Suicide Blonde: Bre’s Story

 

All the times that I’ve criedbredepress
All this wasted, it’s all inside
And I feel all this pain
Stuffed it down
It’s back again
And I lie
Here in bed
All alone
I can’t mend
But I feel
Tomorrow will be okay.

Staind, Outside

Geminians are a curious breed. Not especially known for their stick-to-itiveness, they are the butterflies of the zodiac, flitting from flower to flower as a brighter, seemingly more appealing one catches their eye. Rinse; repeat.  Famous (infamous?) for their chatty natures, the Twins – which, not coincidentally, is the sign of communication – will yak your ears off if given the opportunity. Few things are more appealing to a Gemini than to express themselves or share ideas, and they will utilize any means to do so: talking, texting, email, writing (do people even write anything anymore?), Facebook, Twitter…you name it. Their thoughts often race through their minds at such a frenetic pace that even the native will struggle to keep up, nevermind the rest of us, who can barely get a word in edgewise, if we’re lucky.

As an Aries Sun with an air-weighted natal chart, I have four planets in Gemini and must plead guilty to being under the influence of this talkative sign (as well as thank and sheepishly apologize to those who put up with it.) And would you look at me: in typical Twins fashion, there I go, darting off-topic. This isn’t about me, it’s about a Gemini soul I had the pleasure and privilege to call “friend.”

Bre was a Facebook friend with whom I first became acquainted in early 2012 via several

breianna

Bre

mutual storm-chasing friends. Now, I realize that many people don’t count Facebook friends as “real” friends, but I vehemently disagree: had it not been for Facebook, I never would have even known three of my now-closest friends even existed, and it’s highly improbable I would have reconnected with another one. I truly cannot imagine how different my life would be today without any one of them being a part of it. But – yet again – I digress…

An immensely talented photographer, Bre had a passion for capturing the beauty of the world around her. Like me, she had a fondness for animals and nature (she loved wolves, in particular) and, also like me, a lifelong fascination with and love for severe weather, all of which she intertwined into her hobby. And she exceled at it. When she captured a single flower on camera, it was so lifelike that you felt as if you could actually reach out and touch its delicate petals or breathe in its intoxicating perfume. Her work was art in every sense of the word. It showed what she was passionate about, through her eyes. Additionally, she looked forward to going on hunting trips with her father, and found some measure of inner peace by camping, solo, under the stars near a lake. She always returned rejuvenated, with a renewed sense of purpose.

After approximately a year of being online friends and chatting from time to time via Facebook messenger, Bre decided to deactivate her account for an undetermined period of time in order to get back in touch with herself (she would do this somewhat regularly in the years to follow.) At that time, we exchanged phone numbers and kept in touch by way of semi-regular texts and far-less-frequent phone calls (even loquacious Gemini doesn’t like to talk on the phone much these days.) We developed a fairly close friendship, sharing our backgrounds and life experiences. On the surface, it would appear we had little in common: she, a 30-something bachelorette with no children; me, ten years her senior, thrice married with grown children and grandchildren. But despite these differences, we discovered we had a surprising number of things in common, including a shared history of depression and anxiety, suicidal ideations, and estrangement from our mothers. Turns out, our mothers also had quite a bit in common, as they are both narcissistic, toxic she-devils whom we removed from our lives for our own emotional well-being. Bre felt as if a black cloud had lifted when she ceased contact with her mother, and I related to that sentiment.

However, there was one significant difference between Bre and I. I had conquered my

breiannacamping

One of Bre’s camping spots

demons and managed to overcome my depressive tendencies and desire for death. Unfortunately, I can’t say the same about my friend. On Valentine’s Day 2016, she posted a cryptic status update on Facebook, deactivated her account, and essentially disappeared for nearly two months. Her phone was disconnected, so my attempts to reach her were unsuccessful. Leaving me to assume the worst, I reluctantly did online searches for an obituary, simultaneously needing to know yet dreading what I might find. I was relieved to not have found one, but wondering what had happened to her nagged at me constantly.

