Join Me in Supporting the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention

On July 9, 2016, while waiting to disembark from my plane, I turned off the “airplane mode” setting on my phone, and a text came through, “I won’t be able to pick you up today.” It was from my husband. I wasn’t alarmed; sometimes the world could be too much. Sometimes he couldn’t handle the cars darting about, the crowds of people; it could make him extremely anxious. It could be paralyzing. To me that text only meant I would have to take a taxi home. It’s just what it was. Then I walked onto the concourse, and my world started turning upside down. A voice over a loudspeaker summoned me to a white courtesy phone. From there I was met by a police officer who told me another officer, from the city where we lived, was en route to talk to me. That officer arrived, and I was informed that Jay had passed away. Impossible. He had just sent me a text. I was taken home to find my house surrounded in crime tape, and people from victim’s services waiting for me on my driveway. My husband, the person I had been with for 17 years, was now gone, and my home was a crime scene.

Not only had I lost my husband, my best-friend, my co-conspirator, and my favorite person; I had lost my identity. I was no longer a wife, a best-friend, the other half of the best part of us. I had lost purpose. The house had fallen silent.

It’s still silent…

There is a stigma associated with mental illness. A belief that if a person just tried harder, manned-up, not been a baby, they’d have been fine. A belief that a person is actively choosing to be miserable.

So, let me set the record straight. Jay didn’t die because he was weak. He didn’t die because he couldn’t “fake it till he made it;” a regimen of “more smiling” wasn’t the cure for his depression. Jay died because he felt hopeless. Jay died because he felt that seeing one more doctor to adjust his medication was pointless, and that it ultimately wouldn’t change how worthless he felt inside. He felt another appointment with an ENT still wouldn’t fix his untreated sleep apnea. He felt like a disappointment. And the depression combined with extreme fatigue made him feel like he was going insane. I cannot begin to imagine how his last day ultimately unfolded, but I do imagine he felt that he’d finally get some relief. I imagine he felt like he’d no longer disappoint everyone in his life. He would no longer disappoint me.

Let me say here what I had told him on many occasions: he was never a disappointment. He was beautiful.

There is a stigma associated with suicide. After a week of being gone, I returned to work braced to read the condolence cards that were doubtlessly waiting for me on my desk. There weren’t any. My desk was exactly the same as it had been before I’d left. No cards, no flowers, no acknowledgment. In fact, some people who knew Jay had died avoided me. We thrive in our communities, and to be denied this thing that is almost a given was traumatizing. No one did it to hurt me; for the most part they love me. It was that no one was quite sure what to do given the circumstances. Those who didn’t know would innocently drop by to cheerfully ask how my vacation went, and I got the unenviable task of explaining, “Jay died.” I finally had to ask people to spread that news, because I couldn’t cope with telling one more person and watching their faces fall.

If Jay had died of anything else, there would have been a card. I would have been embraced by my community. People would know what to say. They would know what to do.

And because of that same stigma, I wouldn’t tell people either, because I knew I’d be judged. I hadn’t kept my house in order. I hadn’t stopped him. What was so broken in our lives that my husband would choose suicide? What had Beth done to drive someone to make that choice? I kept silent to avoid whispers.

That stops now.

Next Saturday, on November 10th, I will walk in the Out of Darkness walk – a fundraiser for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. I will walk for my husband. I walk for my best friend. I walk for my favorite person. I will walk for me.

On November 10th, my team will walk for a lost brother, son, uncle, and friend. A few will walk for me – to hold my hand, to peer into my face and see if I’m ok, and they will keep me strong as they continue on this endless vigil – my protective vanguard.

Together we will walk to support the other survivors out there, the people who need strength, who need a reminder that despite the tragedy, they’re still here, and they’re still ok. We walk in the hopes that the funds we raise, the awareness this walk brings may prevent another family from joining us. We walk to help remove the stigma that surrounds depression and suicide.

So I ask you one final time: Won’t you please join us? Whether it’s by spending a couple of hours walking beside us on November 10th to walk around the state’s capitol, or through a gift to this organization? I strongly believe that what this organization is doing for survivors, and for those who struggle is important, and it is vital.

If you’re unable to give at this time, that’s ok. Share  a kind word, a show of support, a story, something about your love for Jay, for me, for this amazingly strong and resilient family; it means the world to us.

