A Picture Truly Worth a Thousand Words

*Re-post from 9/26/15 due to failed website migration*

The picture above is a young version of me, and a healthy version of Abby, my biological aunt. Abby had been a large part of my life from the day I was born.  I remember sitting on her lap, driving her Ford Bronco on dirt roads at a very young age. I was an amazing lap driver– I could even multitask while driving, as I remember we often sang Crocodile Rock by Elton Jon.

Abby  fell into a small stage of depression– somewhere most of us have been. After going to the doctor, it seemed like she had a doctor who would rather medicate than listen. One diagnosis after another, prescriptions after prescriptions, the doctor was convincing Abby that she needed to cure a disease she did not have, in my opinion. Abby was given medications that, to be blunt, caused her to act like a drunken college student. If she ran out of her medications I could always tell when she ran out of her medications, because the nice, smart, and caring Abby returned– like Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde.

At my college graduation, Abby was acting like a drunken college kid but was still coherent. Fast-forward two weeks and Abby, yes we are still talking about the one who was smart enough to earn her nursing degree, had been diagnosed “severely mentally ill”. The next time I saw her she had a children’s puzzle out on the table, struggling to put it together. In a fit of rage towards her doctors, I lashed out at Abby and told her “Quit the bullsh**. You have a nursing degree, you were just fine two weeks ago. Stop letting these doctors get in your brain with their negative psychology”.  Could I have went about this better? Much. However, my attempts to get her doctors to listen were unsuccessful, and I had no clue what else to do.

The Ted Talk above by Psychologist Shawn Achor talks about the importance of how your brain perceives life– is it negative, or positive? Mr. Achor goes to tell a story about speaking to a school that had a “wellness week” planned. He tells the school administration “I’d be happy to speak at your school, but that’s not a wellness week, that’s a sickness week. You’ve outlined all the negative things that can happen, but not talked about the positive.” I truly believe Abby’s doctors had the same mindset as the school administration, and let me emphasize that is MY personal opinion. 

On September 13th, 2015, Abby took her own life under the influence of her medications. I will never forget the call I received from my grandmother on that day. Her crying and pain were so intense I could barely understand what she was saying, but I was able to gather that Abby was gone. I cannot describe all of the emotions going through me– the strongest emotion was anger, by far.

Anger that Abby’s doctors ignored my many pleas to help her without medication. Anger that all of my family tried so hard to help, but were always countered by the doctors. Anger that I know Abby would never do this under her natural state-of-mind. Mostly, anger that Abby had reached out to “medical professionals” for help, and in my opinion, those “medical professionals” are the reason I will never see my aunt again.

The outpour of support for my family was amazing. My prior co-workers, know to me as my brothers in blue, were always by my family’s. Chaplins, Officers, and even Kevin Treadway, the Chief of Police, checked to see if we needed anything– multiple times. It was amazing to see my blue family helping my blood family and how tight knit the Flagstaff community is. Kristen, someone I had met when she was my photographer, called me her adopted nephew way before this happened. Kristen’s schedule is always booked weeks out, but she was right there by my side to help support my family with the loss of Abby. After everything had settled for the day, Kristen gave me a gift that she knew I had wanted for almost a year now.

The is one of the pictures Kristen took when she first met me, and it is now a canvas that hangs above my bed. I have always wanted this canvas but was never able to afford it. This picture is me and Sir Carlton III (AKA Carl) in front of the San Francisco Peaks, right before my graduation. A deeper look at the picture: Carl– Everyone loves Carl, but Abby treated Carl like her child. When I traveled to Flagstaff for work, I would take the extra time to bring him with me– just for her. The Peaks– Abby had a strong love for the peaks that stand behind us in this picture. I never understood why she loved them so much, but she did. A Friend- Kristen gifted this to me knowing how much I loved this picture. I’ve never told her why I liked this picture so much, but she was simply able to tell I had a bond with it. There was not a lot that could make me smile during such a difficult time, but Kristen is a true friend that knew exactly what to do.

Suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem. I have said this many times, and will say it again: even if we have never spoken before, I am here for you.

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1 (800) 273-8255 


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