Suicide, Six Months Later

Note: Six months ago my brother-in-law ended his life. This is a follow up to my previous post on the topic. I want to express my appreciation to everyone who has been supportive of my family throughout this difficult time. Thank you.

If you are struggling with suicidal thoughts, please contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK(8255). They are available to take your call 24/7. International readers should visit the website for the International Association for Suicide Prevention (IASP) to find local resources. We care about you, friends.

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I like Robin Williams in everything. I was raised on Mork & Mindy. I’ve never seen the man suffer a bad or boring interview. The most recent thing I saw him in was an episode of Louie where a guy they knew died and they went to his funeral, and then to his favorite strip club. The scene ends with Louie and Robin promising to attend each other’s funerals, “whoever dies first”. He had an imaginative, brilliant mind and was important to a lot of people in a lot of ways.

But I’m numb to the news of his suicide.

I’ve been having a very hard couple of weeks. Anxiety. Depression. Mood swings. The works.

Yesterday some careless asshat hit my lit sign outside of my office, hurling it to the ground, sending shattered glass everywhere. I wasn’t there at the time, but when I returned from lunch my super sweet office neighbor relayed the afternoon’s events — at which point I flew into a swear-fueled rage that quickly morphed into a public sobbing fit, my head on her shoulder, tears soaking her t-shirt.

“What can I do to help?” she asked, her arms engulfing me in a much-needed hug.

“Just be my friend.” I sniffled.

Because that’s all anyone can do.

 

Thank goodness for office neighbors like Jamie and Patty. They can fix anything.

Fixing what’s broken with a little help from my friends.

 

I’m not posting this for sympathy or responses. I just need to get it out, as our feeds blow up with RIPs and the tragic nature of it all:

People of the civilized world, take the grief you’re feeling at this moment and multiply it by a million. This is how it feels to lose a loved one (not a celebrity, not a movie star) unexpectedly and by their own hand. You probably can’t even fathom the idea right now, but it could happen in your own family tomorrow. Would you see the clues? Or keep yourself at a mental distance, locked in the safe room known as denial?

The shock of “losing” Cobain in the ’90s didn’t prep me for shit. The shock of a close friend losing his partner three years ago didn’t prep me for shit. I held my friend’s hand and cried by his side for months — years — as he attempted to pick up the pieces and get on with life…yet I didn’t learn a damn thing.

Last week I finally got up the courage to watch The Bridge, a documentary about suicidal folks who jump from the Golden Gate. It was intense, and I agreed with and could relate to a solid 85% of the friends and family members interviewed in that movie. This documentary is depressing as hell, but real and fascinating at the same time. The regrets, vulnerability, ignored signs – everyone’s story is different, yet eerily similar. Watch it and you’ll understand why I walk through my days with a renewed sense of hypervigilance: if you’re a member of my tribe and something sticks out as an odd behavioral change, I’m going to question it. I may come across as crazy, obnoxious, and possibly affected by PTSD, but that’s my new normal and I’m not sorry.

Robin, you were a bright star in a dark world, and I thank you for going there — you just weren’t an integral part of my life. My numbness isn’t intended as disrespect, but as my husband so perfectly explained as I struggled to put thought into words, “Petey meant more to me.”

And he was funny, too.

Facebook Burnout and the Need for Feed

Facebook my dear, I have so many wonderful things to thank you for. You’ve allowed me to get to know and become actual real-life friends with people who live across the continent, across town, and in my backyard. You’ve introduced me to a passionate community of evidence-based massage therapists, sassy bloggers, inspirational creatives, and empathetic virtual friends who are prompt with a kind word of encouragement when I’m feeling venty and clawing at the edges of insanity.

Remember that time you told me about the Depeche Mode tribute band that was playing at Voodoo Lounge? They were sooooo goooood! Or when you clued me in to the free performances of Teller’s ‘Play Dead’ at the Rio? I mean, that guy ate a damn light bulb on stage. A light bulb!

Darling Facebook, you make crowdfunding possible, and oftentimes vastly successful! You are a wandering searcher’s muse and a coupon code addict’s wet dream. Your messaging capabilities make it easy to contact peeps in a jiffy, and Facebook events are the ultimate in convenience (assuming all desired attendees are suckling at your networky teat.) I can inflict my instagrams on both you and Twitter simultaneously with minimal effort. Foursquare check-ins, too! (Or Swarm, or whatever they’re calling it today. To my shame, I’m still firmly entrenched in fiscal first quarter 2014.)

Sweet social network of choice, you’ve been great – you really have – but as is the sad case so often in this life, all good things must come to unfriend.

 

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Now before you go all weepy on me, let me explain: it’s not you, it’s me. I’ve got an intensely obsessive personality, and your constant barrage of information overload has led me to develop the unhealthy habit of spending countless hours idly trolling your feed, for, geez, I don’t even know what. Distraction, I suppose.

