Age Group: Adult
Release Date: September 10th, 2014
In mid-September 2001, recent college graduate and writer, Nicole Skuba, found herself strapped to a hospital bed after a deliberate overdose of Prozac. The previous five years of therapy and antidepressants did nothing to ease the bipolar disorder, clinical depression, or other diagnoses du jour.
Another Kind of Free: Suicide Prevention in the Wake of Robin Williams’ Death is part suicide prevention self-help guide, part darkly humorous memoir. After Nicole’s release in five days from the mental ward, she was determined to come up with her own route to happiness.
This memoir shares the excessive drinking, casual sex, manic joy, counseling, yoga, and goal-setting that ultimately led to healing and the beginning of a life worth living. It also illustrates the power that mindfulness-based stress reduction—even when done accidentally—can have in reducing depression and finding balance.
After thirteen years, Nicole is finally sharing her holistic methods of overcoming depression and addiction long-term with the hope of preventing at least one person from taking his or her life. This is especially important in the wake of Robin Williams’ death. The charismatic actor gave us laughter, inspiration, and the ability to embrace the absurd. With his suicide, he also left an unintended legacy: permission to end anguish with the same permanent decision he made.
Another Kind of Free: Suicide Prevention in the Wake of Robin Williams’ Death is a quick read aiming to reduce the stigma attached to mental illness and to provide an alternate, doable method of becoming “free” from mental illness. Sufferers and their family members will find Nicole’s memoir to be an entertaining chronicle of valuable, attainable information.
“How many pills did you swallow?”
The room fuzzed in and out, little black smudges blurring my vision. Smudges… schmudges… That officer’s name really was Officer Schmick. What a weird name. He had a bit of a limp, but he was nice as far as cops from my hometown went. His partner was a bit on edge though.
Put down the cat, ma’am, his partner had warned. I hadn’t realized a cat was viewed as a weapon to some people. Why had my mother called the cops anyway? That was a little extreme - and dangerous as well. Just outside the most dangerous quadrant of Washington, D.C., Prince Georges County cops were known for their excessive force. They were worse since the terrorist attacks a week ago. But, in truth, the cops had always had been jumpy. Just a month or a year ago, they’d shot some confused guy who had barricaded himself in his own bedroom. He wasn’t hurting anyone, but his family was worried. So, the cops shot him. Kind of like shooting a cat to get him out of a tree.
Cats. Right. So, Officer Schmick’s partner had wanted me to put down the cat. I put Polka down before I got myself killed. My mother was talking. Really, she seemed unable to stop talking and talking and talking. Could she drive me? Should she call my therapist? Did they need the empty pill bottle? Then they put me in the front seat of the police car beside Officer Schmick and I ended up here.
“How many pills did you swallow?”
Here. The hospital room spun again. They didn’t have to handcuff me. Officer Schmick had said suicide is against the law. “Do they ever prosecute people who commit suicide?” I asked the lady in scrubs leaning over me. My words sounded slurred to me. No matter. I got the joke, so I laughed.
“You drank a lot of wine, didn’t you? How many pills did you swallow?” The lady in scrubs smiled. She was pretty. She reminded me of a friend from college, and not just because she was a pretty, young, Indian doctor who laughed with me… Well, maybe that was exactly why. I watched the lady in scrubs put little sticky white discs on my chest and upper arms. Her skin was the same milk-chocolate color as mine. But, I liked her long hair more. Why did I cut off my hair again?
People always screw with their hair when they need a life change. It’s as if coloring or getting rid of inches of your hair will somehow fix the facts that your career is over, your kinda-boyfriend has moved halfway across the country to get away from you, you are forced to live at your mom’s yet again, your best friends are far away, you have no idea what to do with your life, and you have no health insurance to pay for your Prozac.
“So, Nicole, how many pills did you swallow?”
I stared at the overhead lights in the hospital room trying to remember. I’d had a session with my new therapist, Octavia, just a few hours ago. Getting help was one of the conditions of living with my mother, as casual to her as do the dishes would be to other parents. Since moving back into her apartment, my mother had driven me twenty minutes each way for weekly visits with Octavia. The fact that my mother didn’t trust me to come by myself was insulting; I never lied to her. Besides, where would I go instead? Happy hour was the only other activity one could do in a 100 minute time slot at five o’clock on Monday afternoons and, I wasn’t so far gone that I’d skip therapy to booze it up. My mother’s childish treatment was a big reason for me to get out of her apartment as soon as possible.
I knew I needed some help with my plummeting emotions. Normal people didn’t have time limits on how long they would suffer through misery before offing themselves. I wanted to be one of thos sunflower-gazing, happy people that didn’t need to drink to feel good. Octavia was a nice enough therapist, no condescending tones or judgmental looks over the rim of her glasses. The problem was that being suicidal took away the convention of doctor-patient confidentiality. I was a danger to myself, so my therapist could tell my mother anything she deemed pertinent to keeping me alive. It was hard to share my secret idea of moving to South Korea or my sex stories with a snitch.
As usual, this afternoon, I had confided only the information that I’d already shared with my mother. As I blabbered about my boyfriend, Malik, dumping me for the final time, Octavia tried to steer the discussion to my feelings surrounding terrorism. She wanted to know how I was adjusting.
It had been six days since the September 11th terrorist attacks and the country’s stress levels were only rising. The news was always showing the alert level as “orange” or “red” or “paisley.” Like most people, I didn’t know what the hell was going on. Instead of color blocks in the corner of the television screens, they should have posted clear signs reading “Get Your Shit and Go!” or “Pack Up but Sit Tight!” or “Good As It’s Gonna Get.” We’d all understand things a bit better.
Still amazed to be an adult, Nicole Skuba has managed to center her life around raising her two small sons and being true to her family (including husband and friends). She resides in Leesburg, Virginia where she co-owns a marketing agency. Happiest near the water, Nicole spends her free hours plotting her next escape, writing, and staring at the ceiling.
Under the pseudonym Nicole Pouchet, Nicole has written two romance novels, both part of her Elemental Myths paranormal romance series. Layla’s Gale, A Paranormal Romance won second prize in the 2013 Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award contest.