Teen Suicide & Social Media

Over the weekend, a local 16-year-old girl took her life. A permanent solution to probably years of bullying.

And the bully laughed. Instead of stopping her, she watched her jump off the top deck of the mall parking garage. Then, she took a photo and posted it on social media warning people to stay away from the mall. If that wasn’t bad enough, she expressed joy that this young lady was dead and even remarked, “Rest in peace, bitch.”

It’s time we discussed teen suicide and the ramifications of it with the effects of social media.

When I was a senior in high school, a freshman took her life by hanging herself. We were all sad and confused. Even myself although I had been diagnosed with major depressive disorder four years earlier. I was still not fully aware of what goes through a person’s mind to think ending their life is the only way out. That quickly changed when I found myself sitting on the floor of my bedroom with a case cutter to my wrist debating slicing through a major artery. The numbness, the self-loathing, that feeling that the world would be better off without you in it. I understood then.

But I was in high school in the late 1990s… a generation without social media.

Now, I have a 12-year-old daughter. She is only 2 years shy of my first depression diagnosis and 4 years shy of the young woman who committed suicide. I constantly talk to her. She has known about suicide since she was eight because I was unwell and she was old enough to see that. Our discussion can be found in my post “Mommy Is Not Going To Kill Herself“. After learning of this teenager’s demise, I sat my daughter down for another discussion. I didn’t know if the school would bring it up, but I wanted her to know. I told her everything I knew. I told her about the young woman’s suicide and then I told her about the bully.

Her reaction was pretty much the same as mine as we are both highly emotionally and compassionate people. We were heartbroken upon hearing of this girl’s death. We were livid with the bully’s reaction.

How could someone be happy that another person committed suicide?! How can you express it on Snapchat and be okay with that?! How could you then degrade her by calling her a bitch?! I am sure like most teens she thought nothing would happen to her, that she is invincible. The local paper has pretty much kept the story hush-hush as these are minors and the police are still investigating.

The weird thing about all this… I had just watch Friday night’s Dateline concerning the Michelle Carter case. Michelle Carter is in prison for a couple of years because she coaxed her then boyfriend, Conrad Roy, to take his life. They were teens at the time. On the day of his death, he was having second thoughts and left his truck (where he would later die from carbon monoxide poisoning). Michelle told him to get back in and just do it. It is known as the “texting suicide case”.

This recent local event is somewhat similar. It involves teens and cell phones. I believe the Carter case has set a precedent. Will this local bully be charged with anything related to what she put on Snapchat? Who knows. There may be way more concerning the young woman and her bully on all forms of social media.

And that is the issue, isn’t it?! Social media. We can lay it all out there. Say anything we want and hide behind the cell phone or computer screen. The problem is, whatever you say on social media is there forever and it can come back to hurt you days or years later. But once again, teens think they are invincible. It’s time we told them they aren’t.

My heart breaks for the family and friends of this young woman. I am not sure what could have been done. Her parents lost a child. All these hopes and dreams they must have had for her, taken away by a teenage bully. The pain they must be going through. Then I think of the parents of the bully and the shitstorm that is coming their way. Are they in denial… my kid couldn’t do that, she is a perfect angel and so kind… or have they come to the realization that no matter how good of a parent they are, some kids can be mean, downright cruel and immune to others feelings, almost sociopathic. I hurt for those parents as well.

For  now, I weep internally (because of Lexapro I can’t externally). I cry for the young lady, her family and friends and for the parents of the bully. I am an empathetic creature and want to feel their pain. I will continue to talk with my daughter because I do not want her to become the bully or the victim.

It is Kindness Week at her middle school this week. Kind of fitting with recent events. Today is yellow or ‘joy’ day. I hope the school does mention this teenager’s suicide and the bulling. These kids are not little innocent beings anymore. They need to know because the person who is sitting next to them could be the one contemplating taking their life or the one causing pain and suffering to someone else. They need to know that death is permanent. They need to know that rude comments leave scars. They need to know the damage that can be done.

Teen suicide is real. If you know someone who is in trouble please push them to get help. If they are not willing, stand up and speak for them.2417122_1280x720

Reflecting On My Uncle’s Death

My uncle died last Sunday. I do not ask for your sympathies but instead offer you to bestow them to my aunt, cousins (both his children & grandchildren, and his brothers (my father and my other uncle). They are the ones who knew him well. I did not. Like his parents, my grandparents, I barely knew who he really was.

