I remember when I killed a person.
What a chilling night that was. One of those midwest February evenings where it does not know if it wants to rain or snow, so sleet falls from the sky. The sun decides to hide earlier, so by 7pm it is dusk and the street lights come on.
The street lights, non-existent in this story. A dark stretch of road between venue and traffic light. Sleet falling down from the sky, the sun had run away, and the sound of a loud boom, the instant feeling that something had gone horribly, horribly wrong.
I remember when I took a life.
I have to backtrack here a little bit because I did not willingly or knowingly partake in death, I was used as the instrument of someone else’s suicide. A homeless man, wearing all black walked out in front of my car on a dark stretch of Houston Road in Florence, Kentucky.
The police investigators said there wasn’t anything I could have done. I had not had any drinks, I was not on drugs, I was not tired. I was alert. Driving carefully, watching the road. But there was nothing I could have done to avoid hitting him. He wanted to die.
I remember when I saw his face.
I didn’t know what happened when I was in my car. It took me a few seconds to even react and pull over. I thought I may have hit an orange barrel or deer. Then I got outside, my world changed. I looked 200 feet behind me, a large lump of clothes. I remember running to the body, an old man with grey hair, a pain filled vacant face. Not responding.
The ambulance came and took him away, I only later found out on the news that he died. An unidentified homeless man. Tired of the cold nights and sleet. Wanting to put an end to his misery and sadness. No known family. Just a man on a long night, filled with despair, and a plan to end everything.
I remember when I needed help.
I wish I could say that just because I didn’t mean to do it, or I didn’t know what I was doing, that it wasn’t as hard on me. But all of this was difficult to process. I posted my thoughts, my feelings, my pain on social media, as an outlet to my troubles. Some were very kind, they talked me through it, helped listen, gave advice, and were genuine friends.
Others not so much, calling me an attention seeker, to get over it, or to just “get pills and deal”. I am glad I did not listen. Pills were the last thing I needed at that time. And had I gone to a psychiatrist, they probably would have prescribed pills for me. And I would more than likely still be dependent on those pills today. Because taking pills would not have solved anything, they would have just covered it up for a temporary amount of time.
We all have pain and trauma.
Life is filled with pain and traumatic experiences. A parent dies. A relative molests us. A significant other beats us. A sibling blackmails us. I have friends I’ve spoken to that have gone through some of the worst situations I could ever imagine. But no amount of pills is going to make those experiences go away forever. No needle in your arm will make you feel better forever.
Pain and trauma are healed by two things. Time and communication.
You can’t speed up the healing by sedatives and mild altering substances. And you can’t sacrifice talking about it with just waiting for a longer time. You must do both. And there is no cure. You’ll always remember what happened, it will always hurt a little, but time and communication will make you stronger to handle the pain. I still, to this day, hate driving, especially at night. It’s one of the perks of living in NYC, no driving.
So if you have been through pain and trauma, find a friend you can talk to. If you’re one of the .000001% of people who haven’t been through pain and trauma, try to find some compassion and empathy when someone reaches out and talks to you about their pain. I guarantee you will find more people who have experienced a traumatic event than haven’t. And if you share your stories, swap stories, talk about it with each other, you will instantly start to feel like you have a support group. And like a weight has been lifted off of your shoulders.
Drugs are not the answer.
Suicide is not the answer.
Communication is what can heal you.
Communication with your friends about the good times and the bad is what can help turn you into a stronger person. Because dealing with everything on your own does not make you strong, being able to admit you can’t do this on your own is the true sign of strength. You have friends. You have me.
And once you start to deal with your trauma, you will start living your life. And really loving to live.