A few years ago, I had a coworker named “Mitch”. He was a pot smoking rather eccentric man. A good worker. He seemed constantly anxious about his marriage. Constantly complaining and complaint-joking about her. How domineering she was. She was a genuine PAIN to him. They had an open marriage meaning each could have sex with whoever they wanted. SHE found partners, he did not. From the sound of it, she did not like sex with her husband. Mitch was on and off the drug prozac. Things reached a head in his marital conflicts when his wife rented a room to a man and Mitch could hear her having sex with him. He told us, his coworkers. WE told Mitch he needed to leave his wife. WE talked and talked and talked to Mitch. The company owner lectured Mitch about his life. He, not knowing a damned thing about psychology OR the conflicts of life. I like to think I was the only one that LISTENED to Mitch. What I heard was PAIN. There was confusion in him and defensiveness about his marriage when people TALKED TO AND AT HIM about it. Easy for people to just TALK to him. I believe what he wanted was for people to LISTEN to him. To hear his fear and pain. He wanted out but he was stuck in the situation. Finally he found a way out of his sick marriage.

One Monday morning I went in to work and was told of how over the weekend Mitch had been found in his garage dead from a gun shot wound to his chest. Self inflicted with a rifle. It was shocking. Horrifying. Stuff of gossip for a while. Much melodrama and the company owner put a framed photo of Mitch up on the wall at work. At first I thought it was cool but now I find it sick. I often DO put my hand up to the photo and wave at him. Nobody else does.

I have got in some trouble and have to be careful with saying I believe his wife MAY have killed him. It never made sense that a man would shoot himself in the CHEST. HEAD, yes. More certain. The garage? Ok so it was a private place to die.

I have gone over and over it over the years but it never made sense until recently. I MAKE sense of it for myself.

A problem with Mitch and those around him was that so many blue collar experts and one white collar knows it all ONLY TALKED TO HIM. We found him annoying by talking about the same thing over and over. IF WE HAD JUST SHUT UP AND LISTENED and listened DEEP, we would have heard how TRAPPED he felt. He had put up a wall he could not get past and the only way through it may have been death. Living on his own may have been inconceivable to him. There are often hostage situations in which someone that is in an abusive relationship is more terrified of something BEYOND the abuse than the abuse itself. There seems to be no way out. I understand that now with my work: The company has had me doing work I absolutely HATE but I feel there is no viable way out. Suicide is not an option. I endure.

Mitch never talked about suicide. That is puzzling. THAT may have been his big secret. His secret door out. I remember in my youth thinking that there was a door out. Back door of death. I tried it once and it left me shaken for a long time. I had the whole out of body experience. Later, I understood how I got there. I never talked about killing myself. Nobody would listen or believe me or at that time my father would have yelled at me – which is what took me there. My father was a man that yelled at and talked to people. HE DID NOT LISTEN.

LISTENING.

A person does not have to bluntly talk about wanting to kill themselves and if they do it is time to listen. Shut up and listen. The worst thing is what we did at work: Talk to Mitch and batter him with more words. I think he felt defensive because people were not listening or on his side.

All we did was talk.

A psychiatrist is paid to LISTEN.

A wise friend will love a friend enough to listen and BE THERE with open minded open embracing silence. Attentive silence.

Most of the time people talk AT each other and rarely listen. I admit to this.

I wonder if the world people around Mitch could have saved him if we had listened and let him know we cared for him by dropping our egos enough to care for and love him with listening. There was so much pain so much feeling TRAPPED I think.

Hey Mitch, beyond that situation you are in there is a wonderful world of people that want to know you. Keep talking. We are here for you. We parked our egos in the garbage bin.

I believe that listening was the side door to counter the back door. For Mitch and so many others feeling trapped in pain, there is only that back door. We that cared about him should have shown him that side door to join us, not leave us.

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