Around the Island

A march of many battles

I’d never seen her before. We’d never met. I didn’t know her. But she was approaching me with a pointed arm as if to say “You. Stop.”

I was conflicted.

So I began summing her up. She seemed harmless enough. Fifty-something. Dressed in all black. I mean, all black, head to toe. But with a formal look. Face expression pleasant. Shoes dressy. Another person following. I looked around. The weather was pleasant.

I hadn’t quite entered the supermarket as yet so I had options. I could pretend that I didn’t see her and head back to my car. I could grab a shopping cart and push like mad. But out came words from her mouth.

“Are you Dr. Desire?”

I was even more conflicted now. She knew me but she didn’t know me. Inner thoughts were flying … I knew better, but I said, “Hi How are you. Have we met?” And as she spoke, I felt tears flowing from my eyes.

I was brought back to a place. A memory. With her daughter. There, I sat at a bedside. Her hair freshly washed. Sweet-smelling lotion lay on the nearby table as she tried massaging multiple veins and vein punctures. The needle tracks told many tales. And I asked her to tell me more.

She didn’t know that I was to meet her mother in the parking lot of a supermarket and hear of her suicide. I didn’t know I’d be writing about a suicide and the supermarket. I had left her bedside confident that we had bonded. But learned later that I had failed her.

Her mother, having just left her funeral, wrapped her arms around me and said “Thank you so much.”

Now I was puzzled and still in tears. What was this woman doing?

I still don’t know how she identified me. After all, we’d never met. So curiosity got the better of me and I asked, which only opened another flood of tears.

Her daughter had done well. She had graduated from rehab. And kept my card. Her mother had studied it as she watched her troubled daughter speak of her new life with thanks to that one doctor who listened in a place that supported her dreams.

But in a moment of despair, her daughter ended her life with a purposeful overdose. The pain of living had overwhelmed her. It was lifelong. It was every day and it felt like a losing battle.

She didn’t die from an opioid epidemic. She died from depression using opioids as her weapon. She left rehab physically strong but mentally fragile.

Yet we close centers. Yet we have parents jump through hoops to get help. Yet we marginalize the needs of those who cry for help. Yet we criminalize the ones who act out. We defund programs because of those who abuse the system. We penalize physicians who care because of those who didn’t.

So before I fail you or the next person crying out, please know that life will be a march of battles. Some hard-won and some lost. But when it all feels no longer worth it, know that you are loved just as you are. No change needed to gain that love. You’re loved in your worst state. Again, your worst state.

Instant support is available via any pastor, priest, rabbi or spiritual leader. Instant support is available in atheists. You just have to say the word. And here’s a secret:  Just tell anyone that you want to kill yourself and you will find love and protection coming from everywhere.

And if you’re more private, call 911 and tell them that.

Hope is your best ally. And it’s readily available.

Call 1-800-273-8255.