There is a 3 block stretch of William Cannon Drive that I avoid when at all possible. That neighborhood contains a number of places that continue to haunt me even 3 years after your death. It contains the bus stop where I got off the bus after work on Wednesday, October 13, 2010 and ran all the way home to check my email; you still hadn’t responded to any of my calls or texts… I needed to see if you had responded to any of my emails to you. (If you hadn’t, that meant we needed to send the police to your house for a wellness check.) It is also the location of the apartment in which I was living at that time; and if I look towards that building as I drive by, I have a clear view of the window that looks into the very room I was in when I got the call from Mom later that evening telling me the police had found you dead in your home. And it also is home to the bus stop bench where, 4 months later, I sat one morning talking to Mom while I waited for the bus– she was revealing to me the long-awaited details she’d received from the Medical Examiner about the findings resulting from your autopsy. There are so many uncomfortable things that happen to me when I’m near these places. I know well that the feeling of my heart racing, feeling short of breath, reliving the events, the overwhelming urge to vomit and the all over “fight or flight” panic are all classic symptoms of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, better known as “PTSD.”
It causes an understandable yet unnecessary worry in my daily life. When I can’t reach someone because for whatever reason they aren’t answering their phone I still have a feeling of dread and panic that washes over me. I know it isn’t a rational fear because in my heart I know that there are many reasons someone isn’t picking up– every time I can’t reach someone I begin to fear that something terrible has happened. It seems on a daily basis something happens from which I have to “talk myself down.” Sometimes it is my feelings of survivor’s guilt. Sometimes it is my fear of abandonment and general anxiety over those closest to me leaving–either by way of their untimely demise or a conscious choice to leave me. Other times it means planning my driving routes so as to avoid any places that will remind me of October 13, 2010. Some nights it means recurring nightmares about the entire last 5 months of your life and my not being able to stop you from taking your own life. Sometimes it is reliving our last phone conversation– every single thing I suggested to try and help you was shot down and I was growing so frustrated because I so desperately wanted to help but it was becoming more and more obvious that I just couldn’t. I rolled my eyes at you as we spoke on the phone that night, Brian. You would not believe how I’ve tortured myself over that fact these past 3 years. I remember lying on my bed talking with you for an hour listening to everything and trying so hard to help and when you couldn’t seem to really “hear” me I grew frustrated… and I ROLLED MY EYES. I have been punishing myself for that and (until now) have told very few people about it because I’m horribly ashamed that the very last time we talked I actually rolled my eyes at you! I know you couldn’t have known that I was doing that but I sure knew and haven’t let myself forget it. I’ve had a very hard time letting go of that night.
I have been getting more involved with the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention and am struggling greatly with one thing the past month or two. That “thing” is that there is still a part of me that truly believes that, no matter how hard we try, suicide may never be completely preventable. I know that will upset a lot of people… it upsets me too and makes me feel like a complete hypocrite for trying to help spread the word about suicide prevention. But I heard something recently that made me feel less angry at myself for feeling that way. Someone said she felt her brother’s depression was like a cancer; he sought treatment, was on medication, was seeing a therapist and was really, really trying to get better… but it just didn’t go away. She said just as with cancer, there are all kinds of wonderful treatments out there and while they work for some people, for some people it just isn’t enough and we lose them despite the efforts of the sick and of those in the medical profession trying their very best to save them.
I will still continue do my part to keep working hard to educate people about depression and suicide in the hopes that we can greatly reduce the number of suicides occurring each year. It is absolutely unacceptable that 38,000 people are dying each year at their own hands. One of the ways I can help is to help the AFSP focus on laws surrounding mental health care issues and I intend to do just that because more people need to at least have ACCESS to mental health care to give it a shot. And we really need to increase awareness and understanding because they shouldn’t be ashamed to seek that help.
I’m so sorry I couldn’t save you, Brian. I hope you’re proud of what I’m trying to do now in your absence.