A Voice for Teresa
Last night’s post on Facebook at bedtime:Today was a strange, wonderful, sad, spiritual, happy, unsettling kind of day. I am going to bed now to ponder these things and try to find peace through sleep. If you love someone, tell them. If someone you know is hurting, talk to them. Don’t wait. Peace and Love to all of you.
What happened to make me sign off with such an enigmatic goodnight? Well, as usual, I started my day on Facebook. (Yes, I’m an addict. No, I don’t want to stop.) I have been steadily adding friends over the past few weeks, mostly Hillary Clinton supporters. A few days ago, I was scrolling through confirming friend requests, when I got to one, Beverly Canady Fields. A message popped up informing me that I could not add her because she had reached her limit of 5000 friends. Impressive, I thought. I looked at her profile. She described herself as “true blue liberal democrat, feminist, spiritual humanist, social justice warrior with a California ❤”. I needed to know this person. So I sent her a private message: “Hey! I can’t add you as a friend because you’ve reached your limit of 5000! Why don’t you kick a few people out and get back to me? Thanks!” I didn’t really expect to hear back from her, but yesterday, I got a message from her that said, “Try now.” So I did, and I was accepted as her friend. Yay! Thanks, I wrote back to her. I invited her to read my blog and gave her the link. She wrote back a little while later and said I was a “queen”, how much she loved my blog and she was putting the link on her page! WOW! Thanks! I said. I was blown away. I’m not used to so much praise and attention so I was eating it up. We chatted for a bit and I told her I was in Alabama and she asked me if I knew a Teresa from Crane Hill. I didn’t, but I was familiar with Crane Hill, as it was the home of my former step-mother. I figured we probably knew some of the same people. Beverly encouraged me to look Teresa up and add her as a friend. She said we would have a lot in common politically and would have lots to talk about. So I looked her up as we were chatting and I found her with no trouble. But something was wrong. At the top of her profile page, it said, Remembering Teresa _______. I read a few comments and it became evident that Teresa had passed away in July. Without really thinking about what I was doing, I told Beverly this, and kept reading. Then it became evident that Teresa had committed suicide and I relayed this to Beverly also. Beverly was shocked, of course, and, said she needed to get some air and would be back. A chill settled over me. I got goosebumps all over that wouldn’t go away. Why did I tell her that? I shouldn’t have told her something like that about a friend over the internet, me, a virtual stranger. I should’ve just sent her the link to the page and let her read it for herself. And yet, that seemed like a cold way to handle it. How would I want to be informed? Beverly came back and I apologized, but she said it was ok, and we talked for a while, and I counseled her a bit, the best I could, saying all I could think of to comfort her, everything I knew from my own knowledge of being depressed and suicidal. Beverly said Teresa had shown no signs of being depressed and I explained to her that some people hold it all in and show nothing til the end, that it’s an illness and there is nothing she nor anyone else could have done. If someone is not showing signs or making it obvious they are in pain, what can you do? That’s the whole reason I write my blog about my experience with bipolar and depression. I am one of the ones who doesn’t keep it all in. I let it all out, make it all public, even though it is humiliating and embarrassing at times, because I want to end the stigma surrounding mental illness and make it OK to talk about it. I want people who are hurting to feel comfortable talking out loud about being depressed, about having thoughts of harming themselves or killing themselves without being labeled as crazy. I want it to be OK to talk about going to to see a psychiatrist or a therapist or taking medication without people making fun of them or treating it like it’s a joke. For the record, if I joke about my meds or my shrink, that’s OK. You’re not allowed! That’s how it works in the world of mental health humor. Only the afflicted can laugh at themselves. And if I laugh, then you can laugh with me. Only then. Got it? Good!🙂
Later Beverly found out a little more, that Teresa had been in a lot of pain, whether mental or physical we’re not sure, and had gotten in her car and shot herself. I told Beverly that for Teresa to do such a thing, she had to be in a lot of pain, and that she was no longer suffering and that I really believe that. I grew up being taught differently. I grew up being taught that if you commit suicide you go straight to hell. But now I’ve been through depression and suicidal ideation and I know that I have already been to hell in my mind and I don’t want to go back. I believe people like Teresa who suffer so cruelly are at peace now. That is not to say that suicide is the answer. Suicide is NEVER the answer. Teresa’s life is over now. She has left behind many who love and miss her and she will never see another sunrise or sunset or see those she loved or do any of the things that brought her joy. She’ll never see our first woman President elected, and I know she would miss that. It’s normal to feel sad, and even angry with someone who commits suicide. It’s a natural reaction. Why? Always the question, why? Why couldn’t you hold on? But you don’t know unless you’ve been in that moment yourself how painful it is. So we must learn to understand and forgive those who just couldn’t hang on any longer, and let them go to rest in peace. Remember, it’s an illness. It’s not a character flaw. It’s a hormone imbalance in the brain. It’s not just personal weakness. That person didn’t just die to get back at you or to leave you alone or anything else. He or she was sick. That’s the bottom line. Forgive them, and let them go. Let them rest in peace. Focus on the living. Focus on the ones that are still here, and still hurting. Be more aware of those around you. Don’t assume everyone is OK because they say they are. Observe them. Look for signs. Are they sleeping too much? Not sleeping at all? Number one symptom of depression is change in sleeping habits. Have they lost interest in activities? Do they seem obviously sad or depressed, or is it more subtle? Dark, flat moods. No sense of humor anymore. Do they talk about death or seem fascinated by it? Their own or others? That’s a big red flag. Do they talk about harming themselves or others? Are they angry a lot? Anger turned inwards equals depression.
I am still unnerved by what happened yesterday….making friends with Beverly, being “introduced” to Teresa, and discovering the loss of Teresa. I don’t want to get all spooky and weird, but I don’t feel it was a coincidence. I feel something spiritual took place. I don’t know what you all believe in, but I believe in God, and I think He used me, and I am grateful for being used, but it is rather unsettling. Beverly said she would like to post the link to my blog on her daughter’s Tumblr which has 40,000 followers. I was stunned, and grateful. Surely this is the hand of God. I look at Teresa’s profile and I don’t want to obsess over it too much, but I know her photo will stay in my mind forever. She’s outside by the pool with a visor and sunglasses on. You can’t really read her eyes but she is smiling, a funny little smile that makes you wonder what she was thinking. I wish I knew. We had 12 mutual friends. She lived pretty close to me. But I never got to know her until I randomly befriended Beverly. I look at some of her memes under her photos. Funny stuff. She and I would have gotten along well. I can almost imagine her voice as I read some of her old posts. I am almost grieving for a complete stranger. I wish I could speak for her. What would I say if I could? I would tell her daughter and other loved ones, I love you so, so much, and this was nobody’s fault. I just couldn’t take the pain anymore. I am so sorry. Please forgive me. Don’t forget about me. I feel that’s what she would say. I can almost hear her saying it. God bless you, Teresa. Rest in peace, sweet lady. May God bless your daughter and all those who loved you and give them comfort and peace and surround them with love and carry them through this difficult time. May they be blessed with a thousand happy memories of you in brighter times. In Jesus Name, Amen.
Originally published at heathersavann.com on October 1, 2016.