You know how Facebook always asks “What’s on your mind?”
Well, I’ll tell you what is on my mind:
It has been on my mind for weeks.
No, not in the way you might think.
In July, I lost a very dear friend to suicide.
Marilee Swirczek was the founder and the guiding light of my writing group, Lone Mountain Writers in Carson City, Nevada. She was a terrific teacher and loved the academic world, but beyond that she had a strong sense of duty to the community at large. Besides spearheading the “Always Lost” tribute to military men and women lost in the Afghan-Iraq wars, she wrote op-ed pieces for the local newspaper. She also wrote some very moving poetry. As a teacher, as a writer, as a friend, Marilee always encouraged and inspired others to exceed their expectation of themselves.
But in the last months of her life, she fell into a deep depression and could not seem to pull herself out of it, despite consulting all the usual sources for physical and emotional help. The truth is she suffered PTSD from events dating back to long before she came to Carson City and made a new life for herself.
You see, it is not only veterans who suffer PTSD.
And those who suffer it are NOT weak people.
I think they are often people who do more and who care more than the rest of us. But I have to tell you: when Donald Trump made his crass statement about soldiers who suffer PTSD being “weak,” I was just furious. As Americans we owe it to our returning soldiers (from any conflict!) to try to understand what they are going through. Depression is an insidious disease.
Marilee’s daughter, Stephanie Swart, wrote a beautiful op-ed piece, “For Mom” in the Sept. 10 edition of the Nevada Appeal about her mother’s battle with depression. Google it. It is well written and contains a very helpful list of symptoms of depression and what others can do to help those suffering.
We lose 22 veterans every day to suicide. (That is a group only slightly smaller than the size of one of my English classes!) That number—22/day—is appalling, but suicide affects many others in our society as well. It behooves all of us to aware! Read Stephanie’s article!