I think I can speak for everyone when I say that we love and appreciate each of you.

To make a donation, please click the link below:
Support the Out of Darkness Walk – For Jay

The Anger Room

Christmas. Anyone who knows anything about me, knows Christmas is my thing. Not in a decorate-y way – you don’t walk into my house and find a year long celebration (well… there may be a few lights here and there, I suppose – blame laziness or a love of twinkly lights more than anything else). I rarely have a tree up (too many memories with each ornament).  And it’s not like I dress up, though I do now have a Santa hat.  But for those who don’t know me – who only know me as this Big Blue Mess occasional why-can’t-she-write-more bloggerette, you have to trust me; it’s my holiday. And my friends always go out of their way to make it memorable. (In fact, I still owe you a blog from my last birthday. Oh, you thought we were talking about Christmas? We are. This was another great one where my friends and family gave me a small piece of themselves – from New Zealand pop music to vintage posters, to a fantastic original reindeer painting, to pistachio KitKats from Japan. Everything was absolutely wonderful (and some tasty), and each gift was so very them – the person who shared themselves.)

Among the many great gifts was a Choose Your Birthday Adventure. This is something my friend April, whom you may remember as the person who is on a mission to kill me, started doing a few years back. She presents me with three options for adventures we can take around the state (likely dangerous and fraught with peril, as I’m not sure she’s quit her murderess mission). From museums offering a selection of quilts, or toilet seats, or trains, to old Czech settlements, meadery visits, or trips to see scaled-down replicas of Stonehenge and the Easter Island moais. It’s always so hard to choose, because it’s always a slice of Texas I didn’t realize I wanted to see, and now can’t imagine never seeing it.

This year my choices were titled:

  • Adventures 1: Olives!!! (and other stuff but mostly olives)
  • Adventure 2: Art & Soul
  • Adventure 3: Painted Churches

After much deliberation, I chose “Adventure 2,” which was tough because OLIVES!!! and I know I’d love painted churches, but this one promised a trip to both the Kimbell Art Museum and The Modern – two museums I’d never been to see. Apparently, there isn’t a “do all the adventures” option. (I’ll miss you, olive farm.)

Well, life delayed us a bit – between jobs, the cruise, and all of those other little things, we found ourselves in June without a firmed up plan. Then, a funny thing happened at the end of June. I had a tiny little meltdown where I was mad or sad or neither or both – sometimes within minutes of each other, and well, you got to hear about it. You see, losing Jay, my best friend, takes its toll nearly every waking moment; it’s just a matter of degrees. My reprieves can really only be found at the gym, or in activities that insist I’m hyper-present in the moment. In truth, the intensity of my sorrow lessons as I move further away from July, and then swells again in the Spring. I still cry. I still rage.

So clearly, this was a sign that Adventure 2 needed a slight tweak, and thus a visit to The Anger Room in Dallas became part of the plans. I mean this was the “Art & Soul”  adventure, and both of our souls were saying they needed to smash some things and see some lovely art. Souls can be rather mecurial at times.

Let me just say it was a great choice, and one of the most completely cathartic experiences I’ve had in a long time. I was in a safe place and given permission to destroy things. I personally never let myself go in this way; I think, “How will you feel when you’re calm, and you realize you’ve broken this thing? You’ll be pretty upset. Why don’t we scream into a pillow instead? That’s good, too. Right??” I will barely slam a door, because I think about how the door doesn’t have it coming. (Aside: We will not discuss any recent door kicking, nor the time the Naval special forces combat medic was consulted, nor the time the door sought revenge and unceremoniously (because ceremony should be involved?) popped me in the lip, and I went around with an unnoticeable bump on my lip that I kept insisting was there. It was there, people!!! None of these things are on the table for discussion!)

When we got there, the woman at the facility explained, “you will have 20 minutes, and while it hardly seems like much time, you will get tired. If you need to come out and take a break, please do.” I’m here to report: 20 minutes is actually a SHORT time, and we didn’t need any breaks. In fact, we needed about 20 more minutes.  We chose our weapons of destruction, and in my case that was a crowbar and a baseball bat. I discovered I’m a crowbar girl. I had no idea. It’s like learning I’m “Joffrey” on a Game of Thrones Buzzfeed quiz. (I was actually hoping I’d turn out to be more of an Ygritte. Now I live in fear of  Tyrion’s wrath. Please don’t let me become a viral meme people use to lift themselves up on a bad day. In fact, #1 on my bucket list reads: 1) Don’t die a meme. Seems like a reasonable thing for which to ask, but I digress.)

