Van Beek: The other side of darkness |

Van Beek: The other side of darkness

Yet again we must say goodbye to a wonderful young person who left this earth way too early. Tayler Esslinger, 26, was dedicated to serving the community where he was raised. He had joined the Eagle County Sheriff’s Office a year ago and had been a volunteer firefighter in his hometown of Gypsum for over 12 years. 

Precisely, what he was thinking, as he traveled on that remote road in Garfield County, we will never know. Yet, given the loss of life, we must consider that somewhere in his mind, he determined that the pain he was experiencing had become more than he could handle. While family and friends loved and cared for him, he took this journey alone to contemplate his next move. It became his final decision. 

This young man appeared to have everything going for him. An incredible family, two jobs he loved, a community he enjoyed, a future that was bright with opportunity … yet somehow, a sense of doom clouded all the good in his world. Somewhere along the path, he lost his way. It seems that no amount of love or achievement was able to reach the depths of his despair. 

We all know the feeling of insecurity, wondering if we could have done better or of not being enough. Sometimes things go wrong, no matter what you do, and at times, it can feel never-ending. Worries, stress, expectations, loss, sleeplessness, failure … all and more, can make a person feel overwhelmed, doubting their abilities, and even their worth.

There isn’t a person on this planet who hasn’t wondered if the direction they were heading was the right one. Have they given it their all, or did they cop out for the easy ride? Are they letting people down, or worse, themselves? 

While everyone has been there at some point in their lives, they managed to find their way out. Even if the light at the end of the tunnel was a dim glimmer that made one wonder if it was a hallucination, we still kept going.  Eventually, we discovered that the journey was truly worth it.

Yet, how did we know where to keep moving? For some, they were fortunate to have friends and family who guided them, inspired them, and gave them hope. It was like seeing the future through their eyes, and it gave us just enough insight to get beyond the darkness of our mind … that negative talk that keeps us from seeing the possibilities that are ahead. 

But often those very people are the ones we don’t want to disappoint. How can we tell them that we just don’t feel as though we can go any further? How do we explain that the pain is so intense, we just want it to end? How do we decide to say goodbye to it all?

Perspective is something that, as much as we desire to have it, we realize that all of our perceptions are filtered through our experiences, and the self-talk that emerges is not always helpful or even relevant to our current situation. 

This is when the advice of an objective third party becomes not only helpful but sometimes essential in getting us back on course. Regardless of what is going on, we must be made to realize that the only failure is quitting, the rest are just experiences — just temporary results. We learned it from our sports coaches, but we tend to forget that those lessons were actually lessons on life.  And … some quitting is permanent.

As we age, we are exposed to so much that life has to offer, both directly and vicariously, good and bad. We learn that success is achieved by what is between our ears. How we envision success and happiness and the path we take to get there changes over time.

As we encounter challenges, we develop new strategies for handling them.  But, when you are young, everything is urgent and seems to take forever. A year is an eternity. When you are 50, it’s a much smaller percentage of your life than when you are 16 or 26. 

In addition, in this digitally-driven world, there is the added pressure of competing … not with the Joneses, but with every person across the social media globe. The pressure to be worthy of “likes” and “shares” is immense. Everyone else’s life is perfect! Every photo is excellent, even their food is perfect. How can you ever live up to that?

We must remember that no one posts bad photos of themselves. Dozens are taken to find one. Edits, filters, and staging are key to a popular social media presence. It is a scripted version of life, like on a movie set… it’s not real.  Don’t compare yourself to a fictional life in fantasyland. Even the Kardashians admit it.   

If you are going through a rough patch, remember that it is just a patch — it is not the entire landscape. Our vision may be limited by circumstance; don’t make it permanent. If you can’t see beyond the darkness, get someone who knows the road to guide you out. 

In Eagle County, we have many sources of qualified and caring guides.  Remember that no one travels this earth alone. Add members to your team, as needed. 

Following are resources which will help you through any crisis. These workers understand because they have all been there. Please, if in doubt, give our office a call, we will send help. You are an important member of our community. We will be there for you. You are not alone.  

Warning signs of suicide

According to The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, here’s what to look for:

  • Talking about wanting to die
  • Looking for a way to kill oneself
  • Talking about feeling hopeless or having no purpose
  • Talking about feeling trapped or in unbearable pain
  • Talking about being a burden to others
  • Increasing the use of alcohol or drugs
  • Acting anxious, agitated, or reckless
  • Sleeping too little or too much
  • Withdrawing or feeling isolated
  • Showing rage or talking about seeking revenge
  • Displaying extreme mood swings

The more of these signs a person shows, the greater the risk. 

Warning signs are associated with suicide but may not be what causes a suicide.

What to do

If someone you know exhibits warning signs of suicide:

  • Do not leave the person alone.
  • Remove any firearms, alcohol, drugs or sharp objects that could be used in a suicide attempt.
  • Call one of the resources listed below.
  • Take the person to an emergency room or seek help from a medical or mental health professional.


James van Beek is the Eagle County sheriff. You can reach him at

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