Debt & Suicide – I tattled big time & I violated a lot of things but I’m still proud.

I tried writing this piece in my head for days. Then I remember something that happened to me that I never told anyone. I never even told my husband this story (unless Jared reads this, hi honey!).

All the names in this story have been altered like in all of my life stories.

Remember: the identity of those behind my life stories are rarely as important as the takeaways that makes them worth sharing.


This blog post is part of the Suicide Prevention Awareness Month blog tour in partnership with Debt Drop. If you are feeling suicidal, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or text HOME to 741741.

Follow other posts with the hash tags #EndTheStigma #DebtDrop


debt-and-suicide

I don’t know why it took me so long to remember “Brodie” when his story resonates with every aspect of debt and suicide.

I met Brodie when I was in my 3rd year of university. He was a 2nd year graduate law student at a well-know “T-14” school. For those that do not know: “T-14” is the slang they give to the top consistently performing law schools in the country. Essentially, if you graduated from any of these schools with a law degree at the top of your class, you’re set for life.

Brodie was super smart to say the least and his father was a big shot Los Angeles lawyer before his sudden death.

One hot summer afternoon, being my usual self, I locked myself out of my dorm on a 98 degrees day. I was sitting down on the bench cursing myself when Brodie found me. He was visiting the campus because it was his father’s Alma Mater. He told me walking around the campus, although he has never attended himself, made him feel better. I was touched by this bluntness and we struck up a conversation.

Brodie and I started hanging out more and more as things progressed. He drove in on the weekends to hang out. We took hour-long walks around the campus from one end to another. It took him several hours of driving each way in the bursting heat because we went to different schools.

I was surprised there was even any time to even hang out with him. Law school’s a total butt kicking from what I know, so imagine a T-14 school! I remember I asked him if he had papers and he always replied yes. He always seemed to have school work but never did any school work. When he came over, we binge watched Hulu for the entire weekend until it was time for him to drive back to school.

He was a huge film & TV buff and not surprisingly, he used it as a form of escape. Reflecting back now, I was a form of his escape too. He gets to leave for a weekend to a different place and hang out with someone else’s friends. I am good with vibes and his vibe always had a somberness to it.

I figured:

1) He’s intelligent and intelligent people are rarely happy.

2) He’s in law school – that’s pretty formulaic for depression.

3) He’s also super deep about a lot of stuff. You can touch on a topic and he could go on tangent rants between philosophy, religion, law and science.

I remember visiting his apartment a few times since San Francisco wasn’t far away from his campus. Once after we came back from lunch, he flat out told me he had a lot of problems.

I was like “yeah dude, I knew that. I can see it from a mile away.”

He smirked at me.

(For the record, I thought he was cool. He was dark, intelligent and brooding – why else would I hang out with him so much?)

He was an exotic, good-looking guy with dark almond-shaped eyes and camel length dark eyelashes.

I found him to be the definition of bohemian.

Anyway, he told me he had almost flunked out of the first year of law school but didn’t because of his father’s wish. But there’s a good chance he would be stuck there for an extra semester.

Money was tight.

He had hooked up with a few older women around town for money, he confessed.

He then looked me in the eye and said “I am $160,000 in debt.

I blinked.

I didn’t know anything about finance at the time but I knew 160,000 was a whale of a number!

Obviously I didn’t exactly want to make him feel worst so I gave my best cover-up:

That sounds about right, law school is super expensive!

He could tell I was sugar-coating and I was.

Don’t think money does everything, or you are going to end up doing everything for money. Voltaire

I immediately traced my thought to a casual acquaintance of mine who had finished law school last year (although not T-14). She was about $85K in debt and having a hard time getting her foot through the door. The legal industry was going through oversupply. A lot of new law graduates didn’t find those big paying lawyer jobs they had hoped for and took on their massive student loans for.

There was a lot of heart-break surrounding the stories I heard and I’m sure he was just as aware of the employment outlook as I was.

He never spoke of any school work when I asked and he divert the topic to something else almost immediately.

He needed a summer internship (common for 2nd year law students) but he wasted the weekends with me watching South Park. I was a 3rd year undergraduate so I had much less on my plate, plus my classes were a breeze compared to his.

