Letter to Brian: October 12, 2018

Dear Brian,

I haven’t written you in quite a while so this is gonna be a little long-winded, I’m afraid.  Certainly not due a lack of things to say but rather a lack of knowing just how to say them.  Tomorrow will make 8 long years since I found out you had taken your own life.  While that’s certainly been weighing on me, there’s been something else I’ve been struggling with a great deal.  I’ve been going back and forth and back and forth (and back and forth some more) in my mind about whether or not to publicly share this.  Doing so is going to put myself in my very most vulnerable position yet and I fear that the interweb trolls may dish out things that I’m not quite strong enough to withstand.  But… after a lot of sleepless nights and self-examination, I’ve decided that it’s important to my well-being (and possibly even some stranger’s well-being) to just speak my truth and get it all out in the open.  I’ve been so fearful about admitting to it out of embarrassment, shame and fear.  I’m not sharing my story in the hopes of receiving any pity, attention or outreach from anyone; in fact, I’d prefer that I not receive any of that at all. It’s only out of self-preservation that I’m sharing; I hope that this will release all the tension and discomfort I’ve been experiencing. The secrecy has been eating away at me and causing so much pain and has only served to create more loneliness and seclusion for me.

I’ve only told a very select few about this because I’m embarrassed and, moreso, I’m ashamed. On July 3rd of this year, just 3 months ago, I attempted suicide.  After decades of depression, self-harm and chronic suicidal ideation I’d never, ever actually followed through with a plan or attempt though I’ve been so dangerously close dozens of times.  Many things have stopped me over the years, mostly always concern for those I’d leave behind.   After you died, I wanted so badly to end my own life as well but just couldn’t do that to our Mom; to lose not one but two children to suicide would have been just too much for her to bear.  After she passed nearly 3 years ago now, the feelings have become so much more aggressive and I’ve felt even less grounded here in this life than ever before.  In fact, while cleaning out Mom’s home I came across her bottles of insulin in the fridge.  There were many moments throughout that week that I thought about how it would be so easy to just do it right then and there… I had the needles… I had the insulin… all I needed was the nerve to follow through.  But instead I dropped off all of her unused medications at the police station like any responsible citizen would do.  There was just still so much to do… my demise would have to wait until I’d settled Mom’s affairs.

Nearly a year after Mom died, I moved back to our hometown in Minnesota.  I thought maybe being back here with so many people to support me would surely help these feelings subside.  That just hasn’t been the case.  I’ve had many great moments over the past few years, of course… but it seems even after a night out with friends sharing many laughs I still find myself sobbing uncontrollably as soon as I’m back home alone.  It’s just always there… lurking underneath the surface.

About 5 months ago I posted something on Instagram joking about the dangers of online shopping and Amazon Prime after a few glasses of whiskey; I’d gone and purchased myself a $500 gas-powered generator in the middle of the night.  We all had a nice laugh about it… but the truth is, it wasn’t an accidental drunken purchase.  Though I have since returned that generator, I actually bought it with the intention of using it to die by carbon monoxide inhalation by running it in a small, enclosed space.

I guess I’ve stalled here a bit… I suppose I should tell you about THE night.  After work, my boyfriend and I were cooking a nice dinner on the grill and enjoying a few drinks and talking.  Things were really going well between us and we made each other laugh endlessly.  We truly loved just being around each other; I was really happy with him. At some point in a conversation about the future, I’d told him that someday, (not anytime in the near future, but someday) I could see myself marrying again… or at least  be committed long-term to one person and share a life and a home with one another. That possibility gave me some comfort and hope. It became pretty clear that he was uncomfortable about that as he became very quiet and withdrawn. As I was getting our food dished up to eat, he got up and walked to the back door and said, “I gotta go.”  I said, “Um…. I’m sorry?  You’re leaving?  You’re not going to eat?”  He replied again, “No.  I have to go.  I gotta go…. I’m sorry I wasted your time.”  I began to sob like a crazy person, begging him to stay and talk to me.  There was no explanation, no conversation, just an “I gotta go.”

