Witnessing Suicide by Train – Part One

WARNING This is about an actual suicide by freight train I witnessed so please read with caution because it’s sad and gruesome and there’s no silver lining. I’ve changed names, times, and locations to protect the witnesses as well as the suicide victim and his family. I’m also pretty sure this was kept out of the media so as not to encourage others.

Sunday morning and the air is soft like spring, the sun warming our faces. A close friend, I’ll call Jane, and I are walking, coffees in hand as we do most days. We’re Still comfortably ignorant of the life-changing event waiting for us as we trudge along.

We stop to stretch as a freight train goes by and we begin to cross once it’s safe. We start to speed up as we notice another train is rumbling towards us in the distance. Once we’re across the tracks we notice something isn’t right.

What looks to be a man is walking robotically calm toward us along the tracks, train behind him, white shirt leaping out in contrast to the dark coloured Engine and cargo behind him.

Jane and I stand back from the tracks, both straining our eyes to see better and discussing the situation, wondering if we’re both seeing the same thing. As it all draws closer panic begins to set in. He can’t possibly be on the tracks!

As the scene draws ever closer to us it becomes obvious he is on the tracks, freight train bareing down on him and he is unflinchingly, eerily calm. He just continues plodding forward, radiating all I can describe as despair.

The train whistle is blaring, breaks are squealing against tracks, we’re both screaming, watching in suspended horror as he’s hit, thrown up almost casually at a right angle like a ragdoll.

Suspended animation snaps back into real-time and adrenalin combined with crisis instinct kick in for us both. Jane is calling 911 and I am running, slipping on the oversized loose gravel, knees skinning, hands scrapping. If there’s any chance to help I want to be there.

A man, I’ll call him John, who had pulled up to a stop just after the impact is running with me soon, I fall and wave for him to keep going as I stagger to my feet and keep running.

Reaching the tracks I begin running parallel to them, checking quickly under the freight boxes. I’m hoping desperately he’s still walking on the other side. Maybe he dove out of the way and he needs first aid or maybe he’s not dead but needs to hold someone’s hand as the last of life leaks out… maybe. I’m willing him to be alive, begging time not to take him as I stumble forward.

Coming upon John, who’d run faster than me, seconds after he arrives where the majority of the young man has landed, Shaking my hands out I will myself to move forward to take in the scene, I quietly whisper, “he’s dead?” Although I already know the answer in my heart, because it’s breaking.

John is moving in closer, quickly checking for a pulse but soon he’s shaking his head, tears springing to his eyes, “There’s nothing we can do, he’s dead.”

Soon we’re hugging each other tightly, strangers no more. Next I’m staring at the victims chest, hoping he will suddenly start breathing, but I can see every bone in his chest looks broken beneath his bare skin. His white shirt was torn off upon the impact from behind. He will never breathe again.

Stepping back from our embrace, we introduce ourselves. It seems an odd formality given what we’ve just witnessed together. John and I step closer toward the victim and he says softly to the deceased, “I hope you find peace at last.” And there is nothing else to say.

There are things I may never tell about what I saw. It’s too horrible and too graphic to lay at the feet of another, but I will never be able to unsee the carnage. It’s seared in my memory with all the raw harshness of a branding iron.

Sirens begin to sound in the distance, coming towards us from every direction. Soon fire trucks, police cars, and ambulances are crowded round the intersection.

We both wait close to the body as more and more sirens converge at the site. Soon we can see the Engineer, looking broken and defeated, coming towards us with a police officer.

Prior to him seeing the body I tell the Engineer I saw he did everything he could and it wasn’t his fault. I utter how sorry I am and ask if I can give him a hug and I can feel the pain we both feel comingling as we embrace, a dreadful stew of horror, the stuff of nightmares.

I tell the police officer I’m a witness, as does John we and assure him we’ll stick around and give statements. I shuffle through the heavy, rugged, gravel, back to the intersection where a crowd has gathered.

As soon as the First Responders close in on the young man dead on the tracks he is reduced to paperwork and clean up. This is what they do and part of how they cope, I realize they see horror like this and worse every day and I am grateful for their vigilance and sacrifice.

