We’ll Miss You Steve…

POSSIBLE TRIGGER: This post discusses suicide.

Yesterday was a pretty good day for me. I actually decided to do some exercising which is a little out of my comfort zone. My youngest son is an amateur gym rat and he agreed to take me down to the gym and pop me on the treadmill. We did that and a few weights. Then we headed across the parking lot to Starbucks and got some coffee.

It’s a strange coincidence that this location of my gym is right next door to the mental health center where my NAMI bipolar support group is held. So the idea was to exercise a bit and then head next door to the meeting. Sort of get out of the house and do two things on the same trip.

I got to the meeting room and saw our leader who is a sweetheart and one terrific guy. He seemed sort of off but I didn’t pay much attention. After all, it’s a bipolar support group. People seem “off” all of the time. The rest of the group filed in and when it was time to start, our leader announced “I have some bad news. Steve died by suicide Thursday night.”

Wow! I was pretty stunned. Who wouldn’t be? But there were lots of reasons it just seemed odd.

Steve started coming to our group about six months ago. The first time he came he announced that he had spent three hours on the bus to get there. He had gone to a NAMI group in his home state and really liked it. So he searched to find a similar group in his new state.

Steve was loud. He always had a quick comment and a joke to share. Once in a while he very slightly crossed the line and sort of hurt someone’s feelings. I know he didn’t mean to do this…..I think he was a little bit manic. He was a nice looking guy….very well groomed and in good shape. He was one of those mentally ill people that you’d never know had a problem if you met them at a party or on the street.

I know Steve had some serious personal problems. He had an ex-wife and he never had anything good to say about her. He had two kids and one was autistic. They were clear across the country. He had moved to our state away from where they were. I wondered if some giant incident had caused him to move so far from his kids. He never mentioned the details.

Steve got a car. He was pretty excited about that. We were all excited for him. I felt guilty about him having to ride the bus three hours to get to “group”. I only had a ten minute drive. (The center is close to my house.)

Now I’m not going to pretend that I was Steve’s best friend. I didn’t talk to him a lot one-on-one. But we talked a lot in group. And if you’ve been in a group, you know you can get pretty close in a small amount of time. You sure tell a lot of stuff in there you don’t dare mention anywhere else.

Last Tuesday Steve seemed great. Enthused about things, but not weirdly enthused. I saw no signs at all that there was anything wrong. Frankly, there are people in my group that could commit suicide and I wouldn’t be overly shocked. Upset and depressed, yes, but not shocked. Some people just have that terribly depressed affect.

I didn’t know that Steve was “dating” one of the girls in our group. They had been doing some hiking and other activities. She’s an enthusiastic person and I would think she had been a positive in his life. I guess he started texting her some strange stuff on Thursday night and she talked him down, but he went on and finished things off anyway. She and our group leader actually went over and found him. I feel pretty devastated for them.

In a very selfish sense, I am scared. Steve was up, dressed, chatting, smiling, and moving along on Tuesday afternoon. By Thursday night, he was gone. Could that happen to me?

When I’ve been suicidal it’s normally at the bottom of my low depressions. I’ve usually been crying for days, get huddled up in my closet, and get on the phone to a few friends and just sob. That’s when things appear darkest to me. That’s when I want to give up and go in the hospital. It’s really scary to think I could go from “normal” to gone in just two days. Can your brain chemicals swing around that fast? What if that happened and I killed myself without actually meaning to? How do you protect against that?

I’ve experienced this before. I was in the hospital many years ago and had a roommate who was in her 50’s. She had several grown kids and a nice husband. I had met them when they came to visit her. I had only spent a few nights with her, but she seemed awfully nice. She got released and went home and killed herself that night. I was devastated.

I’ve read that sometimes people make up their minds to go and then they are at peace with it. So they go about their business and seem normal to everyone else. They might make some arrangements but they are subtle about it so no one really has a clue. I wonder if this is what happened with Steve and my friend from the hospital.

Anyway, I will miss Steve. I will miss his loud sense of humor. I will miss remembering how much he wanted to be with us as he rode that bus for three hours. I am sad that the girl and my group leader are so stunned by having to find him. And if I am this sad, imagine the people that really knew him.

If you’re in your right mind, suicide is just not the answer. Steve, we will miss you.

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