The free magic shows and Dave Gahan-esque dance moves have gotten lost in a sea of the mundane, speckled with rare buoys of profundity. I sincerely appreciate the thoughts, the emotions – the people – behind these blips, but I’m just no longer cut out to be one of the lovelies manning the radar. Life beckons, and pressing tasks call.

Facebook, if it’s alright with you, I won’t deactivate you at this point in time. I’d like to continue to be tagged in posts and photos if need be, messaged when my input or assistance is required, and invited to join fun events that are of interest to me. I will continue to participate in a few choice Facebook groups, and will continue to maintain my business pages. I hope you won’t take offense when I share this blog post on my wall. I really hope you won’t brand me an ungrateful twat when I confess I just installed News Feed Eradicator on my laptop, and that I’ve unfollowed essentially everyone on my mobile app, save George Takei.

What’s that, you irresistible blue and white dealer of human commodification? Oh no, I’m not trading you in for Snapchat or the next Twitter, if that’s what you’re afraid of. You can rest assured I’m reassessing virtual boundaries across the board: instead of being overcome by the onslaught of curated life snippets y’all hurl at the masses on a moment-by-moment basis, I’ll be out there embracing my own corporeal experiences like a mofo, external validation be damned.

 

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The things you thought couldn’t change

 

I’ve been having problems with my eyes. I assumed it was because my vision was getting worse. This is a decent educated guess since the acknowledgement of my vision getting worse has occurred on an annual basis for almost 30 years. I’ve been having trouble with computer screens and print and such. So I figured I was getting to the bifocal/reading glasses stage of my life. This made me unhappy, obviously.

I’m cool with the gray hair. I’m cozy with the appearance of little wrinkles around my eyes and mouth. I’m managing the whole ‘harder to lose weight’ thing. I’ve been reality-slapped with the ‘men my age tend to not date women my age’ experience of singleness at 39. I know these things to be true. And none of them ruffle my feathers too much. But reading glasses? C’mon.

So I went to my Eye Guy. He did the exam. I waited for the news. I held my breath and he said, “I think your vision has improved. The contacts you have are over-correcting.”

Say what now? That can happen?

Yes. That can happen. It could be because my nutrition has improved dramatically since I saw him last. (My diet is no longer made up of food served to me through my car window.) Or it’s a weird fluke. But it happened. He gave me a lower prescription to try for a few days and it’s working well.

So there’s that.

Just over eleven years ago I was stuck in a little hell of employment, getting my soul destroyed daily at a retail pharmacy job. I needed to get out but I had no idea where to go. A series of events led me to a massage therapist. I asked questions, I checked out a school. I applied, interviewed, I enrolled.

Through most of the 18 month program I figured I would end up working at a spa or chiropractor’s or some place where I was an employee. I had zero interest in owning a business and handling all the hassle that goes along with that. Zero. I did not like to be in charge. I did not like handling extraneous paperwork or thinking about zoning permits and the buck stopping with me.

I interned a bit at a chiro’s office the last few months of massage school. I just followed him around and did some spot treatments here and there. My presence in the office was well-received and after a few days we cleaned out a room and I set up real massage space. I started giving massage at a student rate, people scheduled. Then scheduled again. And on the Sunday night when I graduated, I had a handful of clients in the book for the next week, all ready to start paying full price. I accidentally started a business. I liked the clients (and their money) and didn’t want to try to persuade them to see me at the spa I was working at part-time. So I just did the things I needed to do to get a massage business going.

I never thought it would result in me running a successful practice (for nine years now). Or moving to my own space and subletting out to two other therapists. And teaching business and marketing. Now I wouldn’t have it any other way.

So there’s that.

I could put an “Anything is Possible” graphic here. Or maybe a deep thought about impermanence from a popular buddhist. But we tend to avoid that superfluous flowery shit over here on Young Thumbs.

I’ll leave you with this:
We have no idea what is possible.
Go build a massage business in an RV and drive from client to client.
Go teach massage to caretakers at an orphanage. In Vietnam.
Or score 3 bibs in the Boston Marathon to benefit the Massage Therapy Foundation.

Go do epic shit.

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^ Here’s your inspiration. Courtesy of qsprn.com because he’s a badass. A generous badass.

PS- And the ‘men my age tend to not date women my age’ thing? I may have found an exception. 

Interview with an MT: Lauren Cates Talks Oncology Massage

Recently, Lauren Cates was kind enough to answer a few questions about her massage practice. Lauren, who lives in Arlington, VA, runs Lighthold Massage Therapy, a practice that caters to all types of people, but that also specializes in oncology massage and end of life care. She is also the program director of Healwell and the President and Founding Director for the Society of Oncology Massage. Recently, after watching a video of Lauren going around the internet (below) I contacted her to pick her brain. She is incredibly smart, funny, down-to-earth, and doing important work. In short, she is pretty much what I want to be when I grow up.

Click here for a text transcript of the video.

A:  How long have you been a massage therapist, and what led you to pursue oncology massage training and specialization?

