Who was it that took their life Kimmy?
The person that took her life was my neighbour, friend, confident and lover.
Can you tell me a little about her and how you met?
When I first met Katie, who was 15 years my junior, I was battling the rigours of chemo and radiation from my battle with stage 4 cancer. She had just moved into an apartment in the condo where I lived. Katie knocked on my door and introduced herself. She was beautiful and smart. I was old, hairless and looked like death warmed over. But Katie wasn’t the slightest bit taken aback. In fact, she became an immediate friend who supported me in my cancer battle.
Though I found her very attractive, because of my age and my condition, I never considered our relationship to be anything more than plutonic. However, as I went into remission things changed and we became ‘once and awhile’ lovers and very close friends.
From the beginning I found Katie to be an extremely intelligent but complexed person. Thirty eight years of age, she had experienced a great deal of success that was followed by an unexpected devastating fall. Katie was the head of a mortgage company owned by a large bank. A graduate with a degree in math and business, she had a grasp for numbers that was almost savant. Looking back, Katie may have indeed been a savant. She had a large home and money in savings. All was good till the financial crash of 2008, when Katie along her entire department, were fired by her bank.
To say Katie was devastated is an understatement. Soon her savings were exhausted and she found herself unemployed and broke. She was emotionally and financially ruined. This fact, would always haunt us throughout our relationship.
Fast forward to 2017. Katie and I had an understanding. Though I enjoyed her company, because of our age difference and the fact I worried that my cancer might return, I encouraged Katie to see other men. Also, contributing to this understanding was that Katie had expressed to me that her biological clock was ticking. Because of this, and the fear that I would relapse, I encouraged her to move forward without me. She tried dating but things didn’t work out. As a consequence Katie didn’t have another man in her life. The important thing I must note, is that during this period I was experiencing some guilt, that I was an older man taking advantage of a young woman. So, though I was quite fond of her, I also never made any sort of commitment.
I loved Katie’s company, but she was constantly expressed shame and regret over her financial demise. Often she slide into deep bouts of depression crying for hours at a time. It was trying but I became quite use to these unpleasant periods, so I endured till they passed. When suddenly, things turned much worse. Katie began to experience paranoid delusions. As a result, I would be in frequent contact with her parents who, like me, were extremely concerned. One particular night was so bad Katie wanted to barricade her door because ‘they’ were coming after her. I decided to call the police. I thought for certain the police would take Katie to a hospital for short-term treatment, but they couldn’t, saying that under the law they couldn’t do so unless she openly expressed the desire to harm herself. She hadn’t.
For the next several months I and Katie’s folks tried to convince her to seek help, but she refused. The last few weeks of her life Katie had lost her job and refused to speak to her family and friends, thinking they were part of a vast conspiracy that wanted to imprison her. Soon Katie refused to leave her apartment and wouldn’t open the door for anyone. Finally, on one cold November morning, Katie did emerge from her apartment. She drove her car to a high bridge above the Mississippi River and threw herself into the frigid waters.
From this very moment I blamed myself for Katie’s death believing that I could have done more to help her. Then I too, feel into a deep depression.
About a month after her death, Katie’s father would confess to me a family secret. When Katie was a teen, she was diagnosed with mental illness. After receiving treatment, Katie went on to live a very productive life till she lost her job. Till the time of this revelation, I had blamed myself for Katie’s death. I had believed that had I been more persuasive with the police, Katie could have gotten the help she so desperately need. Yet, what her father thought would be words of comfort only made me more troubled. Now, along with shame, anger was added to my grief. I went from asking myself; “what more could I have done,” to “why didn’t they tell me, so I could have done more?” I was so overwhelmed by thoughts of regret, I’ve been in therapy since.
Has therapy helped?
Yes, therapy has greatly benefited me. I’ve come to realize that, though I wished I had responded to her illness differently, the only one responsible for her death, was Katie herself. As a consequence I’m no longer angry at myself, Katie’s parents, or the system that failed her. However, sometimes I find myself angry at Katie. If only she would have known the pain her death would cause others I doubt she would have taken her life. Granted, at the time of her death Katie had become completely delusional, but in the weeks leading up to it, she was cognitive enough to realize she need to allow us to get her help.
Have you learned anything from this tragedy?
Yes, from this tragedy I’ve learned couple of things; First and foremost; no one should be ashamed to admit their struggle with mental illness. Though it still carries a stigma, the guiltiest people who perpetuate this, are those who keep their diagnosis a secret. Second; there needs to be an awareness of the pain suicide causes others. Every time someone takes their own life, a ripple of hurt the echoes out in waves. Not only are family and friends impacted, but so are many innocent people as well. This includes the first responders who have to retrieve the body and the poor souls that often have to clean up the death scene. Though I extend my sympathy and understanding to anyone who contemplates suicide, they need to know, that to do so is a very selfish act that hurts many.