What is it with mothers who kill themselves?
I know. It's a serious question, and I just put it out there, like, out of the blue. Why? Because in just one year, I have known two women--both mothers--who chose to take a gun and shoot themselves dead. Let me repeat that! I have known two women--in one year--who attempted and succeeded at killing themselves.
Just this week, my neighbor did this to herself. About a year ago in June, a good friend of mine, whom I hadn't seen in a while, did it. They obviously meant to die because they didn't use a soft approach, such as swallowing a whole bottle of sleeping pills. This wasn't a cry for help. They were beyond that. These were deliberate acts. They both chose a very brutal and final method of harming themselves--they used their own gun, pointed it at the head, and pulled the trigger.
It's a harsh reality that I think needs to be addressed, because if you read anything at all about suicide, you'll note the attention is mostly placed on men. Why? Because men have a higher rate of "success." Women may attempt suicide more often, but it's the men who succeed in their attempts, or their attempts are actual suicides and not cries for help.
Unfortunately, that's not the story I'm seeing play out. And as I've been thinking about these two beautiful women who both attempted and succeeded, I note several connections:
_Although they never knew each other (as far as I know), there were both born and raised in Phoenix.
_They were both mothers of only one child.
_They both had fibromyalgia and perhaps Chronic Fatigue Syndrome.
_And they were both obsessively apt to shower you with praise or cheer you on, while at the same time unable to do the same for themselves.
Does any of this mean anything at all? I don't know. I think we get closer to the "reason" as we move down the list. They both felt a certain amount of physical pain (with no end), and they both suffered from a lack of self-esteem. These are the knowns. There were likely many unknowns that added to the weight of their decision to end their lives. There were probably several risk factors involved that I'm not aware of (I didn't know Ann that well, and Micki and I hadn't seen or talked to each other for at least a year before her death.)
When I was in regular contact with Micki, whenever I'd phone her--the one who died last year--she'd ask how things were going. I'd tell her. Sometimes it wouldn't be great news. And there she'd go, telling me how great I was. I wasn't calling her for compliments. I was calling her to stay in touch, to be real with my friend. But she'd go on and on, showering me with all these niceities. I'd have to change the subject to get her to stop. It often made me feel uncomfortable, because the compliments weren't warranted.
I often wondered during those moments if she was fishing for compliments from me. I never asked. It seemed rude. And I'm not the type of person to just compliment people for no good reason. It feels inauthentic to me.
But maybe I should have with Micki. I don't know. I'll never know. And it's not like she didn't talk about her own issues. She did. She had plenty. She even saw a therapist regularly; she was seeing one right up to that very week she died. But that didn't eliminate her pain, apparently. She had to kill herself to do that, leaving behind a beautiful young daughter who was just starting out her career far away from home. Micki left quite a mess for her daughter to clean up. After she died, I found out a lot about her from her daughter that I never knew. None of it really explained a good enough reason to off yourself. But we can't know the demons that lurk inside someone else's head. Micki found a way to excise them.
And then there's Ann. My neighbor Ann. I saw her every day. There is a group of women in my neighborhood, and we all have dogs, and we all run into each other while walking them. Sometimes we walk together, sometimes not. But we see each other every single day. We'll no longer get to see Ann and her dog. We'll never hear her tell the stories about what she does for that dog. She was in love with that creature, paid $50 a week to get him groomed (a van service that came to her door), and never let him be alone for a second. She wouldn't even leave him at the neighborhood pet sitter's house. She treated that dog better than she treated herself.
Now that's she's gone, no one's expecting her husband (now the widow) and her son (just 14) to continue living here. I don't think I could. And Ann made sure that things were ready for a sale before she died. She'd obviously planned well. The week of her death, she had a new roof put on the house. And she made sure not to kill herself inside the house. She laid a blanket down in the backyard.
It's hard to talk about Ann. She was a very private person. In the four or five years we've lived here--and we've all lived here about the same length of time--none of us even knew her last name. She was always asking about you. But she didn't talk much about herself. You could ask, but she'd turn the conversation back around. If you weren't feeling well, like Micki, she'd offer advice. And I often felt it was advice she knew she needed for herself. She'd say things that suggested she knew she worked to hard to help other people yet did very little for herself. It's like she knew this, but it never stopped.
A few months ago, she paid to have her next door neighbor's yard cleaned up. They were dealing with a foreclosure and couldn't afford it. So Ann took care of it for them. And she loved the fact that I rode a bike. She also rode. I remember seeing her on the canal bank. Though lately, she'd been feeling so sick, she couldn't do that anymore. In the past month, whenever I'd see her out walking, she didn't have the same level of energy. I thought it was her illness that she didn't want anyone to know about. So no one asked. She didn't feel well and didn't want you to ask her about it.
We let her have her way. Maybe we shouldn't have. We all knew she was hurting; her gait made her look as though she was dead already, barely going to make it. But none of us wanted to pry. There was one of us in the neighborhood that she started calling every day this last month, however. and vented. For whatever reason, that didn't help. And she wouldn't admit she was depressed. She called the depression her "moods," and I was told she would have never seen a therapist about it, anyway. Ann had also been upset that the doctors couldn't find a cure for whatever ailed her.
So she found it herself.
SOLUTIONS OTHER THAN SUICIDE?
So why am I telling you this? I'm not sure we can stop suicide. I think people who make up their minds, like Micki and Ann, to "fix" their problems with suicide will probably do it eventually. But maybe not. Maybe there's something that can be done to alter their decision. I'd like to think this is not an obstacle that can't be overcome.
However, I'm not a big fan of what people tell the sufferers to do, either. Things like seeing a doctor, visit a therapist, talk to someone, and look for tips online are not going to fix this. I'm not saying don't do any of it. Of course you should, if you can. But people who just feel depressed and want to seek help have a hard enough time to finding the energy or mental stability to make these calls. Trust me. I've been there. Someone who is past that and moved on to the desperate/hopeless stage?! I find it hard to believe they can go this route themselves. They don't. That's why they die.
To me, that leaves it up to the doctors they do see, the friends they already are talking to, the family members who actually live with them. Those of us who fit these categories have to open our eyes. If someone is confiding in you, there is one thing you can do. Watch for changes in behavior. That's where you'll find the clues. But only if you recognize them. And that's not easy to do, not if someone doesn't want to be "seen."
"Crazy is as crazy does." Those were wise words Forest Gump's mother told him in the movie by the same name. It means you're only as crazy as you act. But see what I mean? It all rests in the behavior. If you're not there to witness it beforehand, you're not going to be able to do anything about it. If you're present, keep your eyes open. Before it's too late, there will be cries for help.
Let's pray or meditate on that.