In mid-April 2016, to the relief of many, myself included, Bre finally resurfaced on Facebook. As it happens, she had survived a Valentine’s Day attempt at suicide by overdose and had been receiving intensive treatment. Her spirits were higher than I could ever remember them being, and she became devoted to helping others who struggled with major depressive disorder and suicidal thoughts, in particular. She created a private Facebook group, calling it “Heathens Helping Heathens.” It was a virtual sanctuary where non-religious members could share their frightening feelings without fear of judgment or ridicule. She was extremely vocal about her own experiences, and shared them in an effort to let others who might be feeling the same way know that someone understood their pain, and that there truly was hope in their darkest hours.

Bre suffered from BPD – Borderline Personality Disorder – and she didn’t hesitate to talk about it with anyone who asked (or even those who didn’t – in true Gemini form.) She wanted to educate others on BPD, as well as provide an explanation of her own at-times confusing behavior to those who cared about her. She displayed textbook characteristics of BPD, including emotional instability, impulsiveness, and – perhaps most visibly – a propensity for pushing others away in an effort to prevent them from abandoning her first. Her romantic relationships were historically unstable, in large part because of this. Granted, there was the real asshole here and there, which exacerbated her condition. But in the spring of 2016, she had finally found love with a man who not only loved her and accepted her for who she was, but also with the patience and willingness to stick by her. She treasured him, and often told me how happy she was, that she was so lucky and thankful to have him. Even so, this relationship was no different in the sense that it too was marked by erratic changes in her mood, which were inexplicable to the casual observer. Sometimes they would appear out of nowhere, seemingly unprovoked. She would become despondent, sometimes even furious, and withdraw from the world, refusing to answer her phone or respond to text messages, leaving him to grapple with the fear that she had once again attempted to end her life.

On Father’s Day in June 2016, her boyfriend contacted me, concerned about Bre’s welfare. He nervously described how she had sent him a text the previous evening, which sounded as though it could have possibly been a suicide note, with statements such as “I will never be happy” and “I was stupid to think this could work.” He didn’t live nearby and had been unable to reach her since. I hadn’t heard from her either so after multiple failed attempts to contact her myself, I called her local police department and asked them to do a welfare check on her. They did, and I received a call from them confirming that they had made contact with her and she was safe. About the same time, I received a text message from Bre, apologizing for scaring me and reassuring me that I “did the right thing.” (She had always stressed to others that if you even suspect someone might be in imminent danger of harming themselves, to “fuck what they think; let them be pissed off” and to contact the authorities.)

I never thought it would come to this
And I want you to know
Everyone’s got to face down the demons
Maybe today we can put the past away
I wish you would step back from that ledge my friend
You could cut ties with all the lies that you’ve been living in
And if you do not want to see me again
I would understand.

Third-Eye Blind, Jumper

In the meantime, I had developed a solid friendship with her boyfriend. When Bre was in the throes of her severe mood swings, often breaking off their relationship (the “I’m rejecting you before you can reject me” strategy which is commonplace among BPD sufferers), he would confide in me about how it affected him, and I would listen and attempt to reassure him. I did the same with her, and I always kept each conversation confidential, never running and telling the other what was said.  I was Switzerland; I never once “sided” with either of them, but I always made a point to listen and empathize. Still, after one particularly nasty blowup, her boyfriend made a Facebook status about them having broken up once again. Bre hadn’t told me about it this time, so I was surprised to hear about it. I made an innocent comment about how I was sorry to hear it and that I was here for him if he needed to vent. Evidently, another friend of Bre’s saw my comment and told Bre about it. I went to message Bre to ask her if she was okay and see if she needed to talk about what had happened. That’s when I discovered she had blocked me, never having given me the chance to tell her the same thing I had told him: that I was sorry and I was there for her.

