miércoles, 21 de septiembre de 2011

Why I Run

     I run for the family members of those who have lost a loved one to suicide and to prevent others from losing loved ones, but my inspiration to run and help others is thanks to my brother Richard Thomas Clancey Rivera, or as we knew him at home, Tommy.  Tommy attempted suicide in November 2008 for the first time and passed away on his third attempt on November 29th, 2009, at the age of 19, but during those 19 years he never missed up an opportunity to help a peer. He inspires me to run and share his story in hopes to help other families struggling through similar situations.
     First I want you to understand how Tommy saw himself.  He wrote an autobiography as part of: Her Healing Wounds: A Personal Essay Anthology, by Richard Thomas Clancey Rivera in May, 2009 and goes as follows:
Richard T. Clancey Rivera was born in Manhattan, New York, to an Irish American father and a Puerto Rican mother.  He moved to Aguadilla, Puerto Rico at a young age and has lived there since.  This change and subsequent changing of schools throughout his younger years endowed him with a broad range of hobbies, tastes and talents.  Growing up with a twin, four other siblings, and an extended family too large to count, has made family a central part of his life.  Having achieved academic success, he was awarded a scholarship to study General Science at Ponce’s PUCPR, and plans on higher education to become a doctor.  He enjoys writing haiku and short narratives, and draws inspiration from Puerto Rico’s rich Latin culture, its people and its natural wonders.  Among his favorite authors are Gabriel García Márquez , Paulo Coelho, and C.S. Lewis.  He will publish an Essay Anthology on May, 2009.
This essay anthology is titled “Her Healing Wounds”.  My mother, having divorced when I was two years old, took on the tough task of raising her four children on her own.  She eventually met Carlos, remarried and had two more children.  Consequently, I was raised in a house with six women, and gained a deep respect for the female gender.  In the essays I selected we see how these strong individuals struggle through life’s obstacles, and how they prove to be strong despite the ignorance and actions of some of the men that have been present in their lives. 
     As you can see Tommy looked forward to his future. He was a normal kid, a son, a brother, a grandson and a wonderful human being.  He was a devoted catholic, with a brilliant mind.  He was excelling in school, enjoyed after school activities and had lots of friends. He was the president of the Phi Sigma chapter of the Alpha Phi Omega Fraternity and an Eagle Scout whom lived by the scout law: serving and helping others, till the day he died. Nobody, not his family, friends, teachers, neighbors, priest would have ever believed he would commit suicide. He was always so full of life, laughter and love that it took everyone he knew by surprise when he first began to take action towards ending his life.
     His first attempt happened while he was away from home, at the university, and after the fact all he could say was that he thought it was all a dream, and that an angel had saved him. The doctor told him that he must have been pulling one too many all-nighters studying and just needed to get some sleep.  He was told he could go back to school a week later if he agreed to work with the counselor at the university and visit his doctor for follow ups.  No medication was prescribed since the doctor believed it was an isolated event. He was able to finish his school year with outstanding grades and even took summer courses.

     August came around, and it was back to school for his sophomore year in college. He seemed fine and happy, looking forward to the challenges of the new semester.  It was in October that my parents received a call from the Deacon at his dorm informing them that Tommy wasn’t feeling well and wanted to be picked up. He began having anxiety attacks again, like the ones he had had the year before. He asked to be taken to the same doctor that had met with him in November 2008.  This time the doctor prescribed some antidepressants.  

     After that he really tried to take the medications and to continue with his responsibilities at the university but it was difficult for him not to be in control of his life and to depend on medication to function on a daily basis.  The medications did not seem to be working, and he felt no one understood.  The next time he visited the psychiatrist he was told to continue with the medications.  A few days later, during one of his anxiety attacks, he drank a six pack of beer and overdosed on his medication and almost lost his life again.  Luckily my parents made it to him in time to take him to the hospital.
     My mom told us that when he arrived at the hospital, still drunk, he was apologizing to the nurses and others saying that he wasn’t himself and that when he was feeling better he would come back to meet them and show them that he was a decent person.  He was also trying to tell my mom that she would have to move on with her life even if he was no longer around and he was trying to reassure her that she would be fine without him. He was very concerned at the time that he might not be able to get better and he did not want to be a burden to his family.
     Once his stomach had been pumped, he was checked into the psychiatric ward of the hospital. During the time he was hospitalized they had him on so many medications that it was difficult for him to even paint a toy car. He could barely help himself yet he was doing his best to help those around him get through the same thing he was going through. He even called my mom to ask her to please bring clean clothes and a blanket for the boy in the bed next to him because that boy’s family wasn’t taking care of him.
     A week later, Thanksgiving Day, he was released from the hospital and sent home, seeing as how none of the doctors could figure out the source of his anxiety.  My mom couldn’t have been happier. The Lord had blessed her by allowing her son to come home and be with family. I will never forget that day, the phone call from my mom with the good news, her tears of joy and hearing Tommy’s voice for the first time since he had been hospitalized. I was off at college and hadn’t seen Tommy since April so we talked about how excited we were to see each other over Christmas break. Unfortunately, that phone call was the last time I heard his voice.
     On Sunday when a few of my siblings had gathered in my parents’ room to watch a movie, he got up supposedly to prepare himself for dinner with our neighbor, Doña Nena, who is 90 years old. He always made an effort to visit her and spend a couple of hours with her.  He went over to her house, spoke to the neighbors’ daughter, came back into our house and then just disappeared. His body was found three days later, in the woods near our house.
     For the survivors it is not easy; nobody wants to talk about it.  I had people even tell my mother that she would go to hell for not believing that her son was already in hell for committing suicide.  Another person told her that it might be a curse of my family and that now she would have to watch her other five kids die.  Most people went to either extreme, they either pitied our family and told us he was burning in hell or showed an enormous amount of support and love. My mom remembers listening to one of the deacons that co-celebrated the response service speaking of all the things that he thought Richard would say to his family and friends. She later asked him where he got his inspiration from; he said the Holy Spirit guided him in his words.  The next day she met the priest that wanted to celebrate a funeral mass for Tommy.  Tommy knew him, she didn´t.  She always considered him very strict so she was apprehensive of his words and asked him to be gentle and he assured her Tommy was in Heaven.  He even offered the neighborhood chapel to my parents so that we could celebrate the rosary for the next 9 days.  Another priest from a neighboring parish, at the end of the 9 days, celebrated a mass for Tommy.   People from all denominations that knew him came to pray with us.  
     Tommy helped a lot of people in his short lived life and with your help I hope to continue his legacy and reach out to as many people as possible.  Suicide, like any fatal disease or accident, could happen to anybody. We should not be afraid or ashamed to talk about it and seek help. Your life is worth fighting for. Life is worth running for. So this year I will be running my very first marathon and I hope you will be following my training till race day.

     My goal will be a post a month in which I will layout the path that I will run that day, put up a little history of the new city I am running in and some pictures of the journey and any supporters I might have that day!!! I am up for city request and runners who could join me in my training throughout the year.