I attended his funeral service yesterday morning. I did not expect to feel much. I am not saying this to be cruel, but more to define the relationship I had with him. As I said, I didn’t know him well. All interactions I had with him were not loving but more sarcastic in nature. Then again, all of us Bergers are sarcastic beings (just ask my husband). As this is a way I express my love often, I now realize that this is probably how he expressed his admiration to his extended family and friends.

While at the service I found out things I never knew about him. He was a Yeoman in the Navy. He was the administrative assistant to none other than then naval officer and famous astronaut, Alan Shepard! He contributed to a music magazine and local TV station and in his 3rd career, he helped families navigate Social Services. I was amazed by this and admired all that he had become.

When I woke up the morning of his funeral, I did not expect to shed tears. I did not expect to feel melancholic. I did not expect my life that day to proceed much differently that most days. I drove to the synagogue, placed the black lace doily on my head and proceeded into the shul. I then found myself hugging every one of my relatives. A family reunion of sorts, one I wished was had on a more positive note. Upon each hug, I felt their tears. I felt their sadness. I felt their emptiness and absorbed it all. I sat through the service, laughing a bit here and there as my cousin’s husband spoke about him. And when it was over I said my farewells, hugged my parents and went off to work.

I thought I would be okay. I thought I would walk at lunch. I thought I would participate in the Zumba Class after work.

I was wrong.

I am an Empath and upon absorbing my mourning relatives emotions, my emotions were released. I do not mean this in a selfish tone, just more as a bit of a background into how I function. I was empty, constantly wondering why I was driving to work and not home or to the cemetery service 2 states away. I moved slowly as if I had to trudge through mud. I wanted to be alone, hide away from the world and sit with my emotions.

What were these emotions though? Was it just the feelings I had absorbed? Was it more?

Since his death a few days ago, I had thought more about mortality. In fact, I probably dwelled on it a bit too much. I logically know we are all mortal, dying from the day we are born (did I mention I am somewhat of a pessimist?!)… but when there is a death in the family, a death of someone you have known all your life, someone only a few years older than your parents, you tend to think of what is yet to come. My uncle was 8 years older than my father and roughly the same age my grandfather (his father) was when he passed away. There is a reality that my time with them is gradually decreasing.

But it isn’t just my parents mortality I am thinking about. I am thinking about my own. I will not be here forever. How will my daughter handle that? How will my husband handle that? I have come close with death a few times because of my Depression and I always say that my next episode with Major Depressive Disorder will probably kill me. Of course I am taking precautions to prevent a next episode as I will remain medicated and in therapy.

But, I cannot sit with these emotions forever. The Empath’s necessity in life is to learn to let go of the feelings and emotions before they become your own. So I took yesterday as a day to sit with them, to understand them, to embrace them (and drink with them as yesterday was a 2-glasses-of-wine day). When I went to bed, I let them go.

To my Uncle C : May you rest in peace. May you sing infinitely with Roy Orbison, Tom Petty & Elvis Presley like you used to with my father and my uncle B. May you sit and binge watch VHS movies on an old sofa in front of a tube TV. May you tell Elijah to come quickly and drink his wine at the Passover Seder before we all freeze due to our cold New England temps. May you watch over my aunt as she grieves for you and remind her you are still around. May you stay, as Bob Dylan says, forever young.