I wish that I were exaggerating when I say that I made a complete fool of myself crying and pleading with him.  I begged him to please, please, PLEASE stay, admitting to him that I really didn’t want to be left alone that night.  His response was to turn and walk away without looking back.  If he had, he’d have seen me in the fetal position on the floor of my breezeway crying and saying to myself under my breath, “I can’t be alone.  I can’t be alone.”  After a year and a half together, I felt that I at least deserved a conversation about ending our relationship… certainly more than, “I have to go.  I’m sorry I wasted your time.”  (I mean… I assumed that what he was doing was breaking up with me; I wasn’t totally certain until the next night when I received a text asking me if he could drop off my belongings I had left at his house.) That’s not how you end a relationship with someone whom you love and respect. In his defense, he had admitted to being a complete stranger to the dynamics of a truly healthy relationship never having experienced one before.  What he didn’t know, and what I certainly wasn’t going to tell him, (because I didn’t want anyone to try and interfere with my plan) was that in the next room I had a folder ready to go that contained a suicide note, a copy of my will, a list of my emergency contacts, my driver’s license, passport, credit cards, social security card, passwords to all of my online accounts as well as my wishes regarding any funeral arrangements. I’d already spent the previous months purging my belongings, donating items, giving things away to friends and tossing a great deal of it in the garbage so there would be less to deal with after my demise. Having the person who said that they loved me treat me that way made me feel as though I must be worthless; I figured, if I really mattered, he’d have stayed when I said I didn’t want to be alone. I’d already disrespected myself by continuing the relationship after he’d been unfaithful to me early in our time together.  He’d apologized and cried and begged me for another chance.  (I clearly made the wrong choice; I foolishly thought someone that was trying so hard to keep me must have actually saw themselves having a future with me.) I can’t stress this enough: I wasn’t about to kill myself simply because I got dumped; it just happened that getting dumped was the very last piece pulled from my wobbly, Jenga Tower of a mind to make it crumble to the point of desperation. If it hadn’t been the breakup, it would have been something else, I’m absolutely certain of it.

I put the folder on the counter and made sure that everything was order.  I put the cats in their room, made sure they had plenty of food and fresh water and said my tearful goodbyes to them and asked them to forgive me for leaving them behind.  I tossed the beautifully grilled Ribeyes and potatoes in the garbage.  I took all of the dishes and cookware and tossed them in my dumpster.  Why leave them out for someone else to clean up?  And why on earth would I have spent any time washing them when I knew I’d have no use for them in the future?

I placed this note on the counter where it wouldn’t be missed:

Having lost my own brother to suicide, I’m certainly no stranger to the immense grief that is left in the wake of someone taking their own life. This is my only regret; I leave knowing what this will do to those who care for me and for that I am so deeply, deeply sorry.
It’s certainly not one single event or trauma that brings me to this choice but rather nearly 40 years of wrestling against an overwhelming will to die that has been present in my mind since early childhood.  I’m so incredibly tired.  I’ve done the therapy.  The medications. The switching of medications. And more switching of medications. The calling of friends to talk. Support groups.  Hypnosis.  EMDR Therapy.  Talk therapy. DBT Therapy. Yoga therapy. Biofeedback therapy.  QNRT Therapy. Biofeedback. Natural remedies. Reiki. Healing Touch. All the self-books you could imagine.  I’ve gone so far as to try psychics and past life regressions. Even when any of these provided me a little relief for any amount of time, it always came back.  I’m so tired of it always coming back.  Because it always will; and as always, it will come back worse than the episode before it.
Much like my brother, I’ve never in my life felt truly grounded in this world… even at my best, I’ve always felt like an outsider and painfully uncomfortable in my own skin.  There’s a disconnect that all these years of therapy and soul-searching couldn’t seem to repair.
This emptiness in me has always been present… and with each trauma, loss, failure or failed relationship in my life it seemed as if larger and larger pieces of my soul were being carried off and that persistent emptiness grew larger still.
The only responsibility in this is mine… and mine alone.  Those closest to me have done everything possible to make me feel heard, supported and loved. No additional amount of love or attention could have created a different ending to my story.
This quote sums it up:  “The time came when the pain it took to stay was greater than the pain it took to go.”
My cats are in the spare room. Please, please… someone take wonderful care of them and continue to love them for me.

