Two months ago, one of my neighbors committed suicide.
I don’t know why she did, but in a way I do. The pandemic has been hard on everyone. We have all suffered a loss in some way, whether it is in losing a job, a person, or hope for the future. We now have war in Ukraine, soaring gas prices, and the volatility of a stock market sucking away the possibility or plausibility of retirement.
On a good day, focusing on any one of these points is enough to make a person want to phone it in and take a mental health day to stroll the beach. I cope by leaving cable news turned off. I work in silence unless the silence becomes unbearable to the point of wanting to hear another voice. I’ll then flip through Spotify and crank up the music.
My neighbor, who became a friend during the past year and a half, suffered the same loss as I did. She lost her job, which was a part of her identity. Our stories were similar up until the point where the jobs ended. I resigned, but she was fired. Losing a job is stressful enough but to be fired is a true blow to the ego. You’re being rejected, and told you’re no longer wanted.
We went for coffee one day and talked about our job loss experiences. I told her that the day before I left New York for six months, I mailed my office desk keys back to Manhattan. It felt like a failure. She told me that in her case, arrangements were made for her laptop to be picked up and turned in. I said, “I left so suddenly that I forgot my shoes. I have a $200.00 pair of shoes that I bought in Washington D.C., and they’re still sitting beneath my desk.”
Over the course of several months, my neighbor networked, interviewed, and landed a part-time position at a top financial firm. In the midst of promise and moving ahead, a family tragedy struck and she was pulled in several different directions in coping with it. Her employer was generous, permitting flexible work hours. They liked her so much, that they offered her a full-time position.
It was close to this time that things changed. She did not want to talk on the phone or meet for coffee, anymore. I sent a Christmas card, and she texted, “I don’t send Christmas cards.” I remember feeling hurt by that. Who doesn’t send a Christmas card back, or say thank you? I wish I had seen it as an indication that something was wrong.
I texted her on her birthday a few weeks later. I rarely saw her after that. Then her father stopped me one morning and told me he had to take her to the hospital because she tried to hurt herself. She was discharged, and she was about to start full-time work. They still wanted her.
But she decided, “No.” That Sunday night, she decided it was time to leave.
She was supposed to start work on Monday morning.
We’ve heard this public service announcement before, but it bears repeating. If you or anyone you know is hurting to the point of needing help, and contemplating suicide, the phone number for the National Suicide hotline is 800-273-8255.
Please don’t do this to your family, friends, and loved ones.