L: It was 9 years in February since I graduated from massage therapy school. My pursuit of massage therapy training was a complete accident, if you believe in accidents, but my pursuit of oncology massage specifically has at least some vaguely traceable path. Shortly after I began the 18-month journey that would be my training in massage therapy I had the unique and humbling opportunity to be with my grandfather at the moment of his death.  I actually didn’t know, at the time, that he had cancer.  I was employing my nascent massage skills working with him in his hospital bed when I watched and felt him take his last breath.  Death and I had always had this sweaty palmed, churning guts kind of relationship, so I was surprised by how natural it felt to be a part of this very human, very death-centric moment.   There was no lightning bolt of moment of “Eureka!  I shall go forth and do oncology massage!”, but there was a feeling of wanting to pursue massage in that kind of environment with people who were at these places of physical, spiritual and emotional crossroads.

A: What type of training did you find the greatest benefit to prepare you for working with oncology patients?
L: Honestly, (as if I’ve been lying to you all this time) I have been very lucky to have great technical teachers in the form of massage therapists, nurses, doctors and other healthcare professionals and I couldn’t do what I do without that foundation, but the absolutely most valuable training I have received is the training in how to fully embrace and love myself. Until I was guided by some kind and skillful teachers of mindfulness, compassion and forgiveness, I had never really met myself and that was standing in the way of how useful I could be to the people with whom I worked. When people are faced with a potentially terminal illness, their eyes can become like mirrors of your own soul. You don’t want *that* moment, when you’re at the bedside of a person with cancer, to be first moment you really see yourself. That was happening to me over and over and it was burning me out…until I pulled back from the work for a bit and went deeper into myself. Being at home with myself is, hands down, the most valuable thing I think I bring to my clients.
A: Is there any aspect of the work that you didn’t expect going in? What has been most surprising to you?
L: Working with oncology clients…and all manner of humans with health challenges…has made my life exponentially more joyful. You can’t lie to yourself about how you’re spending your time and if you’re spending it well when you work with people who are faced with being “out of time” and who don’t have a chance to go back and spend it well. Today is truly all we have and my clients remind me that that sentiment is not a bumper sticker…it’s real life. I have seen that I *will* regret it if I work too hard. I *will* wish I had spent more time with family and friends if I don’t do it now…so I do. I do it now…much more than I did before I met so many amazing people who are trying to make sense of how they’ve spent their time.
A: In what ways does Oncology Massage differ from, say, your typical Swedish Massage?
L: There are so many ways in which the internal experience of giving an oncology massage differs from a “typical Swedish Massage”, but on the surface, if you were watching an oncology massage happen, you may not notice most of them. Oncology massage is about cancer. It’s not about massage. If you’re already out in the world doing some type of massage therapy and then you pursue oncology massage training, you will still do the kind of massage you used to do…you’ll just do it with a greater awareness of the effects of cancer treatment on the human body. You’ll be thinking about lymphedema, blood clots, bone fragility, skin changes from radiation, surgical sites and scar tissue, sensation issues from treatment and any number of other considerations that will make you adapt, adjust and alter your work to provide a session that is supremely client centered and so much more than “just working lightly”.
A: How do you connect with the people who need your services?
 L: Shameless self-promotion. In my practice, I actually don’t do any official advertising. I have built my clientele on word of mouth. I do some community education events at cancer support groups and other events where people affected by cancer gather, but mostly I just do what I do and word spreads. The oncology community, in my experience, is an intensely loyal community. If you decrease a person’s neuropathy or nausea or headache or sense of isolation, they become a human billboard for you because they want their friends with cancer to be free of those issues, too.
A: What advice would you give to a therapist interested in pursuing this field of work?

L: Learn your facts. Know the anatomy. Know the physiology. Know the treatments…and then set them down and go get to know yourself. Snuggle up to your sadness, your shame, your humanity, your mortality. The better you know all of those not-so-popular parts of you, the more likely you are to be of service to people in ways you never imagined.

A:  Any further thoughts?

L: If you’re thinking about working with oncology clients, get training. Please, please, please get training and develop a deep sense of humility, curiosity and openness. The illusion of control will be laid bare in front of you if you’re paying attention…and you’ll be grateful for it.

Courses and trainers can be found on the Society for Oncology Massage website,  www.s4om.org. S4OM is also hosting a 4-day conference for the oncology massage community this fall in Sarasota, FL.

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Tips and Tricks for Shooting Your Own Massage Photos

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I’ve shot massage photos for over a year now, and I now have over 17,000 photos. I have shot many good ones, but twice as many bad ones. I will explain some of the things that have worked for me below…

 

1. Massage Room Size

I have shot massage photos in really small massage rooms, in a large studio, and even at my house. The area that I loved the most was in massage rooms, because they look more realistic, but the ones in the studio had better lighting. If you don’t have a studio you can shoot massage photos in, make sure you buy some lights, or make sure the overhead lights are fully on, and even some extra lights you can arrange in the room.

