Tag Archives: suicide

Life Is A Choice – What WIll You Choose

This morning I feel the weight of all my choices rushing in to sit on my shoulders. It is a gray wet morning, leaves scuttling across the yard and my life suddenly reflected  in the balance of good and bad choices made in my career and what they cost me.

What I Chose
Work.  Sounds so simple, so easy, but that choice cost me years and years of my life.

I was a “good” employee.  Work on the weekend?  Sure.  Fly to Florida and work there for 5 weeks without a day off?  Sure.  Spend a week out in Yosemite National Park every month for a year?  Why not?  Live in Los Alamos for 2 months while installing a new system?  Will do.

For almost 10 years of my life I literally penciled in visits to my husband, our daughter, my sisters and brothers.  I was never home on holidays.  They were ideal opportunities to install hardware and software in the many locations across the country where I managed up to 100 people on the team at Marine Midland, Newark Airport, Kennedy Space Center and on and on and on.

I was an executive with an expense account, a secretary and all the gold cards you could possibly want.  First class travel, five star hotels, I had it all.  But one day, something changed.

I started thinking about what all the gold in my wallet and my bank account were costing me.  I stood still long enough to do the calculations.  Working 7 days a week,  averaging between 90 and 120 hours –  reduced my six figure salary to an hourly rate of about $10.00 an hour – what the UPS driver was making except he went home every night and had weekends off.

Then I made the mistake of thinking about what my choices cost me.

What I Lost

My Mom
My mother lived west of Roanoke on 163 acres owned by my brother Mike.  If I saw her 5 times in 10 years, it was a miracle.  Usually, I used my frequent flyer miles to fly her here, to our home, for the one weekend out of 52 that I might be in town.

My mom died of a cerebral hemorrhage while I was in Chicago for yet another meeting.  There was so much I forgot to ask her.  So much she could have shared with me.  But I never stopped long enough to ask.  Now I can’t.

My Life
I was married, had a beautiful home on 2.5 acres in horse country in Pennsylvania.  A gourmet kitchen I didn’t use, a suite off the master bedroom complete with jacuzzi that gathered dust between the maid’s visits and years of sunny summer afternoons on the deck that I never saw.  When someone asked me what my house was like, my answer was swift and sharp, “How would I know?  I don’t live there; I just pay for it.”

I clearly remember the night that I knew I was making the wrong choices.

It was Sunday night on Labor Day weekend. Our daughter was in labor at Bryn Mawr Hospital.  She was ill but it was a holiday.  The Pathology Lab was closed and the doctors didn’t know what was making her sick.  Only after our second grandchild was born with strep did they figure it out.  Whisked from the delivery room to the NICU, the baby’s prospects were poor.

But I had a flight to catch.  I was needed back in Florida.  Heading for the airport, fidgeting in the back of the limousine, I could not get a handle on what was wrong with me.  I needed to go; I didn’t want to.  Suddenly my work ethic and my instincts were facing off and it felt like all the easy answers were off the table until I asked myself two questions:

  1. If I got on the plane and the baby died, how would our daughter be able to face his death?  How would I feel about my actions?  About myself?
  2. If I didn’t get on the plane, if I went back to the hospital to hold our daughter’s hand and be held by my husband, would the meeting be cancelled?  Would the business I worked for fail?

When boarding for First Class was called, I actually walked onto the plane, put my laptop in the overhead, sat down and ordered a drink before I knew I just could not do it.  I could not go.  Leaping up, grabbing my laptop, I raced back up the ramp and into the airport.  Dialing my cell phone, I called my limo back to the airport and ran to the arrival area to meet my driver.

That was the turning point, the moment when I knew that somehow I had sold out all my old values for money and merchandise.  Did I quit the next morning?  No.  It took 2 more years and the death of my boss’s husband to make me wake up.  He died alone, in his garage, in his car, with the motor running.  All I could think was it could have been me who got the phone call, my husband who died.

I woke up.  I realized I was committing suicide – long, slow, deliberate – but suicide nonetheless.

