I’ve been thinking a lot about the recent suicides of Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain lately. It’s really heartbreaking for their families, and leaves so many unanswered questions, but it seems that only when something like this happens do we really understand how much pain (emotional or physical) someone may have. Of course, it’s too late to help them at that point, but how do we help someone who is hiding their pain from those they love? How do we know? Some people love playing “the victim,” and love getting the attention that goes along with that. Others of us, however, don’t want to be a burden on those we love.
My daughter had a friend who committed suicide a few years ago. They were very close in high school, and then this friend ended up pushing away my daughter, along with a lot of other people who had been her friends. Of course, it makes sense why she pushed everyone away now, but at the time, how could anyone know that she was hurting so much? She pushed people away with meanness and made them not want to be with her. I guess in her way, she was trying to protect them from the pain she knew she may eventually put them through. Even when it happened, my daughter was not mad at her. She hurt for her. She still loved her. She understood then that her friend had needed help, and didn’t know how to ask for it.
We all need help from time to time.
Last summer, I found myself in a dark place. I was not suicidal, but I was sad. I was afraid. I was hurting. And I was feeling a lot of pressure from so many different places. I had been diagnosed with a medical condition that will be with me for the rest of my life. I was alone when I got this diagnosis because my husband was in New York with his family. I had recently been terribly hurt by some people I really cared about. I had no idea how I was going to handle another year of teaching with this type of medical diagnosis. I was bogged down with some very difficult, important paperwork that was pushing me to my limit. I was overwhelmed, alone, confused, sad, and hurting a lot. I didn’t want to die, but I wanted to disappear for awhile. I laid down on the kitchen floor, and cried. And cried. And cried. And cried. And finally a calmness came over me, and I got up and finished my paperwork that had been frustrating me so much. I was still upset and alone, mad and frustrated, but I knew I had to pull myself together to keep going. It didn’t matter what anyone else thought of me, or how anyone was trying to hurt me. I had to keep at the paperwork, no matter how confusing and difficult it was. Al would be home in a few days and we could begin exploring our medical options, and he would be home to comfort me. It would all be okay. I was entitled to a meltdown for all I was dealing with. But I had to get up and face these obstacles. I had to be strong for my husband and my children. I couldn’t disappear.
Al and I had a discussion earlier tonight about how when either of us is hurting or sick, we try not to let the other one see how much we’re suffering. We try to protect each other, even through our own pain. I didn’t tell Al about my major meltdown last summer until recently. I didn’t want to worry him, or put any added stress on him. He worries enough about me….why cause him to worry more? Why cause him added pain? When he is sick, he tries to conceal how bad he feels so I won’t worry. It hurts to see your partner hurt. We are strong for each other, but we also know that sometimes we can’t handle everything alone, whether it’s a physical illness or a giant weight on our shoulders. We need help from each other. We don’t have to do it alone, and it has taken me awhile to learn this. It isn’t something I’ve been used to.
Those people who are in so much pain that they take their own lives, aren’t trying to hurt anyone else. So many times they have been protecting their loved ones for so long it becomes too heavy of a burden to carry. They’ve had to be strong for everyone while they hurt. They’re really quite selfless, even though some will argue just the opposite. They’re funny, compassionate, and caring, but they have hidden their own feelings in order to protect those they love. We know to take care of those who ask for help. But let’s take care of those who seem strong too. Let’s be there for the ones who always seem to be there for everyone else. Let’s be there for the ones who start isolating themselves, even if they don’t want us. Let’s be there for the ones who make us laugh when we want to cry. Let’s be there for the ones who say, “I’m fine.” They may be the ones who are suffering the most, and don’t know how to ask for help. We are all human, and every human needs help at some point in their lives.
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255