Disintegration — (Miami New Times)

SSRI Ed note: Successful young woman from close family takes Paxil, hangs herself from door handle (classic SSRI suicide). Depression is blamed.

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Miami New Times

By Forrest Norman

Thursday, September 15, 2005

It should have been perfect, and maybe, for a while, it was. Although it’s difficult to derive the appropriate scale on which to measure a life (How good a person was she? How happy?), it’s easy to tell from conversations with friends: There were times in Marcy Hine’s life when she felt just right, when the combination of endless possibilities led her to believe she knew exactly what she was doing. Whether she was skateboarding with a friend or drinking and bullshitting, Young Marcy seemed full of disdain for the gray dissatisfaction of daily existence and a surety that she could escape it. That she could live a meaningful life.

Of course, no one says this about her. No one wants to say anything about her to a reporter. Even if her family weren’t Roman Catholic — a religion whose tenets include the belief that suicide is a mortal sin from which a soul can never redeem itself — her death is the kind of sad and final statement that brings to mind terrifying questions about the underpinnings of our lives. After all, her foundation was so solid, built on family, friends, financial security — Marcy looked at all of that, more than many people ever have, and said goodbye.

On the afternoon of February 1, Jorge Hine left his Key Biscayne condominium to check on his daughter. The Puerto Rican banker had not heard from her since the previous evening. He telephoned her but got no answer. This was unusual. Marcy lived right down the road from the family compound and was in regular contact with her father and her mother Margo.

It was a short drive down Crandon Boulevard to the complex of modest — at least by Key Biscayne standards — apartments where the 26-year-old substitute teacher lived. Jorge helped support his daughter, who, after a stint in college, was struggling to find a career that suited her. Marcy, like many people her age, was trying to find a bull’s-eye for the targetless trajectory of youthful exuberance.

Her friends were generally well-educated children of Miami’s upper class. They varied from aspiring corporate climbers to artists. They’re the girl who’s rolling in the clubs at 3:00 a.m. Sunday and out with the family for dinner at Joe’s Stone Crab hours later, or the guy who looks boho until he pulls up to the bar in a $30,000 Lexus.

William fits into the latter category. The twentysomething, who tries to make a living on the evanescent edges of Miami’s art and music scene, describes the boldness Hine’s group of friends shared as they confronted adult life: “It’s sort of like, when you’re first out of school facing the world, you’re like, öI’m fucking going places. I don’t know where, but I’m going places.'” While she plotted a palatable path, Marcy worked and spent time with friends and family.

Like most young people, maybe especially those with money to spend on Miami’ s nightlife scene, Marcy and her friends also partied. “She was sort of into just going to laid-back bars and hanging out, but every once in a while, everybody would go out to the clubs and do the whole thing,” William says. He won’t elaborate on “the whole thing,” but it’s a fact that the Magic City’s party scene is lubricated by more than alcohol.

Every year about 30,000 Americans take their own lives. Kim Fuller, a professor of psychology at the University of Miami, says Marcy’s suicide had some exceptionally unusual aspects. The young woman had no past history of suicide attempts or threats. Her father told police that Marcy had once seen a psychiatrist and that she was taking the antidepressant drug Paxil to treat panic attacks, but neither fact made her any different from millions of other people.

Marcy committed suicide in a manner very unusual for women. “Men tend to use more lethal weapons than women, and women make far more attempts,” Fuller says. “Women tend to cut their wrists or swallow pills, which take a lot of time. Men are more likely to jump off a building or shoot themselves.

“You usually associate hanging with a situation where other methods wouldn’t be possible, like in a jail cell,” she says.

If Marcy left a note, the police and medical examiner don’t know about it. While Fuller admits it’s difficult to guess motives, she says Marcy’s chosen method of death may have been a kind of communication: “It’s very dramatic. It makes me wonder about the communication aspect — who she expected to come in and see this. It’s indicative of someone so wanting to express the full measure of their despair to others.”

The discovery of Marcy’s body could not have unfolded more dreadfully.

Jorge Hine later told police he had no specific concern for his daughter’s welfare that day. There had been no ominous phone calls, no premonitions, no fights. Her visit the previous evening had ended normally. He had simply decided to check on his daughter. He punched a code at the entrance to Marcy’s complex and pulled into the parking lot, where he saw her Audi. He walked to her white front door and knocked. No answer. He tried again, and waited. And again.

