Bringing suicide out of the shadows and into the light

[Originally published in The Sun Chronicle]

“Love u 2.”

That was the last text message I sent to my mom.

One week later, on Nov. 17, 2010, I found out she had died by suicide.

I held the phone to my ear and heard my uncle saying ridiculous things like “your mother is dead” and “she left bags and notes on the kitchen counter.” I wanted to scream. Instead, I sobbed and pictured myself shattering into pieces.

The weeks and months that followed were a blur, a surreal and exhausting whirlwind of activity that kept me focused on resolving the tangible aspects of my mother’s death: selling her house, her car, her furniture and all of her possessions, meeting with lawyers and bank representatives, filling out forms, canceling credit cards and magazine subscriptions until I had uttered the words “my mother has died” so many times they started to lose their meaning.

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Web, social media ‘connection’ is a double-edged sword

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[Originally published in The Sun Chronicle]

My mind was wandering the other day and I got to thinking: What did people do before the Internet? And a question I had an even harder time answering: What did I do before the Internet?

I can’t pinpoint the exact moment it became a central part of my life, when I started using my computer for something besides typing papers and playing Oregon Trail, when writing e-mails and visiting Web sites became new methods of procrastination.

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A few thoughts about writer’s block, denial and facing the truth

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As a writer I need to write about all aspects of my life: the good, the bad and the ugly. I need to feel like I can express myself freely. When the writing is good, it doesn’t come from me so much as through me; I’m a vessel through which the words flow and I just try to catch up to the thoughts racing through my mind and get them all on paper.

The writing hasn’t flowed like that for some time. I’ve been blocked. I’ve blocked myself. I’ve deliberately avoided writing about certain aspects of my life — namely, the darker ones — or I’ve written about them infrequently and shared them with almost no one. Partly to spare other people, but mostly to spare myself.

When you reveal certain things about your life, people look at you differently. I don’t want people to look at me differently. I don’t people to be offended. I don’t want sympathy. I don’t want advice or suggestions on how to get over my grief; it’s quite possible that by the time I’ve shared my writing with other people I’ve already gotten over the bulk of my grief. And maybe what I’m most afraid of is total silence, no reaction at all, my words rendered insignificant in a sea of bloggers talking about nail polish, Justin Bieber and Reality TV.

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Nothing left to say

[Written sometime in 2011…]

There comes a time when there’s nothing left to say because you’ve said it all before, nothing left to process because processing won’t change the truth. It’s a truth that wakes you up in the middle of the night, a truth that surprises you when you’re driving and your mind drifts to other topics, and you snap back to reality and remember that reality now includes your mother’s suicide.

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The man sleeping in the grocery store

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It’s 9 o’clock on a Wednesday night, and I’m at the grocery store to get cat food. I walk in and see a display of patio furniture with a man sitting in one of the chairs. He almost looks like part of the display, except for the fact that he’s slumped over with a brown bag in his hand.

He is apparently drunk and probably homeless. I keep walking toward the cat food aisle, but now I’m thinking about him, wondering how long he’s been there and how much longer he’ll stay asleep under that canopy before someone kicks him out.

As it turns out, it’s not long. By the time I get to the checkout line, two female employees — a teenager and a middle-aged woman — have confronted him. “Sir, you can’t be here,” says the middle-aged one. Without a word, he shuffles out of the store, brown bag in hand. I look at them, and they look at each other wordlessly, and then they walk back to wherever they were before.

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I tried calling my mother last month

I tried calling my mother last month. I sat in the press box at Gillette Stadium before the Patriots-Texans playoff game, eating lunch at a table with two other journalists and vaguely listening to their conversation about a failed relationship. And I thought of my mom.

I wondered if I still had her number in my phone, scrolled through my contacts and found that I did. I wondered what would happen if I called her. Would I hear her voice again in that message where she always sounded so awkward and uncomfortable? Would a robot tell me this number was not in service anymore? Would the line simply go dead?

My mother’s been dead for over two years now. I dialed her number and the phone rang.

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