I never heard from Bre again.

breiannasunset

A Wisconsin sunset thru Bre’s eyes

Thereafter, she and her boyfriend did reconcile and break up at least one more time. Because he and I had maintained a friendship, I often asked him to keep me posted on how she was doing. I told him I still loved her, missed her terribly, and wished her no ill will. I only regretted that she had never given me the opportunity to talk to her, instead choosing to reject me without warning or explanation. I hoped that one day, she would see things differently, and suspected she might, given her history of changeability (courtesy of an already-flighty Gemini Sun, amplified by BPD.)

Thursday evening, September 8, 2016: I was heading home from a trip to Arizona I had taken with some close friends. We had stopped for a snack in Tucumcari, New Mexico and as I stood outside, walking around and stretching my legs, I checked in on Facebook. The blood drained from my face when I read the first post in my newsfeed. A mutual friend of Bre’s and mine had posted that Bre had passed away.

I couldn’t believe what I was reading. I didn’t want to believe it. I thought she had been doing better? I hoped she was just pulling some kind of twisted, attention-seeking stunt, perhaps to see who would care if she died. Or maybe it was a misunderstanding? My fingers were shaking as I quickly sent a message to her boyfriend. “What happened????” I pleaded. He responded that he was still in shock and didn’t want to go into detail just yet, but that she had been found dead earlier that day and it appeared to be a suicide. I remember being infuriated with Bre. “What the fuck?” I shouted, looking all around as if I thought I would see her, or that she would hear me.

The rest of the drive home was almost completely silent as I tried to wrap my mind around the news: Bre was really gone.

As awful as all that was, a few days later it became even more heartbreaking. I learned that Bre had died by a self-inflicted gunshot wound…on August 29th. She lay in her apartment for the next ten days, undiscovered, until neighbors alerted authorities that her car hadn’t moved in some time and her trash hadn’t been taken out.

As is typical with a suicide, there are so many unanswered questions that linger in the minds of the survivors. In Bre’s case, we often wonder how long she had intended to do it, and in the manner that she did. Although she did leave a note, no indication of any of that was mentioned. However, she did blame her mother for it coming to this, and request that she not be allowed to attend her funeral. Aside from that, there were no answers. They likely never will be.

One thing that can’t be denied is that Bre wanted to die. She didn’t reach out beforehand. Sure, in hindsight, there were subtle hints at what was to come, but they were so vague that no reasonable person would have concluded that she was planning to end her life. We do know that she borrowed money from her father just before her death, telling him it was to pay her past-due rent but instead, used it to purchase the gun which she would then turn on herself. We don’t know, but suspect, that she was heavily intoxicated when she did it. We don’t know, but suspect, she had known she was going to do it for up to four weeks beforehand, based on particular events and, in hindsight, a few statements she made which, at the time, seemed innocuous.

Her boyfriend repeatedly admonishes himself to this day, going over the shoulda-coulda-wouldas, wondering how he didn’t pick up on any clues. However, at the time, no one could have possibly known they were clues. For example, the day prior to her death, Bre stated in a text message that she was to enter inpatient treatment the following day, and that reassured him that “it’s almost over.” He replied that he loved her and would be there, waiting for her when she came home. Any rational person would not have interpreted that statement to be anything but benign.

Sometimes, there’s nothing we can do, or could have done, to prevent it.
Sometimes, a person doesn’t reach out because they don’t want to be saved.

depressionBre battled her demons for most of her 34 years on this earth. In the end, she succumbed to them. This lovely, talented, young, vibrant Gemini had so much more to offer the world, but she obviously disagreed. However, there is no doubt that she would want her story told…even if it saves one person. BPD can be managed. Although Bre thrived in the early days of her recovery, for whatever reason(s) she slipped and it overtook her. It wasn’t necessarily inevitable, but I believe once she reached a certain point – and we’ll never know when or what that was – it became probable.

