Let’s Have a Conversation

Suicide.  There.  It’s been said. Suicide.

We don’t talk about it.  It is a dirty secret, shameful thoughts, weakness. The silence contributes to people suffering and not reaching out for help; to people dying.

The strongest people can break.  Depression is a monster that climbs on your back and scratches your eyes until you’re blind to reality, only hearing the demons within. “I’m horrible” ” I’m useless,” “I’m alone.”  And it sings other dark as the hours crawl by. I’ve been down this road and often fight that darkness.  Every sparkle of light is sucked up by that sense of hopelessness.  Or the feeling of emptiness and just not wanting anything ever again. The longer it went on, the more realistic the plan of suicide became.

These are facts on paper.  But, they don’t reflect the reality.

Some Statistics 

  1. Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the United States.
  2. Every year 42,7734 Americans die by suicide.
  3. For every suicide, 25 people attempt
  4. There are 117 suicides a day
  5. Firearms account for almost 50% of suicides
  6. Men commit suicide 3.5 times more than women. But women attempt suicide more than men.

(American Foundation of Suicide Prevention) 

Twenty two veterans a day lose the war at home. They choose to end their lives rather than continue to carry the hopelessness and pain. 

Twenty Two 

Twenty two a day.  Screaming silently their pain. Who is listening?

Suicide and mental illness

Mental illnesses such as depression, anxiety, PTSD, schizophrenia increases the rate of suicide.  Recent hospitalization, sense of hopelessness, and co-current substance abuse significantly increase suicide risks.  Often stigma prevents people from seeking help.  They continue to suffer in silence.

Warning Signs

Often warning signs appear in the behavior of people in crisis and considering suicide.

  1. Hopelessness, feeling like there’s no way out
  2. Anxiety, agitation, sleeplessness, or mood swings
  3. Feeling like there is no reason to live
  4. Rage or anger
  5. Engaging in risky activities without thinking
  6. Increasing alcohol or drug abuse
  7. Withdrawing from family and friend

The presence of the following signs requires immediate attention:

  1. Thinking about hurting or killing yourself
  2. Looking for ways to kill yourself
  3. Talking about death, dying, or suicide
  4. Self-destructive behavior such as drug abuse, weapons, etc.

People considering suicide don’t always show warning signs. 

Risk Factors

  1. Family history of suicide
  2. Past suicide attempts
  3. Presence of weapons
  4. White, middle aged male
  5. A serious or chronic medical condition and/or pain
  6. Depression, anxiety, PTSD
  7. History of trauma or abuse
  8. Isolation


Step by Step

It’s been a horrible week for me.  I’m finally getting back to my new normal- whatever that is.  

It reminded me of a hole of mud. I’d try to get traction only to slip down again, flailing in the mud at the bottom.  It took so much energy to keep climbing.

I keep thinking that I should be “immune” to this level of depression- the suicidal thoughts, the sleepless nights.  Aren’t I lucky?  Brain injury, depression, and PTSD.  The PTSD has nothing to do with the brain injury- it’s a seriously messed up situation. 

What kills me; at one point I was a good Clinical Social Worker.  Now, nope.  Between the effects of brain injury and the other stuff, I can’t do that anymore.  It wouldn’t be good for my clients or me.  I had the skills to help others climb out their holes.  I can’t do it for myself.  So strange.  It’s true though.  You really don’t see your own problems clearly.  This shit messes with your mind.  Nothing is clear when you’re trapped in the mud. 

I’m slowly stepping  away from the hole now.  

What kept me going this last week ?  I couldn’t hurt Brighid or Kaliyah. I didn’t want them in rescues or the Humsne Society.  And I wasn’t going to kill them.  I have a responsibility to them.  Alive in part because of a cat and ferret.

My family was part of why.  What I said about how that shit messes with your mind.  A part of me figured they’d just “get over it.”  I’m just a burden on them.  The small part still fighting knew it wasn’t true.

The final reason: 22 veterans a day kill themselves.  In the back of my head was them. And the Soldiers of my old unit.  I had to retire.  That doesn’t mean my sense of responsibility and loyalty is gone.  I don’t want to send the message that it’s ok.  

It’s funny what kept me going.  It was a close thing.  The only part of the plan I didn’t have figured was my fur kids.  

This is sadly funny.  I contacted the chat option of the National Suicide Hotline in the middle of the night.  Long story short: the guy told me to go sleep it off.    I’d feel better the next morning if I slept.  Hey, motherfucker… Would I be in chat in the middle of the night if I could sleep?  And they wonder why there’s 22 veteran suicides a month.  I sort of found it funny after the fact but it’s still alarming.

I ended up going for a run at 2:45 in the morning.   I wore reflective gear.  Operant conditioning in action.  It was still ironic. 

I spent a lot of time last week being physically active.  It was the only thing that made me feel better at all.

I isolate when my head gets that way.  After all, no one wants to be around that shit.   That’s what made the hotline response so messed up.  The only two places/ people who knew what was going on was the hotline and the social worker at the Vet Center.  

But, yesterday and today, I’m climbing out of the hole.  

Journeys are Never Easy

Today was a bad day for me.  I’m not sure exactly why.  I was just really upset all morning.

I got myself locked into negative mental chatter.  My attitude was fuck this.  It’s been a long time since my mood was this low.  I’ve been frustrated and afraid this past month.  But, not like today.

