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Tag: Suicidal Tendencies

Why It is Important to Talk to Someone if You Are Suicidal

bruce gerencser 2023

For the person contemplating suicide, he (or she) feels alone. He may be physically surrounded by his family, friends, and fellow employees, but psychologically he feels as if he is stranded by himself on a remote island without supplies. Depression is akin to darkness; a darkness absent of light, even the faint glow of a night light. Everywhere he looks, it is dark.

One of my favorite TV shows is the Showtime hit Dexter. Dexter is a blood spatter expert for Miami Metro Police Department. He is also a serial killer. Using a moral code taught to him by his father, Dexter murders people who “deserve” it. His need to do so Dexter calls “my dark passenger.” Depression is my dark passenger. It lurks in the shadows on “good” days, but on days when I feel overwhelmed and oppressed by things that non-depressives might think are insignificant, my dark passenger envelopes my thinking, telling me life isn’t worth living. My dark passenger pushes me closer and closer to the cliff’s edge, so close that a gust of wind or a stumble will send me careening into the chasm.

Most people who attempt suicide don’t want to die, they just want the pain to stop. Sometimes, people will kill themselves for the silliest of reasons. In the 2000s, I conducted the funeral of an eighteen-year-old man who drove his pickup into a field and killed himself with a shotgun. Why? His girlfriend broke up with him. I suspect this young man felt very much alone. Maybe he tried to share his feeling with his parents, friends, or a guidance counselor. If he did, I suspect they blew it off as the angst that comes when the girl you thought would love you forever wasn’t really into you; that she wanted to play the field or she was interested in dating someone else. Who hasn’t gone through such experiences? Eventually, we moved on; we survived. For this young man, however, his grief overwhelmed him, and he decided life was no longer worth living.

I certainly don’t want to die. I have much to live for: Polly, our six children and their significant others, and our thirteen grandchildren. Two of our grandchildren will graduate from high school this spring. Both are straight-A students and plan to further their educations this fall at major universities. I want to see them walk down the aisle and get their diplomas. Our oldest grandson has a hankering to become a writer. I want to read his first book. Four of our grandchildren are in middle school. Good students, the lot of them, and I want to see how they develop and mature over the next four years. The Cincinnati Reds show promise this year. Is a World Series championship possible in the next few years? And what about those Bengals? They are playing the best football in the history of the franchise. Is a Super Bowl win near, just a Joe Burrow touchdown throw to Ja’ Mar Chase away? Polly turns sixty-five in October. Sometime after that, she plans to retire. We have plans … You see, I (we) still have a bucket list; places to see, and things to experience.

While I don’t want to die, I want my pain to stop — or at the very least lessened to a degree that it doesn’t dominate every waking hour of my life. Of course, that’s not possible. My body doesn’t care one whit what I want. My bones and muscles are waging a zero-sum war where death is the only outcome. I fight back with narcotics, muscle relaxers, NSAIDs, and other drugs, hoping to lessen the pain enough that I can have some sense of meaning and purpose in my life.

As I previously mentioned, when facing deep bouts of depression, it is small things that threaten to push me over the edge. Take last night. We put our mattress and box spring on the floor so it would be easier for me to get in and out of bed. On my side of the bed, there is a 100-year-old oak mission desk. It’s quite close to the bed — about 2 feet away. During the night, I rolled out of bed, smashing ribs-first into the desk. More pain. I swore profusely, dragged myself off the floor, and got on the bed. I quickly fell back asleep. Come morning, I picked up my iPad Pro, only to find that the bottom of the case was wet. That’s when I found out that the half-filled can of Pepsi I left on the desk had toppled over, spraying the wall and leaving a sticky pool on part of the desk. Fuck, I said to myself. Polly came to my assistance, helping me to clean up the mess. What a start to the day.

Polly . . . the one person who truly knows me. She can read me like a book and knows when I am really struggling psychologically. My former counselor told me not to tell her about my struggles with suicide; that it was too much burden to bear. Both Polly and I disagreed with him. Without her, I have no doubt I would be dead. Our lives are very intertwined. When Polly had to have part of her colon and bladder removed and had to have a colostomy, the “care” shoe was on the other foot. Polly spent three weeks in the hospital. Afterward, she was weak and deconditioned. I was the one who had to push her to get up and move; to walk ten laps around the dining room table; then twenty, and so on.

Forty-five years ago, we made a vow to each other: in sickness and in health, until death do us part. We meant it then, and still do today, even after decades of challenges, trials, loss, and suffering. Polly, of course, wants me to live. Who will pay the bills, fix things around the house, and operate the remote? 🙂 And besides, there’s the sex (inside joke). That said, Polly knows I am weary and tired, overwhelmed by constant pain and debility. She knows there may come a time when I no longer want to do this. She has a front-row seat to what my life has become. So we talk. She knows it is important for her to stay connected to me; to not let me fade into the darkness. Sometimes, all I need from her is an embrace; like the time she found me sitting on the floor in tears, having a top-of-the-chart pain day — those days when no amount of narcotics will stem the pain. I told her, sobbing, “I can’t do this anymore.” Polly didn’t try to talk me out of killing myself, nor did she utter the cliches that people who mean well say when they don’t know what else to say. She got down on the floor with me, drew me close, and told me that she loved me. She couldn’t help my pain — no one could. But, just knowing I was loved, that I mattered, helped me get off the floor and to the bed.