Mr. Hine walked through a grassy side yard to the rear of Marcy’s building and peered through the window in her back door. He saw Marcy’s body, hanging from an extension cord tied to the railing of the staircase. According to a Miami-Dade medical examiner’s report, her legs were “supine on the surface of the floor,” indicating she’d killed herself by tying the cord around her neck and sagging forward until she strangled.

Marcy’s family told police they’d seen nothing that augured the tragedy, and her friends say the same thing. Marcy spent the weeks preceding her death skateboarding with her best friend Kirsten Pardo, frequenting bars on the Beach and in the Grove, smoking cigarettes, and drinking beer. She enjoyed dancing, smoking a little weed, and occasionally riding the jarring rush of a few lines of cocaine. “She wasn’t someone who did, like, a lot of coke,” says Edward, a friend of Hine’s who spent a large amount of time with her in the months leading up to her death. Mild-mannered and good-natured, Edward’s voice drops to something just above a whisper when he is asked to recall his friend: “I really don’t think it was a problem. Mostly she was just this very sweet, fun girl who just liked to hang out with friends and kind of have a simple good time. No one had any idea. I mean, I know everyone always says that when something like this happens, but no one had any fucking idea.”

That Marcy projected a carefree, even cheerful demeanor in her final days is possible but unlikely, according to most experts on the subject. “There are always, always signs,” says Arlene Simon, who coordinates support groups for families and friends of those who have committed suicide. Simon’s son killed himself nineteen years ago. “The problem is, the signs aren’t always easy to read or the behavior isn’t always easy to distinguish from the behavior of people who are having normal problems,” she says. For instance, anxiety and drug use (among other things) can be signs of depression or bipolar disorder, often indicators of suicidal ideations. Or they can be much more benign.

In fact Marcy appeared in the pages of New Times five months before her death, in a column that christened her and friend Kirsten Pardo “The Party Girls.” Former nightlife columnist Humberto Guida slammed the high school mentality of most Grove scenester hangouts and then wrote about retreating to the laid-back Corner Bar: “Kirsten Pardo and Marcy Hine are examples for us all because they have found the perfect balance between modern maturity and fun. Sure, they work and study and even clean up after themselves, but they also find time for making movies, skydiving from airplanes, and riding their skateboards to the bar.” Guida, now at Ocean Drive magazine, wouldn’t comment about Hine’s death.

“Guys were attracted to her, sure,” says another male friend, Manuel, a jocular soul whose mile-a-minute stream-of-consciousness monologue slows perceptibly as he describes the dead girl: “She had relationships, some of them serious. I don’t think anyone would say she was a lonely person, socially or romantically or with her family either. There were a lot of people around her who loved her.”

Marcy’s family moved to Miami from Puerto Rico when she was two. Her father, an executive with a global banking and financial services firm; mother, and Marcy formed a fairly happy nuclear unit, according to friends. Her aspirations and interests varied growing up. At age 20, she was a long-haired, conventional sorority girl at Florida International University. By age 26, Marcy was a short-haired, skateboarding, tattooed punk-rock “Party Girl.” Along the way, her father told police, she had gone through an addiction to cocaine at age 23. “It was sort of a problem, but she fixed it,” says William. “Although she still did it occasionally. But she was never some coke freak. I really doubt that drugs had anything to do with, like, some reason that she would go out and do this.”

“Depression and using drugs can be hidden from people, up to a point,” says Arlene Simon. “But I know that especially in the months immediately following something like this, friends and family have a hard time looking back and seeing that there was a serious problem. It feels horrible. And I don’t know about this particular case, but I do know that bipolar disorder or extreme depression are physical changes in the brain — you can only cover up the symptoms for so long.”

Academics such as Kim Fuller describe depression as “a condition that makes problems seem unsolvable.” But this phrasing seems too pat; the fact is that depression is almost impossible to define to those who have never suffered from the disorder. Winston Churchill’s appellation of his dark moods as a “black dog” seems as accurate an elucidation as any, given melancholia’s spectral nature.

This can seem like a self-indulgent and melodramatic way of looking at depression, which, unlike deep-seated personality malfunctions such as sociopathy or borderline personality disorder, is relatively treatable. Surely any person with the family and friends and money that Marcy Hine was surrounded with must live in a world where almost any problem can be overcome, in time. There was no shortage of helping hands, and at her age, no shortage of time to come to an understanding with life. And she may have reminded herself of these things over and over. But in the grip of depression, the meaning of these sentiments, no matter how often they are repeated, is lost, dissolved in the condition’s attendant chemical imbalance.