I am currently in the process of conducting an in-depth interview with Bre’s boyfriend, with whom I have grown close, as an accompaniment to this story which I will publish in the near future. In our lengthy discussion, he opens up about his experience being in a relationship with someone who suffers from BPD as well as being a survivor of suicide, in order to pick up the torch which Bre left behind, and with the hope that if just one person is helped by her story, her death will not have been in vain.

Stay tuned.

Someone tried to tell me something
Don’t let the world get you down
Nothing will do me in before I do myself
So save it for your own and the ones you can help.

Soundgarden, Blow up the Outside World

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Behind Every Accident Lies An Intentional Act

worrying“Like tomorrow was a gift
And you got eternity to think about what you’d do with it…
An’ what did you do with it?
An’ what can I do with it?
An’ what would I do with it?
Skydiving, I went Rocky Mountain climbing…
I went two point seven seconds on a bull named Fu Man Chu…
And then I loved deeper and I spoke sweeter
And I watched Blue Eagle as it was flyin’…
An’ he said someday, I hope you get the chance
To live like you were dyin’.” ~ Tim McGraw, “Live Like You Were Dyin'”

I’m a worrier. That’s just what I do, who I am, and always have been. No doubt due — at least in part — to a watery, depressive Pisces Ascendant and an overactive imagination brought to you in part by an Aquarius Moon. I remember one time in particular when I was just eight years old, my mom and stepdad hadn’t returned to pick me up from a relative’s house on time and there I was, a third grader, pacing the floor, convinced that they had succumbed to a fiery vehicular death. I wondered who would take care of me if they died? Needless to say, I was wrong. But when they finally arrived, I overheard my great-aunt chuckle to my mom, “I’ll tell you what, that little girl is something else. What a worry wart…she’s gonna give herself an ulcer!” That was the first time I’d ever heard the phrase “worry wart.”

And that’s just one example. In fact, I don’t remember a time in my life when I didn’t suffer from anxiety, to one degree or another. I don’t remember when, how, or why it began; I just know I’ve always been that way. Maybe it’s in my DNA. I have a very vivid memory of being three years old and having a tummy ache…and anxiously thinking, “I hope it’s not cancer!” Yes, you read that correctly: at the age of THREE. At that age, I hadn’t yet known anyone who had ever had cancer, let alone should I have known what cancer even was. But I had enough grasp of the concept to know it wasn’t good, and that it could kill you. An angst-ridden, hypochondriac toddler. Oh, I must have been a joy to be around.

Every human being on the planet worries, at least occasionally, and some more so than others. And usually, our fears are unfounded. When someone is running late, as I described in the example above, or we can’t reach them, we might begin to play out horrible possible scenarios in our minds that tragedy has befallen them. But about 99 percent of the time, we’re relieved when we learn everything is okay. The chest pains turn out to be muscular and not due to a massive heart attack; your child didn’t make it home from school not because he fell prey to a shady stranger luring him with candy from a windowless van, but because he stopped off at a friend’s house and forgot to call you; your excruciating headache is “only” a migraine, not a ruptured aneurysm…you get the idea. We’ve all had these or similar experiences.

So what about that remaining one percent of the time…when you’re worried something terrible has happened…except this time, your worst-case imagined scenario turns out to be very real?

“Mama put my guns in the ground…worry
I can’t shoot them anymore
That cold black cloud is comin’ down…
Feels like I’m knockin’ on heaven’s door.” ~ Guns N Roses, “Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door”

