Dying to be Heard

–Why we need each other more than ever

I am tired. So very, very tired. Tired of the sameness of my days and nights. Tired of nothing going my way. Ever. Tired of never being touched, or heard, or really seen. Tired of dreaming of the impossible. Tired of the dreary monotony that is my life. Most of all, I’m tired of the pain. So why should I get up today? Or, ever?

A couple of days ago, as I was cleaning up after the tumult created by getting two of our floors replaced, I tuned into CNN, as a kind of “white noise” in the background. I probably shouldn’t have done that as my anxiety had spiked over the last several days to the point where it affected me, physically. My attempt to cut back on the vino — so far, so good — had only contributed to that angst, but it beat the hell out of being hungover. Because, when a low-grade hangover is something you wake up to every day, you’ve crossed the line into Shit City. And that’s no place I want to be. Been there. Done that. Don’t like it.

Of course, the “news,” was typically dismal. The spike in the Covid “spin-offs” that are even more treacherous than the one we’re already dealing with…the fucking frightening pronouncement by our country’s “patriots” that they’re planning on blowing up the Capitol while President Biden delivers his State of the Union address…the sickening reality that Donald Trump is never going away unless he drops dead…and on, like that.

As I scrubbed, and dusted, and swept, I struggled to think happy thoughts, as it occurred to me, and not for the first time, that this shit show may never end, in my lifetime, anyway, as well as for those who share my “seasoned” status. How does one “find the joy,” amid a scenario like that?

Yes, there are glimmers of hope. Thank Buddha for the vaccine rollout. The Johnson & Johnson incarnation sounds especially promising, but it’s the actual getting of the thing that’s well…the thing.

I received an email from my healthcare provider that I was now eligible and was instructed to log into MyChart to schedule the shot. Do you think it was as simple as that? Hell, no. Every time I clicked on the calendar to schedule, I was told to “come back and try again,” as nothing was available.

Okay. That’s alright. I get it. I’m willing to wait my turn; I just wish I knew how long that wait will be as I’m getting itchy, as most certainly you are as well, to live again. To get on with things. Meet up with friends and family. Leave the mask and hand sanitizer by the wayside and wear red lipstick, again. Of course, that scenario will require more than just a shot in the arm, but it’s a damn good start. It’s something. And we all need our dreams, do we not?

And then, as I continued with my chores…I understood. I got it. The Universe dumped a bucket of ice water over me and the cold, frightening reality of why people take their own lives became clear.

I’ll pause here to assure anyone who gives a damn that I. AM. FINE. In fact, today, I feel better than I have in a while. Plus, I’m too f%#king stubborn to end it all. Nor do I have a reason. I’m one of the blessed.

No, this has nothing to do with me, but rather, those poor souls who decide that they just can’t bear to wake up another day.

I’d always wondered, after hearing that someone committed suicide, what their tipping point was. What was that one thing that made them think, “Screw this. I’m done?” Was substance abuse the catalyst, as it is for so many? Abuse by a partner, either mentally or physically? The sudden death of a loved one? Chronic depression and/or anxiety? Or “merely” the feeling that life isn’t worth living?

People voluntarily exit this world every day, on the hour. Regular people, like you and me. And then there are those individuals in the public eye, who we believe “have it all,” until the morning we wake up and hear a newscaster intone that they hung themselves from a shower rod in a luxury hotel in France.

The anxiety, stress, and depression brought on by this pandemic is a load far too heavy for the more emotionally fragile among us to carry. According to The Washington Post, a rise in suicidal thoughts has increased dramatically in young adults age 18 to 24. That’s not to say older folks aren’t affected, because we’re in the shit too. Maybe more so, as the number of years we have to look forward to are far less than we would prefer. But, when all is said and done, regardless of age, misery is misery. An equal-opportunity destroyer.

But this isn’t about the pandemic. More to the point, it’s about the things that we miss in our communications with others. Those fleeting moments when we could have listened harder, or read between the lines of a hastily tossed-off email or text.

