Suicide and Me

Posted on July 3, 2014. Filed under: My Lemon Recipes | Tags: , , , , , |

This is not an easy subject,  nor an easy read.  My hope is that one person finds a little more courage from my sharing.

The first time I ever came across someone that was suicidal was at the job. Her name was Toni. She was a violent, racist, hateful woman.  She was well known for spewing racial epithets to other inmates and to the officers. One day, an inmate approached me and said, “Ms. Peak, Toni’s on her bed trying to kill herself”.  I calmly went to the bed area and saw Toni, sitting on her bed with a twisted soda can made into points. She was scraping the side of her neck, drawing blood . She seems in a trance as tears rolled down her face. I tried talking to her asking her to put down the jagged can . Being up close, I could see signs of other suicide attempts. The space between the beds approximately: 14 to 18 inches.

I sat down on the bed next to her trying to figure out what to do next. How do I deal with a suicidal, violent, racist  HIV-positive inmate?   I gently touched her leg. She seemed to come out of a trance. She turned to me with a scowl. I asked her to put the can down, and she just stared at me with that hateful scowl.

She put it down.

I shifted my position from the bed next to her to Toni’s bed.  I placed my hand on her shoulder and told her that I was sorry she was in pain. I continued talking and before I knew it or could react, she threw her arms around me and cried. And cried. And cried.

As I held her, I could feel her body trembling.  It wasn’t just the trembling of crying, it was the trembling of someone so broken. Help finally arrived and they removed Toni from my housing unit. One of the officers, maybe my supervisor, turned to me with a smirk and said,  “You should have let her finish”. 

Later, I would see Toni, still angry and hate filled, cussin’ folks out, until she saw me.  “Peakie Peakie!!” Smiling a toothless smile.  Her attitude would move to the side.   Folks thought I was the Pied Piper with Toni and others.   I only exercised humanity.

It is arrogant of me to think that I saved Toni. Toni saved Toni, by meeting me halfway. She was the first, but would not be the last.  Yesterday, I spoke with a former partner, with whom I am still friends. She said, “Others would have left me, all the times I tried to kill myself.   Thank you for standing by my side”. 

No one deserves the torment of pain mired in  mental health issues.  As a caregiver,  I understand what it’s like to observe this torment.   Yesterday, out of the blue   my arms started shaking, the shaking of Toni and my former partner came as ghosts. The pain of countless others I’ve come across paid me a visit with an overwhelm I was not prepared for. The trembling of their pain had come to haunt me, and I broke down.  Hard.  Today, I am better and wish to share some points.

Don’t judge.   Listen, even when there is silence.   Acknowledge pain is pain.  Be kind.  Encourage them to get help. 

I’m grateful for the lessons, because it makes me a better person for others. My arms are still wide open. That one intervention may serve as the door for a Change Agent the world has been looking for.  Most of all, remember that even the strong get weak.  Take care of YOU by having an outlet for your pain and to recharge your spirit.  Mine is…. More Lemons Please.

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