I have had two therapists over the past twelve years. Two years ago, I started seeing a new psychologist; one who has extensive experience with treating people who have experienced trauma and have chronic pain. I talk to Melissa once a week. She knows me well by now and is comfortable speaking frankly to me. I struggle with the realization that I will never regain what is lost, be it physical or time-wise. The virile, strong-as-an-ox, invincible, work-a-holic Bruce no longer exists. Photographer Bruce? Gone. Athlete Bruce? Gone. Builder and fixer Bruce? Soon to be gone as I sell off or give away my tools and equipment. Even if I were a relatively healthy sixty-six, I still wouldn’t have the strength of thirty-year-old Bruce. One of the keys in therapy is getting me to embrace things as they are, and not how I want them to be. It is what it is, and no amount of wishing will change this fact. When I fall into delusions of yesteryear, it is Melissa’s job to help me return to reality. I have no future if I can’t see things as they are.

I owe my life to Polly and my counselor. Both of them know that if I am determined to kill myself, nothing they can do will stop me from ending my life. But, they aren’t going to make it easy for me. Melissa asked me how I planned to kill myself. After I told her, she suggested that Polly make it hard for me to have access to certain drugs — a small speed bump to slow me down. Good idea.

What I need most from family and friends is connection; small talk or genuine words of concern. Those who know me, know I love to talk. My oldest son came over tonight for an hour or so. We talked about philosophy, religion, economics, and stupid people. Quickly, my depression lessened. Is it really that simple? I can’t say, for certain, but on this day, talking with Polly, Melissa, and my son made all the difference in the world. Don’t underestimate the power of your words in helping people who struggle to make it to sunrise.

Bruce Gerencser, 66, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 45 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.

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Sometimes It is the Small Things That Lead to Suicide

chronic pain

Ask the average person why people commit suicide and they will give you all sorts of explanations. Many people think there are signs depressives display when contemplating suicide. While that can be the case, often the person seemed “fine” before killing themselves, or the “signs” were so subtle that they were overlooked. Depressives often fade into the fabric of day-to-day life. They become like furniture, always in their places. When this happens, people miss the signs, often tragically so. I know my wife and family love me, yet I also know that they are so used to me being sick, disabled, and in pain that I always seem “normal” to them.

Several days ago, I attended the Defiance Pride Parade. While I can walk short distances using a cane, I can no longer walk long distances without the use of a wheelchair or motorized cart. The degeneration in my spine, hips, shoulders, and arms, makes it difficult, if not impossible, for me to operate a wheelchair without help. Polly or one of my sons usually pushes my sorry ass around. My youngest son got the privilege and honor to push me along the parade route. The road was rough in spots, causing me excruciating pain. I knew this is the way it would be, but supporting LGBTQ people mattered more to me than pain. I endured.

A dear friend of mine told me that he could tell I was in a lot of pain. I tried to hide my suffering, but my face said to him that my pain levels were high. I appreciated the fact that he understood what I was going through on that day. The next day, we had dinner, a monthly event for myself and three other men. We now call ourselves “The Woke Mob.” Getting together with them is one of the highlights of each month. I rarely get out of the house these days. Thanks to declining motor skills, I can no longer drive. The last time I drove an automobile was in March 2020 — over three years ago.

After dinner, my friend said to me, “you look better today.” I smiled and replied, “narcotics, and the use of modern pharmaceuticals.” You see, I always want to “look better.” I don’t want to be pitied. I want to be perceived as the virile, strong-as-an-ox Bruce of yesteryear, even though I know this is the absurd fantasy of a crippled, broken-down old man.

My pain levels were the same on both days, but what was different on the second day was a significant increase in suicidal thoughts. My friend couldn’t know this. I didn’t give off any signs that suggested that I was struggling with making it another day. Even when talking with my therapist, it is not always easy for her to suss out whether I have increased suicidal thoughts. I see her tomorrow, which is good. The edge of the cliff is getting too close for comfort.

Many people wrongly think that those with suicidal ideation have exact plans as to how they will do themselves in. While I have a good idea of what means I will use to kill myself, I really don’t sit around thinking about it. It is the small, insignificant things in life that often drive my suicidal thoughts. Let me explain.

My life has a rhythm to it; what I call my “new normal.” This normal changes over time, as disease and pain continue to ravage my body. Two years ago, when an MRI and CT scan of my thoracic spine revealed:

  • Disc herniation (T7,T8)
  • Disc herniation (T6,T7)
  • Central spinal canal stenosis (T9/T10, T10/T11)
  • Foraminal stenosis (T5,T6)
  • Disc degeneration/spondylosis (T1/T2 through T10/T11)
  • Facet Arthropathy throughout the spine, particularly at T2/T3, T3/T4, T5/T6, and T7/T8 through the T12/L1 levels.
  • Hypertrophic arthropathy at T9/T10

I adapted to my new normal. I had already been diagnosed with widespread osteoarthritis (joint pain), fibromyalgia (muscle pain, weakness, and fatigue), and gastroparesis (a debilitating, incurable stomach disease). I also have diabetes and high blood pressure — both of which are well-managed. On any given day, I spend my time managing my health, writing, and spending time with my family. Some days, I have doctor’s appointments or we go grocery shopping. On other days, I try to do things around the house or in the yard. Our backyard is teeming with wildlife and feral/stray cats. I enjoy watching them from the living room window. We have a new outside cat, Binx is his name. You know, the strays that don’t go away. He and I are now friends, so I will spend some time petting him or feeding him tuna fish. This is my normal.

