Hello, my friends. I want to start this post by saying thank you to Melanie from Dear Debt for posting her Suicide Prevention Day blog tour idea on Twitter. I jumped at the chance to join in as this is a topic near and dear to me and my community. Most of you who read this blog are here to read about personal finance…unless you’re my mom and then you are just reading because I am your daughter (thanks, mom!). But, I think this is a great opportunity to shine the light on a topic that, like money, isn’t often talked openly about.
Writing about depression is, well, depressing. It takes me back through some of the darker times in my life. A few years ago I found myself in the midst of a divorce and soon to lose everything I had work soooo hard to achieve. Besides losing a husband, I lost my house (that I had just finished rehabbing), my 3 rental properties, my credit score (!!!) and my garden…oh, how I loved that garden. But those were just things (minus the husband). What hurt most is that I felt I had lost my identity. No doubt, I had some dark days, months…well, maybe a year. I felt like the world had pulled the rug out beneath my feet. I didn’t think it would ever get better. But it did…
Once I was out of the house, on my own again, I gained clarity. It started slow. Turn off the tv. Take a shower. Get out. Take a walk. Read a paper. Take the dog to the park… Eventually, I stepped up and went out with a friend. Went on a date. Went to a party. And over time, I managed to pull through. I managed to get up, get out, and find a new purpose. I survived.
Though writing about depression is hard, it is nothing as bad as being neck deep in it, feeling like it will swallow you whole. Thankfully, I never felt so suffocated that I contemplated killing myself…but for many, that isn’t the case. For many, they see suicide as the only way out.
This reality never hit so close to home as recently when a coworker of mine killed herself by jumping off a bridge. I have never been so close to the aftermath of a suicide. To see what it did to her friends, family, coworkers…even ex-boyfriends. I imagine it was one of the hardest things for them to go through. The guilt of thinking they could have stopped her. That they somehow could have kept her from giving in to the darkness within. This girl, A, who had so much joy and light on the outside had such a deep hole burning inside her. Unfortunately, that darkness burned so hot it eventually consumed her.
Many of you know I am a flight attendant. I’ve mentioned it a time or two and, though I haven’t gone into much detail, most imagine the lifestyle to be all fun and travel all the time…minus a few puke bags and minor turbulence. And it is. That is the day to day of my job. But our job is not an easy one…
Long days, short nights, and a less than ideal work environment including recycled air, constant exposure to radiation (increasing our risk of cancer and miscarriages), loud engine noise, toxic exhaust fumes, turbulence, and most of all – unruly passengers. The physical toll of flying 8-10 hours a day is exhausting. But that is just the physical part…the mental issues are far more taxing. That is the dark side of air travel. The part when we get off the plane in a different city every day and close the door to our “home” for the night. The lonely side.
Here are some factors that contribute to the overall mental health of our lifestyle:
Relationship troubles. Most couples have disagreements. It’s perfectly normal in any relationship. But when we have a disagreement with a spouse or partner, those problems get hashed out away from each other in small spurts during the day. A text here or there – possibly a phone call between flights if we can sneak into the bathroom for a minute. It can be difficult for the person on the other end of the line, for sure, but imagine hanging up and having to plaster a perma-smile across your face for the next 10 hours and 4 flights. It’s a terrible feeling to have your look on the outside so opposite from the feeling on your insides. Perhaps that is why the fashion industry also suffers from high suicide rates?
Drinking/Meds. Due to our crazy schedule, it is hard to keep in sync with our natural circadian rhythms. We get up early, possibly get rerouted or have a mechanical, and all of a sudden that easy 3 flight / 7 hour day turns into 12 hours and 5 flights. It happens. Many choose to combat their sleep irregularities with Ambien or similar (legal) prescription drugs. It is very easy to develop a dependency to such medications. Mix them with alcohol and the outcome is less than ideal…
Loneliness. For those who aren’t in a relationship, being on the road is a difficult way to find one. Or what about missing families…and holidays? My dog?! Working nights and weekends when your “normal” friends are out having fun. Your life starts to revolve around the job because your normal life isn’t normal anymore. And your old friends give up on you because you’re always gone…living it up like the rockstar flight attendant they imagine you to be. It’s rough.
And, of course, the perceived threat of our job – you know, that date no one wants to talk about? We all know that flying is still the safest way to travel, but when you fly for a living, the chances of a plane related incident happening to you during your career is much higher. Hijackings and threats aside, the everyday occurrences are much more likely. I have been lucky enough to not yet hit severe turbulence. Severe turbulence can end a career – or your life. I have, however, had many medical incidents on board where someone has fallen ill. It is our job as your flight crew to administer first aid, CPR, and whatever else is within our realm to save your life. On top of that, we train for emergency landings whether it be on land or water, we train for fires on board and hazmat screening. We can (and have) delivered babies when you flew even though your Doctor told you not to! 😉 We are not only their to pass out Cokes and snacks…though most will never see us in action. It can be a thankless job.
If you really think about it – the pressure is enough to get to anybody. And it does get to some. It got to A.
I realize that a job isn’t the only thing to bring someone down. But I also realize that often the people you work with can spend more time with you than their own families. I also know, the brightest star in the room can grow very dim in a matter of minutes. So what can we do if we see someone struggling? This is something that many have asked since A’s passing. And what is the answer? I think it is different for everyone but it is most important to make sure that person realizes they are not alone.
Please, if you are suicidal or having suicidal thoughts you must know that you are not alone. There are people that want to help you. YOU MATTER. If you would like to talk to someone, please call one of the following numbers:
If you know someone in need of help, please consult suicide.org for more info. Get them help now. Please do not wait until they are gone to wonder what you could have done
Until next time…