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Constance Alexander: Coalition gives hope and provides education regarding suicide

My friend took a life. Her own. She planned it the way she did everything. With meticulous attention to detail.

She focused her efforts on avoiding intervention or detection, keeping her eyes on her goal. She knew her intense sense of privacy would be lost as a result of her act, but she did all she could to minimize impact on those who would find her. She left detailed directions, including letters to friends.

Mine started with an apology and plea. “Please help educate,” she said.

She had suffered for thirty years. “…With numerous symptoms that came and went at different intervals,” was the way she described it.
Some physicians she consulted viewed her maladies as those of “a neurotic female.” They prescribed “mood boosters” which were no help. When she was finally diagnosed with a pituitary tumor, surgery followed.

But they were not able to get all of the tumor, she reported.

More than ten years passed before the tumor started to take over again. More surgery, but this time there was no relief. The letter details the aftermath. “Constant anxiety” and “horrendous thoughts” filled her mind, non-stop.

The day-in-and-out suffering was unbearable, with no viable medical deterrent.

She kept all this to herself and holed up, home alone, communicating only intermittently via email. “No phone calls,” she begged.

In the past, she and I talked freely about things we had in common: Married. No children. Fiercely independent. What would happen to us if we needed care giving at the end of life?

Would there be sentence to a home that is not really a home at all? Bingo after lunch every Tuesday? Being called “honey” and “sweetie” by attendants who deserve better pay than the meager hourly wages they more than earn?

For a couple of weeks after the second surgery, she couldn’t sleep.

“I keep pacing and shaking,” she wrote. “All nights are like this.”

The typed letter almost fills the page, ending with, “I don’t have the strength to fight anymore. Take care.”

Last Saturday evening, when the Suicide Prevention Coalition of Calloway County met in the park on Chestnut Street, the sun was fading and the fall colors darkening as a chill settled upon those gathered to commemorate the life and death of loved ones who had taken their own lives.

Kerry Lambert, chaplain of Murray-Calloway County Hospital, called them “those we’ve loved who left us too soon.”
Dr. Jay Pitman, a retired anesthesiologist who grew up in Murray spoke of his own depression, including a nervous breakdown that led him to sign himself into a psychiatric ward. He found himself locked in a hospital room. An orderly had to watch him shave to make sure he did not harm himself.

“Is this going to be my life?” he remembered asking himself.

Out of work for almost a year, Dr. Pitman worked hard to recover. He took his meds, talked to his therapist, and struggled to get from one breath to the next. Finally back at work, he felt embarrassed and humiliated until another physician approached him and said, “I have the highest regard for you.”

“I appreciated that he stood up for me,” Dr. Pitman recalled. “It meant a lot.”

Although his struggle continues, including days when he confesses to feeling “worn out” and “so tired you can’t go on,” Jay Pitman doesn’t give up. “I hang on,” he declared.

The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is 1-800-273-8255 (TALK). Access the website at suicidepreventionlifeline.org. The Calloway County Coalition meets monthly at Pagliai’s Restaurant. For information, check the group’s Facebook page or email spcccinfo@gmail.com.


Constance Alexander is a columnist, award-winning poet and playwright, and President of INTEXCommunications in Murray, Ky. She can be reached at constancealexander@twc.com. Or visit her website.

Read all posts by Constance Alexander on KyForward

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