Typically, I have a four- to five-hour window to productively work. After that, I lose my starch, and I retire to my recliner for the night and read, watch TV, or cheer on the Cincinnati Reds (I watch every game). Polly comes home from work at 2:30 am. Then comes bed, the worst part of my day. Yet, I have come to accept that this is my “normal.” It takes me twelve hours to get seven or eight hours of sleep, and even then I am never rested. At best, I live to see another day. Tired, fatigued, in pain — but alive.

It is what it is, a clichĂ© I often tell myself as I try to navigate a life of pain and suffering. However, there are unexpected things that happen, small things that can quickly increase suicidal thoughts. My life is like a spinning plate full of food held on one finger above my head. Okay, I can handle this, I tell myself, but then along comes someone or something that is thrown on my plate, and my life spins out of control. All of a sudden, I find myself thinking about whether I want to keep living. But it was such a small thing that caused your plate to spin out of control. And therein lies the problem. When small, insignificant things accumulate, collectively they can be overwhelming. A bowel problem, incontinency, phantom smells attack, blurred vision, Morton’s neuroma flare-up, a fall, memory problems, unexpected bills, not hearing from my children or seeing my grandchildren as often as I want (need), edema so bad I can’t put on my shoes, getting out of the house so I can attend a sprint car race, only to get hit in the head with a rock thrown off one of the car’s wheels, stepping on Legos, tripping over the cat, finding out I have a yeast infection from taking an antibiotic for a toe infection, losing my glasses, being so weak I can’t lower the footrest on my recliner, eating food at a restaurant that immediately causes me to vomit, finding out someone ate the last of the peanut butter, or a host of other small things. To the healthy, and to the strong, these circumstances may seem insignificant; and they are when taken in isolation. However, when it takes every bit of your strength and energy to just get through the day, small things tend to overwhelm you and leave you questioning whether you want to live another day.

This is not a plea for help, nor is it an opportunity for readers to send me unsolicited medical advice. Please don’t. If my friend and I had more time together, maybe I would have shared with him where I really am in life; how close to the cliff I am actually standing. Or maybe not.

Bruce Gerencser, 66, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 45 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.

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Your comments are welcome and appreciated. All first-time comments are moderated. Please read the commenting rules before commenting.

You can email Bruce via the Contact Form.

Songs of Sacrilege: Send Me Your Money by Suicidal Tendencies

suicidal tendencies

This is the one hundred and twenty-first installment in the Songs of Sacrilege series. This is a series that I would like readers to help me with. If you know of a song that is irreverent towards religion, makes fun of religion, pokes fun at sincerely held religious beliefs, or challenges the firmly held religious beliefs of others, please send me an email.

Today’s Song of Sacrilege is Send Me Your Money by Suicidal Tendencies.

Video Link


Lights, camera, silence on the set
Tape rolling, 3-2-1 action
Welcome to the Church of Suicidal
We’ll have a sermon and a wonderful recital
But before we go on there’s something I must mention
An important message I must bring to your attention
I was in meditation and prayer last night
I was awakened by a shining bright light
Overhead a glorious spirit, he gave me a message and you all need to hear it
“Send me your money,” that’s what he said
He said to “Send me your money”
Now if you can only send a dollar or two
There ain’t a hell of a lot I can promise to you
But if you wants to see heaven’s door
Make out a check for five hundreds or more
“Send me your money”, do you hear what I said?
“Send me your money”

Now give me some bass, um yea that’s how he like it
Now let’s have some silence, for all you sinners
Now give me more bass, yea that was funky
Now take them on home Brother Clark, send me your money
Here comes another con hiding behind a collar
His only God is the almighty dollar
He ain’t no prophet, he ain’t no healer
He’s just a two bit goddamn money stealer
Send me your money
Send it, you got to send it
Send me your money
You hear what I’m saying?
You got to send it, send it
Send me your money

Now how much you give is your own choice
But to me it is the difference between a Porsche and a Rolls Royce
I want you to make it hurt when you dig into your pocket
Cause it makes me feel so good to watch my profits rocket

Send me your money
Now dig in deep, dig real deep into your pocket
I want you to make it hurt!
We’ll take cash, we’ll take checks
We’ll take credit cards, we’ll take jewelry
We’ll take your momma’s dentures if they got gold in them
So whose gonna be the new king of the fakers
Whose gonna take the place of Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker?
See my momma, she didn’t raise no fool
Cause you can’t put a price on a miracle

Bruce Gerencser