The biggest problem with shooting with too much lighting is you have to be concerned about shadows. I have brought my daughters on some shoots, and I’ve had to manually move the lights each time I wanted a different angle on some other shoots.

 

2. Oil, Lotion, Cream or Gel?

What do you think would be the hardest to use in a photo shoot? Cream and lotion have been the hardest for me, because if the therapist doesn’t have it all worked in, it can show-up under their fingernails, or in-between their fingers. If you are using a flash, oil and gel can be hard, because it can give more of a reflection.

It would be ideal to use lotion, and make sure the lotion is totally worked into the client (and not under your fingernails), before you start taking photos. It will give you enough glide, and not give you much of a glare if you are using a flash on your camera.

 

3. Props

I typically don’t use props in my photo shoot, because it takes away for what the true purpose of the photos are. What most stock massage photos are notorious for, is they totally distract from what is being shown, and most of them are unrealistic (ex. Flowers in the client’s hair).DSC_3757-

 

4. Angles of shots

I typically try to get as many angles of a certain technique, as possible. Also, it is a good idea to shoot portrait, and landscape with each one, because you never know how you will use the photos. On social media, landscape photos work the best (Facebook and Twitter), but shooting portrait works for best pinterest, and some forms of marketing. On your website, it all depends how your webpages are laid out.
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It’s also a good idea, to shoot some of your photos with the therapist just off-center. The reason behind this idea is if you wanted to add text to some of your photos, you can easy do that. Also, you can have the therapist/client in the far background, too.

 

5. Massage Sheets

There are many different types and colors of massage sheets out there, but you really have to take these things into account:

*Are you using lotion or cream – Then don’t use black or darker colored sheets.

*Flannel – I love flannel the best, because it can typically show less of the wrinkles in the sheets.
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*Colors – White usually works the best, or more neutral colors.

*Patterns – It’s best to stay away from patters, because it can distract the views of you photos more.

*Stains – Check your sheets before you use them, so there aren’t any stains.

*Tight – Make sure your sheets are tight-fitting.

 

6. Camera

I started shooting my massage photos with a Nikon D80 DSLR, and then eventually upgraded to a Nikon D7000 DSLR. I will be purchasing a newer one soon, because it’s always smart to bring two camera with you at all time. Cameras can be relatively cheap, but the most expensive part of the camera is the lenses.

You can use a point and shoot camera, as long as you have good lighting, and the therapist isn’t moving too much, otherwise most of your photos can be blurry.

JPG vs. RAW – I will shoot in both formats, and I love RAW, because you can adjust so much more with your photos.

I don’t recommend shooting photos with your smartphone, and you can even ask a friend to borrow their camera if you don’t have an adequate one.

 

7. Massage Client

Ever since I started shooting massage photos, I always had both the therapist and the client sign a release form. It is always important to cover your glutes, and to make sure everyone is protected.

Some of my shoots, I’ve asked the therapist if they know of a friend that would be willing to be in the photos, and other times I’ve lined them up myself. It’s important that they know exactly what to expect, before they even get there.

 

8. Editing Software

There are tons of photo editing software on the Internet today (www.fotor.com), and a lot of them are free (you usually have to pay for it, if you want more options with it). I’ve been learning photoshop for the past few years, and I’ll typically straighten out some wrinkles in the sheets with it, or change the color of the photos. I love using photoshop, but it can be frustrating for the non-technical person.
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I will doing more blog posts on this topic in the near future…

Ryan Hoyme is the owner of MassageNerd.com and RyanHoyme.com
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Autopsy of a Suicide

READ THIS FIRST: Things are about to get real here, people. I hunger for truth, and I am revolted by silence, shame and embarrassment. In an effort to shine a light on a chronic societal problem, I’m going to be describing personal events of a troubling nature in fairly graphic detail. What I’m about to write may disturb some readers, and honestly if it didn’t, I’d wonder about you guys. I just want to give you fair warning: If laying eyes on the gritty truth about a recent suicide that has irrevocably changed my life will impact your remaining days in a negative fashion, please exit the vehicle at this time, and know that I won’t hold it against you. For those staying aboard, hold onto a friend and buckle in tight. (Just to be clear, the views I’m about to express in this post are my own. I cannot speak for anyone else, including the rest of The Young Thumbs.)

It’s also imperative that I remind you I am not a mental health professional. If you are struggling with suicidal thoughts, please contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK(8255). They are available to take your call 24/7. International readers should visit the website for the International Association for Suicide Prevention (IASP) to find local resources. We care about you, friends.

 

MY STORY

A little over three months ago, a close Vegas friend and I were discussing the recent suicide epidemic. I counted five people whom I knew personally (or were very close to friends of mine) who had removed themselves from the equation since October, 2013. Three in Vegas, two in Oregon, ranging in age from their early-20s to late-50s. Appalled by the body count, I mentioned that someone in our community should write about this in the interest of starting a conversation, though I felt too removed from the situation to warrant my direct involvement. When I attended a memorial service for one of these guys on February 20th, 2014, I had no way of knowing that my beloved brother-in-law (my husband’s 29-year-old brother and best friend) would put a gun to his head and pull the trigger less than one week later.