I washed down a heaping handful of sleeping pills with an entire bottle of rum.  I hung blankets up over the windows in my garage (to prevent anyone from seeing me in the car from outside) and pulled my car inside.  I sat in the driver’s seat, with the car running, until I passed out. The last thing I remember was lying back in the seat and looking up at the ceiling of my garage and saying “Momma and Brian, I’m coming.  I’m coming to be with you,” then drifting off to sleep.

I know that on any given night that 2 sleeping pills will ensure that I sleep soundly throughout the entire night; so I figured it was safe to assume that a handful of the same pills in tandem with a shit-ton of booze surely would keep me asleep long enough for the carbon monoxide to do it’s thing. But for whatever reason, I could just Not. Stay. Asleep.  I drifted in and out of consciousness in there for over 4 hours.  I had such a terrible headache and I was absolutely soaked and dripping in sweat and just couldn’t take it any longer.  I was so damn uncomfortable.  And also very angry that I could not stay asleep. I was so certain that I’d planned it out to work.  I was so angry at myself; not that I’d attempted to end my life, but that I couldn’t even do that right and I’d failed at yet another thing. I finally decided that maybe it wasn’t meant to happen that night and that I’d just have to try my back up method the next night.  So I stumbled back in the house and laid on the couch and slept a little bit on and off through the night as Golden Girls played on the TV.  To this day, the sound of that theme song brings back the smell of sweat and exhaust.  I don’t care for it.

I had the next day off of work being the Fourth of July.  Late in the afternoon, I decided to put my plan B into action. I went to Menards to pick up a few “supplies” for my next attempt.  As I wandered through the aisles, I was still overwhelmingly shaky and dizzy so I gripped the handle of my shopping cart for support.  I wondered if those walking past me could smell the stench of exhaust coming out of my pores; I could sure smell it… but then again, I didn’t really care. It felt so surreal making small talk with the cashier, watching him ring up all of my items wondering if he had any clue that a few hours later I intended to collectively use those same items to end my own life.  As the day progressed, I had decided, “Maybe I can just hold on for a few more days.  I’ll finish out the week– button up some things at work and then just kill myself on Friday.” But Friday arrived and after having a nice evening with my friend (who did not know about my attempt) I thought to myself again, “OK, tonight turned out to be sort of decent.  Maybe I’ll give it a few more days.” Some dear friends came to visit me on Saturday against my will and I’m so grateful that they did; it did me a world of good… but I didn’t tell them about what I’d done. They didn’t take no for an answer and just showed up at my house.  It felt good to be reminded that some very wonderful people care so much about me.  Then Sunday rolled around… my best friend came to pick me up and get me out of the house for the day; no small feat given that I still couldn’t stop crying, barely spoke and was still feeling pretty ill from the carbon monoxide inhalation; of course, she only thought I was just inordinately down about my recent heartbreak.  We spent the day driving around in the country and stopping at the occasional antique store and I even ate a little bit, which was a vast improvement over the previous 5 days.  But I couldn’t wait any longer… I hated that there was this horrible “secret” that I was holding inside and as we sat there in her car, I told her about what I had done.  It felt really good to release that to another human being so the weight didn’t feel quite so overwhelming.  Over the next few weeks, this friend absolutely saved my life.  She kept me completely occupied and distracted and allowed me to just hang out with her family when I didn’t feel I could be alone at home.  She let me cry and just stare into space when I wasn’t capable of engaging. (I lovingly referred to her as my “babysitter.”)  It’s not lost on me that if she hadn’t done all that I may not be here today.

Something always seems to get in the way and I find some reason to wait “just one more day.”   I recall one day on my way home from work I was contemplating attempting again soon; however, when I got home and collected my mail, I found that I’d received a beautiful necklace from a friend I haven’t seen in quite a while and it was accompanied by this note:   “Sweet Laura, you and your life are a gift and a blessing to this world. Please never stop trying, we need you. You are loved and treasured and beautiful.” I just burst into tears and asked the universe why it kept sending me signals like that telling me I’m supposed to keep trying??  It’s getting harder and harder but I still keep receiving little signs like this that tell me to wait a little bit longer.  And now… it’s been over 100 days of “just one more day.”