While it was fairly perfect, my only wish would be that they’d had more fresh things to break instead of merely a couple of new things (a printer, and a DVD player), and the opportunity to whale on things that had been previously destroyed. In fact, I would have paid a little extra for fresh glasses from the Walmart collection, because the one cheap wine glass, while momentarily satisfying, just wasn’t enough. Don’t get me started on the one plate. Well… because April got to smash that one. I couldn’t hog all the easily smashables. That would be rude!

At the end, the anger concierge handed us markers and invited us to, “write whatever you want on these walls; it doesn’t matter – let it out.” And I wrote the ugliest thing from the darkest part of my heart – the thing that raced around my mind as I beat the DVD player into coughing out its motherboard, the words radiating off of my skin, and my anger went away… (at least for now).

It was absolutely brilliant!

Posture neither my mother nor countless orchestra conductors would be proud of, but the day wasn’t about my perfect posture. 🙂

(For those who have asked: No, I will not share what I wrote with you. Much like you’ll never know what I put in the Wishing Stump, what I’d send to PostSecret, nor what I’d ask for in a prayer; the words are not for you.)

Empowering Me Doesn’t Emasculate You

I hurt someone’s feelings. Yep. I did it. Just stomped all over them, and the thing is: I don’t care.

You probably want a little more than that, I suppose. A few questionable sentences that end with an “XXOO, Beth” isn’t going to cut it. It could though, right? I mean, you could actually accept that I hurt someone’s feelings, and that you finally got that pass to quickly exit from my site without meandering through one of my tales. It is not your lucky day, my friend.

As you probably guessed from the above feet dragging, I’m having a tough time deciding how to start. Flashbacks may be in order.

Ok, let me just take a stab at it. I’ll start with the actual incident.

Yesterday I moved four boxes from one spot to another. Nothing particularly impressive – just boxes that weighed approximately 30 lbs each. Not heavy – more cumbersome. You see, it’s actually my job to move boxes. I’m the box mover. Boxes come in. I get a note. I sign a thing claiming I’m now in possession of said boxes, and I take them away. Done.  It may not be my favorite task, but I’m reasonably competent at this task. Box moving is in my wheelhouse of skills these days.

I also happen to have been born with both a fairly functional brain, vocal chords, and decent synaptic relays that allow said brain to send signals to said vocal chords, as well as other things like my lungs, diaphragm, etc. They in turn perform this beautifully choreographed dance thus allowing me to communicate with other human beings. Call it a genetic legacy. Maybe it’s Jungian on some level. Blame my family tree. Whatever you need. That ability allows me to express a need for help should one arise. For example, I could say, “hey, this is kind of heavy, would you mind helping me move it?”

I start unloading the first box, and the next thing you know I have guys in my cart trying to help. That’s nice. Thanks. “I don’t need your help.” I said that. “I’m good, thanks. I can get this.” But no, they had to help me, and that’s fine. That’s nice. How about you ask me if I need help? That would have also been nice.

You see, I’m really not that dainty. In fact, I was on Day 2 of looking like I just got pulled away from a poker game in the back of some un-air conditioned warehouse. (I blame bad hair, and not the fact that anyone who saw me walking down the street would suspect my name was Marge and that I smoked a copious amount of cigars. No offense to the stogie smoking Marges of the world.)

And that’s when I snapped – right on the heels of their not quite sincere sorries.  The kind of sorry that is really, “I’m sorry you’re mad at me” versus, “I’m sorry I did something that is clearly irritating you.” I bristled, “I didn’t ASK for your help. I’ve got this. I can do it. Next time let ME do it.” (I’m not always the most adorable person to be around.) That’s how I upset someone, and they walked away.

FLASHBACK (as promised): The day before I moved 640 lbs. of items from one building to another and literally up a small hill. There were slightly (aka a ton) more than four boxes. Midway through, another woman saw I was doing this, and started alerting all the men that “Beth needs help!!” I didn’t. I had it. It’s my job. As I kept working while that show carried on down the hallway, she looked back and announced, “Beth is continuing to work!!” I was, because it had to get done. Three guys swarmed, emptied the rest of the cart of it’s four remaining boxes.  That was nice. I only had another cartful to load and unload, but ok you guys get back to what you were doing. You did your good deed!