Lamenting Silverbelle 

It all seemed to happen so quickly.  I knew something wasn’t right with you.  First it just seemed like you were coughing up fur balls.  Typical for a feline who constantly cleaned herself.  Then something changed.  The vomiting occurred every time you ate and for the most part lacked fur.  This was not just typical hair balls anymore.  Then you stopped eating altogether.  A trip to the Vet was imminent.
After about a month of seeing you get progressively worse, I finally took you to the Vet.  Frankly, I didn’t care if Daddy didn’t agree.  He held his stance that the Vet wasn’t needed until I told him the visit would be covered under the Senior Care Plan we bought for you.  That was Tuesday last week.  The physical exam didn’t yield anything but I opted for a bloodwork panel and X-rays.  Something was wrong.  A Mother knows.  It would be 1 – 2 days to get the results back.  We opted to board you for the night and pick you up the next day, Wednesday.  In the meantime, the Vet gave you and Anti-nausea med via injection.
Your X-rays came back normal.
When you got home Wednesday evening, you were back to your old self again.  Eating, although not as voraciously as you were known to eat.  You laid with us, head butting us all for pets and head scratches.  In the back of my mind there was a thought, that maybe, just maybe this was a virus that has finally run its course.  Similar instances with past pets should have told me otherwise.  Thursday morning, I fed you like normal expecting to come home to an empty food bowl and a multitude of meows for more.
I was wrong.
The Vet said the med was only good for 24 hours and she was right.  Where were the blood test results?!
Impatient, Friday morning I called the Vet asking about your blood work.  I was told that everything came back normal with exception to your liver enzymes which were elevated to 350 when the normal was 10 – 100.  There was no concern in the Vet’s voice.  They recommended the next step, and ultrasound.  Although a high expense, we agreed.  Friday, late afternoon I picked you up at home and drove the Veterinary Hospital a few towns away.
And waited.
And waited some more.
They brought me into an exam room, told me you were handling things well, and then I waited some more.
When the Vet returned, I could tell something was wrong but I couldn’t tell just how grim the results would be.  There was this look of sincere sadness.  She sat down in the chair next to me and said, “I have bad news.”
I looked at her and realized that when I said to my boss earlier that day that I needed to leave work because my cat is most likely dying, I now spoke the truth.
She continued, “We found a large mass in her intestines.”  And she proceeded to draw a diagram on a dry erase board she had in me.  Tears were beginning to well up in the corners of my eyes.  I remained strong.  Then, “She has intestinal cancer.”  That phrase sealed your fate.
She spoke gently and continued to tell us the measures we could take (we… I was sitting there alone absorbing all this).  The highest level of care, also the most expensive, required a biopsy of the lump to see if it was lymphoma or carcinoma and then chemotherapy and possibly surgery.  There was no way we could afford this.  I hated thinking this, but it was true.  I would’ve wanted to do anything to save you.  The next level of care was hospice care.  This required medicating you to make you more comfortable while you were dying.  And lastly, was humane euthanasia.
The Vet and I discussed what was reasonable in your situation.  She knew from my telling her and then her trying to do the ultrasound, that you were a bit stubborn and didn’t like ingesting pills.  In fact, it was nearly impossible to “pill” you.  There was a brief discussion on us learning how to inject you with medications.  She said, she would either go the hospice or euthanasia route.  At this point, the tears started flowing.  I hated being there alone.
I chose to bring you home and to discuss the options with Daddy and Sophia basically knowing what we would choose.  It wasn’t a hard decision, but it wasn’t an easy one either.  We didn’t want you in pain.  We didn’t want you to get worse.  We wanted you to be pain free and relieved of suffering.  Friday evening, we chose option 3, humane euthanasia.  We also knew, we didn’t want to wait long.  The longer the wait, the harder on all of us.
Saturday morning, we called your Vet and plans were made.  At 3:10pm we would all go with you and be with you as you faded away.  It was so hard to look at you that day knowing in only a few hours you would be gone.  I was not ready to let you go, my Furry Princess, my Princess Fuzzybutt.  I held you, rocked you, kissed your head.  You licked me one last time.  I cried incessantly.  The cat that made me love cats.  The cat that helped ease my anxiety.  The cat that was one of the family.
Saturday afternoon came and the three of us walked somberly to the car, me holding your carrier.  You meowed the whole way there.  The candle was lit already when we walked in, marking the death of a beloved pet.  They led us the cat room, explained everything to us and took you back to put a catheter in.  We picked an urn, chose to get 3 clay pawprint hearts and then waited for your return.  We were told that you had to be sedated to get the catheter in (no surprise since you hated anything medical).  They brought you back and gave us a few moments.  We all kissed you.  I held you and already because of the sedation you felt like a dead weight.  But I noticed your chest rise and fall.
The Vet returned with the syringe filled with an overdose of anesthesia.  We laid you back on the cat bed and sat the bed on Sophia’s lap at her request.  With one hand, I held Sophia’s and with the other I held your paw.  The syringe was administered and almost instantly your chest ceased to rise and fall.
You had crossed over the Rainbow Bridge.
Finding it terribly hard to let go, I held you for a few moments longer and rocked you and kissed your smooth head.  Then I gently placed your lifeless body back on the cat bed, kissed your once more, whispered for you to go chase the rabbits like you used to do in your dreams, and left.
Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday… 5 days, and you were gone after 7 years with us.  It is still debated how old you really were, somewhere between 8 – 12.  Too young for death.  Saturday and Sunday, Depression hit… 2 days full of tears and emptiness.  It is easier now, the grieving.  I still talk to you like you are right next to me offering you bits of smoked salmon and a shred of steak.  I still imagine you curled up between Daddy and I on the loveseat downstairs at night.  I still expect to wake up and hear your meowing and scratching at the door for food.
Silverbelle, we love you immensely and miss you so much. Please know that one day we will all be together again.  RIP my furry child.