March 4, 2018

I’m behind on my blog posts but I’m not going to catch up. Today I’m sad. And angry.

Yesterday morning I found out that a friend and colleague not only committed suicide, but took his two young boys with him. All three were found shot to death in their bedrooms. It’s hard to find the right words to describe such a thing: tragic, horrific, unfathomable, unbelievable, heartbreaking. Also selfish, unforgivable, sick. It’s hard to wrap the mind around. This is the kind of thing that we hear about in the news and think, What is wrong with people?! What a monster!

But I knew this man; at least, I thought I did. He was struggling with his divorce, trying to figure out how to live on his own. He told me once he felt like a lost child, unsure of how to do basic, adult things like pay his bills, buy a car, cook for his kids. He was stuck on a wheel of anxiety and fear of the future, even though his divorce was a year ago.

Many people reached out to him. Offered help. Offered a shoulder to cry on. I tried to check in on him regularly, saying hello and asking how he was doing on my way past his office. Many days I sat with him listening to his fears, trying to offer my own perspective as a divorcée. I tried to give him hope. I encouraged him to seek professional help. I asked about his medication. I asked if he was suicidal. He went to the therapist I suggested but didn’t go back. But he told me he was taking his medication and would never hurt himself. I believed him.

I also believe that on the whole we aren’t good at supporting each other. We have so many connections but too many of them are loose. I talked to my colleague, invited him over for dinner or out for a bite a few times. But sometimes, after a long day myself, I’d see him hanging around his office after work, and I didn’t extend an invitation. I didn’t want to deal with his negativity. I had enough of my own. I figured someone else would reach out. After all, I knew others were checking on him too. At one point are we not responsible for each other?

I had recently had a conversation with another work colleague about him. We wondered how to get him more help without jeopardizing his job. I said my instinct was to literally drag him to his therapist but I knew I had no right to. But did I? Where is the line? If he told me he wasn’t contemplating harm, but he seemed incapable of doing himself good, is that the same thing? I’d like to think that if I suspected at all the outcome we’ve now witnessed, I’d have thrown aside any reservation of stepping too far into his business.

One day just a week or so ago, he was sitting in the hall, and I sat next to him and gave him a hug. I was on my way to an appointment so I couldn’t stay and chat. But I asked him what it would take for him to feel better. He replied that he’d like someone to take care of him. I pointed out, with a laugh, that he could hire someone for that. He laughed too. Now I realize that he was serious. We used to say that it takes a village to raise a child. I think maybe it takes a village to keep some of us alive.

It’s hard to think about gratitude but today I am thankful that for all the hardships I’ve lived through, for all my own dark moments, I’ve never lost track of hope. In my own struggles with depression, I always found my way back to the light. I’m heartbroken for this man, his children, and his family and for the fact that he got lost in the terrible, consuming darkness.

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