“a cup of coffee and a slice of time…”

So where do you go when you feel like you’ve gotten to a dead end? Where do you find the answers when the questions you hear yourself asking are falling on deaf ears? Your mind tells you “No one cares and no one ever really did”, and who are you to argue with your mind? “You’re just some loser who can’t get your shit together. No one cares about you, no one loves you, no one even knows you exist at this point.” I don’t have an answer. I’ve never been at that place in my head. Sure, I deal with self doubt at times and I feel like I should lose 20 lbs and I should pick up a hobby like painting. Or maybe I should learn how to fix things around the house. But these are normal things everyone goes through. All in all I have a pretty good overall opinion of myself(not horn-tooting here.) I do the best I can. I feel like I’m a pretty giving and open person to those around me. I don’t wallow in self-pity or self-doubt for more than 10 minutes a time. My family loves me, and have told me on many occasions that they don’t know what they’d do without me(my wife can’t even pick something to watch on Netflix. The struggle is real.) And I feel like the luckiest mug in the world having my high school sweetheart at my side, along with three kids that are equally sweet, polite, and looking at the world with eyes wide open.

My point is, I can’t step into the head of someone so lost and in the dark that suicide seems to be the only answer. You can’t empathize with that sort of deep, dark, sadness unless you’ve been in the thick of it. It’s not that I don’t want to help. I want to reach in and pull that sludge out of that person and shine as much light in as I can, but it doesn’t work that way. Depression isn’t coaxed out with some supplements and a handful of “Hey, keep your chin up!” You can’t will someone to be happy by praying for them or dropping by occasionally and leaving them with a “We should get coffee sometime, or something.” Being there for someone you know is going through it is a start. Opening your head and heart to what they’re going through is a good place to begin. You can offer your services as a coffee pal or a fellow bookstore rummager. You can ask how they’re doing and offer some honest advice. You can’t make someone take it, though. You can only hope it’s a lifeline enough to keep that person interested. Enough to keep the conversation going.

I’ve dealt with this darkness more times than I’d like to count in my life. Friends, family, acquaintances that gave into the black hole of regrets, guilt, despair, and whatever else you can find on any early Cure albums, regardless of how much they loved others or were loved by others. It’s a sickness, plain and simple. It’s not a bad mood you’ll eventually get out of. There’s no bucking up and getting over it. There are chemicals imbalanced, wires crossed, and emotional scars a mile long wrapped around ones heart like a python squeezing.

Like I’ve said, I don’t have any answers. I just want to stay engaged with the world around me. I want to stay plugged in and available to those who need me to be. I may not have any answers, but I can maybe help with figuring out the questions that need to be asked. We’re all in this together, for better or worse. Let’s make it more better than worse. We start doing that by not averting our gaze off to the side, but by laser-pointing it directly ahead. No matter how uncomfortable or awkward it may be. Let those around you having a rough go of it know that you’re there and that you’re buying a cup of coffee and have a spot to sit and talk. That’s how we make it better. Sometimes a friend is all we need to get to the next day.

That’s all we can ask for, isn’t it?

“I Just Wasn’t Made For These Times”

lydiaI didn’t know her personally.  I’d see her in passing in the halls of the elementary school for Open Houses or the school Carnival.  She seemed like an artistic soul.  Tattoos, piercings, and a look in her eyes that said she saw things in a much different way than the rest of us.  My wife on the other hand knew her from a nursing group back when our youngest was an infant.  It was a support group for breastfeeding moms.  I remember my wife telling me about “Lydia”, and that she was a very nice, younger gal.  Very artistic.  Not the typical mom you’d run into at a nursing group meeting(that’s a good thing).  In a town filled with the drudgery of churches every 1000 feet and the cultural equivalent of a Circus in a National Guard Army, this young mom known to me as Lydia was a breath a fresh air.  Someone who didn’t see the world through the same rose-colored glasses as everyone else.  A fellow human fighting the battle of mundanity…

Sadly, Lydia was fighting more battles than I could’ve ever imagined.  My wife called me Tuesday morning and told me Lydia took her own life.  She left this world for somewhere else.  She left four children and many, many people that cared for her very deeply wondering what they could’ve done.  What could have they said that may have made a difference.  “Could I have been a better friend?”  “Could I have been a better sister?”  “Why wasn’t I with her?”  “Why?”

I can’t even begin to imagine the depths of despair this woman fell to.  Not even the thought of her children growing up without a mom could keep her tethered to this world.  It’s heartbreaking.  We’ve all been low before.  We’ve had our moments of doubt.  But this?  This is beyond anything I can fathom.  She had the love of four children and many friends, yet none of that could redeem her.  That’s the thing.  As low as we can get, we still know we’re worthy of redemption.  We’re worthy of a second chance.  Regardless of how low things get, there’s still a spark of hope that keeps us going.  Without that spark, it  just remains dark.  You’re lost and you have no idea which way is out, so you blow a hole through the wall of the universe and make your own escape.  You see it as your only way out of the pain, loneliness, and defeat that seems to be your life.

Suicide has touched my life a few times in my nearly 40 years.  It’s never easy to get through, let alone understand.  But Lydia taking her own life has really made me think about things.  Maybe because I’m a parent now.  It’s that paternal instinct to protect my children at all cost.  The idea of me not being here to make sure they’re taken care of and that their scrapes are cleaned and bandaged, and assured that they are loved and will always be loved no matter who they are or what they do.  The thought of me not being here to be that grounding figure for them.  The stable rock they can come to when they need to be comforted.  Or need advice on taking the right classes, getting a car loan, taking a job, love and marriage, and raising their own children.  That’s all the reason I need to keep me here.  Keep me scrapping with the universe and flipping the bird to anyone who deserves it.  It puts the fire in my belly and allows me to say “It could always be worse, and I can always make it better.”  Lydia didn’t have that spark.  Somewhere along the way it got put out and she never figured out how to light it again, and that’s so very sad to me.

Like I said before I didn’t know Lydia personally but I mourn her regardless.  She was a parent like me.  She was also a sister, aunt, daughter, and artist.  I mourn for her children and her family.  I hope she has found peace.

If you need help and have nowhere to go, go here.  Or call 1-800-273-8255