• author
    • Debra DeAngelo

    • August 20, 2014 in Columnists

    Give someone a chance to talk you out of ending it all

    Although it takes an aligning of the planets for me to be able to take some time off, everything lined up for me last week and I was able to get out of Dodge for a bit. The Cutest Man In The World (aka my husband), his daughter and grandson, and I were able to spend some time at Zephyr Cove on the Nevada side of South Lake Tahoe, and I have only two words about Zephyr Cove: Do it!

    We had the most perfect little lakeside cabin, the entire lake practically at our doorstep and a top-notch little restaurant right there on site. What we didn’t have there was reliable wireless access, and while that might seem like a huge annoyance and inconvenience, it turns out that after the initial frustration of not being able to compulsively check Facebook, Twitter and email, you just let go and remember what it’s like to be in the moment, rather than staring into a little computer screen in your palm. Two words about that too. The same two.

    Just as we were starting to disconnect from both the real and online world for awhile, and digging in to some of the best burgers ever, TCMITW happened to glance up at CNN, which was playing silently in the background on the TV over the bar.

    “Robin Williams is dead!” he exclaimed.

    Well, isn’t that a punch right to the heart.

    The discovery that it was suicide was the knockout blow. How could one of the most legendary comedians of all time, the one to whom we could reliably turn for a smile in the midst of hard times, be in so much despair as to take his own life? The disconnect between what we knew of Williams on the surface and what was actually going on inside is astronomical.

    As the most un-suicidal person who ever lived, I have a hard time wrapping my brain around taking your own life. But, I’ve known a few who didn’t have such a hard time, and several who expressed their thoughts about ending it all. Way back in my days as a crisis counselor, there was one standard about dealing with suicide threats: Every threat is to be taken seriously.

    Don’t belittle, or distract, or criticize or ignore someone who expresses overwhelming despair and disinterest in going on. Every threat must be received with serious concern, even if it becomes exhausting. If the person is serious about her or his plans, to brush it aside may inspire him/her to act upon it. If the person is merely testing the waters to see if anyone cares, and is met with disinterest or ridicule, s/he may decide to take the next step. And it may be a last step.

    Discovering that one of my lifelong comedy heroes and favorite actors was gone, and by his own hand, certainly cast a pall on our week off. I could forget it from time to time, but it would come creeping back at odd moments… sitting there on the Lake Tahoe shore, looking up at the tall, green pines whispering in the breeze or out in the middle of the lake on a catamaran, tossing about on the whitecaps, the clear blue sky above… I’d wonder how someone could not want to see these things just one more time. Or, if only he’d waited just one more day, maybe a change of scenery or location or even a random conversation might have given him a paradigm shift in his thinking.

    In my own life, neither of my parents lived that long. In two more years, I will (hopefully) have outlived them both. I’m shooting to outlive my grandmother, who made it to 103. That bar’s set pretty high, but I have her painfully thin hair (the only thin thing on my whole body) and also the same shape (like a tube of cookie dough), so I’m hoping the longevity gene is located on the Bad Hair No Figure chromosome.

    In the meantime, having parents with short lives (OK, technically my dad made it to 80, but after having a devastating stroke at 54 that wiped away all traces of his former personality, I don’t count those “post-stroke Dad” years as part of his life, really), I’ve learned that life can be short, harsh, unpredictable and completely unfair. Life will cut you down if it can and never look back. To accelerate the process oneself astounds me. Because:

    There are always whispering pines to listen to.

    And blue skies to look up at.

    Children and grandchildren, lovers and friends, to walk and talk and laugh and play and tease with.

    Wine waiting to be poured.

    Hugs, kisses, cuddles and conversations to be shared.

    Kittens, puppies, baby bunnies, chocolate chip cookies, and books, books, books to read, massages with candles, raucous conversations with good friends and cold beer, the smell of chicken on the grill, a warm cup of coffee in your hands on a chilly morning, and laughing so hard it hurts, and, and, and…

    If you’re thinking life isn’t worth living… I challenge you to think of two good things to replace every bad thing. Maybe three. There are plenty. Need a list? Email me. I’ll send you a list and you can cut it up in little pieces, put them in a jar and pull some out when you need to replace negative thoughts.

    I also challenge you to tell someone how you’re feeling. If you don’t have anyone to talk to, in my area, you can call Suicide Prevention of Yolo County, (530) 756-5000, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Beyond Yolo County, there is the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, (800) 273-TALK (8255).

    I have two words about reaching out for help too. Same two.

      • Maya North

      • August 20, 2014 at 10:24 pm
      • Reply

      Kid hugs, doggy cuddles, hubby smooches, sweet evening air, dandelions — all these things have saved my life. I once was blessed to stumble across a battered woman who was contemplating taking her own and her daughter’s lives to escape the monster who was hurting them. I took a VERY deep breath and told her “You don’t want to die and you CERTAINLY don’t want to hurt your children. You want the pain to stop. Now how can we make that happen?” The last time I heard from her, she had bus tickets to go live with a friend her husband did not know in a state far, far away from where he was — and a memory of a woman who snapped out of it with just those sentences with an “Oh my GOD, what was I thinking? That’s right! That’s all I want — the pain to stop.” I’m sure there are people for whom that would not work, but it’s worked a few other times and it seems to be the question to ask — if they give you the chance to help. Some, like Robin — who broke my heart with his exit — don’t give anyone the chance. And some who are terminally or terribly ill with no future but agony, I get. But it’s important to give it as many chances as you can because, actually, life does come in dips and waves and killing yourself over a dip, which by its very nature is temporary, is a horrific tragedy, given that most of the time, the waves will return. Big hugs…

      • LIfe ebbs and flows… some people get stuck in the ebbs. And… it’s SO much harder to ask for help than it is to end it. The difficulty of reaching out should never be minimized… or met with ridicule or disinterest.

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