A friend on Facebook just made reference to the Red Line service being halted at Bryn Mawr. I went searching Twitter to see what the what, to find a breaking news article on the Trib referencing a person “falling on the tracks.” That would be innocent enough if they didn’t also immediately reference the person falling on the tracks “in front of a train.” Hmmm. Is that what we’re calling it now?
People. That’s code for “suicide,” right? I don’t get it. They won’t say suicide because they don’t want anyone else to do it? Or get the idea to do it? Let me tell you, if you’re suicidal, you don’t need anyone to come up with ideas for you. You’ve run the gamut and tested the waters on hundreds of ideas yourself. If you’re like me, you’re too chicken to follow through on any of them, lest they be too painful or too awful in their execution or you be unsuccessful and have to live with the outcome. Or, really because like some coffee club literature says, “nature abhors suicide,” and you really just want to live and see what’s going to happen tomorrow or have some small glimmer of hope that there might be something great you’re going to miss.
That’s how I know I’ve never been seriously suicidal. I’ve never really been able to finish the thought, complete the sentence. I’ve been in the room, but the door’s been way too far away for me to close it, and I’ve been too lonely, tired and exasperated to figure out how to really get there. But I get it. I get the concept. When people rant and rave on those news articles (especially CTA suicides), and go on about how “selfish” the person was, I can only shake my head in bewilderment at the ignorance of the person making the statement. In one way, they’re right, they’re selfish in the sense that they can’t see outside of themselves, they can’t see that there might possibly be another way than the thoughts that are swirling around inside their head, making life seem completely hopeless. They’re completely self-absorbed, self-centered; they are literally thinking of no one but themselves.
But, it’s not because they don’t care about anyone else. It’s because they are mentally ill and their thinking is SO distorted that they no longer can tell truth from reality; they can no longer see this world for what it is. They can no longer comprehend love or joy or the idea that this too, absolutely will pass. That the desperation and depression and hopelessness they’re feeling are just that — feelings. That whatever external circumstances are — no matter how bad they seem — they will also pass, and that there are always opportunities to fix things, to get better, to change. They can absolutely cannot see or hear any of that, and they are lost in their own delusions and twisted thinking and they’ve convinced themselves that the only way out is not through, but over. Or, that they are just too tired to continue and they want to be done. They just want some blessed relief from the constant torture and pain of living as they see it. I suppose that’s the other side of the coin.
I think it’s just because I have such a huge sense of empathy that I get that stuff. I really do. I’ve had bits and pieces of it through my manic-depressive journey as well. I worry that my mom always thinks I’m somewhere near that precipice if I even get sad, when in reality I’ve rarely been there ever. I’ve seen that edge, but it’s always been pretty far away even when I’ve had the chance to glimpse it. But even glimpsing it is heartache enough, and I’m assuming it’s like the Grand Canyon; once you see it, it tends to take you by surprise, it’s pretty overwhelming, you come to respect it right quick, and you absolutely never forget it.
It’s with that knowledge and my one quick trip to the city of psychosis that I watched something else with empathy last night. Apparently, a new guy to coffee club brought a gentleman he had met on the bus with him that night. It was the very last comment of the meeting and the minute the guy got up (got up was one of the first signs) and said that T had “brought him here to speak to this meeting” I said out loud to a couple of friends next to me, “uh-oh.” I knew instantly that the man was unwell. Honestly, at the time, I thought, “This guy’s crazy.”
As he turned out to be. There’s the newcomer insanity, where they prattle on about their last drink and how bad their lives are, or some sort of thing that’s really irrelevant to what is being talked about or what we’ve read. Where you can tell they are still living very much in the problem rather than in the solution. But we’ve all been there, and mostly there’s empathy and the knowledge that while they’re sort of oblivious to how they sound, it’ll all work out; they just need to get a sponsor and work the steps. But I could tell from the get that this guy wasn’t a newcomer. Or if he was, that wasn’t his problem. I could tell that whatever spirit had touched him over the last hour, had whipped his mind into a frenzy that was definitely beyond human aid.
He was here to talk TO us … about I’m not sure what. But he was here to give a speech. And I knew we were in for something. When he started going on about the “alabaster hour,” I knew it wasn’t anything anyone was equipped to deal with. This man was full-blown psychosis. Psych ward time. I looked to a couple of my friends around me — men with a decent amount of time — and they weren’t even moving. I was fighting with what to do. Should I speak up and say “Are you an alcoholic, sir?” Should I walk over there and ask him to leave? I wasn’t sure. At one point, the group tried to stop him by thanking him and clapping for him. This sometimes has the effect of editing an otherwise ego-filled alkie who is on a rant. They tried it twice, but unfortunately, after the first time, I could tell he probably thought people were excited about what he was saying.
Finally, two of the guys in the group got up, but I could see they were in “stance.” Like … “if we’ve got to force this guy out, we will.” That’s when I quickly got up. I knew that could be a dangerous move. People who are in a psychotic mania can be wicked strong. Not to mention they’re highly volatile. Calm one moment, extremely violent the next. Thankfully, there were also two RNs there that night (actually, at least five by my count) who were familiar with dealing with psychiatric issues and they got him out the door. I went immediately outside after the prayer, started with a traditional offering for “a moment of silence for those suffering in *and outside* the rooms,” which was followed by some nervous laughter. I wondered how many people in that room understood that we were all so close to being that guy if we didn’t stay sober.
I knew. I knew that drunk I was getting there. I knew that not properly treating my manic-depression, I was getting there. I also knew that there were a lot more people in that room that were in the exact same boat. A LOT of them. Many diagnosed, and probably a handful undiagnosed. I hope that people had some sort of compassion for the guy instead of seeing him as a nuisance or a bother. I hope they were seeing “there but for the grace of God, go I.”
My friend, A, called an ambulance, and an ambulance, two cop cars and a fire truck showed up. The man was remarkably willing to go along to the hospital. I probably didn’t start things off well with the paramedics when I said, “you could have done without the fire truck.” She said, “I don’t dispatch.” But when 5 firemen, two paramedics and 2 cops started walking toward the guy, who was already calmly talking to a cop and my two RN friends, I yelled out, “Hey, hey … you don’t need all those people over there. Not necessary.” And the paramedic just looked at me with a hateful face and said, “YOU need to go over THERE.” I wanted to say, and “YOU can stop being a BITCH.”
Sometimes all it takes for someone who is that out of their mind to go completely balls to the wall is to see 10 people walking at them. And then it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. SEE? We needed all these people — he went completely apeshit. Well, he went completely apeshit because you brought 10 people, dumbass. It alarms me the number of people employed by the city who probably have little to no training in mental illness or drug and alcohol abuse. Yet, what are they dealing with the majority of the day? The direct and indirect effects of mental illness and drug and alcohol abuse. Something’s not right here.
All I know is that I hope that man got some help last night. I hope they took him to a psych ward where he was given some meds and that he got some sleep and that he’s being given a plan to see life a little clearer. I hope maybe he can come back to the meeting and hear what we all heard last night: a message of hope. And I hope all my friends could see that we’re not so different than he is; that we’re all in there somewhere.