We’re All One Phone Call From Our Knees

By Jimmy Turner, MD
The Physician Philosopher

The phone rang and jolted me from my sleep. I looked over. Mom was calling. It was well after midnight, which means this could only be bad. It reminded me that we’re all one phone call from our knees.

It was actually my dad – my mom couldn’t bear to talk. He eventually stammered, “They found her, bud. She is gone.

My aunt – my mom’s sister – had been missing for about 12 hours at this point. She had gone to church and then no one could find her. A manhunt followed.

Some thought she had been kidnapped. Others feared she had gotten into a bad car accident and was unable to call.

The truth was much grimmer.

This Day Was Just Like Any Other

As with so many stories that end this way, the day seemed normal at first.

My aunt told my uncle to buy some creamer for her coffee, because they were out. She wanted some for her coffee the next day. She was planning on having a “next day.”

She went to church, taught Sunday school, and then something happened. We aren’t exactly sure, though we have some suspicions.

What we do know is that she worked as a preoperative nurse and – though her work was closed – she drove to work that day.

Once there, she started an IV on herself and then administered a general anesthetic with doses of drugs to induce amnesia and paralysis with no one there to support her airway when she stopped breathing.

She fell from her chair and landed on the floor where my uncle and the two police officers would find her hours later after she had died by suicide.

My aunt ended her life two days before Christmas, and four days before she was supposed to meet my second child, then about six weeks old.

This blog post is part of the 3rd Annual Suicide Prevention Awareness Month blog tour. If you are feeling suicidal, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or text HOME to 741741.

She Was Always Happy

This is often confusing to people who haven’t spent time with those who are suicidal or known someone who has died of it. These people are often happy on the outside.

I have so many memories of my aunt that make my heart happy, too.

My aunt was the happy go lucky person. She had an infectious smile and did this funny thing when I was a kid where she would bite her lower lip and show her teeth when you felt down.

You couldn’t help but smile around her.

She loved slap-stick comedy. You know, the really bad stuff (think: Dumb and Dumber). Her laugh was loud and could fill a house.

She loved music. I remember riding in the back of her teal car when I was a kid after they bought a new “sound system.” I think it was a Thunderbird. The sound was so cool to me, and my love of music never left me – music is even playing in my ears now as I write this.

She was also the one who got the DJ to play “I gotta feeling” by Black Eyed Peas at our wedding (You know, the one that goes, “Tonight’s gonna be a good night“…appropriate for a wedding). It was so new that the DJ didn’t have it yet. She let him play it from the CD that she had in her car.

When we visited family we would stay with her and my uncle. She loved hosting others. She loved my uncle and her dogs. If I believed in reincarnation, she would definitely come back as a horse. She loved horses.

Why Are You Telling Me This?

I am talking about this for two specific reasons:

Number 1. Suicide Needs to be Talked About

What I am telling you is deeply personal to my family and me. In fact, if you look at the genesis of this website, you’ll see that it took me five posts to bring up physician suicide and the story of my Aunt.

The reason I am telling you this, and will continue to tell you this every September (suicide awareness month) is that talking about suicide is important.

People often fail to seek help because of stigma and fear of judgement.

I want people to know that not only should they seek help, but that it is the strong, courageous, and necessary thing to do. Asking for help isn’t weak.

Number 2. Money Is Often a Contributor

On this site I view wealth and wellness as intrinsically linked. Those who have obtained financial independence are far less likely to experience some of the stressors that can lead to suicide: lack of fulfillment, debt, and forced unemployment.

My aunt had many demons, but one of them was certainly a poor financial situation. We think she feared an impending job loss, and given her finanical situation saw no other way out.

Knowing my aunt’s selfless nature, she probably ended her life thinking that she was making things better for my uncle and the rest of us. This is a common theme from people who have survived suicide attempts. They thought they were a burden.

I want you to have the tools to reach financial independence, build wealth, and achieve happiness and contentment. I also want you to know that it is okay to be human and need help.

Take Home

Suicidal people can be happy. They can show no signs of what is to come. This is the most disturbing part to me. However, there are often warning signs.

In this month of September – and every other month – check in on your friends and family. If they need help, get it.

If you are the one that needs help, please ask.

If you are feeling suicidal, please call the
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or text HOME to 741741.


**Title of this post “I guess we are all one phone call from our knees” attributed to Mat Kearney’s song titled Closer to Love.


  1. M

    Thank you so much for sharing this.

    It’s such a difficult topic to broach, especially when it comes from such a deeply personal place.

    Suicide sucks.

    Every day in my office I counsel patients who are depressed, self-harming and suicidal, and a recurrent theme is they don’t want anyone else to know. So they put on this show in an effort to put on a brave face… until they can’t.

    We’d be all better for it if we could have these discussions out in the open, without fear of shame or commands to just “snap out of it”. Thanks for starting these hard conversations.

    • ThePhysicianPhilosopher

      Thanks, M. I appreciate the support and the work that you do in your personal work to combat this difficult topic.

      It must be discussed. Glad you are a part of that conversation.

  2. Xrayvsn

    Powerful and sad story.

    I had a friend who committed suicide when we were kids, he was a year younger than me and it was either in the 10th or 11th grade for him.

    Was super bright, everyone thought he had a great future. Parents were kind people. Just hit us out of the blue when he hung himself.

    I never knew about the demons he was facing and you are right, most people have no idea that a person has contemplated or about to commit suicide.

    There are stressors that also put people at risk that have never entertained it before, during my awful divorce and simultaneous civil lawsuit by my ex I really wanted to end it all. It was my lawyer who talked me off the ledge when I was driving home when my ex had another court case (this time federal) in play (that later was completely dismissed when she couldn’t justify anything but it was awful to get served with those papers that evening which led me to my dark thoughts).

    So if you have friends/family going through a hardship like a divorce I would especially encourage reaching out to them and don’t let the standard I’m doing fine line prevent you from doing more deep inquiries to their state.

    • ThePhysicianPhilosopher

      Well, I am glad that your lawyer did talk you off that ledge. Your story and courage are an important narrative to be told.

      I am sorry to hear about your friend. I’ve found that talking about the ones we have lost does make it better. So, thank you for sharing his story.

  3. Dr. Linus

    Thanks for sharing TPP.

    Every story I read related to healthcare workers committing suicide has the shocking theme that they appeared happy, normal, or healthy. We need to have the discussion more often and share stories like this if we hope to change.

  4. DrK

    What a touching post. Telling us–in an effort to help others–about her and her story is such a loving and kind way to honor your aunt. Thank you for sharing.

  5. Anonymous

    I know so much about this topic- life before and life after. That’s how it is. But truly few people seem to care to be bad weather friends they are good weather friends. Tough for people to talk to others no one really wants the burden or responsibility. Thank you for this post.

    • ThePhysicianPhilosopher

      Going through the mountain moments and the valley moments with someone else is definitely a learned skill. It certainly wasn’t natural to me when I learned it, and I still have to practice it and be intentional about it.

      Thanks for stopping by!



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