As I reach the crowd I’m swept up in a whirlwind of chaotic emotions of the people who’ve stopped to see if they can help. I appreciate their determination to assist but all I really want is to fall into Jane’s arms so we can cry and mourn together, but that is not to be just yet.

Those in the crowd who weren’t witnesses are soon shooed away by those first responders, no doubt used to getting rid of crowds and securing areas.

Us witnesses stick together, trying desperately to get whatever help we need. When a statement sheet is passed to me I latch onto it like a drowning victim finally clutches a floatation device. Something to do helps.

Taking a deep breath I stare at the empty page and whisper to myself, “OK Kim, you know how to write. Do that.”

So I focus on writing, the feel of pen on paper, the weight of the pen in my hand. This is what must be done right now so I take comfort in the familiar sensations and write. My statement is long and wordy but I don’t care, it made a good distraction.

Eventually, we exchange numbers with John and part ways. An EMS worker drives Jane and me to our separate houses. Soon I’m alone and I break down in the shower, crying, keening, hurting for that young man on the tracks and the horror in my head.

Jane finds out through reliable sources that it was a suicide and not an accident for sure.  Even though we knew this in our hearts and heads

we are overwrought with emotion, hugging and crying the more we find out. I’m not going to give any more detail about who he was or his reasoning because I want to be respectful to his family and friends.

By staying busy my hope is I’ll be able to block the horrible images that plague my mind. When there is space to fill and nothing to fill it with I just see the whole thing over and over on repeat in my mind. I will talk more about this when I discuss PTSD specifically in Part 3.

I hope reading this account hasn’t been too much to bear but we need to talk about Mental Illness and how awful and real and tragic it can be. We cannot keep shoving this shit under the rug because it’s “uncomfortable”. Fuck Uncomfortable! We need to talk about mental illness and death because it happens all the time. Bringing mental illness to the forefront is likely to help prevent this from happening to so many others.

My point was not to shock but to share so that others might know how tragic suicide really is. And I’ve been there, so close to taking my own life. I’m glad I’m still here, still writing and painting and learning to hold space for the deceased in my heart rather than just seeing his final moments.

In parts 2 and 3 I plan to discuss the issues of suicide and PTSD. I will write these as soon as I can but please be patient as I’m struggling with concentration right now and still trying to come to grips with what I’ve seen.

If you have questions or comments please feel free to post in the comments section or, should you have something more private you’d like to share with me feel free to use facebook messenger or my email addy is kim@trefor.ca.

All my love to you dear readers. Hold you’re own loved ones tighter, talk about how you feel, do whatever it takes to not have anyone end up like that poor man on the tracks❤

K

Advertisements

Inspiration is Everywhere

Every artist finds themselves feeling uninspired once in a while. For example, I’ve been drawing tree women for months and, while I love my girls, I want to shift my focus and work on something else. Here are 5 ways I’ve been looking for new inspiration and a refreshed point of view.

Here’s a brand new drawing I created from a combination of colours I’m drawn to right now, some twisted trees that came to mind, and a figure pose I found on Pinterest, I then altered her hair, clothing, and overall aesthetic. Yeah, creativity!

  1. Go for a walk or look out a window and study what you see. It may look like just more trees, or other houses, or a parking lot but if you look closer there’s so much more going on. People are coming and going, lights twinkle at night if you’re in a city, stars twinkle if you live somewhere rural. There’s so much to see and ponder. It might not happen all at once but if you listen closely there’s inspiration everywhere you look.
  2. Relax. Relax. Relax. Putting pressure on yourself to produce new art is unlikely to make things happen, although my next point will directly contradict this point, it just depends on what kind of person you are. Both techniques often lead to new and exciting, quality work.
  3. Set a reasonable deadline and stick to it. For many people having a deadline to keep them working towards something. Personally, I am motivated to write by deadlines to some degree but when it comes to drawing I put less pressure on myself. As long as I practice every day I know I’ll get to something fresh and exciting in the near future.
  4. Look for inspiration in your immediate surroundings. It may sound strange but check out the shadows that cross the different rooms in your house throughout the day. Look at the shapes and design of your furniture and decor. Then ask yourself how you can incorporate some of these shapes into your work.
  5. Pinterest is a great source for inspiration. Never directly copy anything, unless it’s just for practice and not to be shown as your original work. I have files for figure inspiration, faces to draw, shapes, illustration style, trees, water, and more. Any time I’m looking for something to practice or if I want to draw a Trump cartoon, I head to Pinterest and pull out the picture I want to use. When I’m feeling uninspired I scroll through and add all sorts of new ideas to my files and soon enough I’ve found several ideas to combine and add my own twist to in order to create something exciting and new.