We’re all hurting. We all have our own personal baggage to deal with. I’m an authority on that, but there are those around us, perhaps even right in front of our eyes, who are slipping, and in need of a hand or a hug or some assurance, no matter how feeble that “Yes, Virginia, there is light at the end of that friggin’ tunnel.” Even if we’re not sure we believe it.

A virus and its resulting quarantine have caused us to become insular and hyper-aware of our own issues, to the point where we forget that there are others who are struggling to such a degree that they can no longer slog through another month, or a week, or even a day.

I wasn’t entirely truthful, earlier. Of course, I’ve had moments in my life when I’ve wondered what it would be like to be “done.” To say, “I quit.” And I’m going to go out on a limb here and add, “Who hasn’t?”

We come to an impasse, and rather than digging in with our fingers and toes and scrambling over, we get tired. We let ourselves slide down that rocky wall because we just can’t see our way over it. But there are those of us who are lucky…we have help. Family, friends, healthcare providers — people who take the time to listen, and who can sense when another human being is at the end of their rope.

Now, more than ever, we need to do just that: Take the time to listen. And not just listen, although sometimes, lending an ear is all it takes to help someone feel better. Rather, we can do more than talk the talk.

“What can I do? What do you need? How can I help?”

We’re all trying to make the best of a shitty situation, albeit, some of us are more successful at making lemonade from lemons, than others. There are people right on this platform who could probably use a friend, someone to assure them that they’re not alone. Even without a virus to fuck things up, life, in and of itself, is a tough ride but it doesn’t take a hell of a lot to smooth out a few of those bumps we all hit on our individual journies.

Simply, we can all remember that we’re human beings, and act as such.

I wrote the intro to this story as my imagining of what someone at the end of their tether might be thinking. And, if I knew of such an individual, what could I do to ease their pain?

I could be a human being. That’s what. And sometimes, that’s enough.


Sherry McGuinn
Sherry McGuinn
Sherry McGuinn is a long-time, Chicago area, advertising/marketing writer, blogger and, for the last fifteen years, screenwriter. A big-time dreamer and proud of it, Sherry has had two short films produced, one in L.A., the other in New York. Both won several awards and screened at festivals but she is still "fighting the good fight," in order to become a full-time, working screenwriter. A passionate straight-shooter who never rests on her laurels, Sherry writes about damn near everything because how do you encapsulate…life? Unflinching in her determination to “just tell the truth,” Sherry strives to educate, engage and inspire others to follow their dreams. A lifelong animal lover and advocate, Sherry resides in a Chicago suburb with her husband and their three fabulous felines.

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  1. Sherry —
    I’m so glad you were drinking lemonade by the time you finished your fine article. I was a bit worried with the opener….

    What came to mind when reading your piece was a recent article by our friend, Melissa Hughes where she discusses the “George Bailey effect.”

    “One research study applied the construct of contrarian thinking to the impact of gratitude. The researchers hypothesized that thinking of the absence of a positive event from one’s life would have a greater influence on one’s mental state than thinking about the presence of a positive event. For example, instead of reflecting on how grateful you are to have ice-cold water on a hot day, imagine what life would be like if you did not have access to clean drinking water at all.

    The results were striking. People who compared themselves to the “life could always be worse” version of their current-self reported more positive states. It turns out that the subtraction of positive events counteracts our tendency to take them for granted. Researchers have coined this psychological dynamic the George Bailey effect, in homage to the classic movie, It’s a Wonderful Life.”

    Whenever I once again start to auger in relative to COVID, the insurrection, “45,” or our VERY NOISY NYC neighborhood, I try to remind myself that things could be a whole lot worse. I could be hooked up to a machine in a hospital; I could have lost my right to vote; or I could be homeless. That manner of thinking, at least for me, doesn’t erase the reality of those situations, but it helps me step away from the edge and breathe.

    • Thank you, Jeff, for the insight.

      I wrote that intro to try to dig into the psyche of someone who is on the “edge.” I’m ok. Yes, I’ve been depressed, as many of us had, but no worries, my friend. I’m very good at making lemondate.