Because I didn’t understand finances at the time, I decided to shrugged it off and we never brought up the $160K again.

The last weekend we met up, I told him we can try to make spam musubi at my Polynesian friend’s house next week and he was excited to join in since he was part Polynesian too.

The next weekend rolled around but he didn’t show up…

I called him and he didn’t pick up.

I feared a car accident on the highway when my calls to him went unanswered. He has never done this before and our last contact (3-4 days ago) was positive.

I wouldn’t necessary say we were dating because we were at this weird twilight in between hanging out as friends and what I call “complicated life stuff.” Our first conversation was about his deceased father for goodness sakes. (I wasn’t uninterested in him, I liked him a lot – but I had no intention of rushing things.)

We both had life stuff…

I was getting over a toxic crush on someone who neglected to tell me he was married and I was still hiding out from an ex-friend turned stalker.

Brodie had depression, hook ups and a lot of student loan debt.

Anyway, I left him a voicemail about the spam musubi my friends and I made. I asked him to call me back when things were “OK.”

He never did.

For the next month, he didn’t return my phone call. Strangely…I wasn’t mad (and I’m not very patient usually!)

(Sidebar: I would be lying if I was said I was never ever mad. There were 2 second flashes of red a week after he stopped showing up and talking to me. I thought “Brodie, whatever is going on with you snap out of it.”)

I followed my gut and said he’s probably going through some bad stuff internally. Now as a friend – I was suppose to show support. I called him once a week to leave him happy messages about the most interesting part of my week. It usually took a few voicemails.

I told him I went to seaworld with my friend and a seal barked at her. My professor gave me a pat on the head for a job well done. The taqueria cafeteria woman remembered me because I’m the only weirdo that orders spinach burritos with spinach tortillas.

Dumb things like that I sent to him hoping to cheer him up…

I was very naiive. I was a couple of months away from my 20th birthday and up to that point I had only kissed one guy.

(Aha – laugh, this loser here got her first kiss from a boy at 19 :P)

I thought to myself, what could I do to make him feel better?

There wasn’t much. If I head over unannounced, it would definitely make things worst.

(Sidebar: most of the time on this blog, you’ll notice I talk a lot of smack about myself. I don’t really like myself and it’s not hard to see why BUT this is something I’m proud of: I’m a great blabber. YES I AM! I can yap about the silliest things in the silliest way and you’ll feel better because goofball charms and dorkness seeps through on it’s own.)

That is something that I can do with the limited amount of humor I have. Sometimes I’m dumb, sometimes I’m smart and sometimes I’m accidentally smart.

Sending the voicemails was me being accidentally smart. I had a good gut feeling it would help so I kept doing it.

Ha! It finally worked. After 1 month of silence, he called me back!

He said he was going through some things (as I expected). He wasn’t doing anything but dragging himself to class in his PJs and crawling back into bed for the entire month. He’s on his last $20, his credit is shot and he is addicted to pot again. He also said my messages helped cheer him up because they were so happy to listen to.

Oh, oh, oh I was so relieved to hear from him! And I was so delighted he found my messages…not annoying!!!

I was just giving him tidbits of my good days since I figured if I brought up the great and silly things then he would slowly peek out again to know there is happiness, life and joy outside of his blankets and a life beyond debt.

I kept up my messages about the silly stuff but soon enough, he went silent again.

Depression and debt are two horrible demons and I was not naive to think my cheerful ramblings would have cured him so easily.

But if it helped and it only took a few minutes of the day to transcribe him some Happy then I’ll do it.

I did it for another month. New recordings every 3 days instead of per week, including weekends! My own podcast of happy on a voicemail box!

During the months following, my life went on swimmingly. I met & started a friendship with Mr. Exectuive in between the end of the school year and the start of summer. We weren’t dating either as of then (eventually we did but it took us a while too).

I was still thinking about Brodie during summer. He was still silent and I became more and more worried all the same just like before. I recall him texting me something, almost cheerful, before summer vacation and then going silent again.

Sigh.

