How Great is Our God in HEBREW,

Thursday, June 23, 2011

When a Friend Commits Suicide

The following account is a true one - I lived it. I'm not proud of the decisions I made in this story...they were based on illness, hopelessness and the lies that my schizophrenia and depression were telling me. But I want you to know HOW SERIOUS IT IS when someone tells you they feel like hurting themselves. You must ALWAYS take action to save them...
call their psychiatrist or a suicide hotline or call the police.
Your friend needs help immediately--it can't wait until tomorrow.

When I was in college, in my Sophomore year (which would have been my Senior year were it not for the fact that I'd had to drop out of college for two years with the onset of severe mental illness. (see my story in the Pages entitled Who I've Been and Who I Am. for more on this). The onset of this illness was profound, and included a massive depression which was so painful and intolerable to me that I could only see one way out: Death. And I ended up attempting suicide in my Freshman year and when I survived, had to leave school and spent the majority of the successive next two years in the hospital. While in one of these hospitals, I met a young woman, who, I was delighted to discover, attended the same small Catholic private women's college in Westchester County NY as I did. And we became fast friends. When S. was discharged from the hospital where we met, we temporarily lost contact with each other. However, two years later when I returned to school, I was ecstatic to discover that S. was also there that year...she, in her Senior year.

We spent a lot of time together. It was a difficult time for me, struggling with horrible symptoms, taking medications which didn't really help my symptoms and which made me tired and sick....I had a really hard time focusing on the reason I was there. Rather, my life outside the school was really more important to me. Down the street from the school lived a younger girl, whom I'd also met at that same hospital in the year prior.... The three of us spent a good amount of time together. S. struggled mainly with depression as far as I could see. She also struggled with the urge to hurt herself, as I did too.

One night there came a knock on my dorm door. It was S. She sprawled on the bed next to mine (which was empty...I had the room to myself). And she began to talk. Quietly. In an expressionless voice with an expressionless face, she said calmly, "Cynthia, I've decided that I'm going to kill myself., I have been saving my antidepressants up and now I have enough."

Now, as I look back on this event....I know just how sick I was at the time, because I listened to her dispassionately. I accepted what she said as a logical solution to her anguish...because, after all, was I not myself, daily weighing the option of death as a real possibility? Yet I knew enough to know that IT WAS MY JOB to try to talk her out of it. But as I sat there, I couldn't think of one, single argument for life. I did say, "What about going back to the hospital?" She shook her head and explained that the hospital hadn't helped and that without insurance as she currently was, she would be forced to enter the awful County Hospital nearby. I'd been a patient there myself. Recently. And it was a place I wouldn't send my worst enemy, let alone a friend. So. Because I'd divorced myself then from the Love and Hope that God offers us, I didn't have a clue what to say to her. So we sat in silence.

Now I wonder what was going on in S.'s mind. Was she appalled by my lack of protest?? Did that further harden her resolve and her belief that no one cared or was there for her?? Or did she really really want to die and felt maybe comforted by my acceptance of the idea with such equanimity? Did she choose to tell ME of all people because she knew I wouldn't blow the whistle? Or did she choose me because I, of all the people she knew, cared most about her and could maybe save her??

Well those secrets went with S to the grave. Because the next day, as some friends and I sat in my room, we heard many many sirens going to the dorm next door. We assumed it was a fire drill and remained unpreturbed....However , moments later someone pounded on my door and screamed , "Cynthia, come quick! It's S.!"

That moment is burned into my memory forever. All the air was sucked from my lungs and the realization of the wrong that I had done, began to hit me between the eyes. I jumped from my bed and ran down to the dorm across the street. There was a female police officer shooing curious onlookers away from the entrance to the building. I grabbed her wrist and screamed, "It's S. My friend. I know what she took..Is it too late??" And the woman grasped both of my wrists and led me into the building where I was interviewed by detectives and officers. As I told them what I knew, they finally admitted to me, It was too late. S. was dead.

The officers and detectives all looked at me in dismayed disbelief as I confessed to knowing and not doing anything. The shook their heads in disgust at such a horror.

I was sent to the Nurse's house where she was to keep guard over me for that night until they decided what to do with me. There was no sleep that night. The nurse fed me cup after cup of tea which I drank woodenly. I was numbed by horror and disbelief. No tears fell. I was in too much shock and plunging too deeply into psychosis to respond with any normalcy.

The next day, miraculously, I talked my way out of further incarceration and agreed to leave the premises of the school for the next period of several weeks, while I came to terms with this event that seems too terrible even now to come to terms with or to believe. I threw some clothes into my car and took off on a stint of despair, traveling from one place to another, from friend to friend and often sleeping in my car, driving aimlessly from place to place...seeking a peace which never came.

Upon my return to the school, as the Sisters interviewed me, they discovered that I was not in better shape but worse, and shanghaied me for an interview, ironically, at the very County Hospital where I'd hoped to keep S. from going. And, not surprisingly, I was admitted, to my very loud screams of protest.

Why do I tell this story now?

Because I've discovered the truth of a statement made to me by S.'s psychiatrist who paid a visit to me in the hospital, (to my great dismay). He told me, "Where there is life, there is Hope. When life ends, Hope too, ends."

I am an example of the truth of this statement. Despite many fervent attempts to end this life., my life has continued. And down that long path of many years, I caught a glimpse of the Hope that that Doctor was talking about...And I'm living proof that NO ONE is beyond help.

So if you or someone you know is thinking of ending this life. Consider that statement. How do you know that down the road, you may not receive, help, healing and love? It does happen. I swear.

NOTE: This page can also be found on the "Suicide" page of this blog
...just scroll down and you will see it.
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