Within a week I was made aware of the deaths of two dynamic young people. TJ was in his late twenties, married with a three-year-old daughter. He was brilliant with computers.
KR was in his late thirties. He was bright, outgoing and engaging. KR loved people and people loved him. Thus, he was a natural to work as an administrator of a Students Services program at a local college. If there was a need, KR was there in an instant to help out.
Each of these dynamic persons took their lives. TJ wrestled with the demons of addiction. The son of an alcoholic, he had more of a challenge with addictions growing up than many of his peers. By late high school, he was abusing prescription and designer drugs.
However, he was a great student and a good athlete. As a high school student, he learned how to lie, sneak out and protect his other life. Shortly after high school, while in his first year of college, his life crashed and his parents finally became aware of his secret.
At nineteen, his life was so out of control that he finally agreed to a rehab. He did not complete the program. He convinced his parents he could do it on his own. For almost a year, he did reasonably well. He went back to school and again deceived people because he was a good student.
Four years later, he graduated with a degree in computer science. He excelled in his field, but his addiction to drugs continued. So did his capacity to deceive people.
Shortly after graduation he fell in love and married. A year later, his wife bore a beautiful baby girl. Unfortunately, his deceptions around addiction continued. For a second time, his life, which on the surface looked wonderful, crashed. TJ was arrested for forging prescription scripts. His wife was devastated. He assured her that his life of use and abuse was behind him. She asked him to leave. TJ was beside himself.
Where would he go? He had nothing to fall back on. He begged his mother to take him home. Although he was ashamed and embarrassed, he had no other alternatives. She said yes with one condition: he had to go into outpatient treatment. He reluctantly agreed.
The next few months, TJ seemed to get his life back on track. He got a sponsor and went to meetings regularly. He found a new job with an excellent salary and benefits. For the first time in a long time, TJ felt his life was coming together. His wife had even expressed that she was open to reconciliation, if he continued to stay in recovery.
Unfortunately, recovery was more than a struggle. While living with his Mom, he continued to struggle with recovery, continually relapsing. It became so difficult that he entered another rehab. This time he completed rehab and was recommended to a halfway house in Arizona.
Three months into his recovery and working full time, his demons re-emerged and really tortured him. The torture was so destructive that he felt he had no choice but to end it all.
During the winter intercession, people had not heard from TJ. His friends became alarmed because he dropped out of sight during the break. A number of people tried to connect with him with no response. Panic set in.
Finally, a good friend went to TJ's apartment. He literally had to break in. TJ was dead. He had overdosed on mental health medication prescribed to treat his chronic depression.
The real tragedy of TJ's story is that no one really knew how depressed he was. He masked his pain behind a wonderful smile and a very generous heart.
However, underneath it all, he was a time bomb ready to explode. TJ had been struggling with chronic depression for a long time. But, he was a master of deception. He had convinced those closest to him that he had everything in control.
The truth of the matter was that nothing was in control. On a deeper level, TJ was battling the pain of real depression for a long time, but would not let anyone know that. He wore the plastic smile and led everyone to believe that life was wonderful.
KR was very articulate and on the surface, a successful professional. People loved him. His students could not say enough about him. However, he too was tortured by the demons of depression for a long time. He was unable to do for himself what he was able to do for so many others. KR was constantly able to help others find inner peace. A peace he could not find for himself.
Unfortunately, suicide is epidemic among young people today. When someone commits suicide, they really don't want to end their life, they just want to end the pain.
Most of us have a hard time relating to any person who feels so desperate and overwhelmed with life that they think the best way to deal with their pain is to end it.
My life experience has painfully taught me that suicide is one of those elusive and painful realities that stares us in the face, but we don't have the eyes to see it.
No one wants to believe that anyone would be so driven as to end his or her life. But life can be so painful. A growing number of our young feel so much pain; even though they wear the plastic smile, say the right things and do all the right things, deep down they are on the verge of human destruction.
For all the great things we do for our young people, we need to work harder at creating safe places for every young person to be, no matter what the circumstance. They need a place where they will feel safe to say whatever they need to. Too many young people stockpile their feelings and emotions and never deal with them.
As adults, we need to realize that the pressure and tension our youth feel today is probably more intense and burdensome than most of us could ever fully imagine.
If life is important, then we must work harder at doing things differently. We need to seal the cracks that continue to consume the vulnerable among us.