The winter blues have me struggling with higher than normal anxiety levels, mood swings, sadness, lack of motivation – it’s like seasonal depression on steroids. Yeah, there have been pockets of joy here and there but I wish I could bottle them like a fragrance and give myself a spritz when needed.
As I left my apartment yesterday to meet a dear friend of 30 years, a thrill passed through me, as if I was about to board a plane to Rome or Paris, instead the backseat of a NYC taxi. I felt so in need of a two-hour vacation from my computer and life. There was giddy anticipation of spending time with my trusted confidante. With him I can be my genuine self – depression and all.
The taxi headed south on Lexington Avenue; it was a gray day, and the traffic heavier than normal but I didn’t mind, I was eager and excited to see my friend and leave my troubles behind over a scrumptious lunch and cold glass of Pinot Gringo. Settled in the back of the taxi with seatbelt fastened, I scrolled through my iPhone checking the weather forecast, my spiritual horoscope, and my Twitter feed. My short holiday had begun and I was surprised to find myself almost smiling while the driver made his way slowly through the crowded streets.
We suddenly stopped short. My phone flew out of my hands and the previously silent driver startled me by yelling, “I hate traffic. I want to kill myself! I swear I’m ready to take my gun and blow my brains out.” During his explosive outburst, he reached inside the glove compartment frantically searching for something. I looked up to the sky, well, to the roof of the cab, and mouthed, “Why me?”
As I’ve learned, when someone threatens to take their life, you always take them seriously, because you never know. Maybe he shouted these words all day long? How was I to know what I was dealing with? But I could see that the driver was extremely agitated and for all I knew, he was about to pull out a pistol and put it to his head. Not something I wanted to witness. I was trapped in the taxi, caught between a delivery truck on one side and an SUV on the other.
“Please don’t kill yourself,” I said, calmly, trying to find my iPhone underneath the seat. “Why, what difference does it make to you?” he yelled. “While I understand your frustration with this awful traffic, it’s just not worth killing yourself over. Have you looked into a different line of work?” He ignored me. His head shook back and forth as he yelled, “I can’t take this.”
While frantically looking out the window to get anyone’s attention, I asked if there were someone I could call for him. I asked if he’d like me to go with him to a hospital.
The traffic began to move again, he stopped his hand from the glove-compartment search frenzy and within a few minutes we pulled in front of the restaurant. The driver seemed calmer as he stopped the meter and said, “Ten fifty.” I asked if this was the end of his shift. He nodded while staring straight ahead. I paid the fare, plus an extra tip and wished him a peaceful day. As soon as I closed the door, he screeched away.
Feeling sad, I wondered if I should’ve done something more. I questioned my judgment for leaving him in his fragile state of mind.
Ugh, sometimes I wish I could let things go and not be so hard on myself. But I really did understand his desire to make his troubles go away – for good. I’ve been there before, and I’ve learned that ending my life is never the right choice. Hopefully this man will come to realize, before it’s too late, that suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem.
Adrienne Gurman has over 20 years of experience in advertising, marketing and magazine publishing. She is currently the Vice President of 1212-Studio, a product design company in NYC. A native New Yorker, Adrienne lives with her husband and their vivacious chocolate lab, Anya. Adrienne began volunteering for Bring Change 2 Mind not long after the organization was founded, and has since been a leading advocate for fighting the stigma that surrounds mental illness. She has lived with Major Depression since the age of 12. Adrienne writes a weekly blog for esperanza magazine and continues to be a growing voice in the anti-stigma community.