time.

Until the day it occurred to me how wrong I was to focus on the end of his life. Tim was surrounded by family and friends who loved him – who helped him live much longer than he would have without us. His life was short, but it was rich with love. He enriched my life.

When someone we care about is struggling and wants to commit suicide, what can we do? We can listen to them, get professional assistance, and encourage them to emerge from their dark place and once again smile in the sunshine. And if in the end the darkness swallows them, all we can do is celebrate their lives and forgive ourselves.

My cousin Tim would have wanted that.

By Mathieu Powell.

Mathieu heads up Writing Impacts – a media company focused on building client relations and referral business for organizations through stories and rich content. He regularly freelances to write about a wide range of challenging topics.

“I’m enamoured by the power of stories. I believe our common, ancient sagas and our individual stories are a gateway to a better world. For it is only through empathy that we find understanding, through understanding, peace, and though peace, healing. We can’t carry another’s burdens, but we can bear witness to their story, lighten their load, and find a common ground of agreement.”

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E-mail: mathieu.powell@gmail.com
Websire: www.writingimpacts.com

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