Getting Happy... when you wish you were dead

5:12 pm. That's when I pulled off the highway into Springfield. Twenty-eight hours and twelve minutes after starting the journey. I may not have liked the answer, but I was determined to follow directions.

It also brought me back to the car rental place. I had no money to pay for the rental, but at least I wouldn't be on the hook for stealing the car. I dropped it off at the rental office and walked away.

My next stop was to find Pastor Stan Pear. He ran a bible study and Maria and I had attended a few times, and he was the only person I could think of who might be able to help.

Tuesday is a youth night at his church, so finding him was easy.

"Hi," I said addressing the first person I saw after entering. "Is Stan around and available?"

"Sure, he's in the office."

The place was well filled with teenagers talking, playing games, and working on computers. Most of them nodded or smiled at me as I passed on my way to the office. Stan's church was in the local Christian youth center in a historic building next to the Illinois and Michigan Canal. After thirty years as a manager at Caterpillar, Stan founded this church, became a life coach, and opened Alliance Counselling.

"Hi, Stan. You seem to be in the middle of a packed evening."

"Hi, Conrad. Yes, we get a pretty good turnout for youth events." He stood up from the desk to shake my hand. "What can I do for you?"

"I'm wondering what time you wrap up. I'd like to talk to you if you have time when you're done."

"Sure. We're done around nine, but you're welcome to stay and hang out if you want. The kids are always happy to see someone new."

"No, thanks. I'll just go for a walk and come back close to nine."

Things were wrapping up when I got back to the church. I helped Stan clean up a little, and we started talking.

"What's up? You look like you have something on your mind."

"Well, I do. I have a lot on my mind, and I'm not sure where to start."

Stan was quiet, and we kept cleaning while I found a place to start.

"I guess you know Maria filed for divorce."

"She mentioned you were having troubles, yes."

"Really?” That brought a lot of bitterness into my voice.

“She wouldn't talk to me at all, but she told you we were having troubles." That sort of broke the dam inside me. "And did she tell you she got an order of protection to kick me out of the house when she filed for divorce? Maybe you can tell me how, after months of me begging her to talk to me and work together to make a family, she manages to get an order of protection."

"No, I don't how the courts work, but I can talk to you about what's going on with you, if you want."

Stan is obviously good at being a life coach. It was almost like he was prepared for our conversation.

"I don't know what's going on with me. My wife has decided our marriage is over, I'm not from here, everybody knows her, nobody knows me, I have nowhere to go, and I don't know what to do. I do know that the one thing I want to do is kill myself. What's the point of going on, of even trying, when Maria has closed every door?"

That, of course, led to what I recognize as the fairly standard cover-my-arse, mental health conversation of “Hey, you have to promise me you won’t do anything to hurt yourself.”

Where did anyone ever come up with the idea that this helps? People who talk about wanting to die are in the process of giving up, and want help. People who have given up, and then suicide, have stopped talking. Asking someone to promise not to hurt themselves is actually a threat, and everyone knows it.

If you promise, the person asking lets you stay free. Their butt is covered because they asked you to promise. If you refuse to promise, they call the authorities and have you committed.

You’re feeling vulnerable and afraid. You reach out for help, and if you say the wrong thing you get arrested and incarcerated even though you have committed no crime. Whoever came up with the idea this approach is helpful?

So Stan and I ended up talking. He even took me out to dinner to keep on talking.

The solution we worked out was that his church allowed him to put people up in a hotel for two days. It was for people who, like me, were in desperate straits. I promised to not hurt myself, stay at the hotel, and we would talk about my options over the next two days.

 It was, I suppose, a good plan. But the best laid schemes of mice and men often come to naught. (A Robert Burns quote if you’re interested.)
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