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As the train approached

May 3, 2011

I was certain he had a family. As the train approached, I saw his face. I recognized him. Normally, he worked the morning shift, speaking his “good morning” and dictating the next stop in that heavy West African accent of his. You know, that type of accent that you can’t help but smile and relax when you hear it. You don’t have a voice that carefree and happy sounding if you don’t have a family at home.

He had to have a family. And if he had a family, what would happen if he couldn’t resume driving the train? If he were like me – because I know I couldn’t “shake this off”. Was there a program that would provide him with support while he trained in a new profession?

I didn’t know what state my apartment was in. Surely, there must be something embarrassing that my mother shouldn’t ever be forced to find out about lying around somewhere. But, my mom had to know that there were things that I wouldn’t have wanted to be found.

I had, in my fridge, pickles and orange soda. I drank the last of my beer the night before. I had no money for beer today. Who would take inventory of what I had? Would they judge me for what was in my fridge? Should I have left a note that morning saying that there had been Guinness there? Why would anyone care? Why do I care?

Should I have left a note? I’m supposed to leave a note. No, a note would just complicate everything. I don’t know what I’m thinking. And nobody can read my handwriting anyway.

Who would clean things up? Has that person done this before? Surely, I’ll be completely non-identifiable. It will be no worse than a bar during spring break, right? The color will be different, that’s it.

What about those projects at work. Fuck those projects at work – they’re stupid anyway.

Who would tell “her”? Would she see this as an attack against her? It isn’t, but should I write her a note? Call her and say goodbye? She never answers the phone anyway – just leave a quick voicemail. Wait, no, I’m here because I realized she didn’t really like me anyway. That would just complicate things that much more afterward.

No, this driver has a family. He has to.

I won’t jump.


The previous is a very true story – I still remember the night. I was in a new city, single for the first time in a long time. I was working truly crazy hours at a job that seemingly had no point, yet everything was a “do or die” project. I had no friends near me. I was gaining weight. I was struggling with debt and had just bounced the first check I’d ever bounced. On rent. Because I bought myself an extra case of beer.

May is National Mental Health Awareness month. We all have those things that might just be “too much” for a single person to handle. When you find yourself thinking that the unthinkable is the best option, don’t be afraid to ask for help. I just needed a single session with a therapist, where I was able to sit down, say aloud what I had been screaming in my head, and realize that what was “my choice” wasn’t for me, but I fear what would have happened if I had waiting just a single extra day.

  1. Just tweeted the link to this…I think this is an amazing story and many people should read it!

  2. Glad you’re here man. Glad you appreciated his family.

    • It’s weird for me to think back on “who I was” that night, because I’m so very alike, and so very different all at the same time. But, most assuredly, I’m glad to be here today 🙂

  3. I lost a dear friend nearly five years ago to his decision that it wasn’t worth going on… and not a day goes by that I don’t wish I had had the opportunity to say to him, “there is someone who can help, even if you don’t want to tell me.”

    So thank you. For waiting a day. For choosing to stay.

    • Roxann Roberts writes ( about how suicide is a blob of red paint in a can of white. It doesn’t matter what you do, you’ll never be able to make the paint “white” again – and once you know someone who’s committed suicide, you’ll never be able to have life be “normal” again, no matter what you try.

      I’m so sorry you had a friend go through — I honestly cannot imagine sitting in your shoes.

  4. What an amazingly raw account. I think it’s fantastic you are sharing it in an attempt to raise awareness.

  5. So brave of you to share something so honest and emotional. I’m glad that you got help.

    I think back on moments in my life that I thought were so horrible… well, at the time. That helps me get through rough stuff now- to put things in perspective.

    • Yeah, it’s really something to look back & realize that what I was convinced was “rock bottom” wasn’t so bad. At the same time, what was “as good as it possibly could be,” was far from the best things would ever get, as well.

  6. Jani permalink

    Im glad you posted this, I lost my father at 21 to suicide. Had he known the impact this was going to have on the rest of my life Im sure he would have never done it. Im glad you took the time to think…the world is better with you here.

    There isnt a day goes by when I dont think about him, mainly when I look in the mirror and see his nose.

    Thank You John..

    • I truly believe it’s impossible to overvalue the impact that we, individually, have on other lives. I’m sorry for the loss of your dad, especially in such a fashion.


  7. Cannot thank you enough for sharing this. The past few years have been pretty horrible and there were days that I said over and over that it was just too much for someone to handle. Looking at the big picture, it really was. But, just like your post showed, it’s the small things that you have to focus on. The day by day, the minute by minute. Life changes so quickly. The depth of sadness I felt a few months ago that I thought would eat me alive a few months has evolved into something that is livable. Somedays wonderful, somedays not. Between friends and healthcare professionals, we figured out a way to manage. Things do get better. Smiles come back.

    Thank you for being so brave to share such a personal story. It is so appreciated.

    • Sometimes, all we can hope to do is survive – because, well, tomorrow never knows.

  8. Thank you for sharing this. We often forget that getting help is sometimes found in the form of one therapy appointment and not a lifetime of work. All mental illness is not life long. (mine is, I am well aware 🙂 ) So I truly appreciate this take on it. Truly.

    • My mental issues will be a life long battle as well — it’s just that, this one issue, this one day, only took a little bit of time to work itself out. Yeah, bouncing a check sucks. Not having a beer to go home to when you want one is bad. Not being around tomorrow is permanent, though.

      • John, I didn’t realize you are a lifer as well. I meant absolutely no disrespect, and was certainly not down playing what was going on with you that evening. At all. Is it weird to say I was hopeful that you did not have to do battle for years? Please accept my apology.

  9. mandy vaughn permalink

    Very well written and so honest. So glad you were able to seek help and work through things. I’m sure this was hard to share, but you never know who it might help.

    • Yeah – I’m really hoping that, somehow, this helps at least a single person. Somebody who stumbled upon the blog, reads it, and maybe a word I wrote will flash on her or her mind at some later point. Maybe then, they’ll make a phone call instead of just acting . . . I’ll cross my fingers that something like that just might happen.

  10. JenJen permalink

    This was hard for me to read.

    • It was easy to write – but really, really difficult for me to press the “publish” button for.

  11. Val permalink

    Wow. I read this on band back together and had no idea it was you. SO glad you are still here.

    I will tell you that although I know no one personally who has committed suicide, I have been on many scenes of suicide from work. They are images that can never be erased from my mind. The notes, tears, pain… These are what I carry with me. I will never forget them, and the impact their deaths had on their friends and family…

    Glad you are here my friend.

    • Yeah – I posted this on the blog a few days ago & one of the editors of Band Back Together asked me to re-post it. The turnout has been great.

      I think back on this night, often – but, I’m a very different person these days. Part of me was “so sure” that things absolutely didn’t get any worse than they did right then . . . I know better now. But, I also know that, no matter how awful the present is, there’s always something good right around the corner.

      I can’t imagine having to see/deal with the aftermath of suicide as you have. Roxann Roberts writes ( about life being a can of white paint, and suicide is a blob of red. It doesn’t matter what you do, there will always be that trace of red about.

      Needless to say, I’m quite glad I didn’t jump that day, or any day since. As I said, I’m a very different person now.

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