Monday, March 9, 2009

My Good Friend Kevin - Six Months Later

Yesterday, my former wife Susan reminded me that it is coming up to six months from when a very good friend of ours, Kevin, threw himself in front of a train. He was 28.

Four and a half years ago, when I was in my second marriage, I was facilitating a DBSA support group in Princeton, NJ. In walked Kevin, exuding a goofy charm, baseball cap on backward. But there was something about his presence that indicated he was no mere goofball. The others in the room felt it, too.

Over the weeks, I couldn't help but be impressed by the way Kevin carried himself. He would walk up to newcomers and introduce himself and start up a conversation. In the group, he was a great listener, dispensing the wisdom of a sage, leavened by a keen sense of humor.

It was amazing to observe him with people much older. At once, he was deferential, compassionate, and exuding great authority. You simply forgot you were talking to someone much younger. You simply wanted to be around him, laugh with him, seek advice from him.

He had his setbacks, his dark moments. Yet, over time - in group, over coffee, over sandwiches, hanging out - I watched him blossom. With his extraordinary people skills, the sky was the limit.

In late 2006, my marriage broke up. Kevin was the first to offer me support. He also reached out to Susan.

Suddenly, I had my life in seven or eight FedEx cartons and a one-way ticket to San Diego. I popped into the DBSA group one last time. Kevin was facilitating. He gave me a heartfelt tribute. I felt the goodness in the man. Goodness, true goodness. That was the last time I saw him alive.

He had so much to live for, so much to offer. Yet, on a miserable muggy New Jersey morning, his brain tricked him into believing otherwise. Six months later, Susan and I, plus all those he left behind, are still dealing with it.

I've been suicidal. So has Susan. We fully understand, yet - we totally don't understand.

My way of coping was this suicide prevention video, "The Road to Nowhere." The message is simple: Don't be fooled. You are really somewhere. I shot it two or three weeks after the horrible news.

Kevin, you still shine a light on the world. Nothing - nothing - is ever going to extinguish it.


Michelle said...

I watched this video a few months ago and really liked it. It's an amazing turnaround from what you think you see to where you really are. Thanks. Grief is a process. You know that. Six months can feel like only a day. We're here for you, always.

DBSA San Diego

John McManamy said...

Many thanks, Michelle. To readers: Michelle facilitates a great DBSA group in La Jolla in San Diego. The group meets Mon and Thurs. Full contact info on their website (just Google DBSA San Diego).

moreheads said...


I'm so sorry for both your pain and loss.
My oldest son took his own life within this pat year. You were so right when you said we can understand the suicidal feelings, it's the ACT that leaves us baffled. I'm at a loss to grasp the act, other then impulse, sheer youthful impulse.

This was a wonderful tribute.


John McManamy said...

Hi, Renae. I'm very sorry for your loss. You're right. The ACT is a mystery. All I know is it wasn't a choice. Neither Kevin nor your son committed the act. Rather, the act committed them.

Cristina Romero-Sierra said...

Renae, John and others who have experienced a loss from suicide, my heart goes out to you. I've been at that juncture many times myself. I feel so grateful for still being here. But I never know when I will collapse into that place again and I am forever guarded.

John, your words are beautiful. I love your video, how you put a concrete visual to the suicidal feelings. How you describe them is my experience too. I've heard bipolar described by some as a disease of perspectives. You describe that so well here with respect to a suicidal perspective.

A disease of perspectives has been my experience too. It's baffling how with just a change in perspectives my whole insides and all the world around me and everyone around me changes. Perspective seems like a trivial thing, until your perspectives are subject to pathology.

John McManamy said...

Hi, Cristina. "A disease of perspectives" - boy, does that ever describe it. Maybe this is why - after all I've been through - I can never trust my brain.

Cristina Romero-Sierra said...

Ah, yes, that trusting-my-brain thing once I have become aware of the perspective pathology is difficult. It's a tricky road in building that trust and in chosing which is the 'real' perspective. It's not so easy to find the real perspective amongst the zillions of perspectives, since they're all 'real' to some extent. I'd say that's the largest part of my battle with bipolar at this point in my journey: Sift, sift, sift - day in, day out.... LOL!