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Tragedy on a Train

Today, I was on my way to LA for a client meeting. I do this every week. I take the Amtrak Surfliner train from San Diego up to LA Union Station. This is a series of posts I made on my Facebook page during my commute. It’s heavy.

Trigger Warning: Suicide.

May 31, 2017 – 8:36am PT

Remember Stephanie, my favorite Amtrak employee at the San Diego station?

Today, after she did her declaration/welcome speech, I told her that I took the EARLY early train last week and it was just not the same without her there to start my day, and that I was super grateful for her energy every week when I head up to LA.

What followed was one of the most beautiful human interactions I’ve ever had.

Stephanie told me she is over 60, but she doesn’t look a day over 30. She talked about how most of her friends her age are using walkers, on 10+ pills per day, but she hasn’t ever been sick, nothing more than a head cold. That her happy disposition had kept her healthy.

She was promoted to the Station Manager position two months ago and decided she was going to reinvent the station traditions by being the person who says hi to every passenger. She took it upon herself to change the dynamic. She said she’d rather be out here, saying hi to folks, than inside with some of her grumpy colleagues.

The thing about someone like Stephanie is this: she’s doing her damn thing, every day, in her own way, and she’s making a lot of people smile, just by being her damn self. And her grumpy colleagues likely give her shit for being so nice to customers, because misery loves company.

BUT Stephanie doesn’t waver. She keeps saying hi, continues to be the friendly face, and doesn’t let anyone dull her shine.

I made a note to be more like Stephanie in this regard.

As we parted ways, she thanked me for making her laugh (I said I don’t take the early early train anymore because it’s not during her shift and I am only taking the train on Stephanie time now), and I thanked her for making my day.

She gave me a hug and said she could hang out with me all day. I told her the feeling was mutual. She also handed me a card so I can let Amtrak know how she’s doing.

Oh, will I. Get ready for the most enthusiastic employee feedback you’ve ever seen, Amtrak. Stephanie is a good egg.

I’m really looking forward to learning more about Stephanie every week, now that we’ve made the connection. I have a feeling she has some EXCELLENT stories.

May 31, 2017 – 10:16am PT

I had a weird feeling getting out of the car today. Usually, when I go somewhere without Barry, this feeling is tied to him missing out on adventures, because we’re adventure buddies for life.

This morning was different. Heavy.

I figured maybe it was because this meeting is with our clients’ boss, so it’s a bigger deal than our usual meetings in LA.

I ignored it.

Stephanie, my favorite Amtrak agent, made it go away with her sparkle.

Then we stopped, suddenly.

Conductor says “we have a delay, I’ll be back with more info when I have it.” Cold. Somber. Short.

We are stopped somewhere south of Oceanside. Emergency crews on the scene.

Investigation started 15 minutes ago. We’ll be here for 2+ hours.

I want to throw up. My heart is heavy. I’m stuck on this train with a bunch of folks who are so overwhelmed, they’re crying. I’m on the verge of losing my shit.

My heart hurts. My brain hurts. The collective energy on this train right now is SO MUCH.

I hope whoever it is/was feels peace now. This mild inconvenience of missing a meeting is NOTHING on the decision to end one’s life.

And I think everyone on that train is feeling that. Nobody here is in THAT big of a hurry to get anywhere.

We are safe. I am safe.

May 31, 2017 – 12:22pm PT

TW: Talking about triggers themselves, suicide, and death.

A lot of folks mock the use of the word “trigger” – and its usually followed by something about snowflakes.

Here is a practical example of triggering, and how maybe, with a real world example, we can all be a bit more compassionate.

I was on a train this morning. Someone decided to jump in front of that train, taking their own life.

This is triggering for me. Allow me to explain.

I don’t know the person who took their own life.

I myself have never contemplated jumping in front of a train.

I have, however, had friends take their own lives.

I am not a stranger to death.

I’ve seen dead bodies before, and I’ve seen photos of the scenes of incidents during my time in the skydiving industry.

I tend to talk about the facts surrounding death without a lot of emotion, because over the last 7 years, I’ve lost at least 15 friends or family members.

I can now identify my cycles/reactions to this, a skill I’d rather not have from practical experience, but here we are.

So, all that being said, all of that comes up when I am in close proximity to suicide or death.

The incident this morning has triggered all of those memories, all of that emotion.

On top of that, I’m somewhere on the empath/psychic/HSP spectrum and as such, I feel emotions intensely.

These emotions are not always my own.

I feel EVERYTHING intensely, and I pick up on energy in my surroundings.

So, today is heavy. I’m working through my own residual grief, as well as that of my fellow passengers, and honestly, the victim as well.

This isn’t all mine. Some of this belongs to other folks.

So, next time someone cracks jokes about trigger warnings, maybe you’ll think twice about laughing or perpetuating the joke.

Insanely grateful for the support of leadership at my job, and my husband, for encouraging me to not just brush this off. Grateful for the opportunity to sit with this, and work through it, so I can return to work with a clear head.

Mental health is important, you guys. Please take care of yourselves.

And while I know someone will say “suicidal people won’t reach out” – on the off chance that they will, this is a friendly reminder that I give A LOT of fucks about you, I love you, and I’m here, should you want someone to chat with.

Hug your people.

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