I hope these few ideas for finding inspiration are helpful. Using your creativity is a great way to cope with pain and mental illness, I know this first hand, unfortunately. Creativity is by no means going to solve all your problems but I find it to be an integral part of my path to coping with chronic pain and mental illness to the best of my ability.

Please let me know if you have any special techniques you use to stir up your creative juices. As always, I love to hear from you.

K

Gaming Addiction – Freakin Mental Monday

Watch as Another Freakin Athiest and I co-host our weekly show regarding mental illness. We discuss Gaming Addiction and it’s placement in the new DSM and with the WHO. We also spend time discussing what defines addiction with regards to gaming.

If you’re looking for more info regarding possible gaming addiction and recovery ideas check out http://www.gamequitters.com

I’m Not Doing Enough… Really?

I often beat myself up for not doing enough. Sometimes it feels as though the world is passing me by like I fell off the treadmill and can’t seem to regain my footing.

What if there’s another way? What if the treadmill isn’t the only way to get around in life? Is it a little scary to forge my own path? YES. But I don’t have to let fear stand in my way. I can be brave.

What if I choose to see it that the world isn’t working faster or harder than me but that we all do things at our own pace and that’s ok.

Occasionally I wonder, if I were a stronger person would I be able to cope with the pain and thrive? I’ve heard stories of others who prevail and cope with mental illness and chronic pain, like superheroes sent to taunt me with their power to overcome the very things that hold me back. Is this really the case though? or am I simply not as appreciative of my own work over that of others.

Why shouldn’t I value my own accomplishments and efforts in the same way I value the work of others? What would happen if I chose to value myself for just being me?

Lately, I’ve been focusing on challenging my negative thoughts. Therapy has taught me to check out the assumptions I make to see if my logic holds or if I might reconsider.

If I check the assumption that, “I’m not doing enough.” The first thing I notice is the ambiguity of the word, “enough”. How much is enough?! Who the fuck knows. What I take away from this analysis is that I’m mustn’t base my goals on nebulous ideals.

If I look at the word, “doing,” next and check my assumptions out something interesting occurs to me; drawing, writing, yoga, housework, visiting Drs, planning creative works, pacing myself so I can manage to have the energy for visits with friends and family, playing with my cat… I am doing quite a bit when I look at all these items.

Now if I go back to my original statement, “I’m not doing enough,” I can see this statement for what it is. It’s a thinly veiled put-down that assumes my value is based on physical output and monetary accumulation alone.

The statement is also judgy and unfair. I’m essentially telling myself I’m not good enough and because I’m not good enough, I’m worthless. That’s a pretty shitty thing to tell myself right?

Imagine if I called up a close friend with chronic pain and mental illness and said, “dude, I’ve got to be honest with you, I don’t think you’re doing enough.”

I cannot even imagine saying such a thing to an enemy let alone a close friend. If I wouldn’t say such a thing to a close friend why the hell would I say it to myself? I have to allow myself the same empathy, love, kindness and caring I’d show anyone else, otherwise, I might as well punch myself in the face every morning.

Sadly, I’d have to punch myself in the face a number of times throughout the day as that’s how often I’m making negative comments to myself, about myself. I want to be done with treating myself this way. I need to be my own best friend and train my brain not to hurl insults at itself. I need to teach my brain that I am enough, that I have worth and I’m worth valuing.

I know it’s going to take time to, literally, change my brain but I’ve already noticed my inner voice growing stronger and more loving. I’m the only engineer I’m allowing to rewire the circuits of my mind, fuck your iron rings, I’m best suited to this job.

I can change my thinking if I continue to build confidence in myself slowly but surely, celebrating each small victory rather than waiting for someone else to change things for me all at once. If I take charge of the change I want to see I’m pretty sure I’m more likely to end up happiest with that which I’ve changed.

