Because its #BellLetsTalk I am sharing my first encounter with #suicide: what is now called a mental health issue.
When I was 16 years old, one of my best friends chose to take her own life. Andrea was a bright, beautiful young woman who had the most amazing long straight hair that she could sit on! From what we talked about, I thought, she was looking forward to her 16th birthday in February, as she wanted her licence so very badly! We made plans for summer fun and talked about the usual teenage stuff.. No hint of what would come.. In hindsight I often wondered if I was blind, or what did I miss?
Our little group of friends always met at her place when we were getting ready to go out on a Friday night. I thought her parents were so cool. They travelled a lot, always returning with gifts and great stories of where they had been.
We had our tickets for the Alice Cooper Concert, December 30, 1971 Civic Centre, Ottawa, ON – ALICE COOPER “Killer Tour”. At the last minute, the concert was postponed until January 1st 1972, as the band were stranded in Toronto: they were unable to make it to Ottawa.
I didn’t find out until much later that evening. It was new year’s day, there was a family dinner, so I had said I would meet the girls at the venue. I spent the first little while of the concert trying to find our group and just before I did another of our friends, John, came running up asking me to please tell him it was not true…
I pushed John out of the way, as just behind him I saw my friends, well three of the five, and the shell-shocked look on Marnie’s face took the air from the room…They had come to make sure that i too knew what had happened. The rest of the night is a bad dream.. A cut and paste kaleidoscopic flashback of tears, silence, angst and pain.
We huddled together, none of us sure what to do, what to say, should we go? Unable to process what I now knew to be real.. Andrea had taken her life the night before, found in the early morning hours by her brother. My friend was Jewish and as such the service was to be before sundown the next day.
It was so difficult to tell my parents what had happened, mostly i think because in saying it aloud it made it final. I was brought up Catholic and back then that was the ultimate sin. In my shock, I made my way to the Synagogue on St Patrick Street, from there we were taken to the Jewish cemetery out Bank St. No wake, no viewing, no time to adjust and accept, nothing about that day seemed real. Until the gravediggers came. Bounding through the snow, entirely too loud and happy for this occasion. I didn’t realize it then nor for almost two weeks after, I was still in a state of shock, not in my right mind”. Unable, unwilling? Unprepared to get help..Had there been any back then… We did not have any services or hotlines or anywhere we could turn to, in order to help us make sense of this trauma…
Andrea’s death changed my life in ways I didn’t know or understand then.
I saw how much people hurt, including me, and I realized the brutal impact of her choice.
The devastation she wrought with that one act of finality, made me decide to live a different way – a positive way. Not before a decade or more of negative drama, destruction and near-death. I didn’t understand then, that Andrea spurred me to decide that no matter what life threw at me, I would not quit.
That became the hardest self-promise I ever made because –Life can be a vindictive bitch-. Always daring me, always pushing … I’m not sure how I managed to hang on by the skin of my teeth…
I had help – Andrea gave me a gift, it took 37 years for me to recognize. She showed me that staying alive was important. And worth it…
For anyone struggling with suicidal thoughts know that you can reach out.. Mental Health affects us all.. And we are ready to help #BellLetsTalk
I'm a raving optimist.. and what that means to me! there's a pony for sure!
CMHA says "Mental health is about more than mental illness
It’s more than being happy all the time. It’s about feeling good about who you are, having balance in your life, and managing life’s highs and lows. Everyone deserves to feel well, whatever their mental health experience. And we all need a support system to lean on."
Not many know the true story behind the accident that took part of my leg.
Not many are aware of the mental torture of the next few years, the total annihilation of any semblance of self-worth, self-confidence or self-esteem that was perpetrated upon me by the person I was trying to help that night.
In my weird way I always thought I was protecting those around me by fighting my battles alone. I now know that was foolish.
When you are not a confident person, when you are less that strong emotionally, and when you are the type to fight your own battles, to never let anyone see your pain, you are in fact, catnip for anyone damaged and abusive and in retrospect filled with guilt.
In the guise of the caring friend, month after month, he would come to the hospital, whispering warnings, reinforcing my fear of abandonment, my fear of disgust at my severely scarred body. Filling my head with the notion that only he could handle this mess I had become. Only he would see past the exterior damage. Only he would not be repulsed.
I fell for it. Hook, line, and sinker. In the dark place, I had fled in my mind, I knew that he was right. The weird internal voice that seems to relish your pain, stoked the fires of self-doubt, self-loathing.
I gave up almost everyone I knew, I became a recluse in order to avoid the pain of the abuse that would follow any small infraction. I wasn’t allowed a phone, I wasn’t allowed to see friends, and I wasn’t to look at or speak to another male over the age of 10. (A 12 yr old boy carried 2 heavy bags home for me from the corner grocery)It cost me two days of verbal abuse and multiple physical attacks.
The escape from the situation came after I had spent an entire night perched on the edge of a precipice feeling the only option was an either – or…choice. Only one of us could continue…
Thanks in part to the gift my friend Andrea had given me when she took her life,(suicide is not the answer) and in part to the universe intervening, my abuser did not return to our house that night.
I now know that I must have called on courage ( finally I get it Kathie Donovan) to start anew, I still tried to go it alone, never reaching out for help until 2004 when I finally found Patricia Wall. Ostensibly she was helping me get my house sold ( My son calls her the holistic missile, her help had nothing to do with real estate!!) Not everyone is this lucky. Not everyone is blessed with friends and family who support us even in the silence.
I know that initiatives like #BellLetstalk and all the mental health options we have now (still plenty of room for improvement) can help.
I hope that by finally talking publicly about this dark and pain-filled time in my life perhaps someone else will reach out.. Talk … Ask for help… or offer it… Thank you