There is just so much going on lately. So much sad. Within the last week, I've found out about three suicides which have touched people I love. One of my friends blogged about it here, with some crucial advice for anyone contemplating suicide. Alaska has, by far, the highest rate of suicide in the country. The statistics (many of which are listed on my friend's blog post) are staggering. It's sad, but in the spring I've come to expect a series of suicides to appear in the local newspaper. Generally, though, autumn tends to not have as many suicides. When it's a high schooler who's taken their own life, it's especially painful.
For me, suicide is always a hard topic. I still remember, as a child, learning about my cousin's suicide. I didn't know him--they lived too far away for frequent visits so I only met him once and he was much older than me then, 17 to my 9--but I saw what it did to the adults around me, how sad everyone was. It's probably the number one reason why, just a few short years ago, when a mutual friend forwarded to me an email that seemed to be a suicide note, written by my brother, I took it completely seriously. I called my mom and she found him in time to rush him to the hospital. He's since gotten treatment for his depression and is doing just fine. But it's really not an exaggeration to say that that stands out in my mind as the worst day of my life. Hearing about suicides always brings it all back to me. I don't know if I'll ever forget reading those words, and having a part of my brain scream while another part was trying to make it seem like it wasn't actually my brother's suicide note. It's just so much to take in. The words were so unlike him, so bitter and dark. But, at the same time, it finally clicked for me. His behavior over the months before that moment made much more sense.
Yes, we'd known he was depressed and urged him to get help, but he refused. We didn't know that he was suicidal, however. He'd totally withdrawn from us and wouldn't let us in. When anyone asked how he was we'd get a monotone, "Fine." That was all. He'd listen to me talk on the phone for maybe a minute and then pass me along to someone else. When I read his note, I learned all the things he'd been holding back.
Absolutely the worst part of it all was reading about how worthless he felt. That will never leave me. The fact that he felt like a worthless human being, that he'd think for even a moment that we'd all be better off without him, still hurts. I still wonder if there was anything I could have done differently, anything I could have said, which would have helped him to feel better about himself before he got to that point. And I know, I know what depression is and that there's really not much which can be done from the outside, but I will always wonder.
I know what my friends are going through, their shock and devastation and grief. And it brings all of my own memories back. I remember exactly what I felt like in the weeks following his attempted suicide, and I feel it again for a bit.
Suicide isn't the only manner of death, however, or even the most prevalent. Almost two weeks ago I found out about the sudden and shocking death of a young woman, a friend's wife, just a couple of short weeks after they had their first child. I can't even comprehend the devastation in that young man's life, or what it will be like for their child without her mother. I wrote a short note to my friend expressing my sorrow, but it sounded as inane and stupid as I feared writing a note like that would sound. What do you say in that situation? I'm not sure of all the particulars (having heard most of it third- or fourth-hand) but I didn't ask. Really, despite my curiosity (what could have caused that, a blood clot?) that detail isn't important (for me). I hope that what came through was that I am here to support him, I'm here if he needs help with anything.
As small as it seems, the death of my friend's dog was the final emotional straw for me. With great exuberance and joy (characteristic--my friend does nearly everything with exuberance and joy) my friend adopted a dog about a month ago. A sweet and happy, very fat, corgi/basset hound cross. This dog was older, and she was the kind of dog who just smiled in her doggy way at everything and everyone. F said that she was pretty sure the only thing running through this dog's mind was a constant refrain of, "Don't worry. Be happy." Yep. It was the perfect pet-owner personality match. Since my friend lives right next door, we planned lots of winter walks with our dogs.
When we were out grocery shopping on Saturday I got a text from her saying that her dog had died the night before, at her parents' house. (Her dad is a vet.) It turns out that she (the dog) had a large tumor on her liver and, even by the time my friend adopted this dog, there really wasn't anything they could have done. But that doesn't really stop the tears, does it? Shane and I didn't even get the groceries out of the car before we raced over to F's apartment to hug her, console her, talk about the dog with her, and invite her over to dinner. (That's what you do when someone is in emotional distress, right? Feed them.) She tried to say, "It's so stupid of me to cry this much, I've only had her a few weeks!" But a few weeks is all it takes sometimes. Even I was crying over this dog. Such a happy presence should have more time on this planet.
When faced with strong emotions I tend to do one of two things: I clean maniacally, or I simply shut down and tune out the world for a bit. With everything that's been going on in my own life (like the cat's broken leg, like being sick for most of a week, and other things that I'm not ready to talk about yet) this time I shut down for a bit. I hung out with friends over the weekend, although I didn't want to. What I wanted to do was crawl in a cave for a bit, so I sort of did that. Most of the weekend was spent hunched over my computer, playing a game. I almost never play computer games, this was just my mindless thing to do. Reading, in my mood, was too much interaction with other people. A game where I can fight computer creatures and win (or lose, depending) was just about right. Plus, we've stationed the cat near my computer, so I was hanging out with him. (He seemed less bored, having me there.) Doing just about anything else, such as the dishes, seemed like a monumental and unbearable task. I was a bit useless for most of the weekend.
I'm crawling out of my cave now, slowly. Doing things seems, well, doable. I still don't want to talk with other people, but that might also be because I'm just very tired today. (Shane left for work this morning and I didn't really fall back asleep after he left.) By the end of the week I'll be back to my normal self, ready to take on the world or just reload by spending lots of time with friends.
A cookie or two wouldn't hurt the process, so maybe I'll make some tonight. :)