Then I remember something else he told me a while ago – he kept an online diary!!!

It was password protected but I sort of knew his password. He gave it to me once in passing because the boy uses the same password for his Hulu, Rakuten — everything and was lazy about it. I had to try a few guesses but got in eventually.

(OK some may think it’s creepy but yup, that’s what happened.)

It was either Blogger or Blogspot – I can’t remember which one it was or if there’s even a difference.

There were journal entries were about his high school swim meet, Polynesian culture club, society of something-something etc. but the most recent entry made me stomach drop:

“I hate myself. I pray vehemently for death so I’m going to kill myself tonight.”

-Sucks in air.-

I freaked.

I flipped.

If it was just “I’m going to kill myself” I wouldn’t have freaked out as much but he added “tonight” which SOUNDED LIKE PLANNING.

AHHHHH. LILY WHAT NOW.

I was like “OK this isn’t a dorky voicemail solution, this is a big-big issue and he needs help!!!!”

(OK and some of you may think I’m even more creepy now…but here I go…)

I went on his Facebook and found his mom through the friend’s list and I sent a message to his mom. I can go back to my Facebook and scroll through the messages of all these years but it went something like this:

Hi Mrs. Brodie,

I’m a friend of Brodie from school. He has been very distant lately and I didn’t think it was a big deal but I just read his private online journal and he is contemplating suicide. I know there’s a good chance it’s just angry talk because he’s under stress from school and stress from debt but I wanted you to know at the off-chance he could be serious to please help him.

Thank you – sorry to bother you. I didn’t know what else to do but I wanted to let you know.

Lily

After I sent it, I didn’t think any more of it. I had already started burying it in the back of my mind closet.

Brodie’s mom replied back to me in the evening:

Hello Lily,

Thank you for bringing this to my attention. I was not aware of these serious emotions Brodie was having. I just finish talking this over with him. He reaffirmed to me that he was not serious about killing himself but that he was very angry with himself when he wrote it. What he did was irresponsible so he will be coming by next weekend to thank you in person.

(That I didn’t expect – he was from Southern California which meant getting on a plane. His mother was intelligent though, that I could tell. I didn’t see the need for him to come see me but it wasn’t about that. As a mother, it’s important to teach your child to face and correct mistakes head on.)

The next weekend, I was getting ready to go out for dinner with some of my friends when Brodie rang the door bell. Jumping up, I opened the door and said sarcastically “yay, you’re not dead!”

I don’t really remember what we even said to each other after that, it was so long ago so the following is a similar reenactment of what transcribed.

I remember him sitting on my mom’s kitchen counter and telling me he was very embarrassed about the whole situation. His mom was very worried and he had to confirm with her again and again and again it was just an angry rant. He thanked me for caring enough and thanked me again for leaving him cheerful voice mails.

I was like “what’s embarrassing?” (clueless babe right here)

“My mom and I had to talk about all sorts of stuff and it… to let your mom know you’ve had these thoughts with you tattling…”

“OH. That’s silly, I knew you were going through stuff and I just wanted to make sure you were OK.”

“I know.”

We hugged, talked some more and I watched him leave.

His mom got him into therapy I believe. It was a good ending in my eyes. His mom was aware of his struggles now and I have full faith she’s a brilliant mother to be able to handle it. I wish I thought of contacting his mom earlier. There wasn’t much I could do but I was too silly to know that. I had handed him over to a much more powerful figure now, the mommy. Really, I felt cleansed and free after that.

Debt & Suicide - my story

I tattled big time and I violated a lot of things. I can’t change any of it now, I did what my instinct told me to do. If I screwed and I’m disgusting then you are absolutely allowed to think that.

But it wasn’t out of malice. If Brodie was my child, I would have wanted someone to tell me no matter how embarrassing it was.

I think my friend Valerie was a part of this as well. She might be able to recall more detail. We were (and still are) best friends and I must have told her something about this. She could testify for me. In my heart I know I acted out of concern, especially towards the end. I was naiive and I didn’t know what I was doing but when push came to shove, I think I made the right choice to tattle.