My thoughts summed up:

  1. I wish that accident had killed me
  2. I really have no life.
  3. I want to go somewhere but I can’t travel alone. I’ll never see Alaska, Hawaii, the Florida Keys. Or go to Scotland again.  Or Ireland.  Or the Grand Canyon, or Glacier National Park.  I’m chained to my town.
  4. I never run a marathon or play in an orchestra again
  5. My careers are gone.
  6. The fucking accident killed me anyway.  I just still exist.

It was another day when the losses were in my face.   I can’t kill myself.  I can’t hurt Brigid or Kaliyah.  Brigid is not s cute kitten and may not find another family.  And I can’t take her with me.  It’s funny how my second thought was how my family would react.  Brigid and Kaliyah came first.  I suppose that’s because they depend on me.  My family would grieve and move on.  I don’t want to hurt them either.

So, I got Kaliyah out to play.  Ferrets make you smile.  She was in a playful mood.   I wonder where my running socks are. She loved the dig box game.  Lots of interaction.  She tried to drag my backpack under the couch.  Ferrets are determined animals.  She would not give up on that backpack.  It didn’t fit.  Fine.  She’ll try pulling under. Spinning it around and trying again.  Dig on it and the floor under the couch.  Flip over on her back and try pulling it again.  By now she’s hissing in frustration.  The odds were against her but she kept trying.  Until she got bored.  Then it was onto playing in the plastic bags closet that I forgot to close.

After she was done playing and tucked into her cage I decided to follow her example and take a nap. Brigid curled up at my shoulder and purred until I fell asleep.  Three hours.

It was a beautiful day.  I went for a short run then read a book at the small picnic area in my neighborhood and meditated.  There wasn’t a focus on the meditation.  I noticed nature and reflected on the Mother who created it.  I had a deer and baby come into the park. Mom deer looked at me, then slowly walked into the woods.  Shea’s her fawn were a reminder of Spring: new growth.  New beginnings.  Maybe even new hope.

I have no idea if my life is going to change.  Maybe things can still get better.  There still things to enjoy.  Even in a narrow world.

I feel better tonight although I am wiped out.  I hope to go to bed early. Maybe tomorrow will be better.

Twenty Two a Month

Statistics.  How accurate are they?  They reflect real people with real problems.  Twenty two veterans a month commit suicicide.  Why?  There are so many ways to be wounded both body and soul.  So many ways to be afraid, anxious and hopeless.  So many ways to not have any say in what happens next.  Twenty two is too many.  Yet, I know the real reason.  You lose hope and see no real future.  Fear, anxiety. And loss overcome hope.  When there is still a little hope, something that needs you and gives you some joy.  Too many veterans lose both. 


The Darkness

Depression is a powerful enemy.  It can suck the life out of the strongest person- mentally, physically, and emotionally.

Last week, the ferret community lost a humorous, talented, generous person.  She also fought again depression.  She won the battle for so long.  In the end, the damn monster won.  Alexandra couldn’t fight anymore.  The darkness was so overwhelming and the light just not strong enough.

She wasn’t a weak person. She was loved and respected by her family and more friends than she may not have known she had.  When you get to the edge many times, it can be easy to slip over.

depression quote RW

We always ask, “Why did this happen?” Robin Williams nailed suicide in this quote.  It takes a second where you just can’t find hope.  One moment in time to take that step that you think ends the pain.  And it does for you.  The pain just started for the people left behind.  However, when you’re in that darkness, you feel alone.  You can’t stand the thought of living just one more second.  They still care about friends and family.  But, they just can’t see beyond the pain to see what impact suicide will have on others.  It’s the ultimate in hopelessness and darkness.

I am not Alexandra.  I can not truly feel her pain and understand what she experienced as she did.  I relate to her pain and hopelessness.  I’ve been on the edge of suicide many times since my brain injury. After weeks of connecting with the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, for a few hours,  I didn’t have hope.  All I saw was the darkness closing in around me. I developed a plan and put it in action.   I found a home for my ferrets.  I wrote a letter on how to manage my estate and what I wanted done with my body, if it was ever found.  I couldn’t find a home for my cat, Brigid. This anchor kept me from ending my life that day.  I couldn’t stand the thought of her being homeless or in the Humane Society.  And I couldn’t kill her to take her with me. She and the ferrets have enriched my life so much.  My brother called the same night.  For me, the connection to my family and my furry friends gave me just enough light to make it through that short time I was lost.


National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is an excellent resource if you, or someone you know is in crisis.  They also help people who are not in crisis; providing the same listening and connection to local resources.  It has a special extension for veterans and helps to connect them to VA services among other assistance.  Family and friends can also call about someone who worries them.  The Lifeline helps by offering suggestions about how to help.   It helps.  Use it.

Alexandra Sargent- Colburn, I remember your generous spirit and humor.  I am saddened that the darkness claimed another light. I still read your articles about ferrets.  I still smile when I do.  You reached out to many people and touched many lives.  I cannot be angry at you.  There are so many in the ferret community facing similar pain.  We get it.  We miss you.   May you have found the healing and peace you needed.  “Ping is he.”

look into heart

Rogue Waves

This is an excellent article about the ongoing emotional challenges and acceptance of TBI. The author speaks about “rogue waves” of emotion that come out of nowhere, cause damage, then recede just as suddenly, leaving the mess behind. Experience these waves is normal. They are also an aggravating part of life AI (After Injury).

I experienced many of the challenges he speaks about in his article. If you have TBI or know someone with TBI, take the time to read it.

Rogue Waves