Do you find fault with a diabetic whose pancreas doesn’t produce enough insulin or a cancer patient whose biology allows their cells to replicate themselves without end?
There is something wrong with me…
By the numbers, only 1 in 10 of you will understand. Which means 90% of you could not, cannot, and will never, understand what I’m about to tell you.
I don’t hear voices, or see things…wait…maybe I do…I better explain.
We all have that little voice in our heads.
Is it the ego, the conscience, the soul, our inner being?
I don’t know, but I do know that everyone’s little voice talks to them differently. I have friends, coworkers, and loved ones, that seem to have the mental fortitude of a howitzer. It doesn’t matter what happens to them, they always adapt, overcome, and persevere.
I think their inner voice is probably encouraging, positive and constantly reassuring them that they will WIN.
I envy them more than anything else in the world. I could care less about money or fame, but to have a little voice that says good things to me would make life a cake walk for me.
Here and now is where I’ll lose 90% of you because I said your life, your psyche, your ego, your little voice would make life easy.
Certainly, your life is not easy, I’m not saying that at all, but let me tell you a little about mine.
I won’t bore you with the sad details of my life, everyone has them, but I would like to tell you how my mind reacts to turbulence.
I also won’t blame anyone else for how my mind works, it is what it is.
Some folks in my early life may have contributed to the way in which my little voice speaks to me, but it is my mind, I own it, I control it…sometimes…most of the time.
I’m approaching 50 now…so I’ve had plenty of time alone with it. It’s somewhat normal most of the time, but it has betrayed me dangerously about ten times throughout my life. It tried to kill me.
Moving on, when my mind decides to go to the dark side, my little voice kicks me when I’m down. It pounds me into the ground. It grabs the back of my head and grinds my face into the dirt, and rocks.
It tells me over, and over, and over again, what a loser I am, and how I’m nothing but a fuck up, and a waste of flesh and bone. I’m not delusional, I don’t see things, I don’t hear things, it’s just that little fucking voice that sometimes helps me, and sometimes hurts me…bad.
Call this a self-esteem issue if you need to, but the little voice is what ultimately either feeds the esteem or starves it.
There doesn’t seem to be any rhyme or reason as to when it’s going to turn on me. Sometimes I can feel it coming, but most times not. It just sneaks up and entangles me in its tentacles when something is going poorly in my life, my marriage, my career, my family, etc.
Things go from bad to worse, and fast. When I was in my adolescence, I hurt myself…with a razor. They called it a cry for help. Maybe it was.
When I was in my late teens I put a shotgun in my mouth and sat with swollen bloodshot eyes, tears streaming down my cheeks for hours on Easter Sunday while all of my friends were with their families.
When I was in my twenties, recently divorced and alone, I spent Christmas Eve (my sons first birthday) with a shotgun in my mouth again. Fewer tears this time.
When I was in my thirties, things were pretty good, a few bad times but for the most part good. I had a wife I loved and still do (she’s part of the 90%). We had more children, life was in motion, and my career was otherwise okay.
When my forties came, so did regret. Regret that I had chosen a career that was not at all what I really and truly desired to do. I was working for a complete ass who thrived on threatening people with their jobs. I was highly skilled in my profession, but not at all valued as an employee. The great recession was in its deepest depths and there was nowhere else to go for work. I was stuck, I was stagnant, and I was frustrated.
Lots of folks were.
I had a wife and four kids to support.
One of those kids was my son, the one whose first birthday I had celebrated years before on Christmas Eve.
I’ve got hours and hours of video footage showing him having a grand time at our house as he was growing up, and playing with his sisters. I guess he was having too good of a time, riding mini bikes, driving my truck on gravel roads when he was ten, blowing up action figures in the sand box with fireworks (the good kind), building rockin’ forts in the woods, canoe trips, camping trips and swimming in the best river holes I could find.
It came to an end.
My ex-wife had somehow, poisoned his adolescent mind into thinking that his visits with us were terrible and that my present wife was some kind of monster. He stopped coming and wrote me off, wrote us off, all of us…completely.
It felt to me like he had died.
It felt to me like I was the biggest failure in the world.
It felt to me like everything I had done to maintain and nurture the relationship was for nothing.
In comes my old friend…the little voice.
It reassured me that I was, in fact, a lousy father, a lousy human, a weak and helpless man.
If you think suicide is for the weak, try to put the cold steel muzzle of a gun in your mouth and pull the trigger.
I assure you that it takes more strength than most folks can muster.
It was a brave, courageous, and honorable act when a Samurai pushed his sword through his own liver.
It was a brave, courageous, and honorable act when the Kamikaze blew himself up on the deck of an aircraft carrier.
Still think it’s weak?
