- Death & Loss of Life
Is Suicide Painless?
If you are here because of a search result as you contemplate suicide, or if you need help now, please contact the suicide prevention hotline:
Suicide is not the answer. It never is.
I have a daughter. She lives half a continent away from me, having been raised by her mother, and so our communication is sporadic, over the phone or via electronic means, and often filled with a myriad of misunderstandings. By this, I mean far more than the typical misunderstandings of a middle-aged father and a young-adult daughter. She means well. She is a good kid. I love her dearly. Here is an example of an e-maiI received when I had not returned a phone call promptly enough (among other things):
Hey Dad, its me. I want to wish you a Happy Birthday. Is everything okay? Please write back or call me.
I am fine. I can sense the frustration in your e-mail—and I appreciate it. But you have to understand that your FATHER suffers from severe chronic depression, anxiety, ADHD, EID, PTSD, and few other lovely elements of alphabet soup. When one (or, generally speaking, several) of these grip my psyche it takes time for me to reestablish a baseline where I can deal with communication with anyone I am not forced to deal with (and those I am forced to deal with, time for me to be able to deal with them in a way that does not create waves).
I am very sorry if you feel neglected or in some way slighted. Just know it is not intentional.
This did not go over well.
What lay above in that e-mail is the majority of my diagnosis. I have been officially diagnosed with severe chronic depression, anxiety, Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), Emotional Intensity Disorder (EID, formerly known as Borderline Personality Disorder), Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), Tinnitus, and Migraines. My counselors and I have discussed the possibility of a few other things (mild Agoraphobia, for example).
I am not a doctor. I can only speak to my own experience. And so it is that experience to which I will restrict myself. What follows are a series of e-mail exchanges, descriptions of communications, and so on of which I hope the reading will enlighten and perhaps bring about understanding.
Get Over It
So much of what can be said of the advice given to people suffering from depression (or any of the host of other mental disorders I could list) is summed up with the phrase: get over it.
Case in point: My father and I have had a rocky relationship for as long as I can recall. He would be the first to admit that he was not ready for fatherhood and thought that his only role in a family was to be a provider. Once the money was earned, the roof over the head, and the food on the table... he was done.
Having someone like me (e.g., non-sporting, emotional) in his life could not have been easy. So imagine my surprise when I get a call from him after my life took a spiral, downward. He called, told me he wanted to talk with me and check on how I was doing. I was surprised, as I said, but I was excited. He was taking an interest in my life that went beyond money, job, and so on.
When he arrived, he asked how I was doing. I get about a sentence into how things were (I think I said something to the effect of "it has been tough since my wife left") when he interrupted me. He then began to lecture me for the next 90 minutes. The three things he wanted to ensure that I was completely clear on were:
- Nothing that was wrong in my life was his fault. This is an odd thing to throw at me considering I have never blamed him for anything that has gone wrong for me. Not prior to this lecture; not since. I have no idea where any of this came from.
- A large chunk of what was wrong in my life was due to my not wanting to have a better relationship with my biological mother. My relationship with my biological mother is strained because she was physically and emotional abusive throughout my childhood—right up to the point where I escaped when I was 14 years old. Bear in mind that my father divorced her when I was 10 years old.
- If I would just man up, everything would be a lot better. And this is, perhaps, the most damning advice that can be given.
The idea of man up, get over it, and so on is entrenched in many people's minds. For example...
The Truth, the Whole Truth, and Nothing But The Truth
From my daughter:
It’s me. I know things have been tough because of her and other things, but when I try to talk to you so you can have at least a smile on your face, you don’t just give me an attitude and say things to me that are hurtful like what you said on Facebook. I am now at the point where I want the truth now. Since e-mailing is the only way to talk to you, then let’s talk.
Ever since she left and you’re having problems, you have been distant from me, you have never returned my calls, and when I try to help you, you get angry with me. So I need to know now. Was it something I did? Was it something I said?
What is it that I did wrong where you’re not telling me because of some reason. I want you to tell me because talking to people can help in some way. I just want to know okay. What is the matter? Give me the honest truth, dad. I can take it. I am 23 years old now. Talk to me please dad because I am at the point of not knowing what to do. Please write back.
The her she speaks of is one of my ex-wives. Yes, I have to say one of because there have been three people to whom I have been among the worst things to have happened in their lives. My daughter made a few comments on Facebook asking me to just be like Anne and sing "The Sun Will Come Out Tomorrow" and other such things. All well intended. This was my response:
Sometimes I forget how young you are, and that you are still a child. An adult by way of convention when it comes to things like voting, joining the military, driving, alcohol, and the like. But a child none-the-less. You are mature beyond your years at times, and so—as I say—I forget. And it is in times like this I must be careful and resolute: I am speaking to someone with very little experience in the world as a whole and so I cannot assume as I so often do. I must be plain.
