Monday, August 30, 2004

Spiritual Care and Suicide

Within a couple of weeks of meeting and assessing Charlie, I got a call from triage that he was threatening suicide and Beverly wanted me to come out there. When I arrived, Charlie was sitting in his chair and looking about as ugly - mean as I can imagine he could get. The reality of his prognosis had gotten to him and he was very aware of the horror he was facing. He said that he was just going to walk off into the river. He told me angrily that he never threatened suicide that he was just going to take a walk in the river and never come back. Beverly was in a state of despair and the house was full of tension. I was a little scared myself even though I’m fairly well trained and experienced with suicidal people. I suspected he could be violent and he had a gun cabinet full of weapons. But I heard him out and listened for his ambivalence. When dealing with suicidal people that’s what your looking for. If there is energy pulling the person into self destruction there may also be energy pulling them to life. If there is no ambivalence, it’s an immediate emergency. When I heard where the ambivalence was, I began emphasizing it to build the energy toward life in Charlie. He resisted for some time like a Bass on a hook. I knew my line was a light one and he could break it and run anytime but I gave him slack and reeled then gave him some more.

Finally, the Spirit spoke to me and I confronted him with what I thought would make or break this session. I told him he was acting like a drug addict. When that soaked in, he was angry with me but I told him that he was only thinking of himself and that’s what addicts did. If he had been a well man, he might have hit me at that point but I got his attention. Beverly saw what I was doing and jumped in to help. She agreed with me and Charlie clamped his mouth shut and glared at us. I prayed, God help direct his anger at me and not himself. One thing that I knew about Charlie was that he was proud that he had cleaned himself up without anybodies help but Beverly’s. I’d hoped that calling his attention to that would snatch him out of the river into the boat with us. Finally after a little more time he said through his teeth that he wouldn’t kill himself until he’d said goodbye to some friends and his kids. I grabbed the opportunity and asked him to sign a contract with me to not hurt himself. He signed. I breathed.

Charlie owned one of the most beautiful Harley Davidson choppers I’ve ever laid eyes on. It was featured in one of the motorcycle mags on the front cover. He and I had talked about his bike on the first visit and he’s taken me out to the shed to show it to me. He started it for me and we’d both stood there and let the vibes from that powerful machine sort of massage us. This day, Charlie sat in his chair scowling even after he’d signed the contract and when I got ready to leave, he said, “I know you don’t want what I have. I know you don’t want to go through what I’m going through. You don’t want to be me do you Ken? I was stuck. Then the Spirit spoke to me again and told me that it was Charlie’s sense of humor that would get him through this awful time and I stood up and said, “Your right, Charlie, I don’t want anything you’ve got – except that motorcycle. I want that motorcycle.” He looked up at me and a smile ploughed through his despair and cracked the scow on his face just a little. He took my hand and snarled, “You ain’t getting’ my goddam motorcycle, Ken.” I laughed and when to my car. I prayed that the joke between us was a sign of his innate strength.


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