Are you playing an active role in building the future you want for yourself? What small changes can you make right now? What’s your ultimate goal for your future and will the changes you make move you closer to it?

K

Freakin Mental Monday

Hey Everybody,
I’m trying something new to spread info & awareness about mental illness.
I’m co-hosting a show called Freakin Mental Monday on the Another Freakin’ Athiest Youtube channel.
Tonight we’re talking depression symptoms & revealing our own struggles with depression.
Join us live at 6pm MDT & you can ask questions & comment in real time or watch it later when you’ve got time

Aging Greatfully

If you’d asked me a year or so ago what I thought my future might look like I’d have stared into the distance, my mouth opening and closing as if to speak, like a fish out of water. Then I’d have begun to cry and looked around for an emergency exit or a way to tunnel out of the situation. I felt I was so useless and defective that I didn’t deserve a future.

20170629_084547

Truthfully, my days of being suicidally depressed aren’t far behind me. I still have bad days and good but I no longer wish to be dead rather than alive and for that I am grateful.

On this, the morning of my 39th birthday, I am still unsure of my future but it doesn’t vex me so much as it used to. Instead, there are many things I’m grateful for.

In the name of starting my new age in a positive way, I want to list off that which I’m grateful for. This is not an exhaustive list, nor is it in order.

I’m greatful for:

  • My husband, who makes me laugh and offers love, understanding and a shoulder to cry on when I need it most.
  • My Dad, for being so gentle, loving, kind and funny as hell.
  • The 34 years I had with my lovely Mom. I wish we’d had longer together and I miss her every day, but we made the most of the time we did have.
  • Chocolate.
  • My cat Rafe. He may be new to our little family but he brings us so much joy, laughter and love. It’s hard to imagine how we lived without him.
  • Feminism, I hope someday it won’t be needed but until then I will keep fighting for equality.
  • Extended family on both my husband’s side and my side are warm and loving, they make me laugh and offer such kind words of encouragement. I honestly am an incredibly lucky girl to have such a wonderful family.
  • The existence of both shaken margaritas and vodka martinis with extra olives and my ability to consume one or the other on occasion.
  • My friends for being such kind, loving and loyal pals. I may not have a huge group of friends but I wouldn’t trade the friends I have for anything. They challenge my mind, they open my heart, they value my opinion, they encourage me and remind me of my strengths and self-worth.
  • Having fucked up more than a few times and still made it through – to what, I don’t know, but making it, “through,” surely speaks to my resilience
  • Making visual art, as it has opened up a whole new world for creative expression. I feel joyful and excited just thinking of future artistic possibilities and how much I love the act of making the art I’m making right now.
  • Wine, especially buttery chardonnay and old vine California Zinfandel. Yum!
  • The people I’ve met through my pursuit of increasing my art skills. Theresa Grasby of Grasby Art Studios has become such an incredible friend and mentor. I also cherish the fun relationship I have with the Grasby family members who also work at the studio, the other instructors and other painters. Everyone has such inspiring, energetic, humorous and kind spirits. They all inspire me to paint more and to keep pushing myself.
  • Having the luxury of not having to worry about having basic needs like food and shelter met.
  • Now being able to say melodramatically, “I’m cusping on 40!”
  • Having access to universal health care (thank you Tommy Douglas). Our system isn’t perfect but what we have is so much better than many have access too.
  • Coffee, as it’s a substance I adore. I like it black, just like my soul.
  • This blog and the catharsis and sense of purpose it has brought me.
  • Having additional health insurance which has helped me find access to many different Dr’s and other medical professionals for help with my injuries, my struggle with mental illness and my chronic pain journey. I continue to be granted most of the care I need and for that I am grateful.
  • The word, “fuck,” and speaking it as often as I can, cuz it’s fun to say and it’s one of those miracle words one can use to jazz up any sentence in need of jazz or it handily provides satisfying emphatic emphasis in a way no other word can.
  • Having so much love in my heart I wish to spread around and having the opportunity to do so.

What are you most grateful for? Do you enjoy celebrating your birthday or, like me, are you a little apprehensive about aging? I’d love to hear from you dear readers.