Four boxes was nothing. He had no idea that the previous day I’d moved so much more.

FLASHBACK (just a bit further): I needed to move a box of copier paper from one room to another. “Can I help?” “Yes, can you get the doors?” “Do you want me to carry that for you?” “No.” “You’re emasculating me by not letting me carry that.” REALLY???

Here’s the thing.

I work out so I can do this; I used to not be very strong. I’m technically still not strong, but I’m stronger than I was. Doing these tasks makes me feel capable. Doing these tasks after blowing my ACL makes me feel incredible. They make me feel strong. I get to say: I moved a box of copier paper down a hall and through two rooms. I loaded, unloaded and moved 640 lbs. of items up a hill. Oh, and I moved these ridiculously small boxes. I didn’t need a “guy” to help me. LET ME DO IT. I will ask if I need help. And it’s ok for you to ask me if I need help, but when I say no, walk away and be ok with that.

Empowering me doesn’t emasculate you.

Balls Hair: How Not to Type a Post

Last night as I laid my head down on my desk, cringing after having just edited my latest blog entry, I thought, “it’s time to write another post acknowledging that girl, you cannot type to save your life.” This is just a fact. I type, I edit, I post, I edit, and then I edit at least five more times to be sure, tweaking the post bit by bit until I’m finally convinced, “I got this!” while knowing I’ll come back a day later to find even more glaring goofs. I have yet to write that flawless elusive post. One day.

With that post, I hoped to accomplish two things:

  1. Acknowledge that I am painfully aware of just how bad my typing can be. That some days it may actually hurt your eyes or your soul to read.
  2. Somehow convince you guys to wait a day or maybe 15 (15 is good, right?) before reading my posts, which would maybe give me enough time to catch the vast majority of my errors  (although that’s probably still unlikely as I know my track record better than most)

I thought about trying to explain that sometimes my brain works faster than my typing fingers. I thought about adding that I’m so familiar with my writing that when I edit, I miss the words that need to be fixed, because my brain is “lalala-ing” along with the familiar flow of my speech pattern/sentence structure that it’s actually filling in the missing pieces. And the truth is that the further I get away from what I’ve written, the better I am at catching all those little glaring bits. The ones that cause me to lay my head down on my desk and cringe a ton.

I guess those are the joys of reading a personal blog? Lucky you?

I also decided I would share some related anecdotes to drive that point home – stories that provide further proof that I can neither edit nor type – just something for your amusement, and a chance to really enjoy how bad it all can get for me, then maybe you’d all laugh WITH me.

Today my cousin posted a question on Facebook: “Name something random about u” after he’d offered up a random fact about himself. I was in. I do a lot of random things, and what I should have done was mentioned being in a mariachi. I now deeply regret not just saying, “I was in a mariachi!” and ending it there.  But no, that would be too un-Beth like. So, I had to mention hairballs. Here’s the thing, the mere sight of them makes me gag. And if you start talking about them in things, on things, around things, whether they’re wet or dry, I’ll have to hyper focus to avoid going into a coughing fit. Thank you Burger King for a quirk that has settled well in over the decades (don’t ask), and I truly wish my brain would let it go, but brains… y’know? I could have told the story just like that, too. But no… I wrote: “Also, the sight of balls hair makes me cough.” Yep, I typed “balls hair”. And I felt good about that post. I hit enter and went on my merry little “balls hair” hating way, announcing my particular random distaste for said “balls hair” to all of his good friends.  Hi, this is my cousin. She hates balls hair enough that she wanted to just share that with y’all and the rest of the world. She’s also someone we can’t have out in polite society. Now you all know why.  Oh, you only drink Guiness on a full moon? Well my cousin Beth here – yeah, she hates the balls hair.

I logged back in to see someone had haha’ed my post, and I knew immediately, without looking, that I’d typed something goofy. When I read my post, I turned bright red, started blushing profusely and well ok, there was some giggling, because I just told the whole world my feelings on “balls hair,” but I was completely mortified. Why I couldn’t type “hairball,” the way we all refer to them, or hey, “MARIACHI”, I’ll never know. I looked around sheepishly, hit the edit button, inserted a well-placed “of” in there, and wrote a quick disclaimer. But the damage couldn’t be undone. I’m now the balls hair hater. 😦

I wish this story were somehow unusual for me instead of just being the latest example.