      Thank you, again.

  2. Thank you Sherry for this compassionate writing regarding the need to be human.
    I am one of those who was on the edge of reason…who does not want to be on the planet and who did think of ending it on a daily basis. I’ve shared it out there and some know this. I am no longer in this mental state and am fitter mentally than I have ever been. I no medication and pretty much refer to myself as a miracle who was born again…. at the end of my rope it comes down to this….there is nothing left, you have no sense of value and you have no joy or any feeling for that matter.
    What I do know is this….to say the words that I would “commit” or “voluntarily” leave is a complete slap in my face. I feel the sting of judgement. There is a fine line between sanity and illness. Suicide is an illness and one with the biggest stigma if you ask me. We need mercy, not guessing or judgement. We need compassion yes…. it needs treatment like any other illness but on a critical level. Here’s the catch… we don’t all share what we are thinking for the shame and fear of not getting the help we need but instead that of judgement where our reasons are not known, nor understood.
    By nature, no one wants to die, it goes against our primitive instinct. We do not commit willingly. It is a a symptom of the illness. It is mental health…when you lose your mind…you do not have it…the body follows suit. The last shred of Hope is gone and there is no sense of value…this is that moment where the critical moment occurs… a complete let go and surrender to the worst pain imaginable.
    It is a struggle to continuously live in the shadow of death and you do not relate to others at any level…until perhaps you are able to realize there might be something …just one thing to make a difference and help that last stitch of hope to start weaving you back together again. It’s possible to come back and the compassion is necessary.
    I love that you identify we just need to be human, and with that comes the birthright of dignity.
    We are all Humans WORTH Being and that dignity honoured will help someone else feel of value. That sense of self worth is everything in the human preservation. Imagine if we all knew how valuable we are just from that focus alone. A world of definitions for what that value is…needs refining.

    I’m sorry for rambling but it’s my experience here. I appreciate your sensitivity and compassion with much gratitude. I felt compelled to share as it is with great passion that since I have gained my mind and own it completely, I made it my mission to share and help humanity as I can.

    Bless you Sherry. And thank you

  3. Hello Sherry! Long time no ‘see’. First, let me say I’m glad to hear you’re fine! Thanks for writing this; you make some great points….probably some that most people have felt but are afraid to express. I could not agree more that we need to ‘take time to listen’……to walk the walk. Something that’s been seriously lacking during this pandemic is social interaction – and we’ve all heard and read the stories about the increase in suicides, marital disharmony, depression, etc. We were created to be social beings. Of course, when I say ‘created’ it assumes you believe that there was an intelligent being behind our creation. After all, if we’ve descended from monkeys (as one writer put it “from the goo to the zoo to you!”) then what does it all matter? Like the song says, ‘live for today and don’t worry ’bout tomorrow, tra, la, la, la…..’ Beyond social interaction, we need a sense of purpose. The joy of a new thing (car, house, whatever) is temporary…..then we buy the next thing to fill in the void in our lives……unless, that is, that we’ve discovered our purpose; our reason for being here. I happen to believe we were created by a loving God Who gave us an innate sense of right and wrong, an awareness that there is life beyond this one, and a longing in our hearts that cannot be completely filled by anything else but Him (some call it a God-shaped vacuum). (the inevitable question, “why does a loving God allow for all the bad things in the world?” is a subject for another time). There are troubles in the world…..we who call ourselves Christians don’t get to escape that. But we’re living not only for this world, but the the eternity that follows also. I believe the decisions we make in our short time on this planet will have eternal impact. I’m not extra smart…..kinda average…..but I know truth when I hear it. I was 30 before I heard God’s truth – brought a lot of baggage into my Christian life with me, but God knew what He was getting and took me anyway. I experience ups and downs like the rest of the world, but there is One Who walks with me through it all. I have an inner joy that does not depend upon external circumstances. I’ve found my purpose….loving God and loving my neighbor. I’m blessed way beyond measure; I didn’t earn it, I don’t deserv it…..all because of Him. Praying that you find the same peace, joy and love Sherry!