I’ve been doing quite a bit of venting on my Facebook wall in recent years, I must admit to that. Many times, when I let on that I felt at the end of my rope in terms of willpower and pushing through – without any formal medication, I should add -, quite a number of dear friends would rush to the rescue and offer words of comfort. I have always appreciated them very much, although they may not have always resonated with me right away and given the particular situation/feeling. In particular, phrases like “God works in mysterious ways” or similar would sometimes leave me with mixed feelings. For one, because I have trouble believing to begin with and second – next to other reasons – for the very situation I’m in. I mean, if you needed to factor God in, wasn’t it that very same God, who gave me a debilitating condition that often feels like a curse and brutal punishment? But arguing religious or spiritual beliefs is not, what this blog is about. It’s rather about my being bedazzled at the really funny, peculiar, odd timing of something I encountered today (and on a sidenote: How readily the human mind connects initially totally disconnected dots to deliberately make sense. But again, this would be a different topic to discuss). So without further ado, here goes:
In my own approach to healing from the many outcomes of PTSD and C-PTSD, I figured I might increase a sense of being safe and secure by replacing the internal disorientation and emotional numbness with a set of external routines, so my mind would have something to hang on to, something to “look forward to”, an “anchor” of sorts. One part of this set of routines is to be outdoors at least for an hour every day, no matter the weather. As it is winter now and as the conditions aren’t all that inviting for riding the bike – plus, I came home with a flat tyre again last time and really didn’t have the nerve to fix it for the gazillionth time this year – I go for a fast walk every day, which lasts a little over an hour and is about 4.7 miles long. I’ve been doing this every night unless I’m not at home. We’re in January now and I’m pretty sure I’ve been on my “tour” every night since the end of October, so I must have taken this walk some 60 to 80 times. Towards the end of my route I walk alongside the railroad tracks and always wondered about a little gravesite right next to them in a particular spot. I mean… it doesn’t exactly take a rocket scientist to figure out that someone has found an untimely demise at this very place, but I couldn’t have been sure, whether it was a suicide or accident. My gut feelings always “opted” for the first, in particular as around this time of year someone placed a little wreath with candles and the candles inside a wind breaker, so they would keep burning for a while. In fact, on Christmas Eve I stopped there myself and had a moment of silence, commemorating this unknown young man’s life (the gravesite only mentions the first name, which is a male name). I’ve always wondered what his story was.
Tonight I passed by this spot again, but headed on home. A little further up the rising street, I notice the shadow of a person, apparently tampering with a larger item, both outside the radius of the streetlight, so I couldn’t see what was going on. As I close in on the scene with my eyes fixed on it in while trying to break through the darkness and identify the exact nature of the occurence, I notice a lady bent over her open suitcase, looking for something. I had almost meant to carry on, but then remembered the steep hill ahead of her, so I offer her a hand with this giant suitcase of hers. She’s alright she replies, she’d only be looking for a light and in the same breath inquires, whether I knew about this gravesite and that she couldn’t find it, speculating it might no longer be there. I tell her that she had missed it by about 50 yards and that it was further down the street. As I carry a bright LED light with me, I help her find that light of hers and offer to walk her to the exact location. So we head on back down the street and get to talking a little and I share with her, how I had always wondered about this young man’s story. She then informs me that he had chosen to commit suicide a few years ago and how he had been suffering from major depression. She goes on to explain that most people aren’t aware of the fact that major depression is a metabolic dysfunction in the brain contrary to whatever the general assumption might be. As we get there, she lights a candle and we share a moment of silence. The lady then continues to let me in on some specifics of the story, as I notice her voice starting to tremble with emotion when telling me how her own son had ended his life in a very similar way, giving in to a little crying as she keeps narrating. I touch her arm for comfort and she collects herself a bit, going on to impart on me what she learnt about the condition. I begin to feel a little awkward at this point. Not so much for her being emotional, but for the fact that major depression is something I’ve been enduring as one of the side effects of chronic PTSD myself and as I feel funny about standing here and leaving her clueless about the fact that she is sharing her feelings with someone who is affected himself. It just doesn’t feel right… So I eventually tell her, how ironic it should be that I’ve been suffering from major depression myself for a long time, but that I feel I’ve come out from the worst of it for now, however reassuring her that I had often harbored suicidal thoughts myself and confirming her previous making a point of how there were many times, when I had wished for the agony just to be over and done with, and how I’d regularly contemplate in which way I’d best carry “it” out and so on.
As we’re already in the middle of this conversation and seem headed in the same direction I offer to walk her all the way back, thus learning a few more details about her son and his life and his suffering, listening to her and occasionally tossing my 2 cents in of what I’ve learnt so far. We both agree on the need that the general public should be educated about the tortures of such an agonizing, debilitating condition that often leaves the patient hopeless to the point, where they see no other option but to end their pain by committing suicide (and again: I’ve been there myself, I know exactly what it feels like. My only “excuse” for not actually having gone about it: At the time I was getting treatment from a very spiritual person, who made it a strong point that committing suicide might not end the pain I was feeling. That left an impression on me and as I didn’t have “proof” against it, I guess I somehow “ordered” myself to pull through. And in addition to this I now know about myself that I never really had a death wish per se, but wished for this pain to be removed from my life).
I find the odd part about this encounter to be the timing of this along with this coincidence: I am scheduled for a clinical appointment for next week at the very clinic her son was committed to. And this long before I ran into her. Really awkward. But good in this way, as I got to reassure myself of the fact that I’ll be seeing competent people, despite of what some might conclude now given the unfortunate outcome barring a happy ending.
But the whole thing… I guess, I’ll keep shaking my head until my brain “feels” and looks like a martini 😉
P.S. About this post-clinical outcome: I remember the time I was hospitalized once in my early twens. I didn’t see or feel any outcome from inpatient therapy and had something resembling a psychotic breakdown right after my release. In connecting my own experiences with this unknown young man, who killed himself after his release, I can’t help, but wonder two things: One, whether inpatient treatment is really all that effective, and second, that there should be immediate outpatient follow-up right after release from inpatient treatment. Maybe that’s the way it is done today. I wouldn’t know, as I was never ready to go back to inpatient therapy after that experience… I’ll try to open up to the idea of inpatient therapy should my situation call for it, though.