I am in a long-term live-in relationship with a wonderful Cancer-Gemini cusp named Mike who is my polar opposite when it comes to worrying. Where I am wringing my hands, pacing the floor, imagining the worst, Mike is the rational, level-headed one who reassures me that whatever it is I’m freaking out about is going to be fine. In fact, at that point he’s likely going to offer me a beer and encourage me to relax. This is intriguing to me because Mike was born within four and a half hours after the Sun entered Cancer, but close enough to the Cancer-Gemini cusp that he tends to exhibit more Geminian traits than Cancer traits…although astrologically speaking, he has a Cancer Sun and because the Sun always shines, it’s a little unusual that many of his behaviors and tendencies are more Twin-influenced than Crab-influenced. That’s the long way of saying Cancers tend to be worriers, yet my Cancer man doesn’t seem to be one. However, I was married for several years to an easily stressed, somewhat-hypochondriac Cancer man who was born nowhere near the cusp, and he managed to singlehandedly turn worrying into a sport. I can’t count the number of times I remember him proclaiming “oh my God, I’m dying!”  I would dismiss him, saying, “No you’re not!” and he would become agitated, accusing me of not caring. He was a champion worrier. If worrying was an Olympic event, the man could have won the gold. Everything was an emergency, he always just “knew” something would go wrong, and although many times he was wrong, often he was right — though I always chalked it up to the intense worrying itself which had influenced his self-fulfilling prophecies, while he disagreed, insisting that no, he knew whatever it was he was stressing about would happen.

worry quote

Wednesday, December 19, 2012: Though he is scheduled to work until 6pm, Mike worked until around 10pm that evening because his good friend and coworker in the auto paint & body shop where he works, a Virgo workaholic named Jimmy, needed to get home to wrap up painting on an urgent side job he had going. Jimmy stuck his head in the door of the paint booth in which Mike was working and said, “Okay, you got this?” Mike told him he did, and added, “I’ll see ya in the mornin’, fucker” to which Jimmy replied, “Aite, see ya, fucker.” With that, Jimmy left the shop at 6:38pm, heading home in a 1933 Ford that had been converted into a hot rod which belonged to his banker, and which was scheduled to be his next side job.

Mike arrived home that evening around 10:25pm. He kissed me hello and headed to the fridge. As he grabbed a beer, popped it open, walked back into the living room and sat down in his chair, he told me, “So I guess Jimmy never made it home after work.” “Really?” I asked incredulously. He nodded. “Yeah, I know…it was the weirdest thing; I was locking up and when I went outside, his woman was sitting out there in her car and she honked…so I went over there and she asked me where Jimmy was. I was like, ‘uh, he left around 6:35-6:40…he’s not home yet?'” She replied that no, he hadn’t come home and he wasn’t answering his cell phone either. She was growing even more concerned now, upon learning that Jimmy had left over three and half hours earlier for what was routinely a 12 minute drive home.

Now, at this point even I knew something wasn’t right. From everything I’d heard about Jimmy, this was completely out of character for him, a totally devoted, hardworking Virgo who constantly touched base with his fiancee, Carla, throughout the day, every day. She was his life, his world, his everything. He had met her when they were five year-olds living in the same neighborhood, literally his childhood sweetheart, and he couldn’t wait to marry her.

I had a foreboding feeling in the pit of my stomach. “Wow, that’s not like him at all,” I shook my head. “Damn…I hope he’s okay…”

Mike agreed. “I know, right? He would never just not go home without letting her know what he was doing. That’s just not him. He’s never once said anything about going anywhere other than home; he doesn’t go hang out at buddys’ houses, he doesn’t go to bars. That just ain’t who he is. I hope nothing happened to him…” I could tell that my usually-rational Cancer cusp was somewhat unnerved by this.

Dismissing my own ominous feeling, rationalizing that surely Jimmy was fine and surely this must have been caused by something trivial, I chuckled, “I can’t wait to hear what happened tomorrow…she is gonna be pissed!” Mike laughed and agreed. “Oh yeah, me too.”

The next morning, Mike left for work before I woke up. I had an appointment with my eye doctor and was putting my shoes on, getting ready to leave. I had forgotten all about our conversation the night before when, at 8:15am, my cell phone rang. It was Mike.

“Hey, whassup?” I asked cheerfully.

“Hey, babe,” he responded solemnly. I then heard him take a deep breath. “Jimmy was killed last night.”