He’s this brilliant guy with a bright future. He was going through a lot of adult things in his life. His father left their once well off family in a questionable financial state and he himself in a lot of financial debt and that compounds on emotional turmoil.

None of it changed who he was though.

If you want to know who is going to stick it out with you until the very end, you do it as a poor man first ;).

Debt is nothing to be ashamed of and I never once thought less of Brodie. I wanted him to be OK as a friend. If anyone you know is dealing with suicidal thoughts, TATTLE. Tattle big time to the right people even at an off-chance – for every suicide, there are 25 attempts1. All suicides start with a flicker of a thought.

Debt doesn’t change who anyone is – if anything – it can accentuate the best in us and the best in others especially when we fight it together as a group. Check out the resources below and get involved 👇


Resources 📢

Check out #DebtDrop over at Rockstar Finance for more information and how to contribute to this project.

Project Creator: Dear Debt

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline

Call 1-800-273-8255

Crisis Text Line

American Foundation for Suicide Prevention

Project Semicolon

 

  1. https://afsp.org/about-suicide/suicide-statistics/


35 thoughts on “Debt & Suicide – I tattled big time & I violated a lot of things but I’m still proud.”

  • Thank you for sharing this post, Lily. I want to let you know that you did not tattle. Speaking from personal experience, when it comes to mental health issues, you aren’t an expert (neither am I obviously, I’m trained to understand software). You can only do so much to help somebody. But at some point, you cannot provide the help that somebody needs.

    That turning point is when any type of self harm is mentioned. To everyone reading this, if you or a loved one is either self-harming or is threatening self-harm, it’s time to talk to a professional. Right now. Not tomorrow, not in a week, right now.

    Depression is a soul sucking disease that people cannot defeat on their own. It makes your brain lie to you, and it’s usually accompanied by other symptoms such as extreme anxiety which make everything even harder. And the way our mental health system is structured, someone suffering from depression most likely won’t be able to get the help that they need.

    Have you ever tried scheduling an appointment with a psychiatrist? Be ready to make 10 – 15 calls. You’ll be lucky if you can get an appointment within 2 weeks, and they aren’t going to accept your insurance. Get ready to pay $200+ per session.

    If somebody needs help, get them help. You need to take responsibility of the situation, help them schedule an appointment with a doctor, and take them there, and probably even make sure that they’re taking their meds. Yes, I am advocating for a lot. It is at least a minor invasion of privacy. But what I can tell you is that minor violations of your friends pricacy is 100% better than going to their funeral.

    So please if you see something, talk to your friend or family member. If you’re in college, immediately go to your counseling center and ask them for advice. And if you suspect any type of self harm, do whatever it takes to get your friend to a professional, even if that means “tattling” on them.

  • Wow what a powerful post. That sounds like a lot of ups and downs. Thank you for sharing and for speaking openly and candidly about suicide and real emotions that people have. I think a lot of times folks sweep things under the rug – it’s easier to avoid talking about it, after all.

    Especially when it comes to money troubles, though, there are always easier solutions, and there are always resources to get the help you might need emotionally and mentally as well.
    Dave @ Married with Money recently posted…Guest Posting at The Dad Wallet

    • Thanks so much Dave. I quit on this post about 14x times. I really did, I wanted to write something easy like a pro & con list except I wouldn’t be happy with myself until I had written something of value.

  • Honestly Lily, you likely did the best thing anyone could do for someone in a situation like this. So often, people look back and see the opportunities and times they could have said something… but didn’t. And that reflection is taking place after it is too late. Sure, Brodie probably wasn’t thrilled with the fact that he now had to face his challenges head on and have others know about the struggles he was facing. It is uncomfortable and difficult to feel like you are failing or “not right”. But that is precisely why it is important to get others involved, to plan a path to recovery and to learn to handle life’s ups and downs in a different way. Thank you for sharing this story and the debt and suicide resources.
    Mrs. Adventure Rich recently posted…Buzzing in our Earbuds: Our Favorite Podcasts- Part 3

  • This is such a powerful article, Lily. I have seen and heard a lot about how intelligent people tend to have serious depression because they’re never happy with themselves. That makes me think about the rest. Is everyone always unhappy about something? Does everyone have depression at some point in their lives whether they’re intelligent or in debt?

