Noose in the Playground

I feel a jarring darkness that lurks inside this past week’s events. Initially I wanted to call my strongest emotion “powerless.” And while that feeling is definitely present, I’m still really struggling to overcome “unsettled.”

In chronological actuality, I suppose everything began this past Tuesday when an acquaintance of mine, just 21 years old, ended his life. We met back in 2011, working in the production crew for a local film series. I’m certain he was our youngest team member, only 18 years old then, living in the walk-in closet of a downtown apartment he shared with two other film production pros in the group. We worked simultaneously on a couple of projects while he was here. I was never especially close to him, and despite our Facebook friendship, I lost most contact with him a little over a year ago.

I wish I had a sixth sense, a third eye, something to help me identify others who also struggle with depression or suicidal thoughts. I know that I can’t save people from themselves—I’m not “responsible” for their situations and reactions. That doesn’t make me feel any better though, or improve my perspective in any way.

So often, eyes are cruelly blind to the soul. How could I not see or at least feel that familiar agony in someone? Even if my experiences only allowed me the smallest fraction of empathy to your reality…how is it possible that I didn’t recognize Pain?

I guess it makes me realize what incredible actors we are in everyday life—what impressively elaborate masks, intelligent camouflage we wear.

During my morning newsfeed scroll on Facebook this past Thursday, I came across a vague local news story about a body found in the park just one block from my house. Details are basically that a woman, early-mid 30s hanged herself near the kid’s playground area of the park. The woman is still anon at this point, but I admit to checking online a couple of times a day in search of identity updates. I’m secretly and selfishly hoping that I won’t know her.

I decided to drive by the park on my way home from work yesterday (Friday), curious if I would be able to see where in the park they had closed off previously. The whole playground area is very visible from the street, and I could see at least 20 kids climbing and running around it. Watchful mothers sat on nearby benches, and the winding path throughout the park was sprinkled with joggers and walking duos—it literally looked completely ordinary, nothing unusual at all.

As I returned my eyes to the road, that’s when I saw it—the rope still hanging there. So high up in this 100+ year-old pine tree, I’m positive not everyone in the park had even noticed it. And there was something sort of morbid about the noose just dangling there so nonchalantly. Kids playing together obliviously below it. Weirdly intense image I can’t help re-playing through my mind.

Personally, I may not have been so close to these specific circumstances; but for my own reasons, I am still greatly impacted.

I wish I could have helped you carry that bucket, if only for a moment, as you were flooded, feeling drenched and weak. I had hoped to notice when your arms shook from the struggle.

You are not alone: that’s a promise I know I can keep. It’s ok to release the haunting, possessive thoughts. What you feel is valid and understandable. You are meaningful, not guilty. You are important, not crazy.

And in knowing this, remember to stay strong, fellow soldiers. Your Life is precious.

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