Few moments in your life are you able to go back and relive with such clarity that you can remember what you were wearing, what your hands were touching, or how the air smelled. Traumatic events have a way of permanently marking synapses in the brain that survive Alzheimer’s and even amnesia. Perhaps this is why our Post Traumatic Stress patients are so challenging to treat. Many friends have told me over the years that they can remember exactly what they were doing when the planes hit the World Trade Center. I remember my grandmother telling me what she was doing the moment she found out Pearl Harbor was bombed. For me, I’ll never forget the moment I learned my younger brother, Ben, had committed suicide. That day is burned so deeply into my memory that it will probably be there with me until I die. Dressed in scrubs, seeing my 7th patient of the afternoon, sipping cold coffee, I picked up the phone and learned that he had shot himself in my backyard garden, using the revolver I kept for safety in my night stand. Physical torture was more welcome than the squeeze put on my heart in that moment. Recently laid off from his job and grieving over a close friend’s death, Ben had moved in with me. Falsely, I felt a sense of security that he was under my roof and I could watch him.
Not all suicide victims present with the classic warning symptoms: hopelessness, excessive sadness, withdrawal, changes in appearance, dangerous behavior, or plans to get their affairs in order. Ben was a college educated, well-dressed, handsome, charismatic person up until the day he died. This can make acceptance as hard as not recognizing the warning signs. Suicide leaves more questions than answers. And closure is almost completely out of the question. If you are lucky, you are able to find peace and move forward.
Florence Nightingale once told us, “I think one’s feelings waste themselves in words; they ought all to be distilled into actions which bring results.” My dad would say it more directly: “Talk is Cheap.” Ben and I were blessed to have two supportive parents, but anytime I would begin spouting typical teenage delusions of grandeur, my father had an earnest way of reminding me that our actions speak louder than words. It is easy in modern times with the constant bombardment of political lobbyists or incessant infomercials, all promising a better life, to forget the truth in that statement. Talk is cheap. So cheap it’s free. At times, you would pay not to hear it. Rather than talking about what we can do to combat the staggeringly high (and ever increasing) incidence of suicide, I began to feel it was time for action. Be kind to those around you: something as simple as not jumping into the gossip at work, or doing something for someone else without getting something in return. These are easy behaviors that we sometimes forget.
Since my brother passed away July 24, 2012, the outpouring of love and support has been astonishing. For a long time, I survived on the kindness and love of others. From the moment he died, I knew I would never be able to move forward unless I could find some form of good to come out of my family’s darkest moment. I was humbled to have been approached by the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention to Chair their annual “Out of Darkness” Community Walk in Huntsville to raise awareness and support for suicide victims. The event is set to take place, Sunday, November 6, 2016 at Ditto Marina in Huntsville. This is the way I plan to move forward. I encourage each of you to find yours. If you are blessed enough to have not suffered a devastating tragedy, please don’t wait for one like I did to feel the need to make a difference. Volunteer. Cut an elderly neighbor’s grass. Call your parents. Join a charity. Do something instead of talking. Because talk is cheap. As Florence Nightingale reminds us, actions speak louder than words. We get one life. All that is left after we are gone is the mark we leave. I want my actions speak volumes.
In loving memory of my brother, Ben Kingsley (10/22/1984 – 12-24-2012)
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This article was written for and published by Inside Medicine.
Kari Kingsley, MSN, CRNP works as an otolaryngology nurse practitioner in collaboration with Dr. Neeta Kohli-Dang. Together they share nearly forty years of ENT experience. They treat dizziness, ear infections, hearing loss, nasal congestion, sinus infections, thyroid nodules, tonsillitis, neck masses, hoarseness, trouble swallowing, and a multitude of other ear nose and throat conditions. Please call 256-882-0165 to schedule an appointment with Dr. Neeta Kohli-Dang and Kari Kingsley or visit Huntsville ENT.