One more story – A couple of months back, I asked my brother-in-law to pick up a sandwich since he was on his way over.  A simple request. When he arrived he handed me the sandwich, YAY, and then said, “stop using voice-to-text”.  Granted this isn’t a “me typing poorly” story, but more a “me failing to edit” one, which in truth is actually my problem. I barely skim what Siri has said.  I looked at him with surprise, furrowed my brow a bit, and then opened the actual text. In that text, the one that sent, the one Siri decided would be a bit funny, I apparently made a rather lewd suggestion. You know, the kind of suggestion you NEVER want to send to your brother-in-law, because NOOOOO – not ok. BAD TOUCH! What I learned from this was not, “Beth, stop using voice-to-text.” No, I learned to now have Siri type: “I’m using voice-to-text. Siri makes fun of my accent. I’m not responsible for the things to come. Just read the words out loud like you’re me. You’ll get the gist.”

Which brings me back to the purpose of this post. I will also never be the type of editor that discovers all of the errors. What I will do is, I will typo. I will always fail to edit thoroughly, and I will still hit the post button. I will also keep working on my story for several days, and I will keep catching those errors. So, my ask is: if you can’t wait a few days, then just read what I write with light eyes. Gently glide over the typos, fill in the blanks of the butchered words or mangled phrases. If you see a whoopsied homonym instead of the proper word, read that sentence aloud, and delete your memory of the spelling Men In Black style – just look at K’s pen. Also, feel free to liberally bless my heart.

But at least be thankful I didn’t write a post about “balls hair.” Oh wait. I guess I did.

Huge thanks to everyone who makes it through my actual writing to read my stories; it’s much appreciated – more than you know. I love you guys!

I’ll proof this again tomorrow.

A Reminder

In September of 2016 I spoke to my friend Kelly, a Chinese linguist who had been in Military Intelligence for years, and asked him about the symbol lì.  Kelly explained:

“Lì is the character for “power” or “physical force”. Lì is added to some characters to mean the type of strength. Tì is the character for “body”. So “Tì Lì” means physical strength or power. So, there is no one word for strength, but many based on the type of strength being described. It also is general enough to mean “power” in its many forms. There is also something very beautiful in the fact that such a basic two stroke character can represent so strong a concept, literally.”

On that day, I carved a mental image of it onto my wrist. Something no one would ever notice, unless it was in a, “wow, have you guys noticed Beth is kind of fixated on her arm? It’s weird, right? I mean, we were talking, and suddenly her eyes just went to that spot again. Is that a thing? Is there some kind of wrist chakra? Like you stare and it’s activated? Or maybe she’s hinting that something is on MY wrist, but is too polite. Hey, would you mind looking at my wrist? Is there something there? I’m calling my doctor. It could be malignant.”

Whenever I felt I needed to be reminded that I was strong, I’d just glance down at my wrist.

For a while now people have insisted I am “strong,” even “courageous” at times. I’m to be “admired” for these qualities. I’m never quite sure if they genuinely believe that, or if it’s more in hope that the words will prop me up enough so that I can get up and persevere a bit more. Sure, there are days I feel strong. Days I greet with a mighty roar, but there are days I want to sit in the dark coolness of my bedroom and not be bothered for minutes on end. (Well, that idea always sounds great, and about 30 minutes in, I start getting bored especially when I haven’t settled on a decent movie to watch, and my only TV choice involves a Kardashian performing a keg stand. Which by the way, why? Does beer taste better that way? Are you joining a beer circus? What is up with that?)

On Monday, July 9th, the anniversary of Jay’s death, my friend April texted and asked if I wanted to finally get a tattoo – the thing I’d been talking about for two years. Over the last two years she and several friends had heard me carry on about various tattoo parlors, and a favorite artist I’d selected. They listened as the symbol morphed from a simple character to one where it appeared as if it had been torn from my skin, to a tribal phoenix, to a water colored phoenix, to the phrase, “I am the storm,” and then back to a simple character. No wonder I couldn’t commit.