Nobody in my family (and when I say “my family”, technically I mean my husband’s family, but I’ve known his parents and all nine kids for 22 years now, so they’re mine, too) saw this coming. Petey was the guy who told the best jokes – the witty, off-the-cuff quips and observations we all wish we had such propensity for. He was always curious about and excited by the best stuff in life, with the enthusiasm of a really big kid. He loved to find weird, random, perfect gifts to send to my better half and I, often for no reason in particular. (I have Petey to thank for the 4”-tall skeleton perched upon a toilet that currently graces the top of my Facebook page.) If we were passing through the town in which he lived on our way to someplace else, he would rearrange his schedule so we could spend time together, even if it was for only a few hours in the middle of the day. He made it known that we were always welcome to stay longer – that he really wished we could – and encouraged us to stay the night in the guest bedroom. Petey was fun, kind, real, thoughtful, generous, handsome, outgoing, intelligent, helpful, instantly likeable, and genuinely interested in other people. He was a hard worker and a good provider, with an infectious laugh and a beautiful smile. He put 100% of himself into any task he took on, and into any relationship he deemed worth having. Petey was the best of all of us put into one person. He loved his parents, his family as a whole, his pets, and his wife of eight years whom he adored with all his heart.

When the news of Petey’s death broke (by way of a phone call from my father-in-law 24 hours after Petey passed), we were told that his wife had left their house in Nevada for four days to go on a girls’ trip to California with her friend, and that in her absence Petey had taken a bottle of Xanax, drank himself into oblivion, and took his life without so much as a “goodbye cruel world” scribbled on an old utility bill. His wife’s friend found him when the girls returned to Nevada, after his wife reportedly received a troubling text from him that morning. The day after we found out about Petey’s death, we drove up to their house in Fallon, Nevada (quite possibly the most depressing place in the entire United States), our heads heavy with sorrow and confusion. What happened, exactly? And why? Was the prescription to blame? Considering what we had been told — unanswered questions aside — all of our family members echoed the sentiment: “This wasn’t our Petey.”

We spent the next few days in Fallon, comforting Petey’s wife, cleaning out their house, packing boxes and loading them into a moving truck to be transported to Moab, Utah (where his wife would now be living with her parents), and helping her with the funeral arrangements in any way we could. Discussion regarding the days leading up to Petey’s death was limited: We were told that Petey and his wife had gotten into a little tiff before she left for California, but that little fights like this were not uncommon among couples. She and her parents insisted it must have been the Xanax – that this never would have happened if he hadn’t been taking it.

The lack of a suicide note reinforced our belief that the pills played a role in his death, and that he must have been out of his mind. Thoughtful, lucid Petey, even in the throws of depression, would have left a note to convey a message or to leave certain items to certain people. We began to come to terms with the freakishly tragic manner in which he died, settling for an empty pill bottle in place of detailed explanation or closure, until…

A few days after we arrived in Fallon and were preparing to drive to Moab for the funeral, we were shocked when the detective in charge of the case alerted us to the presence of not one, but four separate suicide notes found in Petey’s jeans pocket, addressed to various family members. We (my husband, my youngest brother-in-law, his partner and myself) read Petey’s letters addressed to the boys amongst ourselves, and although these two specific notes yielded no answers, it became clear that Petey took the time to say goodbye and to express his love to those most important to him before he died. Their notes were entirely coherent and heartbreakingly sweet — and with this new knowledge that he was lucid enough to write four notes, the paradigm shifted, and the grieving process began all over again.

We buried Petey on March 5th, 2014 in a cemetery in Moab, Utah. The service was extremely moving, the most heart-wrenching elements being the eulogies given by Petey’s three brothers and his oldest sister’s husband, and the stories and memories shared by his five sisters while they each took a turn at the lectern. I don’t know what else to say about this day, other than that it was probably the worst day I’ve lived through to date.

The hellish weeks that followed were a mix of tears, sleepless nights, long conversations, what-ifs, and unanswered questions. I was well aware of my duty to take care of my better half while dealing with my own grief in the most productive manner possible. I wrote a blog post about grieving, talked about the situation with my husband, family, and closest friends, and hunkered down at my office. On the days when the depression couldn’t be kept at bay, I struggled to get out of bed and to eat anything substantial. I cried. A lot.

Closure was elusive, as there were still a few key parts to the story that didn’t make sense. In an effort to get a better understanding of Petey’s frame of mind during the days leading up to his death, my husband called the detective who handled the case and inquired about obtaining a copy of the toxicology report based on the blood draw the coroner had performed. Did you know next-of-kin can request a copy of a coroner’s report through the District Attorney’s office? Well they can, and we did.

