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A Beautiful Mind

October 7, 2008


“Michi’s on the front page of the Sunday paper,” declared Magic the other day.

“You’re kidding.” I say. She’s been dead for two years, I’m thinking.

Michi was a brilliant colleague of Magic’s who tragically committed suicide two years ago, almost to the day. However, her suicide was no ordinary one. She committed suicide while on 24 suicide watch in a hospital. Never leave a brilliant suicidal person alone in a room with her glasses. Michi really wanted to die, so she found a way to do it. She broke her glasses and cut herself to use her blood to leave a message to her loved ones. She figured out when she was being watched, which was about every 15 minutes. When she wasn’t being watched, she set up something to make it look like she had her head down on the desk in the room that was in view of the camera. Then, she used the broken glass to shred her gown and hang herself off-view of the camera. I normally wouldn’t talk about something so personal to someone else’s life, but all of this was in the newspaper article. Michi made the news because her parents are suing the hospital that majorly screwed up. The hospital is going to lose this one, but who wins?

I remember being upset by Michi’s suicide. We all knew Michi, Magic the kids and I. We liked her, but we knew she was a troubled soul. I’m always impacted when someone I know commits suicide. I know that it could have been me. I hate seeing how suicide affects those who are left behind as they grapple with the questions of “why?”, the anger, and the grief. I’ve been on the receiving end of the fallout as a good friend of mine from high school committed suicide at age 20. I take it upon myself to tell the spouses, parents, sisters, and friends left behind how mental illness took their life, not the person they loved. I can say this as someone who has been to the edge of the abyss, but backed away. I don’t enjoy being able to speak from experience, but I think it does help those left behind to know that it was mental illness. When you feel that depressed, you are not aware of the love others have for you. It’s like being in the hell of a black hole that you can’t get out of. So you might as well be dead.

Michi’s boss, a prominent professor at our local university said in the newspaper article that he did not notice any outward signs of depression. Michi apparently hid it pretty well. I also know how this works. I wondered while I was pregnant if I fooled people by appearing functional, when in reality, I was falling apart inside. I have a long list of health care practitioners who dropped the ball on me while I was pregnant. All of them either didn’t notice that I was depressed, or didn’t care. Their apathy took the form of assuming someone else was taking care of me, or assuming I would “be alright”. One doctor boldly wrote me off in her notes of my visit with her. I was so angry about that. It’s not like I didn’t tell them, I did. I don’t know if they just didn’t take me seriously because they were so used to seeing me be so competent and functional, or they didn’t have the time to deal with me. I asked Magic if he thought I was fooling people, and he said, no, I was not in my right mind when I was pregnant.

No wonder I had no trust of doctors to help me when I was pregnant and depressed. The system had failed Michi. People are so clueless about mental illness, even health care professionals. It wasn’t only doctors who failed me. It was doulas and acupuncturists as well. I’m glad her parents are suing. If it saves another life in the future, I guess it’s worth it.

The photo at the top is a picture of Michi’s art that she won an award for. Michi had a flair for photographing liquid crystals under a microscope. Don’t they look like colorful snowflakes?

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4 Comments leave one →
  1. Lori permalink
    October 7, 2008 1:57 pm

    I saw that in the newspaper, and I was sad for the loss of Michi. Shes sounds like a beautiful, if tortured, soul.The image is stunning.

  2. The Muser (aka Beautiful Mama) permalink
    October 7, 2008 6:51 pm

    Wow. Thanks for your thoughts and for sharing. I, too, vividly remember the hell of being suicidal, knowing I could take my own life, feeling so alone and unloveable.

  3. Lost in Space permalink
    October 11, 2008 9:02 am

    What a hard story to read. I can feel the pain in her plotted actions. Although there is no “winner” in this kind of situation, I hope her parents are able to find some peace in knowing that their actions may help to save someone else. Just sad all around.I’m so sorry your doctors and so many others failed you, Phoebe. People are clueless when it comes to mental illness because everyone likes to think it is a slump that will pass. It is up to healthcare professionals to take any and all signs of depression seriously. Huge hugs to you.

  4. Kami permalink
    November 3, 2008 8:48 pm

    What a beautiful picture with such a sad story. I remember my husband asking me one time if I still loved him (when I was in a very dark place) and I replied that I didn’t know because all I could feel was pain. I know what you mean about not being able to see the love around you.I’m sorry your care givers were not there for you when you needed them.

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