I know and appreciate what you do when you try to talk to [me] so [I] can have at least a smile on [my] face. But the responses you want are not the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. You want me to respond with rainbows and sunshine. Unfortunately, when you are dealing with the long term effects of chronic depression, anxiety, ADHD, PTSD, migraines, tinnitus, and the like... your life is rarely rainbows and sunshine. You feel lucky and relieved if you day is simply one that was a struggle to get through but you managed to get through it without harming anything in the process.
I did not give you an attitude. The fact that you can say (honestly, I believe) that you feel that I did is what I mean when I say that I forget you are a child. What I gave you was honesty: my day, my mood, my life—all of them are. They are not good or bad; up or down; bright or dark. They are none of these things at the moment—they simply are. And in the grand scheme of things, this is good.
You said ever since she left and you’re having problems. This is true. This is a good and fair representation of the timing of my current state. But you are assigning causation to a correlation (if you are not sure what these mean, I implore you to look them up—this is a very important part of what I am about to say). She left me because of how far my condition deteriorated; my condition did not deteriorate (implicitly) because she left me. My condition had been spiraling downward for some time prior. The thing is, my marriage (effectively) ended almost a year before she left me.
Stresses at work (professional) and elsewhere (personal) had been brewing into a perfect storm. I was unable to concentrate at work, and as such I was worried about work and future employment. I was unable to give her the attention she needed and deserved, and as such I was worried about losing her. As it was, this created a powerful negative feedback loop which caused me to lose both my job and my wife.
With the loss of my job came more than stress, however. It brought with it a loss of insurance. With that, a loss of the ability to maintain the medications I need to manage my situation. I could no longer take the medication that managed my depression, and so it became worse. I could no longer take the medication that managed my anxiety, and so it became worse. I could no longer take the medication that managed my migraines, and so they became more frequent and more intense. Et. al.
After 14+ months of being off my medications, it is a constant struggle—a constant need to perpetually remind myself that everything will be alright; a constant need to force my head higher to keep from allowing the anxiety and depression to take full control over me and my actions. I am fighting an uphill battle—every day—to get out of bed and take care of the things that need to be taken care of. Get the kids ready and off to school. Get one child off to violin practice, the other to soccer practice. Eat without turning it into a coping mechanism. Speak with people. Move.
Fortunately, you cannot (most likely) imagine how it feels to spend a day repeating to yourself that everything will be alright and forcing yourself to hold your head high and then have someone tell you that all you need to do is stay positive. You cannot possibly imagine how much worse that sounds after you have received two phone calls telling you that the jobs that you interviewed for are rejecting you, and you cannot get help because the state thinks you are just fine with nary a worry in the world, and your father is telling you that you just need to lie a bit in the interviews, and so on...
I know you mean well. And I tried to speak to you as an adult to an adult: I am.
My example was not meant to be hurtful, it was meant to be enlightening. A person with a stammer or a stutter can be told to enunciate all day. It matters not what the intent of the good-will-wisher is—the effect is to make things worse. I did not get angry. I tried to explain that your advice, although well intended, was not having the desired effect. In fact, it was having the opposite effect.
I am distant from you, sweetie, and it hurts. I am distant from most people. I interact with very few people. I think most people simply do not understand the amount of energy and effort it takes for me to appear as normal as I do. And the more people I am to interact with, the more energy and effort it takes to maintain something of a degree of normality. And so I isolate myself in order to protect them from the misunderstandings that arise from even the most momentary lapse in my facade, and to protect myself from feeling the way I do now as I struggle to find the words that will explain without hurting, that will enlighten without causing more problems than they solve. Having no idea if I have succeeded makes the struggle that much worse.
To conclude this letter—I will say that you have done nothing wrong.
This is an issue I have struggled with, that I am struggling with, and which I will continue to struggle with. I love you. I am amazingly proud of you.
I know this letter is little consolation. You deserve so much more—so much better—than what you have in me. But I need you to be patient with me, and know that I love you. I need you to stop thinking you need to cheer me up—this is not something I can shake off, man-up, get over, or just deal with. It is something I have to manage.
And I am.
As best as I can.
Have you ever considered suicide?
If you answered that you are currently considering suicide, please contact the suicide prevention hotline immediately:
Suicide is not the answer. It never is. Your life is worth more than you think.
The Simple Solution
Each day I wake and struggle to get though the day. Each interaction is difficult; each person I have to deal with is physically and emotionally draining. Some are worth the effort; most seem to be far shy of that measure. So few people truly understand the amount of energy it takes for someone like me to appear normal.
Suicide is not painless—not to those you leave behind. Intellectually, I know suicide is the ultimate act of selfishness. No matter how undeserving I feel, there are those that care about me. No matter how depressed I feel, my children need me.
The simple solution is not simple—not simple at all.
I cannot say that any day I continue on is for me. I survive for my daughter; I survive for my boys; I survive for those that have been there to drag me out of the depths of my own fear. I survive despite myself. I owe it to them to take the next breath.