My knee-jerk reaction was, “no, nope, I’m good, thanks!” Then the more I thought about it, the more I thought, “y’know, why not today? Today on the anniversary. A day where it would have the most meaning,” and I said, “yes.”

A friend once said, “you know in your heart that you are strong, why do you need a tattoo?” (That’s paraphrased a bit, but that’s how I understood them.) And my answer is simple: I don’t always see myself the way you do. I know. I’m not unique in this belief. Don’t we all see more in our friends and family than they’re sometimes able to see? We see their raw beauty, their own simple elegance, and just how truly awe-inspiring they are with their wings outstretched, and you wish that for a minute they could understand themselves the way you understand them – see themselves the way you do.  So, this tattoo serves as a tangible reminder when they’re not around that I am strong, and it’s there for the days I feel I’ve lost my way – a silent calligraphy sentinel.

As to the question, “how did you choose your wrist?” Well, its always been there. The only thing that changed is now you can see it, too.

And I can see it when I can’t.

PS Thank you to DeAnne and April who chose to also get tattoos to honor those they’ve lost, which included Jay. I cannot begin to properly express how touching I found those gestures.

July 9, 2016

WARNING: The following post contains certain details regarding Jay’s suicide, and the aftermath. It may be inappropriate for some readers.

Did you know?

My question in return: Can you tell? At what point in that text exchange would you get Jay help? Tell me. Please. What is it you think I missed?

I was exhausted after my trip to LA. While I’d had a decent time, seen things I’d never seen before, done things I’d never done before, I was woefully short on sleep, and I hadn’t really had a chance to talk to Jay in private. The few moments I was able to steal to have a private chat involved me nearly crying while saying, “I just want to come home,” and he patiently reminded me that I’d be home soon.  I asked if we could come back. His response: “If it’s still there.” 🙂

I woke up that morning still tired, but happy. Finally! I was going home. Jay would get me from the airport, we’d get lunch, and then I’d face-plant like a champ.

On the way to my terminal I found a penny on the ground. I snapped it up. A good omen; it was going to be a great day. I don’t touch pennies now except to drop them on the ground if they’re handed to me.

I received Jay’s text letting me know he wouldn’t be picking me up. I guessed it was another anxiety attack. People, crowds, traffic… it was frequently overwhelming, but while I understood, I was still disappointed, and quite frankly a little irritated. I would need to get a cab. My idea of how the day would go shifted a bit, but it was manageable, and I knew I’d walk into the house a little mad despite knowing that sometimes Jay couldn’t do all the things. While I was waiting to deplane, I checked my wallet – ah, enough for a long cab ride. It wasn’t the end of the world.

This is the actual phone. I see it every time I’m in the airport. I see me at it every time I’m in the airport, and I wait for the officer to come get me.

I walked onto the concourse to hear my name being called over the loudspeaker. Please pick up a white courtesy phone. I almost didn’t, because I got it – I had to find my own way home. Thank you. I didn’t need them to tell me. “Ma’am, let me get my supervisor.” “Hello, am I speaking to Beth, and your husband is Jay, correct? I need you to tell me where you are. You need to stay right there, and an Austin Police Department officer will come get you.”

I knew Jay was in trouble, but he’d just texted that he wouldn’t be able to get me. Something must have happened outside the airport. “Are you ok?” Nothing. I’d forgotten that “airplane mode” held texts, so the message he’d sent wasn’t new. In fact it was about 25 minutes old. He was already dead.  The officer approached me. “We’re going to walk to our office here in the airport.” “Has something happened to Jay?” “I don’t know, I’m supposed to take you to the office, and a Pflugerville Police officer is going to come talk to you.” Why is she coming out here to talk to me? Did Jay have an accident? Did something happen with one of the neighbors? I started working out a plan to get a lawyer. I’d get recommendations. I knew lawyers, just none who specialized in the type of field I thought we might need – criminal law.

Officer O’Neil arrived, “Are you Beth? Are you married to Jay? Do you live at this address?” and then she told me the news. Lies. I just got his text. There wasn’t time for him to be gone. There wasn’t time for a police officer to be dispatched. Why would she lie? I stared at her and fell apart. Not Jay. “He let us know, and told us we needed to come get you. That’s why I’m here. Let me take you home”

The house was surrounded in crime scene tape, and two victim services volunteers waited for me on the driveway. “You’ll need to stand out here. The police are going through your house and collecting evidence. He’s in the backyard. Your dog is ok. When they clear the kitchen you can go into that room. Here’s some information you might need. Is there anyone we should call?”

