Friday, February 20, 2009

When the Searching Gets Rough...

Time again for my contribution to Shelly of This Eclectic Life's "Only The Good" Friday post. For some reason or other, I can't open her blog today -at least not right now -to be able to link this back to her. If I am able to do that later, I'll come back and put the linkage in here for you.

The object of this project is to get each of us to think about all the good things in our lives, or to take the not-so-good stuff and try to find a way in which it can be perceived has having some good, some benefit to all of us.

Because of something that happened here, in this little community this past week and the impact this type of happening had on me, has had on me on several other occasions, I am really having a lot of difficulty trying to find something, anything, good about this.

A young man -age 22 -died this past Tuesday. I knew him -sort of. He was an acquaintance of my son-in-law, often helping Bill now and then at the garage. I grumped and griped a good bit over the past so many months about this young man because he had a habit of calling here, either about five minutes after we figured Bill probably had left the garage, or his timing was such that he almost always called just as we were sitting down to supper. Annoying, yes -it was. But it also became a bit of a joke when the phone would ring and Mandy and I would guess if it was this young man calling for Bill.

Sadly, from what Bill -and Mandy -have said about him, he also had another habit too. A very bad one. Unfortunately, he got caught up in the seamy side of life -pot, pills, other drugs and such. Recently, he had been caught after stealing from his grandmother and his father. Apparently he took his grandmother's checkbook and wrote out checks from her account and he took his Dad's credit card(s) and used it -buying items, then having friends return them for cash which he then used to keep himself in whatever drugs he felt he had to have on a given day.

Suicide. How does one reconcile that with something good, anyway?

I've known several individuals now who have taken that route to end their own life. I don't know this young man's family -how close they were. I'm not making any excuses for his actions, prior to this, against his family as the thefts were wrong, just totally wrong, and no, there is no excusing that type of behavior.

Addiction though -unfortunately, that's something that many people believe only involves alcohol abuse or hard-core drugs -heroin, cocaine and substances along those lines. But addiction is a strange thing and often an issue many of us have but don't think of it for what it really is -something that comes in and takes control of some aspect of one's body, one's life.

All too often it seems people become addicted to things that they think are good for them -like prescription drugs, for one example. I honestly do believe for some people their doctors should be taken to task on this problem because frequently the doctor prescribes something for a specific problem the patient has and then, especially with various pain medications, they don't follow through and watch the way the patient is returning, requesting more of said meds to be given again and again. All too often, the patient involved doesn't see this "need" that is there as being wrong, or an addiction. After all, the ingestion of these meds were prescribed by the doctor and therefore, there is no problem with taking them. Even if the person is only taking one such pill per day -not doubling up on the usage or anything like that -once one becomes reliant on some type of medication along those lines to feel good, there is a problem there.

In trying to think through the main issue here -the fact this young man took his own life (not through a drug overdose though -rather it was a self-inflicted gun shot) brings to my mind all the others I have known who have followed the same path. Some were very good, close friends. Some just acquaintances. One was a woman who used to live up the street from us. Our next-door neighbor's son, who I grew up with. Others were people I met and got to know through my work. And one of this number was also my cousin, David.

The first individual of this group above to commit suicide was my neighbor's son, Bob. Three years younger than me, he was like a little brother to me, as I spent a lot of my childhood in that family's home -playing with him and his sister, who is the same age as me. His death was such a shock to the entire community as he was very well-known, very well-liked; a strong member of our church family where he and his wife served as advisors to the Youth Group. He was not a "drinker" and definitely not a "druggie" either. He was however, as it was later learned, having issues with depression -an illness that all too frequently is disregarded by the individual coping with it and at times too, not considered to be of any consequence by family or friends either. Lack of understanding about how severely depression can come on and affect people of all walks of life, with no regard for race, sex, ethnicity, economics, has always and still is a problem for many who deal with some form of depression.

All too often, it is hidden -tucked away perhaps among the family secrets for fear others will find out and think bad thoughts then about the person, or the entire family, etc. To do that is wrong -just as wrong as is taking the wrong path and becoming addicted to drugs or alcohol, just as wrong as participating in criminal activity.

It is something that the more we -all of us -can and do learn about mental health problems, especially depression because it can be subtle with only small hints that there is a problem more than many other mental health issues may be, the better off society as a whole would function with more knowledge and understanding of these issues and of the people who cope daily with the various types of mental illnesses.

Sometimes, depression is also a genetic thing -passed on from one generation to the next and on and on down the line. Awareness, within the family, of this potential or inclination towards depression is important for everyone to have. Understanding that sometimes we all may feel blue or depressed from time to time, but knowing if the "blues" come with increasing frequency, stick around longer and longer too, if not dealt with or treated properly, can and often will make life extremely painful for the individual who is depressed.

So I guess -and that's all I am really doing here right now -guessing -that perhaps, with proper treatment, by whatever means are necessary, perhaps the lives of at least some, if not all, those I've known who took their own lives could possibly have been averted.

Perhaps, it might even have kept some of them -those who had opted to work through issues of depression by becoming addicted to alcohol or drugs -from advancing to that stage too. It is a fallacy to think that by getting drunk or high, one can "cure" the attack of the "blues" or being depressed, because those substances themselves are depressants to begin with!

I'm thinking too that if anything good can ever be said to come from suicide, perhaps it is the need for knowledge and understanding of what constitutes good mental health and how to get help for one's self or others in need of treatment.

If nothing else, when someone does reach the stage where they feel, they believe, the only respite is death, it does show us, those left in the wake, how short our time on this planet is and the need to then to try to find ways, whenever, wherever, possible to show those closest to us how much we love and care for them, how much it means to have them as part of our lives. And don't relegate this just to family and close friends, but to everyone we come in contact with as well.

