I’ve got a friend who calls every Wednesday night around midnight, 2am on the East Coast after the bars close.  She’s suicidal in the best of times and immobilized otherwise.  Last week, she said, “You’re the only one I can talk to because you’re an expert on these three things I’m going through.” 

The Cerberus of Crises, a catastrophe with three-heads.  Lately, she’s been feeling more suicidal than usual because her dad killed himself a few days after Christmas.  She found him in the bathroom. Asphyxiation, because for some reason the How is more important than the Why.  And she’s hooked on pills, oxy’s and perco’s.  And her teenage daughter was raped at a New Year’s Eve party while tripping acid.  My friend called me because, apparently, I’m an expert on suicide, drugs, and rape. 

I never know what to say, so I listen.  Typically, she unloads a bluster of woes, a staccato of pain without pause for twelve minutes, twenty at most.  Then she’s out of breath and I have all the ammo needed for our fight.  The fight to bring her back from the edge.  I don’t offer advice, and I’m not poetic or witty or any of that bullshit.  I simply encourage her to jump.

For the best way to pull back “from the edge” is to jump right into the pain, let the sadness consume you.  Become completely selfish, and sometimes it even works.  However, this time she was facing life-altering events and didn’t need my gallows humor like, “At least your father didn’t steal all your pills to kill himself,” or false encouragement like, “It’ll be okay.”   She only needed me to help carry the pain.

We talked for an hour, and only at the end did I offer a plan.  Only then was she ready for action.  Gave her the number for a new therapist and an outpatient rehab facility that accepts Medicaid, and told her to believe and support her daughter to follow up with a rape-kit and press charges on her rapist.  But I know how it’ll go.  Next week, my friend will call and still be swallowing pills to smother the pain, her father will still be dead, and her daughter will still be blaming herself for getting raped.  Hopefully in a month or two, she’ll get some real help because that kind of Hell cannot be traversed alone. 

An expert?  Nah.  But maybe I did learn a thing or two about sexual assault after volunteering for the local Rape Crisis Center.  Such as personal experience makes it very tough to heal others in trauma.  Assistance offered academically is much easier than emotionally triggering myself, over and over again.  But most people only respect someone who has been through the same shit.  They hear it in your voice.    

And maybe I know something about drugs after a lifetime of pharmaceutical experimentation of mood stabilizers, anti-psychotics and anti-depressants.   

As for suicide, the only person who's an expert is . . . dead.