A tribute to Andre Simonpietri
Special to the Sun
TRUCKEE, Calif. and#8212; When teenagers commit suicide, it is almost impossible to find words that honor and cherish the life left behind, yet also speak the truth of the suffering that preceded the decision to die.
For many teenagers, Andre included, the darkness has been a way of life for many years. Sometimes, it is a traumatic event or series of events that trigger a spiral into the darkness. When it is a series of traumatic incidents, whether it is the loss of a loved one, some form of abuse, or perhaps an accident that changes their lives, teenagers cannot often talk about such things, wanting only for their lives to and#8220;be normal.and#8221;
Drugs and alcohol offer temporary relief from the intrusive thoughts and horrible memories, a lightness of being even if just for a few hours. For a few hours, they forget, and those few hours of relief seem worth the consequences of self-destructing by means of a substance.
Reclaiming who they once were before a life-changing event, or finding relief from constant, chronic anxiety and depression, seems possible only through the use of drugs and alcohol.
The weight of life became too heavy for Andre to bear. He lost himself just as he crossed the threshold between childhood and adolescence and was unable to find the internal resources to return.
The obligation to feel some interest in life requires immense amounts of energy for one who is in the depths of depression. The failure to feel any energy and excitement for life creates more guilt; they feel they have disappointed their loved ones, particularly parents and siblings by not responding to their encouragement and support.
On more days than not, over the past few months, Andre felt it took all the energy he had to utter a single word or open his eyes. His shame around disappointing those he loved was palpable and he mustered energy when he could to engage in family activities, or to agree to go to health care specialists to see if there was a way out from underneath even though he knew he was not invested.
Our culture fears suicide. Our fear causes us to be silent in our worry over whether speaking about suicide openly will promote it as a resolution to depression especially when young people choose suicide as a way to end suffering. When we choose silence rather than a conversation that opens us and allows us to explore our fear, a barrier is created between our loved ones and friends who may long for a place to speak honestly about the depths of their despair.
They choose silence when they sense our closed minds and hearts for fear of having to contend with our resistance and fear in addition to bearing the burden of their own suffering. My desire is always to be a witness for clients and for my loved ones, to be compassionate and to welcome even their most closely guarded fears or thoughts. I realize that in some cases, all the love and compassion I can possibly offer will not be enough. But I believe wholeheartedly that being able to speak openly to another and to be heard is the greatest gift we can share. It does not always mean clients will choose life over suicide; it only means that love has been given and received which is all we really have.
Although none of us like to understand suicide as an option, we fail to fully appreciate the need for relief from the bone-crushing suffering of depression. So dear Andre, your soul lives on in those you loved and who loved you back. Your heart is free and we find some solace in knowing your suffering is over.
and#8212; Kimball Pier is a family therapist in Truckee. She was Andre’s therapist.
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