We were expecting to receive a couple of pages detailing the results of the blood test. What we ended up with was a 51 page document containing reports from the officers who arrived on the scene, time-stamped 911 call records, a graphic description of the position and condition in which Petey’s body was found, the condition of certain personal effects found throughout the house, interviews with Petey’s wife and her friend (including revelations regarding what the fight was really about, which explained volumes), and copies of all four suicide notes (which were heartbreaking to read, yet tremendously informative). Finally, we had uncovered most of the truth about what happened during the last five days of Petey’s life, and although his tragic death was a permanent solution to what some may consider to have been a temporary problem, we now understood where he was coming from and could slowly initiate what will no doubt prove to be an infinitely long healing process.

 

MY THOUGHTS

I have always viewed death by suicide as a personal choice that each of us ultimately has the right to choose. I’ve also always disagreed with the common remark “suicide is a selfish act”. Sure, theoretically, some suicides can be selfish acts, but I believe in most cases the suicidal mind is incapable of thinking in terms of “selfish” versus “unselfish”. There’s just pain, and the overwhelming desire to make the pain go away.  Add hopelessness to the equation, and there you go. I also believe that the difference between the 99.9% hopeless person and the 100% hopeless person is that one of them is a suicide statistic. These are beliefs I’ve held for a long time, and they haven’t changed.

Personally speaking, I’ve battled depression and anxiety disorders (OCD and social anxiety disorder) for years. I’ve felt physical manifestations of pain brought on by mental and emotional turmoil. There have been times in my life when I’ve wished I’d go quietly in my sleep; there have been times I’ve held a full bottle of pain meds in my hand while seriously considering downing the whole thing; there have been times I’ve googled “suicide” because I knew I really needed to read something meant to talk me out of it. Yet through it all, I held onto a faint glimmer of hope, and a faraway memory of better, happier, healthier times.

I still didn’t foresee this happening to Petey.

I’m so thankful that my husband and I had visited Petey on Christmas Eve (just two months before his death), and I can tell you that the classic warning signs didn’t apply here. He seemed a little bit tired back then, but he had just finished working a full shift by the time we arrived in Fallon. He still went to dinner and stayed awake for several hours with us, singing Playstation karaoke and laughing at YouTube videos. In retrospect, I wonder if this was more than just run-of-the-mill fatigue. I wish I had asked more questions along the lines of “How are you doing?”, and then listened (openly and intently) to the real answer.

The changes I had noticed over the last few years were those of a more subdued, more personal nature. Views Petey expressed on a few everyday things no longer jived with what I believed his opinions on these matters to have been in the past. A rare comment here or there about spirituality or the exploration of spiritual beliefs. Vocalized appreciation for specific pop songs trilling tales of broken hearts and love lost. But that’s like half of all pop songs, and these preferences were never expressed with anything other than a smile and a sing-along chorus.

The observations culled from his wife’s social media presence that hinted at potential problems in their relationship spurred logical double takes on my part (I realize in retrospect), but without any clues coming directly from Petey to indicate that anything was wrong at the time, I assumed he knew what was up with his marriage and had everything under control. In an effort to avoid drama or discomfort, I kept my questions to myself. I assumed this was none of my business.

But here we are, one man down.

I’m not saying it’s entirely my responsibility, and I’m not saying I’ll ever be able to convince someone to put off doing the deed, but I’ll be damned if I don’t try. It breaks my heart to imagine Petey home alone for four days, isolated and hurting. It breaks my heart to watch my husband and in-laws grieve for the greatest guy they’ve ever known. The what-ifs, the time machine scenarios, the dreaming followed by waking realizations – these hurt me to my core. I’ve come to understand that this truly is a pain one must live through to comprehend.

That’s why I’m sharing this post, friends. It was tough to write, yet I doubt I’ve ever written anything more important in my life. My emotions regarding this situation and the conversations I have in my head with the people involved are in a perpetual state of flux, however my love and respect for Petey remain constant. I miss him dearly, and I still have days where I struggle with overwhelming feelings of grief and depression. Some days I am overcome with anxiety and a profound fear that someone else I care about is suffering in silence, thinking about pulling that trigger, tying that knot or taking those pills. I can’t shake the feeling of anticipation; the death, the phone call, the next gut punch clear into despair.

The day after we found out about Petey, I asked Allissa “What’s with all the suicides lately?”, to which she replied “The world has gone mad and we’re doing a shitty job of taking care of each other.”

She’s right, you know.

So here’s a challenge for all of us: Let’s take better care of each other before we regret putting work, school, and ourselves ahead of other humans who need us. Let’s build each other up, and validate each other, and express how important we are to each other in this life. Let’s stop kicking the can down the road, assuming we’ve got years’ worth of tomorrows ahead of us. Let’s strive to be more aware of what others may be going through, and to ask each other questions that the older generation may consider rude, embarrassing, or overly personal. Because isolation and silence can be deadly, and because maybe – just maybe – we can make a difference.

Please share this post, your thoughts, and your stories.

Let’s have that overdue conversation.

 

Petey (left), my better half (center), and myself. Wedding day, Vegas, 2009.