Unfortunately I’ve been engaging in self-harm (cutting) again; I’m sure I should feel ashamed about that, but the truth is that release is helping me to keep moving forward right now.  I realize it isn’t the healthiest outlet, but it works so I’m ok with it for now.  And having my sweet kitties, Bart and Fiona, to come home to is also very helpful… it would be really difficult for me to come home to a completely quiet house.  Those furry little souls are always happy to see me and are content to just be there with me, no matter my mood.

It’s just that I feel everything so, so deeply that it’s unadulterated agony.  Even the smallest things cause this deep, pulsing ache in me that just hurts so much.  For example, I recently came upon a teeny tiny mouse on a cold morning, it was lying on it’s back at the curb of a gas station parking lot.  I quickly realized it was still alive but obviously suffering.  I can’t explain it, but I just couldn’t leave a little being there to suffer and die alone. The thought of that physically hurt me inside.  So I picked it up, placed it inside a tissue box and took it home with me; I hand-fed it formula every 2 hours for the next 24 hours and it continued to improve; it had a safe little habitat warmed with a heating pad and ate out of my hand and completely melted my heart.  That little guy had such a strong will to survive.  A very kind acquaintance of mine took the next step and drove the little mouse up to the wildlife rehabilitation center an hour away when my work schedule didn’t allow me to do so.  I was made fun of a little bit for rescuing “just a mouse” though most people were extremely kind to me and applauded me for the love in my heart for what most considered to be an insignificant little creature.  I just didn’t see it that way; what I saw was something in pain and that I had an opportunity to do something about it.  So I did.  That’s just one example of how things are so hard for me sometimes… this time I was able to do something to help that sweet mouse and affect some change; but most of the time I see things happening around me (and the current state of our country is a big one) that make me so weak inside knowing someone or something is hurting and knowing that I can’t do a single thing about it.  It reminds me of a terrible sunburn; when your skin is so badly burned that it hurts to wear clothes, to shower, to be outside in the heat… even to touch it. Your skin on a normal day is unaffected by these benign acts… but when it’s inflamed like that, everything hurts. My soul and my heart are like that sunburned skin– things that seem so small to the outside world are burning me up inside. It’s almost surreal, sometimes; I’ve become so adept at hiding what’s really going on inside me that I am constantly hearing from people I meet, “Gosh, you’re so cheery and upbeat and friendly, I love it!”  I’ll smile and please everyone by exercising my “appropriate social behavior” but as soon as the door closes behind me and I’m alone… it all comes tumbling down.

I’m not terribly interested in seeking any therapy.  I’ve done decades of therapy, I know what to expect and I suspect I’ve gotten about all I can get out of it.  Besides… my insurance only covers two providers in town and neither are accepting new patients.  I’ve reached out to a few other providers up to an hour drive away and again… not accepting new patients.  I even reached out to the amazing therapist I saw in Texas for 4 years; she does remote sessions but unfortunately she can’t do out of state sessions due to licensing laws. The demand for therapy is far too high for the supply of therapists these days so help is really hard to find.  Finding affordable therapy is a great frustration.  And I’ll be honest… I’ve run into more than my share of providers who were not very warm it’s so difficult to open up and bare your soul to someone who doesn’t even seem to want to be there.

I saw a quote by author Matt Haig this morning that gave me a bit of encouragement to follow through with publicly sharing my story like this; it read:

Mental illness isn’t weakness.  And silence isn’t strength.  I was never stronger than when I was ill.  And never braver than when I first told people.

I hope that someone out there can relate to some of this; it will have made this painful and humiliating confession worth it.  I’m going to keep taking this life thing one day at a time.  After all, it’s gotten me  this far… I suppose I can keep trying.

Please, Brian… if you or Momma have any pull of the celestial kind, give me a hand down here, would ya?

I miss you and Moomie so, so deeply.