Loop a rope around your neck and “try” step off a chair.
Walk into the ocean and “try” to fill your lungs with seawater.
Walk out to the mid-span of a bridge, step over the rail and “try” to jump your death below.
Even Navy Seals succumb to depression.
This time, the voice pushed me deep, very deep.
When I was a younger man and found myself in a suicidal moment I was always able to think my way out of it by telling myself that “things might get better”, “I’ve got a lot of life in front of me”, “I can get through this.”
Something was different this time though, I was fed up with suicidal thoughts and depression. I was worn out from fighting depression, I was not interested in continuing this cycle for the rest of my days. I just wanted it over.
I didn’t cry this time.
I just planned my death.
I planned on taking a long walk…a one-way walk into the woods.
I didn’t want anyone to have to clean up the mess…I didn’t want my wife or kids to find me with half my brain matter splattered all over the walls.
I was really scared this time…because I was no longer afraid…to pull the trigger.
I had transitioned from second guessing the suicidal thoughts of my youth, to a grown man who just wanted to make the suicidal thoughts stop.
This was 7 years ago.
So why am I still here?
Not the compassion of others towards me, but a compassion for others. Said differently, I’ve always survived the suicidal thoughts by getting deep into my mind and trying to envision what my actions would mean for others, the people I love and who love me.
When I was young I tried to see my mother and brothers at my funeral. I tried to hear my mother and brother telling others that I had killed myself.
As an older man, and a father, I try to see my wife and kids at my wake, I try to see my daughters crying at my funeral and at the cemetery as they lower me into the ground. I try to hear my daughters asking “Why did you do this daddy?”
I try to see my closest daughter following in my footsteps because I wasn’t there to help her through it.
I had to get help this time…because I was dangerously close. Too close, way too close.
So I talked to my family physician, I lied to him.
I told him that I felt a little blue. I told him that I just wasn’t feeling myself. He gave me a medication, an antidepressant that I had spent a lifetime avoiding. But not this time.
This time I had to have it, like some kind of drug addict. I was eager to try something, anything.
Short story getting very long, that med didn’t work so great, so I tried another, and it did work…a little, but the side effects weren’t acceptable, so I tried another, and another.
Four, maybe five, medications later, we got it right. I wouldn’t say that I feel like a million bucks these days, but I would say that the little voice has changed his tune…a lot!
Now when life gets a little squirrelly he tells me “don’t worry”, “you’ll get through it”, “it will pass”, “it will be okay”, “stick it out”.
In an effort to shorten this story and to not make it some kind of melancholic autobiography I have omitted several episodes and a lot of back stories. I hope you’re grateful for that, and I also hope you can see that just like diabetics, cancer patients, and all of the other people on the face of this earth that fight some kind of disease, meds can help.
Most importantly, I hope you can recognize the voice of your demons and know that when you hear them talking to you, it’s time to get help.
You can live with a little voice saying negative things, you cannot live with the little voice (demons) that tell you the world would be better without you in it.
When they start telling you that everyone would be better off without you, seek help NOW.
Obviously, my recommendation to lie to your physician breaks from all conventional wisdom, but if you need to get help and your not ready to commence the full on attack of your depression, start small.
Get your foot in the door.
If the first antidepressant sort of works, it’ll will be easier to tell your doctor that you need to tweak things a bit, and from there the whole conversation will get easier.
It may take a few tries, but a few tries is a whole lot better than one click, and a bang, for all the people that love and care about you.
The world seems to be getting more and more in touch with how serious and how treatable mental illness/health is. Use it to your advantage, to your family’s advantage.
Forget the stigma.
My brother has fought with depression too and he is adamant that he won’t be on meds for the rest of his life. As for me…I don’t care. If I was a diabetic I would surely take insulin for the rest my life. What’s the difference?
Both are a matter of flawed chemistry right?
Once you’re on meds, DO NOT stop them abruptly. Two of the worst episodes that I ever had were caused by running out of meds and being too proud to ask for more. One time I slept outside in our camper for two weeks through the holidays without acknowledging my family, and another more recent bout where I went into “planning mode” again while riding around in my truck with a .45 at arm’s length for a week.
I know better now.
Depression seems to be a hot topic on the blogs these days, and I hope it stays that way because every story recruits more of that 90% into realizing that depression can easily be a terminal illness.
You don’t have to check into a psychiatric ward, you can just lie to your doctor like I did (if it makes it easier than telling the whole explicit truth) and most importantly don’t ever, ever, forget the crying faces, and whimpering sobs of those who love you.
Use those images only when you need to…to survive.
Cut off the demons…and embrace your angels.
I wish you my very best…you can survive your suicide…by never allowing it to happen.