Let’s Talk. . . Again and Again

| Jun 11, 2018

And so here we are again.

Two celebrity suicides have everyone talking about mental health and “check on your friends” and sharing suicide hotline numbers. “Reach out. Reach out.”

It seems cyclical, doesn’t it?

All these people are saying “He seemed so strong!” Well, just because he didn’t share his Pain doesn’t mean he doesn’t have it. Remember Robin Williams? That was the last time we discussed celebrity suicides. Or was it the time before? I’ve lost count.

I am not making light of the topic. My readers know of my battles against the Darkness, and that I lost my dearest friend to Suicide. Then of course there’s the often quoted statistic that 41% of transgender people have attempted suicide (which I think is a VERY low estimate.)

If you are transgender and follow social media, it seems that every week a friend of a friend takes their own life. Or a friend. If it weren’t so tragic, it would be numbing. It’s like a lottery — who will get picked this time, Shirley Jackson?

People post hotlines. I tried that. Twice. No one answered the phone. Nothing makes one feel as completely worthless as being snubbed by a suicide hotline.

Then there’s hospitalization. I did that back in 1990. It was horrible — beyond useless. I have sworn that I will never go back to a psych ward. Death is far preferable. I mean, there was a guy there, a therapist, who critiqued my artwork, telling me how disturbed I was because of how I drew a bridge. I was 24. Guy was younger than me. 28 years later, I’m still stunned by the stupidity I witnessed.

So. Your friend is suicidal. You don’t want them to die. What can you do? They’re not going to call some phone number just so the police break down their door, guns drawn (as they did at Chelsea Manning’s place.) Or to be hauled off to a useless public facility. Especially if the friend is transgender — it can only end badly.

What can you do? Go to them. Or, if you’re too far away, send someone you trust. NOT the police. NOT the ambulance. Suicide is a solitary act by nature. People are alone when they kill themselves. Usually, they isolate themselves socially first. If someone is WITH them, they won’t do it. Oh, they may hate the person who is there. Insult them, etc. But they will be alive.

Sophie

Xmas Eve 2015

For example; Christmas Eve 2015. I knew I would not see my daughter at all for the holidays. I’d been verbally abused like crazy at work for weeks (retail during Christmas is simply savage) culminating in my usual Christmas Eve closing shift where the customers seemed to take extra pleasure in misgendering and insulting me. By the time I got home, I was a crying mess, completely consumed by the Darkness. One of my co-workers had seen what happened, and offered to come over with some wine. I told her no. She insisted. I said no. I was waiting for my roomie Linda to go to sleep, so I could go crash my car somewhere or something. I NEEDED to die. This co-worker didn’t take “go away” for an answer, and showed up with two bottles of wine (she lived just down the street.) She, Linda and I watched Christmas specials and got drunk.

Eventually, I felt just a little better. I didn’t feel as alone. This co-worker did exactly what I needed. And I’m still here.

I am NOT a doctor. Nor am I a therapist. I have a bit of psychology training due to my Paramedic and education training, but I’m not a professional. But I know the Darkness intimately. If people cared enough to be PRESENT in the lives of the people they proclaim to love when those people need them the most, the Darkness will not, cannot win. After the danger has passed, that person can go get some professional help. But during those critical moments, the love and presence of a friend can make the difference between life and death. Not a policeman. Not someone who wants to strap them to a gurney, pump them full of drugs, and hand them a bill for six figures while assuring them “it’s for your own good.”

A Friend.

My dearest friend Lisa died alone in the back of a filthy painting van. Had anyone known what she was planning, they would’ve been there for her — physically. And maybe she’d be with us today. I think about that Every Day.

Preventing suicide isn’t about talk. It’s about taking Time.

Be well.

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Category: Body & Soul

About the Author ()

Read Sophie's blog here. View her contribution to The New York Times transgender stories article. She has also been featured in an article on Philly.com.

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