Today I am thinking about suicide…..

No – I’m not actually considering this option, but I am thinking about what must go through a persons mind as this decision is made. This past week, for the second time in about 6 months, a friend and former co-worker decided that he had had enough; That he could not take any more; That his family would be better off with out him and his “issues”. And for the first time in my life, I get it. I actually understand the decision.

I have never understood what could  cause a person to make this ultimate decision. My first experience with suicide, before I got into the world of EMS, was so horrific and unforgivable…… What this man (a neighbor) did to his family……. I have never been able to forgive him or anyone else who has taken their own life. Until now.

I cannot and will not ever forgive my neighbor – or most people who make this choice – but I can easily put myself in the shoes of my two friends/co-workers. I can fully appreciate the feeling that it is too much to tolerate. I have often told my wife that she does not deserve to put up with me and my “issues” and wondered silently if my wife and kids would be better off if I was not around. (Not permanently, but just not in their daily lives). Frankly, had I not “retired” when I did – I could very easily have decided to end it all long before these two friends did.

The purpose of this post is not to justify or glorify suicide. The purpose is to say – I get it. But it is not the answer. There are much better ways to deal with your struggles. I am proof.

I realize that most of my posts here have been rather negative; describing my problems, not telling of my successes. The truth is, I have made a lot of progress and I am here to tell you that there is hope. There is help! And it’s OK to ask for help. It can be a long and difficult journey, but it is a much better alternative.

I will not tell you that I am “cured”. But I will tell you that I am MUCH better. My anxiety levels are much lower. Nightmares and flashbacks are lest frequent and less intense. When something does “trigger” an emotional response, I am able to handle it and move on. I do still have things to work on, but my quality of life is much improved.

Simply acknowledging that there is a problem will make a huge difference. Getting over the self-consciousness of what everyone else thinks is another big step in the right direction. Truth is – you don’t have to tell everyone. Of course, you need to tell SOMEONE that you are struggling….but that could be a spouse, a close friend, a therapist…..even me. For a long time, my wife was the only one who knew; Then my therapist (who is a God-send, by the way). Eventually I told close members of my family and very close friends. Even keeping my secret, for the most part, I have been able to overcome many of the hurdles associated with PTSD.

I understand there is still a stigma associated with PTSD. But, if you are struggling, you need to talk to someone.  I am here to help – whether you want to talk to me, or if you want some help finding a professional……Just let me know what I can do to help you make a choice your family won’t regret…..


6 responses

  1. Todd,

    Curious why you can’t ever forgive your neighbor or anyone else who takes their own life?

    My brother Eric 20 years ago today did that very thing. I forgave him about a year later, once I had the chance to get through some of the over whelming grief of losing my brother. It was his illness that made him take his life, not my brother. If he could he would have killed the illness not himself.


    1. Jen,

      I am truly very sorry that my comments offended you. Even more so, I am sorry to hear about your brother.

      I probably could have stated it better, but my comments were intended as generalities – not a black and white response to every situation. And, I’m sure emotion instead of logic played a part in how I spoke.

      I cannot presume to imagine what your brother was enduring and what caused him to make the final decision. Certainly, suffering from a long, painful disease that will ultimately result in death changes my perspective entirely. Also, the suicide of my two friends recently has opened my eyes to some of the realities associated with mental illness and what can lead to this action. These two guys devastated their families, so I’m not willing to say “it’s ok”, but I do have a better understanding. While I do not know everything that may have contributed to their decision, I can definitely put myself in their shoes to a very large degree. I worked side by side with both of these guys for close to 10 years. I know what they experienced because I experienced it too. I know about the suffering and pain these experiences probably caused because it caused the same pain and suffering for me too. But, even in my darkest of days, and there were a LOT of really dark days, I never considered for a second that suicide was the answer.

      But, no, I will not forgive my neighbor. His wife had recently asked for a divorce and he decided that the best solution was a shotgun. His 5 year old son found him. It is probably fair and accurate to say that my problem is with how he did it – maybe not as much the act itself. Although, in this particular situation I do see it as very selfish no matter how he did it. I cannot put myself in his shoes and pretend to understand why he did it.

      I acknowledge that my stance on this subject may be to harsh and jaded. I also understand that it is not my place to judge someone else for their actions. Thank you for reminding me of this and causing me to pause and think.

      Again, Jen, I hope you can forgive me for offending you. It was certainly not my intention to hurt anyone – simply to share my feelings.

  2. Thank you for sharing. I work at a trauma center, was a crisis counselor for 10 years and worked for my local fire service for 10 years. Working in our fields and seeing the grief of families left behind, not only in one case but, several over a career is taxing – it impacts our perception and feeling about what we experience. It’s still hard for me to fathom. I understand your feelings on the topic.

    It also takes great strength from the grieving family members to get past the hurt caused by their loved ones final action, and forgive them. It is really hard to get someone who is so deep in darkness to willingly accept help.

    1. Nicely stated. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

  3. “I am thinking about what must go through a persons mind as this decision is made.” – this is a question that will forever burn in my mind, in relation to my mother. As an adult, I’ve moved past the point of blame, of what did I do wrong, but still the question remains – WHY????. A question that is unanswerable by the ones left behind. I use to think that perhaps my mom would hold the answers (at least in relation to her decision)… Now I’m not so sure that’s true.

    I am glad for the progresses that you have made. Each step (even the tiniest) an important one. I am glad for the courage you have to keep fighting and to share your stories, your struggles and successes.

    1. Tena,

      I am so sorry to hear about your mother. No matter who it is that makes this choice, and no matter the underlying reasons, it is still a tragedy. Thanks for sharing your thoughts and your story.

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