Following is the latest Wednesday Wisdom article from the Family Assistance Foundation, reminding you that a fully integrated approach for assisting survivors of traumatic loss involves a balance of head and heart. Wednesday Wisdom is written and copyrighted by Carolyn V. Coarsey, Ph.D., and distributed by the Family Assistance Education & Research Foundation Inc., www.fafonline.org. Reprint is available with written permission from the Foundation.
One Caring Person, Appearing at the Right Time is a Life Saver
"To handle yourself, use your head; to handle others, use your heart."
As deaths by suicide are continuing to rise— leaders must develop their understanding of issues that lie behind depression that often leads to suicide attempts and in the worst case, deaths. Learning from survivors of suicide attempts increases understanding and compassion toward those who are suffering, who often face multiple issues that are challenging to unravel. This month’s survivor story provides an example of a man who believed that suicide was the only way out of the excruciating pain he endured from multiple issues that most could never imagine. Of particular significance is the role that others played in helping him decide to live.
“I can’t seem to die, and I don’t know how to live.”
Quinn is a survivor in numerous ways. He is a transgender who lives fully as a man at this time in his life. He is recovering from multiple addictions including crack cocaine, alcohol, over the counter drugs and sexual addiction. He was born Kathleen Fontaine Cooke and ‘Assigned Female at Birth’ (AFAB) but knew by the time he was four years old; he was a boy. During the eighties’ decade, Quinn longed for a term that would describe him. He had heard the term gay, but he knew it did not fit him.It was in the nineties that he began to hear the term transgender and for the first time felt hope that there was a group where he might belong—but several years would pass before he could make the full transition to become male.
Quinn, then Kathleen, bore the pain in silence until as an adult, began to have unsettling memories which led him to act out. Therapists would later explain that the behavior was likely based on early childhood sexual abuse. Quinn began having memories of his father sexually violating him as a child, which confirmed the therapist’s theory. Before entering therapy which eventually led to rehab, Quinn became addicted to crack cocaine, alcohol, over the counter speed pills, and sex. When life became unbearable, Quinn called his therapist and said, “I can’t seem to die, and I don’t know how to live. What’s next?”The therapist answered, “Rehab.”
“You are either going to pay for rehab, or a funeral.”
Prior to entering rehab, Quinn tried to end his life twice. At one point as the pain became intolerable, he locked himself in the trunk of the car, and prepared to die. He changed his mind and was rescued by friends who heard him banging inside the trunk door. Unable to live with the truth deeply buried within, Quinn next over-dosed on crack cocaine and waited to die. A small dog, owned by his roommate came into the bathroom. She seemed to sense his condition and brought help. Quinn was rushed to an emergency room where things finally began to change.
Quinn’s therapist was contacted and a plan was put in place to get Quinn to a treatment facility in Santa Fe, NM that handled major addictions and trauma.A major challenge, as is true for many transgender individuals pertained to getting his mother to support him. Not in touch with his father due to the fact that he was Quinn’s perpetrator, having his mother’s understanding and validation of his need to transition was even more crucial. While it took some convincing, she finally understood the crisis that Quinn was facing.His therapist told his sister to tell his mother that she was either going to pay for rehab or a funeral.Quinn’s recovery from his addictions and his full transition to the man he is today began after the help at that time from his therapist, his sister, and ultimately his mother.
"Not all of us can do great things. But we can do small things with great love." ―Mother Teresa
Today Quinn supports himself as a comic, inspirational speaker, writer, facilitator, and life-coach. He believes he gave himself a gift when he transitioned from female to male.He lives his life transparently, speaking openly about recovery from multiple addictions, healing childhood sexual abuse, and his transition. Listening to Quinn’s story, we are reminded of the role that others played in helping him decide to get help and most importantly, to stay alive.
His story is also a reminder that as a leader, a friend, family member, or whatever the relationship, when we notice someone who is suffering, we may be able to save their life. As Mother Teresa’s quote reminds us, regardless of how small our help may seem, it can make a significant difference when added to the effort of others in the person’s circle.
With greater emphasis being placed on maintaining a healthy workplace as a way of reducing deaths by suicide, leaders who take the time to learn about real people who have survived unimaginable pain, naturally develop more compassion for others in their work group who may need support. Quinn’s video-taped story is one of the case studies in the Foundation’s Depression Awareness/Suicide Prevention Training program.