Love Always,
Laura

 

 

 

 

Letter to Brian: June 21, 2015

Dear Brian,

This week is a little sad for me.  Today I should have arrived in Washington, DC to support the efforts of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention at the Annual Advocacy Forum… but I backed out of the trip a few months ago.  I’m really having mixed feelings about that.

This year’s attendees were selected on an invite-only basis and I was absolutely honored that they thought enough of me to send me back to our nation’s capital to help promote the cause of suicide prevention.  Last year’s experience was so amazing and meaningful; I was thrilled at the chance to do it again.

But when the time arrived to book my travel, I was going through another fiercely deep depression and was experiencing thoughts of suicidality and wasn’t sure I’d be up to the task.  I decided that I wasn’t.  A week before the deadline for scheduling my trip I emailed the local chapter’s director to let her know I was relinquishing my place to someone else.  I was honest about my decision and let her know exactly what was going on with me because, after all, if you can’t be honest about it with the very organization trying to improve the state of mental health care and suicide prevention, who can you be?  She was very kind and understanding and respectful and I appreciated her compassion a great deal.

I told her I again found myself in the middle of a deep depression and didn’t feel I would be successful at representing them to the fullest of my ability.  I was struggling so hard to keep myself interested in any kind of future and I just needed to focus on taking care of myself for the time being.  What I didn’t tell her, but maybe should have is that I also felt that attending would have made me a complete hypocrite.  I was in a place where such a darkness had again come over me that I thought, why bother?  If someone else was feeling what I was feeling at that time, and what you were feeling the last few months of your life, I wouldn’t blame them for making that choice, you know?  Anyone who hasn’t been in that place just…. well, they just don’t know.  I felt so terribly alone, Brian… I just wanted to be with you again and was envious that your struggle was over while I’m still stuck battling my own illness and the ever-returning flare ups.  And yes, I’m well aware that I have a lot of people who care for me so much.  I know their feelings are genuine and they mean it when they say, “Call me ANYTIME.  I mean it.”  But the thing is… I just rarely do call when I need to talk.  I know that at times like that I am endlessly inconsolable and just an all-around drag on people’s energy so I don’t blame them for not answering when I call.  I wouldn’t want to talk to me at those times, either.  It’s got to be really exhausting being my friend at those times… so I get it.

I’m doing so much better now so I guess that’s where my mixed feelings about the Advocacy Forum are coming from– while part of me is regretting having let my spot go to someone else because I let a great opportunity slip through my hands, a much larger part of me knows that I made the right choice.

I’ve already begun to see pictures and status updates in my Facebook feed about the forum as they’ve all arrived and will begin their work on Capitol Hill tomorrow.  I’m envious of what they will be experiencing over the next few days but I know the person who replaced me will be a far better advocate for the cause than I am capable of being right now. Please send some positive energy to those who made the trip to DC to speak to our nation’s lawmakers on my behalf and on behalf of anyone who has ever lost a loved one to suicide.  I’m so grateful that they are able to advocate for those of us who aren’t strong enough to do so.

Anyhoooo.  I found a penny again today… thank you.  I love the little reminders that you’re still looking out for me.

Love Always,
Laura

Central Texas AFSP with Pete Gallego
Central Texas AFSP Advocates with Pete Gallego

 

Letter to Brian: December 31, 2013

Dear Brian,

It’s about to become the year 2014.  This is my 3rd New Year’s Eve without you and each time the world continues to move on to the next calendar year I have an immense pain in my heart.

I know many people who read this won’t understand… but also know that anyone who has lost someone as close as you were to me will know exactly what I’m talking about.  I remember so vividly clinging to the year 2010 because you were here with us for the majority of that year and I desperately did not want to move into 2011 without you.  I think of that each New Year’s Eve– that I have endured yet another (and am about to endure one more) year without you.  And each time I find a penny you leave for me I immediately look at what year it is; as silly as it seems, I find myself feeling heartbroken if it’s a penny from 2011 or later– I only want pennies from the years you were with me.