K

The Psych Ward – Let’s Get Into It – Part 2

Going to the hospital is never pleasant, whether you walk or wheel through the front doors or come via ambulance, the experience can be down right scary as there are so many unknowns. In my opinion there are even more, seeming, unknowns when it comes to going to the hospital for mental health reasons as we’ve only just begun breaking down the stigma surrounding psychological medicine.

20170529_231443

Allow me to tell a few truths;

-You may not be admitted to the psychiatric ward or you may only stay a day or two, some folks stay much longer. My longest stay of the two was 2.5 months and that’s hardly a record. It takes as long as it takes to get back on your feet and ready to face the world and stay safe and alive.

-Ideally the medical staff want to see patients out in the world rather than cooped up on a ward. If you go to the hospital because of suicidal thoughts, delusions, anxiety… whatever, you will be assessed by someone from the psych team as well as one of the ER docs. During the assessment be as honest as possible. If you feel safe leaving and can come up with a plan for continuing care on an outpatient basis along with the psych team you may not have to be admitted. If you are scared about your mental health don’t be afraid to seek help. Nobody wants to lock you up and throw away the key.

-It has been my experience that most patients seeking psych help or being brought in involuntarily are nervous. Not only is the turmoil of coming through emergency triage in crisis frightening, the prospect and act of perhaps spending time in the stark ER beds guarded by Peace Officers and closely monitored via video camera and visual checks is also nerve wracking. The rooms are usually void of any equipment or much at all  aside from a non-adjustable bed, as the rooms are meant to be free of anything one might use to harm themselves or others. Patients brought in under arrest or from jails may also occupy rooms in this area. It can all be rather overwhelming, exhausting, and unsettling.

-it’s likely you might feel resentment or guilt at the prospect of being admitted either voluntarily or involuntarily. You might feel scared of what to expect. Perhaps you don’t feel “crazy enough” for the psych ward. Rest assured you have rights as a patient and you will be able to tell the Dr and psych team your perspective, the job of the hospital is to heal not to harm. It’s best to be a patient patient;) and assume you will be treated fairly and respectfully and to keep an open mind. Having said that, don’t be afraid to speak up if you’re not getting the help you need or if you feel unheard, shamed or abused.

-While the Psych Ward can be wacky and wild place at times, it’s also a place full of strength and wisdom and creativity. I’ve met some of the most talented, intelligent, creative, loving and passionate people ever in the psych ward and in psych groups. From concert pianists to artists to writers to engineers to Drs to athletes to rappers. “Crazy” is not a diagnosis. Everyone is different and your type of different is no more or less important than another person’s type of different. Mental illness is blind to religion, race and wealth

– I used to worry constantly I was taking up space needed by someone else and that I shouldn’t be admitted for treatment because of that. The truth is, if you’re not in need of treatment you won’t be admitted. Trust the Dr’s and nurses to know how best to care for your condition. Do make sure to fully express how dire you feel your condition has become. If you feel absolutely unsafe leaving make that incredibly clear to the psych team.

– As I’ve mentioned before the psych ward, in my experience, takes a little getting used to at first. People are patients for a variety of reasons and this can be disconcerting as many patients may behave strangely socially, perhaps manic or deeply depressed, or have delusions, hallucinations, be catatonic or any other myriad of conditions. Keep in mind you’re seeing patients in acute distress.
Patients conditions will improve as their treatment moves along, just as yours will if you let your psychiatrist and the supporting staff do their jobs and help you with changes to your routine, a calm environment, possible med changes and more.

– For everyone there are good days and bad days and the bad days are far more trying than the good but overall improvement comes in waves until the raging ocean in each of us becomes a little more placid and it’s felt a patient is ready to transition to outpatient programs.

Just remember every patient is fighting a different storm and it’s tricky business lulling some oceans out of crashing and raging.

Please don’t let fear of the Psychiatric Unit deter you from seeking help. Think of it the same as if you needed to be on the cardiac ward. The psych ward is a ward like any other and nothing to be embarrassed or ashamed about.

If you need treatment it’s imperative you get to the hospital, call an ambulance, speak to your Dr immediately or contact your provincial Health Link for direction to the best course of action. Do whatever you need to do to save your life or trust your loved ones have your best interest at heart if they’re insisting you be admitted.

I’m curious to hear your thoughts and questions as always. Thank you so much for taking the time to read this.

K