Petey (left), my better half (center), and your humble narrator (right). Wedding Day, Vegas, 2009.

 

RESOURCES

My husband started a blog in honor of Petey. He’d love it if you’d check it out.

Again, here’s that article on the suicide epidemic.

Here’s Anderson Cooper talking to Howard Stern about a lot of stuff, including his brother’s suicide. Tune in at the 13 minute mark if you’re short on time. (Thanks so much for this link, Tommy. I honor your wisdom and admire your strength. <3)

Add the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline on Facebook.

Once again, if you’re feeling suicidal, contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK(8255). They are available to take your call 24/7. International readers should visit the website for the International Association for Suicide Prevention (IASP) to find local resources.

You are loved. Believe it.

Join Us In Vegas!

Big news, friends! The deets for July’s Young Thumbs CE workshop have arrived! Allissa, Ryan and I have been working overtime to plan this entertaining, informative and innovative class that gets you 3 NCBTMB-approved CE hours and quality time with, you know, US.

Class size is limited to 20 participants, and we’re giving Young Thumbs readers first dibs. I’ve posted the specifics below. You’ll have to pre-register at Eventbrite so we’ll have your seat saved and your certificate ready for you. It’s easy, it’s affordable, it’s Vegas!

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Ethics, Schmethics: The Vegas Workshop

(aka Young Thumbs Day)

3 CE hours in NCBTMB approved ethics

Cost: $30 (Yes, you read that right.)

When: Thursday, July 24, 2014  1:30 pm – 4:30 pm

Where: Emergency Arts, 520 East Fremont St., Downtown Las Vegas (aka not The Strip. This is way cooler than that.)

What: Hospitality nut Andrea Lipomi, video powerhouse Ryan Hoyme and marketing geek Allissa Haines will be in attendance to head up this new and innovative ethics workshop.

We know what you’re thinking. We’ve all taken ethics classes that promise to be interesting and not the same old ‘don’t-sleep-with-your-clients’ schtick. Then it turns out to be the boring ‘don’t-name-your-clients-online’ class.  Ammirite?

This workshop is different. No, really.

Are you on the prowl for simple ways to up the hospitality quotient in your practice? Are you losing the battle with burnout? Could your professional life use a boundary makeover?

Attendees will be surveyed well before the workshop day to determine their specific needs. Each attendee will be asked to submit a question for the class, and we’ll all work through it together.

Part structured mastermind group, part freestyle learning, and part extremely confidential peer counseling, this workshop is about collaboration with minimal lecture and zero stuffiness.

***IMPORTANT: You MUST pre-register for this workshop at eventbrite.com. Class size is limited to 20 participants. Registration ends July 10th, 2014.***

But wait! There’s more! We’ve decided to make a fun-filled day of it, so you’re also invited to join The Young Thumbs for the following optional events:

11am-1pm

Lunch at Eat.

Please bring cash to pay for your own meal. Separate checks will not be available, IRS compliant image of receipt will be provided via email to each attendee after the meal.

6pm

Dinner and Adventuring! (Details TBA, but we promise it’ll be a blast.)

Please bring cash to pay for your own meal. Separate checks will not be available, IRS compliant image of receipt will be provided via email to each attendee after the meal. Dinner will NOT be fancy or crazy expensive.

***Please visit The Young Thumbs Facebook page regularly during the entire week of July 20th. We’ll have lots of last minute Vegas shenanigans to announce – and we want you to join us!***

DOWNTOWN LODGING: The hotels on and near Fremont St. would be happy to have you. We can personally vouch for the lovely, recently remodeled rooms at the Downtown Grand.

CARPOOLING: If you’re staying on or near the Strip, we may be able to help with transportation to get you to the workshop. Please email Andrea at helpinghands@confidentmassage.com by July 10th, 2014 with your situation and we’ll try our best to be of assistance.

REFUNDS: If you require a refund, please submit a request to helpinghands@confidentmassage.combefore July 10th, 2014.

CONTACT: If you have any questions, please contact Andrea at (702)468-5886, or at helpinghands@confidentmassage.com.

We’re so excited we can barely contain ourselves! See you in Downtown Las Vegas this July!

(Andrea Lipomi is approved by the National Certification Board for Therapeutic Massage & Bodywork as a continuing education Approved Provider, #451780-11.)

The Young Thumbs Take Las Vegas

During Wednesday’s episode of The Massage Nerd Show, Allissa, Ryan and I made an announcement worthy of attention from the finest massage therapy news outlets and celebrity gossip magazines:

ON JULY 24th 2014, THE YOUNG THUMBS WILL TAKE OVER LAS VEGAS…AND YOU’RE INVITED!

That’s right, friends! Starting around noon on the day following the World Massage Festival’s four-day Vegas run at the Tuscany Suites & Casino, we are going to eat, workshop, eat, drink, conspire, eat, and shenanigize our hearts out! The festivities will be centered around the Fremont East neighborhood of Downtown Las Vegas, an area north of the Strip and home to lots of exciting, new and innovative development.

