Suicide and Perception, Nine Months Later

Note: Nine months ago my brother-in-law ended his life. This is a follow up to my previous posts on the topic.

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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It’s the day after Thanksgiving. I spent the holiday with my better half here in Las Vegas. I did some computer work during the day, then we went to a local casino movie theater to watch Interstellar. I won’t give anything away, but with lines like “love is the one thing we’re capable of perceiving that transcends time and space” and “no parent should have to watch their child die”, it’s no wonder I had tears streaming down my face by the time the end credits did their thing.

Sometimes it’s good to feel, and frustrating not to. Sometimes it’s agonizing to feel, and tenuously comforting not to. I have blocks of time when I will have “good days” (making progress with personal and work projects, feeling hopeful and like I can actually do things, pushing thoughts of Petey’s last days and his final act away from the forefront of my consciousness) followed by “bad days” (struggling to gain momentum as if I’m walking through quicksand, feeling like I’m wasting my time or my potential, questioning what the point of all of this is, dwelling on Petey’s absence, missing him, and thinking about the evil that some humans are perfectly okay with embracing). These days used to alternate in approximately 24-hour cycles up until a few weeks ago. Now they show up and stick around for multiple planetary rotation periods at a time without respite.

My recent thought patterns feature themes revolving around Petey’s death such as “there’s no possible way to fix this” and “I’m searching for meaning in this and finding none”. Today I felt sorry for myself (not something I’m proud of), broke down and asked Petey as if he were in the room “why did you do this to us?” —  truly not a fair question to ask because I know he was a kind, thoughtful and great guy, but frustration makes us think in strange ways. It’s difficult because I understand where he was coming from and what his intentions were, but I will never place the value of his reasons over the value of his life.

Yet, despite all of the disagreements I have with Petey in my own head and the stupid unanswerable questions I ask him aloud, the real question I want answered is “why did we let this happen to him?”, because that’s the thing I think I can find meaning in and fix. Still, the damage has been done. We can’t bend time, and we can’t tinker with permanence.

When my husband lost his brother and best friend nine months ago I figured I’d be the one he’d lean on for support, but his strength and wisdom keep me going on days like these. Tonight we talked about my struggle with depression that stems from searching for meaning in this devastating loss. He told me to savor the moment, to enjoy it like a bite of food that I just put into my mouth. To experience it slowly, letting the flavor unfold as it will — because for that block of time that is its purpose: to be experienced without meaning.

Here’s another look at the change in perspective that served me well tonight, perfectly illustrated in this scene from Louie where Charles Grodin enlightens Louie about the pleasures of pain, loss and love. Maybe you’ll find comfort in it as well. 

Even though it hurts tremendously, I am thankful for beautiful, heartbroken, walking poem epiphanies.

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.

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.

 

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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.