    I’m not sure what the answers are. But suicides and suicidal attempts due to mental illnesses do happen, and it’s good to be aware of it and not to attach any stigma to depression. People want to speak out about their mental state of mind, so just let them do it without being judged.
    Ms. Frugal Asian Finance recently posted…How This Family Slashed Their Mortgage Payment By $700/month

    • “People want to speak out about their mental state of mind, so just let them do it without being judged.”

      Absssssolutey, this day and age especially. They said it’s harder for guys to talk about it = and male suicides outnumber women’s by a wide margin.

  • Lily, how can you not like yourself?? You seem to be an amazing person and this story shows that you are an awesome friend!!

    This is a powerful post and there is no way anyone can think less of you for doing what you knew was right. You didn’t tattle, you were a friend. And while you may have invaded, it was never with the intention of causing harm. Only with the intention of helping a friend. What you did was super hard, because you knew that there was a chance that he would hate you for it. But you did it anyway, and luckily he had a mom who did what needed to be done to help her son.

    I know life is hard and I can’t imagine this situation, for either of you. But always listen to your gut. I’ve never been let down when I listened to mine. 🙂
    Ember @ An Intentional Lifestyle recently posted…7 Daily Habits To Be Happier & More Productive

    • Hiiii Ember – yes I was surprised Brodie wasn’t mad at me for hacking into this diary. I did notice he deleted it afterwards though >_< I don't regret what I did but yeah...aha it wasn't the most moral.

  • I think what you did was the right thing to do – every situation’s different, and there’s no textbook solution to anything. You’re an amazing friend, and I think anyone would benefit from having you in their lives. We never know what anyone else is going through, and until they want the help, all you can do is make sure they know you’re around and have your support. I’m glad I’ve gotten to know you a little 🙂 xo

  • Oh, Lily, you beautiful soul, you did the right thing, and I most certainly don’t think you tattled. You saved a life. Perhaps even more with this post. You listened to your intuition, and that’s something no one can argue with. I once told the parents of my best friend that she was pregnant, she was 15. While she was upset with me for a while I never once regretted my decision to tell. While others may think I tattled and had no business getting involved, I’m totally glad I did, and it has never haunted me.

    • Oh wow Amy – thank you for sharing that. I’m so thankful you understand exactly how I feel. A part of me was embarrassed that I stepped in (as an obvious third party) but embarrassment is a very small price to pay for anything else that could have followed!

  • You did the right thing. I lost my husband to suicide four years ago. He had been sick for several years (mental health) and then money started being a huge problem. It just became too much for him to handle. I wish I could have saved him but nothing we did prevented him from doing it, we just bought time. He was an amazing man who loved his kids so much, it is so hard to comprehend.. great post.

  • As a recent law graduate (2015), I’m extremely thankful you decided to share your story. Graduating with a lot of debt is hard enough, but when you add on limited prospects for gainful employment, it’s especially tough. I had never been in debt before prior to law school. I graduated with a fraction of debt that your friend had and even I felt overwhelmed. I wasn’t sure I would be able to find a job, let alone in the field I wanted to work in. Initially, I was willing to take anything. Fortunately things worked out, partly because I knew I wanted to work in a legal aid clinic, but the pressures of law school debt are real. People say all the time, “Oh don’t worry you’ll get a high paying job and pay it off in a few years,” when little do they know how saturated the legal market is.

  • It’s not tattling to raise the alarm about someone who might actually harm themselves, even permanently, in my book. When I was terrified for my best friends’ safety because they were making some really bad choices, I went to their parents because if the worst had happened and I hadn’t, I’d never stop wondering if it would have helped. It’s not about us, obviously, it’s about trying to do our best for the people we care about. And while he might not have meant it at the time he posted that, you had no way of knowing. You could have headed off a catastrophe.
    Revanche @ A Gai Shan Life recently posted…Just a little (link) love: hay-bear edition

    • Insightful Revanche – no it’s not about us. I don’t care if he came over and kicked me for telling. I think we both did the right thing and should be proud.

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