I felt the blood drain from my face. I couldn’t believe what I’d heard. My hands began shaking. I sat down on the edge of the bed, in shock. “Oh my God…what happened?”

“Well, he was driving that 1933 Ford he was about to paint for his banker…it’s got a 900 horsepower motor…it’s a race car. He was heading south on highway 4 on his way home and I guess he just couldn’t stand it…he had to push it…the cops said they think he was doing at least a hundred and maybe even 130…you know, those old cars aren’t aerodynamic like the ones today…I guess he lost control and rolled it…the thing was practically made out of glass… it just disintegrated…he was ejected…he was gone before 7:00…” That meant more than three hours had passed since the accident when Jimmy’s fiancee came looking for him at the shop, and nearly four hours by the time Mike and I were talking about it at home, hoping he was okay. Witnesses put the time of the accident at 6:46pm. Mike had been the last person to see him alive, just eight minutes earlier. Another witness who had been driving behind him stated they had seen his taillights ahead of them when suddenly the tail lights disappeared and then all they saw was “headlights over taillights over headlights over taillights” as the car rolled repeatedly.

Such a senseless death. A terrible waste. So unnecessary. Dammit! If he just would’ve resisted the urge to test this car’s limits the way he did; after all, he knew better than that! If he’d just stayed at work instead of going home early to work on that side job…yet behind this tragic accident, there was a single intentional act: a guy who lived and breathed race cars who found the temptation to see what this hot rod could do on a rural Oklahoma highway simply too irresistible to ignore. And that single intentional act led to an unintentional and unthinkable outcome, leaving in its wake a shattered fiancee and nine year-old daughter, not to mention numerous devastated family and friends.

Jimmy Dale Richardson   09/16/1972 - 12/19/2012

Jimmy Dale Richardson 09/16/1972 – 12/19/2012

Though I went to high school with Jimmy for a semester in ninth grade, I didn’t know him. I remember him, and he “kind of” remembered me. I kind of felt like I knew him vicariously through all of Mike’s work stories, which is why I was immediately concerned when I heard he hadn’t made it home; I knew enough to know that just wasn’t like him. But even not actually having known him, his death still hit me like a punch in the face. Not only because of the tragedy itself and knowing how deeply Mike was grieving the loss of his friend and coworker, but because it was a massive jolt to everything I’d always believed to be true. Here’s what I mean. As I said earlier, even when we worry about people or events and picture horrible outcomes, it’s safe to say that everything (almost) always turns out okay, and we come to rely on that. Although we might still worry, in the back of our minds, we’re reassured that statistically, everything is probably just fine.

This time was different. It was the first time in my 40 years that I could recall ever having been worried that something awful had happened…and been right. Not only was I right, it was the absolute worst possible scenario. Jimmy hadn’t just had a fender bender and suffered a few minor injuries, or been hauled off to jail for doing 130 mph down that road. It’s like we just skipped all of those unpleasant yet lesser of the evil scenarios and went straight to the worst outcome imaginable. It seemed so unfair, like the Universe had somehow cheated him. He couldn’t have just been a little banged up and ended up in the hospital, or pulled over and taken to jail for driving like that; he’s just dead? Just like that?

worry2

As a consequence of these events, my anxiety level immediately skyrocketed. I was reminded of the harsh reality that we are all but mere mortals and when our time is up, life can be ripped away in an instant without warning. None of us are infallible. What happened to Jimmy could happen to anyone, including the people I love, and including me. We truly never know when an innocent intentional act of ours, which might be so trivial that we wouldn’t think twice about it, could lead to something completely unintentional happening.  Something totally life-altering…or life-ending. Additionally, when I find myself worrying now, the feeling is much more frightening…because of the one time I worried…and the outcome I feared had happened, had happened.

It certainly didn’t help when just 13 days later, my Cancer ex-husband was killed…also in a single vehicle accident…also due to a single innocent, yet intentional act.