Calls were made. People started arriving. “Beth, they’re taking him away now. Do you want to touch him through the body bag?” “You’re going to have to have someone clean up your patio. Here are numbers to call of companies who specialize in that. Do you know where your insurance information is?” “Ma’am, we need to act quickly. Jay is a donor, and we would like your consent to take…” “Beth, so-and-so is on the phone, they want to talk to you.” “Where are Jay’s meds?” ”Had he ever expressed any intention of harming himself?” “Did he suffer from depression?” “Here’s the number for the medical examiner. You’ll need to call her.”“We’re taking his gun as evidence, do you want it back?” “What do you want to eat?” “Where is your Dad? We need to help your Dad.” “What would you like us to do with his body?” “Have you thought about where you’d like to hold a service?” “Is this ok?” “Is this what you want?” “Was there a will?” “Your neighbor told us she threw holy water over the fence and prayed for Jay. Wasn’t that nice?” “Beth, tell us a story about Jay?” For several days my life was filled with questions, so many questions, and insurmountable sadness; it was completely overwhelming.

I only had one question that I’d ask out loud when no one could hear. “Why didn’t you kill me, too? WHY?! I hate you.” because being alive in a world without Jay is really f*ing hard. It’s still hard. (Important side note: I feel I need to say that I am not, nor have I ever been, in danger of self-harm. I’m too curious about what the next day holds.)

I died that day. The Beth you knew vanished, and I’m sorry guys, you just get this – an actress uniquely skilled at playing my role. My ability to sympathize is completely wrecked. Within weeks of his death, people outside of my main group of family and close friends started, and continue to, come to me with their sadness and their woes, as if I’m now uniquely qualified to guide them through their hardship  – as if I can impart some wisdom, and I’m thunderstruck by how much I genuinely do not care. So much so that I have to shove down the urge not to express that sentiment out loud in order to hide how truly damaged I am. Let me qualify that a bit to say that there is a small amount of sympathy that manages to still cling on, much like “hope” in the story of Pandora, and it’s reserved for those closest to me (and their kids). In fact, if I’m teetering around the abyss of in my mind, all it takes is one well-placed, “Aunt Beth!” or “June?” and I’m paused – able to draw back – momentarily me.

At a friend’s suggestion, I recently took a personality assessment that looks at personal strengths, and the one I apparently lead with is “empathy.” I was surprised until I read its description. Basically, it said I’m decent at picking up on others – their emotions, their unspoken questions; however, “[I] don’t necessarily feel pity for someone’s predicament – that’s sympathy.” And I don’t. I used to, but I just don’t. Again, with the heavy qualifier that I do when it comes to my family and closest friends. I have real limits on how much of other’s burdens I can shoulder, and it’s not a lot. Does it grow? Sure. And I reserve it for the people who made up my protective phalanx – my vanguard. Your next door neighbor’s hairdresser’s cousin who is suffering unimaginable hardship is sad. I am sorry for them. Don’t text me hoping I will console you.

And I take things wrong – very wrong. The most well-intentioned words get flipped into something you absolutely didn’t intend. Something as simple as, “You seem like you’re handling things well. If I were in your shoes I’d be devastated,” as a testament of strength sounds like, “you clearly didn’t care about him; you’re not sad enough.” There are more examples, but I know if I list them, someone will read themselves into what I’ve said, and then I have to negotiate their emotions, and I can’t. I just can’t.

You see, you’ve lost part of me, and in its place is a newer me.

On November 10, 2018 I will be walking to raise funds for Suicide Awareness as part of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention’s Out of Darkness Walk.  It starts at 10am and is approximately 5k. If you’d like to make a donation, you may do so at this link:

Out of Darkness Walk: Austin, Texas – Donations

I have set a personal goal to raise $500.

A huge thanks to all who have already contributed to this walk or through my Facebook campaign; it means a great deal to me.

If you would like to walk with me in memory of Jay, and would also like to raise funds to support this cause, we’d love to have you. Click here:

Out of Darkness Walk: Austin, Texas – To Join Our Team

If you are in crisis, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or contact the Crisis Text Line by texting TALK to 741741.