So many things have happened since you gave up, Brian.  So many things I wish I could have shared with you– both good and bad.  My marriage had been struggling long, long before we moved away to Texas and deep down I always knew you never truly connected with Mark and knew that he wasn’t the man for me.  We decided to separate only 8 months after you died and were officially divorced shortly after the one-year anniversary of your death.  To some a divorce might be a traumatic event but for me it was such a wonderful blessing as I was unhappy for so long and finally felt some relief; I knew I was free to find the person with whom I was really meant to be with forever.  I then went through a confusing and tumultuous year-long relationship… again, the end of a relationship that turned out to be a beautiful blessing to me as it brought me to the place where I met my sweetie.  He has graciously let me into his life with all my quirks and complexity and has allowed you to remain a part of my life with him.  He’s there to provide hugs and a shoulder to cry on… and he’s been so willing to participate in the little “ceremonial” things I do to remember you– watching your favorite movies with me, listening to my stories about you and asking to know more about you.  I know without a doubt that you would think he is a wonderful partner for me.

Then there is my amazing friend, Leashya.  I’m so grateful to have met her, Brian.  She has been the most constant and consistently supportive and trustworthy person in my life here in Austin.  We understand each other in a way that only convinces me further that we are kindred spirits and I was undoubtedly supposed to meet her– she has become my family, my sister.  Though she feels that she knows you already (from how much I speak about you) she really wishes she could have met you and I wish you’d have had the opportunity to know her, too.

There are so many others whom I’ve met as a direct result of your suicide. Through seeking help and having others reach out to me for help, I’ve met some beautiful people.  It’s so bittersweet; while I’m heartbroken for the reason we came together, I’m also grateful that we did.  I met people early on who were further along in their grief process who were able to offer up a truly understanding ear and heartfelt advice.  And now, 3 years later, I’m finding I’ve been given the opportunity to turn around and offer that same kind of guidance to others.  It’s a devastating but loving community I’ve found and I’m grateful for both the opportunity to learn from others and to also be able to teach some of what I’ve learned about life and myself in this process.

I began this blog in 2013– it has been nearly a year since my very first public post.  While I’ve received so much wonderful feedback from others who are grieving, I’ve found that it has been immeasurably helpful to me, personally.  First, for the opportunity to get out so many thoughts and feelings I have inside… but also to be able to go back and read previous posts.  I am amazed at how raw some of them are! I’m proud of the resilience I never knew I had and also of my own willingness to be so open with the world… it has brought many wonderful people into my life as a result.

This coming February I will be traveling to Washington, D.C. as I was selected by the Central Texas Chapter of The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention to receive a scholarship to attend their Annual Advocacy Forum on Capital Hill.  I’ll be able to meet with lawmakers about issues surrounding mental health and suicide awareness and prevention.  I know you’ll be there beside me giving me the strength to share your story and mine.  I’m determined to make changes where I can this coming year, Brian, and I know you’ll be supporting me all the way.

Love Always,
Laura

Letter To Brian: February 13, 2013

Dear Brian,

I’ve spent a lot of time lately thinking about the last 5 months of your life. Specifically about how much we talked about how hard it is to get accessible and affordable help when you are struggling with depression and suicidality. I’ve run into this issue the majority of my life. By the time I’d reach a point low enough to realize I had no option but to reach out for help it would be a 12-16 week wait to see someone. I recall one occasion where I was feeling low enough to nearly beg the person on the phone, “Are you SURE there isn’t anything sooner?” Her response was, “Well, are you going to kill yourself TODAY? If so, just take yourself to the emergency room. If not, then you need to wait 12 weeks to see Dr. So-and-So.” Great bedside manner. It made me feel so embarrassed and ashamed of myself and I didn’t try calling anyone else for help for another few months as a result.

