There was that one time that I helped save a life and that other time that I didn’t.
Last week, through a series of events leading up to a phone call with my friend Tom, I had the most terrifying experience of my life. Tom had taken a hand full of flexerill right before I called and while I was on the phone with him, he collapsed.
There isn’t a word for the way I felt in that moment. I remember I had no air and I couldn’t hear.
The police broke down his door and found him on the floor. I could hear everything. I waited. After a few moments, I heard a police officer say, “Tom, I’ve known you my whole life, come on now, you’re stronger than this.” I breathed again. I’m happy to say he’s feeling way better and getting the help he needs to return to his healthy, happy self that we all know and love.
I live 600 miles away from Tom but that’s no excuse not to reach out when I knew he was hurting. Thanks to my son, Jaren for reaching out and letting me know the situation, the power of social media and the valiant efforts of my hometown friends in Johnstown, who kept me focused via Facebook while many of them called 911, we came together to help save our friend.
Then There Was That One Day
I grew up with Ricky in the same neighborhood. I knew he had a crush on me when he spent most of a day un-tangling my slinky that got stuck in a chained link fence at the playground.
But as we grew up, the cliques of middle school got in the way of our friendship. He became just some boy I knew. I watched from a distance as his life turned in a wrong direction with drugs and some bad decisions.
Eventually, I grew up and moved away. I only saw Ricky by happenstance when I’d go back home for a visit. In those small moments, we’d catch up on the good parts of our lives, promise we’d see each other next time then hug and walk away.
Then there was that one day. It was the last day of my hometown visit. Before heading back on the turnpike for the long 4 hour drive back to Harrisburg, I stopped at Em’s Subs, a hometown favorite.
I walked out of the shop and saw my puppy staring at me from the park across the street where a nice little old lady was holding her for me while I ran into Em’s. For no reason, I looked right. I saw Ricky walking away from me down the sidewalk. I turned my body and started to call his name but then in a moment I’ll forever regret, I hesitated.
I looked over at my dog pulling slightly on her leash anxious for me to come over and get her. I glanced back at Ricky. Ugh, I was already 3 hours late leaving town and it was getting dark.
He was almost to the corner and I remember sighing and saying out-loud “I’ll catch him next time I’m home.” and I ran across the street to my waggy-tailed puppy, thanked the little old lady and jogged to my car and drove away.
About 6 months had passed when I thought of Ricky again and decided to check in on him to tell him what I’d been discovering about the power positivity. I messaged his cousin and asked her if she had Ricky’s email. This is what she messaged me back.
Jenn, I’m sorry to tell you this but Ricky committed suicide about 6 months ago. I thought you knew.
The overwhelming feeling of guilt I feel is awful. Everyone tells me that I couldn’t have prevented his suicide by just talking to him that day- but they’re wrong. Yes I would have. How do I know? Because I felt it so strongly that I should call out to him. It was something that was supposed to happen but didn’t. In that moment, I chose not to pay attention to my gut. Instead, I rationalized it out. It is the biggest fail of my life.
How To Save A Life
Recognize. Have you noticed a change in someone? Has your best friend changed into someone who has trouble functioning? Do you hardly recognize the person you used to know?
While I do believe that prevention of dangerous behaviors starts with the inner circle of family and close friends, reaching out to people is what makes us human.
Understand that nobody can write a manual on how to save a life. We are as simple and complex as the universe. We cannot prevent all the suicides and mass shootings of the world but by looking up from our cellphones into someones eyes and connecting with them, we may help recognize the pain and thereby prevent some of the tragedy. There is no app for that and never will be.
And I’d have stayed up with you all night if I had known how to save a life.
All of the children in this powerful video have lost someone tragically.
Links For Life
If You See Something, Say Something. A great video to help understand what you look for in everyday life to help keep our towns safe.
Profile of A Sociopath A list of signs and personality traits common in sociopaths that may be a danger to our society.
Stop Bullying! This is just one of many great sites. It has information on what to look for- who is at risk and where to go for help to help someone stop hurting.
It Gets Better Project (itgetsbetter.org) thousands of videos were created to show young LGBT people the levels of happiness, potential, and positivity their lives will reach – if they can just get through their teen years. The It Gets Better Project wants to remind teenagers in the LGBT community that they are not alone — and it WILL get better.
HelpGuide.org A great place to begin researching disorders and symptoms such as schizophrenia, PTSD, Stress, Grief, ADHD, Bipolar Disorder, Addictions and Abuse.
National Suicide Prevention Hotline makes it easy for everyone to talk and get in touch with help in their hometown.
Your Life Your Voice is another great place for people who think about suicide to share and connect with others in a way that may help them turn it around.
Post-partum Depression some moms experience a more severe, long-lasting form of depression known as postpartum depression. Rarely, an extreme form of postpartum depression known as postpartum psychosis develops after childbirth.
photo credits: yogilightbox.wordpress.com, http://www.examiner.com, sheknows.com, google images, me