We’re still working on the deets, but so far we’ve decided:

  • This day will revolve around fun. If you’re looking for boring, we will only disappoint you.
  • Components of the event will be optional. Want to lunch with the crew, but skip out before the workshop (topic TBA) begins? Not a problem! Care to meet up later on in the evening instead? DO. IT.
  • The day’s expenses will be minimal. You’ll be responsible for paying for your own eats, drinkies, and any extracurricular entertainment. Know that we are totally committed to keeping the workshop super affordable too, because we love you.
  • Emergency Arts will be accommodating our workshop space demands. They are located at 520 East Fremont St., Las Vegas, NV 89101. If you’re looking for lodging in Young Thumbs territory, there are gobs of (affordable!) hotels in the ‘hood.
  • Further details will be posted on theyoungthumbs.com as we get closer to the blessed event.
  • Any questions? Please ask ‘em in the comments section below.

Watch the three of us talk about this stuff (and more).

Please save the date, and pack accordingly. :)

***

Andrea Lipomi is a licensed massage therapist and esthetician who lives and works in Las Vegas, Nevada. She also peddles massage therapy ebooks and NCBTMB-approved continuing education courses at ConfidentMassage.com, will travel hundreds of miles for a fantastic spa experience, and craves dark chocolate and Depeche Mode’s upcoming tour dates on an almost daily basis.

So This Is Grieving

When I found out, I was halfway through an afternoon shift at my office. One 60 minute appointment to go, and somehow I managed to get through it tear-free. Stunned. Numb. I think that’s what they call “shock”.

Your death was so unexpected. It’s been three weeks, and I still have moments where I forget you’re not here with us, just a phone call away, planning a September trip to Vegas.

Your face (so often smiling, bright eyes twinkling) is still omnipresent: occupying memory in my head and on my phone; online, daily; scattered throughout our house, adhered to stubborn, crispy, yellowed photo album guts. Your fantastical brand of inexhaustible generosity is everywhere, to the point where I can’t take a shit without cracking a smile at a perfectly tasteless knick-knack in the room. Little Brother, you’re the carefree to my uptight, the effort to my ‘meh’, the Fool to my Hermit, and my only regret (if that’s even what it is – words don’t seem to exist to describe the vast glut of feelings in this realm) is that I wish I had given your influence so much (over)due respect while you were still on the other end of that line.

Kind SouI, you should know I miss you daily. The void is real, and today it feels like panic-attack-chest-wrenching. Tomorrow it will feel like something slightly – or entirely – different, probably painful at worst, or uncomfortable at best, and despite the high probability that tears will rain down my cheeks at some point throughout the day, I cannot be angry with you for leaving. You are so deserving of sympathy, love, and understanding insofar as my stunted brain cells are capable of providing. Truly, you are treasured and adored.

Dear Friend, I know I have to become a better person, because you are. I will strive to listen as you listened, and to be as thoughtful and as generous to others as you were to those you loved. It won’t be easy, but I am bound to honor your existence in this way. (Even if I come somewhat close, the world wins.)

Three weeks in, I no longer view the greatest division among humanity as a barrier between the haves and have-nots, political adversaries, or religious ideologues. This boundless chasm lies between the living and the dead. What the latter have forfeited, we are charged with honoring — by crafting the remainder of our own lives in the most kickass fashion possible.

 

To my beloved brother Petey, for all of this and more, thank you.

 

***

Andrea Lipomi is a licensed massage therapist and esthetician who lives and works in Las Vegas, Nevada. She also peddles massage therapy ebooks and NCBTMB-approved continuing education courses at ConfidentMassage.com, will travel hundreds of miles for a fantastic spa experience, and craves dark chocolate and Depeche Mode’s upcoming tour dates on an almost daily basis.

Time for some closure…

It’s been almost a year, since I was at the Boston Marathon.

It started out to be one of the highlights of my career, and I was excited to go there on behalf of Bon Vital, and the Massage Therapy Foundation.

The day of the race started out like any other day, and it seemed really calm…but with 1,000’s of marathon runners, and 1,000’s of fans cheering them on.

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I was set-up in the grandstand to videotape the MTF runners to cross the finish line. Then, an event that has changed my life occurred. I heard a loud sound right across from me, and quickly turned on my video camera to see if there was going to be more fireworks (that is what I thought it was at first). I then caught the second bomb on videotape, and slowly saw a lot of bodies lying on the concrete after the dust started to clear.

There hasn’t been a day that I haven’t thought about that horrific event, and it will forever be ingrained in my mind. It has gotten better with time, and seeing a counselor soon afterwards helped. I’m really looking forward to attending the marathon again in April of this year, and not only to see all the MTF runners cross the finish line, but also to put some closure to the memories that have haunted me for the past year. I will not allow last years event haunt me, and I know the marathon will be 10x’s safer.

My #1 goal this year, is to “NOT” be on national T.V.!

I’m ready to face my fears head-on, and it’s time to be “Massage Therapist Strong!
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