Getting the appointment wasn’t always the most difficult part– it was PAYING for it. For a year in the early 2000’s I was seeing a fabulous therapist. I had insurance, but they only: (1) allowed 30 visits per calendar year and (2) only had about four therapists from which I could choose that were in my network. I’d been to two of them already and had a bad experience with them both. When I found a therapist that really treated me with respect and said she could help me she turned out to be out of my network. Since she did not accept my insurance her typical policy was to request payment in full ($160 per visit) the day of the appointment and the patient in turn would submit the visits to their insurance company for the allowed reimbursement amount. However, she was very accommodating of my financial situation and allowed me to pay her $114 up front ($45 out of network copay plus 60% of the remaining balance of $115) and she would submit the remaining $46 to the insurance company to pay. This worked fine for the first few months until she had to have the uncomfortable conversation with me that my insurance company was not responding to her claims– at all. She would fax them 3, 4, even 5 times with no response. Each time she’d call they’d inform her they hadn’t received them and they’d require her to resubmit them. This went on for the rest of the year until I finally had to quit seeing her altogether– she couldn’t afford to keep seeing me and not get paid the full amount upfront. When speaking with my HR representative I was advised that they were aware that the insurance company was regularly not holding up their part of the deal where mental health visits (whether in or out of network) were concerned. I was so exasperated– the financial struggle involved with getting the help I so badly needed only accelerated my feelings of hopelessness.

For a number of recent years, once on successful dosages of a cocktail of anti-depressants I had been able to simply obtain refills of my prescriptions at my annual physical from my general practitioner. However, after you died she became concerned that she did not possess the expertise which she felt was required to play around with the meds to get me to a better place. So, she referred me to a psychiatrist for my future visits. I found one I liked, that was in network, and would require a $75 copay per visit and insurance would cover the rest. I could deal with that! However, after a few months I got a bill for $900 stating my insurance company would not cover a diagnosis of “Recurring Major Depressive Disorder” as it was classified as a “major mental illness” which, of course, they do not cover. My only option was to switch to their self-pay option of $130 per visit– and of course, she would need to see me every 4 weeks in order to continue to refill my prescription. With the cost of my prescriptions I was paying about $190 per month– just for medication maintenance– not including any of the sessions with my psychotherapist.

I also need to tell you that I have an important letter to write to someone in your defense. You didn’t want me to write this letter while you were alive and, quite frankly, it has been in the intended recipient’s favor that I have chosen to wait a few years to cool off after your death before writing it. A few short months before you took your life you confided in me that the one and only time you had ever sought help for your depression (despite several previous suicide attempts) was about 1-1/2 years before your suicide. You contacted the Employee Assistance Help Line offered by your employer.  I used the help line at my company years ago which put me in touch with that amazing therapist I saw for a year. It’s a wonderful program and completely free of charge. They refer you to someone who can help, and pay for the first six visits. These therapists are enrolled in the program knowing that the first six visits are free to the patient– they are paid directly by the referral service. I was apalled to find out that the man to whom you were referred was completely unethical in how he handled your situation. After opening up to him and sharing things with him which had never been shared before, his response was, “well, your troubles are pretty complex and will take a lot of time and effort to work them out. The referral service you used only pays me $60 an hour to see you for these sessions but my office rates are actually $170 per visit so I’d recommend that you contact my office directly for any future sessions.” Nice. Way to tell someone who is suicidal that they aren’t worth helping out for a measly 60 bucks an hour. Clearly he did not enter the profession for its altruism! You never did go back to see him and I can’t say that I blame you for it. I’d have done the same. All of these issues I mentioned above were contributing factors in me making all those calls on your behalf to try and find you a good therapist. It’s hard enough to get the runaround and hear the tone of condescension in the voice on the other end of the line when you’re in a good place let alone when you’re mustering up shreds of strength every morning just to get out of bed and attempt to live through one more excruciating day.

Each time I go through these same issues with getting help for myself I feel the pain so much more deeply now as it only reminds me of how trapped you must have felt those last few months before you finally gave up altogether.

If there is anything good to come out of losing you in such a horrific way it will be that I will do my part to see that mental health is given the same consideration as physical health! And there needs to be less “hey, suck-it-up-and-pull-yourself-up-by-your-bootstraps” going around out there. Unless someone has been in the deep depths of true despair, they know not of what they speak.

Wish me luck writing the letter to that small, small man. I’ll let you know how it goes…

Love Always,
Laura

Letter To Brian: October 4, 2011

Dear Brian,

It’s so hard to believe that it’s been a whole year since you left this world for another… where hopefully you found the peace you weren’t able to find here.