I made a different choice.  I traded in the gold and came home.  My salary went from 6 figures to $28,000 a year.  I came home very night, to spend weekends and holidays with my family and to enjoy time, the only thing we cannot buy.

What choices are you making?  And what do they really cost?

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Life & Death & Life Again

Here it is.  I am still alive.  I brushed up against death in March…and again in April.

I almost lost my sister to medical error; I almost lost myself to another man’s attempted suicide.

Damage done, you say.  Move on.  But getting out of bed in the morning, putting one foot in front of the other,  that’s not living.  That’s just moving on.  So where do you go when everywhere you look you see the world as described by Joseph Campbell — loss…loss…loss?

Millions of people do it…but I won’t take a pill to make me “feel better.”  Why?  The pill masks what’s really broken, what’s really causing the pain.  I can bury my feelings like many others do but they will still be there, will burst forth at the worst possible time, will eat away at who I am and what I really do love about this world we live in.  So no pills.

What I will do — what I am doing — is take advantage of the very generous offer of my auto (and house) insurance company, Encompass.

Who would have thought that someone trying to commit suicide on your car is covered?  Not only does this company cover it but they hire warm, compassionate people to help you through whatever your particular accident was, real people who genuinely cared that I was being torn apart by the sound of a body hitting my car, crashing through glass, bouncing off the fender, rolling to the ground.  Hearing and seeing that sequence over and over and over again.

Encompass offered me some help.  They are paying for me to see a therapist.  Not just any therapists though.  And this is the hard part.  I had to find a therapist I couldn’t outsmart, out talk or out manage.  That may not sound too hard but trust me, it is.  If you have lived a few years (63) and you are pretty smart, pretty well-read and well-educated (thank you UCF and Villanova), you can get pretty good at dodging whatever it is that is dogging you.

So enter Dr. Kathleen Curzie Gajdos.  Quiet in a way that is impressive, gentle but pushy, demanding that I reach, stretch, open and feel all of it, everything that is changing my spiritual shape from a sphere to a triangle, trapezoid, rhomboid, pulling me out into corners that are dark and feel safe but are not.  She uses dream analysis (Jungian), color therapy, even a sand box where you create whatever you feel inside.  But mostly she uses her inquisitive nature, her years and years of experience and her sheer humanity to help you back to center and away from those small, dark places.

I have seen death but I am coming to life again,  Different, stronger even, but alive, nonetheless thanks to this magical healer and to an insurance company that still believes in helping you in your time of trouble.

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Automotive Anonymity what happens when someone includes you in his suicide…

It’s over.  I am officially old.

I have joined the ranks of my sisters, who already travel in gray and tan, opting for automotive anonymity.  I now own a beige over brown Subaru.

The reasons were rational.  One man who hit my car trying to pass me in a parking garage.  Another man, young and lost, who jumped into my car trying to kill himself, both in the same day.

I could no longer drive my bright orange, faster than the speed of light HHR – the car I had owned and loved for 5 years.  I couldn’t bear the thought of getting behind the wheel, could not stop seeing him leap, hearing the sound of his body hitting my car, his hand breaking the glass, his slow roll off the back fender, striking the ground, lying on the side of the road.

The fact that I was not at fault for either accident, the fact that I knew this, knew I was virtually helpless, a target for the truck and then the boy made no difference, still makes no difference.  My confidence is gone.  My joy of driving, of feeling the car on the road – is gone.

In their place is a woman who feels ill every time she approaches a car, who can’t drive and yet doesn’t want to be in the passenger seat.  I need potatoes but can’t bring myself to drive to the store five minutes from my house.  I want to see my horse but the stable is 11 miles away – a drive too far.

Officially, I have been diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome.  A therapist is trying to help me cope.  A doctor is caring for my stomach aches and sleepless nights.  And I am working slowly but surely to relearn something that I have been doing for 47 plus years.

On back roads, early in the morning when there is no traffic, I am learning to believe that the boy walking up ahead is not going to jump in front of my car; the truck waiting at the crossroads is not going to pull out into my side.

I am learning to drive again in a slower, drabber world, in automotive anonymity where I can hide in my brown over beige Subaru.

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