That perhaps is the "good" that can, should -actually must -be taken from a loss like this.


Morgan Mandel said...

That's the secret - Show people we care. You never know what pain is lurking inside of them. A small gesture could make all the difference.

Morgan Mandel

Suldog said...

Jenn -

Not to be overly pedantic here, as the thoughts you've expressed are noble and good, but...

"It is a fallacy to think that by getting drunk or high, one can "cure" the attack of the "blues" or being depressed, because those substances themselves are depressants to begin with!"

Not all drugs are depressants. Some are quite good at "curing" the blues, albeit temporarily. I speak from experience, having been a user of cocaine for a few years.

Certainly, if someone can find a legal way to deal with their problems, it's better. The illegality itself can contribute to the overall problems being suffered. And, as I said, it's only a temporary "cure". But, for some, illegal usage is not completely detrimental.

Having said that, obviously the poor man you speak of here had problems well beyond the scope of self-medication. God bless you for trying to find the good in the situation, and for making the sincere effort to understand. That's the best anyone can do.

Linda said...

The trickiest thing with suicide is that those who actually do go through with it are never the ones who you think have anything that bad in their lives that they would kill themselves to begin with. They don't threaten it, they don't talk about it, they just do it and people who knew the victim are left saying "I never knew."

Too many times I take 911 calls from people saying "I'm thinking of killing myself" and it seems like it's the same people over and over and over because they know that they'll get taken to the hospital and given some drugs and off they go to do it all over again. If you were really thinking about killing yourself, you wouldn't be calling me on 911 to tell me about it, you'd be found by some poor family member or friend after you were cold and gone and they would have never guessed you were that depressed.

It's a sad and tragic end to a person's life and there really is nothing good at all that can ever come from a suicide except that maybe the victim is no longer fighting demons that none of the rest of us could even fathom. It's a horrible price to pay for peace of mind and there's no changing it after it's done but so many people see it as their only option.

I wish that there was more that we could do to help these tortured souls but unless we know they are tortured, how do we help?

Sandi McBride said...

This was an eye opening post for a lot of people Jeni...we don't talk about's taboo...but with so many young people taking the easy way out (yes, I said it, the easy way out) it's something we should be discussing! Great post...

Anonymous said...

This is a very good OtGF post. Too many people with too many problems slip through the cracks and never get the help they need. Your consideration of these issues is obviously heartfelt.

Maggie May said...

Having lost a good friend and a cousin to suicide, I can see it from everyone's point of view as it makes the people who are left go through all sorts of questions, emotions and feelings.
In the end we really don't know who are the ones who will take this choice.

Drug addiction is a terrible thing that leads to stealing from people who you loved in order to keep the habit going.
I feel sorry for the relatives of this young man.

Travis said...

Well, trying to find the positive, I would have to say that at least the young man is no longer in pain.

terri said...

A classmate of my oldest son's committed suicide a few years ago. Her death left everyone feeling so helpless. The saddest part is that looking from the outside, she seemed to have it all. No one knew the pain she was experiencing and hiding from the world. So, yes, I'd agree that knowledge and learning are the good that might come from such a death.

Gene Bach said...

Good post Jeni. It's NEVER a good thing to get mixed up in the world of illegal drugs. There's nothing good associated with it at all.

I've not lost any friends or relatives to suicide, but I've been on a lot of calls involving it. It's bad for everybody.

We should all try and see the good things we have all around us everyday.

Keith said...

Wow Jeni,

This post was deep. Tough topic too. But I really liked the way you presented it.

Suicide to me is very selfish. It hurts the victim's familes and friends and leaves them with many unanswered questions.

Addiction is one cause of why people may go the route of suicide. They may not see any hope. I was lucky that I found sobriety. There were two times during my addiction years that I seriously considered suicide. But I am glad that I never went through with it, and now I am able to be an example and an encourager to those that struggle with addictions, letting them see that there is light at the end of the tunnel if they really do want to live free and sober.

The other thing that really strikes me is the "health" of our mental healthcare system. Anybody in America, regardless of whether or not they have health insurance, should be able to get adequate mental healthcare.

You also mentioned the stigma that goes with a diagnosis of a "mental health problem". Not wanting to let folks know that you are struggling, or the family members of someone that is struggling with mental health issues not wanting it known to others may very well be the reason a sufferer ends up taking their own life. There is help out there. You should not be ashamed to get your loved one help. But sadly, this is not the case for a lot of people.

Thanks for posting about a topic that is so often tucked under the rug and not spoken about.


Red said...

It is really hard to loose people to sucide. It is harder to loose young people to sucide. If you need to find something good of it then think of it like, He is in God's hands and nothing can tempt him or hurt him anymore.


david mcmahon said...

It's a tough debate, Jeni, with no easy or cut-and-dried answer. But caring is such an important step.

This Eclectic Life said...

For so many people there is still a "stigma" to getting help. Unfortunately, we can't "save" our loved ones who are suffering from depression -- they have to have the "want to, as my Papaw said.

But, if we keep our eyes open, we can "help." I think of those left in the wake---and worry about any "guilt" they may feel. They need to remember to get help, too!

Thanks for a thoughtful post on the subject!

Dr.John said...

In my ministry I had to officiate at the funerals of six people who committed suicide. It was hard to find something good to say in each sermon.
They were all different.
One death angered me because the sheriff and I had gone and talked him into coming with me to the Veteran Hospital. We told the doctors he was suicidal but they left him in a fourth floor room alone with no bars on the window. He jumped. He was as much a casualty of war as if he had been shot on the battlefield.