There’s so much I could tell you about this past year—about how much I’ve cried until complete exhaustion, how much I’ve missed you and how often I’ve picked up the phone and started to dial your number to call you only to realize seconds later what I was doing. There are days it is so painful to be around people because I feel so different from them. And I think there is a part of me that is afraid to get close to people because I’m afraid that they too will leave.

I’ve started to come out of my shell a little bit and am beginning to return somewhat to the person I was before. While I’ll never be the same again—I’ve managed to find myself laughing more often and when I think of you there are almost as many smiles as there are tears… so I’m starting to move on a little bit.

After you died I was haunted by the fact that each day that passed was bringing you farther and farther away from me; the last time I saw you, the last time we spoke, the last e-mail I received from you… all of those were becoming farther away as well. Now that feeling seems to have shifted a tiny bit; I find myself beginning to see each day that passes as bringing me one day closer to the day I get to see you again.

Love Always,
Laura

Letter to Brian: March 20, 2011

Dear Brian,

I’ll never forget the last time I saw you. It was July 5th, 2010– you brought me back to the airport after my visit home for Mom’s birthday. The entire ride was so heartbreaking; I could feel it– your profound sadness. I tried to get you to talk about it but you kept changing the subject… so I let it be. I just wanted to spend time with you. I didn’t want the ride to end; the closer we got to the airport the more anxious I grew. I didn’t want to say goodbye to you– something was happening that made my heart ache for you but I couldn’t put my finger on it exactly. You got out to help me with my bags, I gave you a hug and said, “Come visit me soon, OK?? See ya later, dude.” Once inside the airport doors I allowed myself to turn around in time to see you driving away; I started sobbing because in my heart I knew I’d never see you again… and I didn’t.

That part still haunts me– that I was so connected with you that I could sense that but yet I didn’t feel it the moment you died. It will take me a lifetime to get past the fact that an entire week had passed before you were found. I felt like I let you down– that not only did you die alone but you continued to lie there alone for a week while I went about my life. “He’s gone, honey.” Those are the first words I heard from Mom confirming that what we had hoped hadn’t happened really had… and the nightmare began. For weeks I would call your cell phone several times a day just to hear your voicemail message; I worry that I’ll forget the sound of your voice. I was a mess the first time I called your number after it was finally disconnected– it was like you had died all over again and the last remaining connection I had to hearing your voice again was gone.

I keep running through our life together over and over in my head. We were so close in age that we shared everything together– we experienced all stages of life at the same time: childhood… high school… college… jobs… everything. And we even liked each other enough to choose to be roommates as adults! I loved that we were not just brother and sister, but we were friends. We both included each other in our circles of friends and activities. I keep trying to remember those things; our Sundays watching the Simpsons, you “singing” me the X-Files theme song, pizza and football games, and even you trying, very patiently, to teach me how to drive a manual transmission! You had the most amazing, contagious laugh and a very gentle spirit and are going to be missed by so many people– more than you could have ever imagined. It may not make sense but it feels like you have taken that past with you… and it also feels as though you have also taken my future as I never imagined it without you.

I often wonder how long it’ll be before those memories bring me more joy than pain– because right now it hurts to think of them. My heart is broken! I find myself detaching from the world, I’m suffering from frequent panic attacks when the pain is just so strong it takes my breath away. I have become jealous of others who have siblings who are still here– and am hurt when I see them angry with each other. I am not the same person anymore; I feel so isolated, so different from everyone else. I can laugh… but have no true joy right now. I suppose some happiness will come back someday… but for now there’s only a hole in my heart where you used to be.

Please know that I am not angry at you now… nor do I think I ever will be. I have been to that place myself before and fought my way back out. I know it wasn’t a compulsive choice you made but rather the culmination of years and years of battling a crippling depression and you held on as long as you could– for us.

I miss you and think of you every waking moment. Instead of saying goodbye to you, since I know I’ll see you again, I’ll just say what we always said to each other– “See ya later, dude.”

Your loving sister,
Laura