Depression… it’s been a tough week

It’s been a tough week.  That is a broad, sweeping statement that can probably apply to a lot of people I know, each of whom have varying degrees of mental health.  I don’t know for sure where exactly on the spectrum each person falls:  from positive, strong mental health, to “I might need help” levels.  The reason for my uncertainty?  It’s nearly impossible to gauge a person’s mental health, at least from an external observance perspective.   The only way to know for sure is to really talk to people.  And these days, who has time for that?  I say this with tongue in cheek, but truly it is an accurate portrayal of our current reality.  We really ought to take the time to talk to each other.  Especially the people who we are closest to.   Next time you’re with a friend, or a relative, take the time to say you love them, you care for them, you are listening (really listening) to them.

From my own personal standpoint, while I was dealing with some really serious shit this week personally, I put on an air of positivism and normalcy for my friends, family and coworkers.   I am thankful that I have a great and interesting job, because it allowed me to stay focused throughout the week!

I would rate myself as having a strong and positive mental health.  I think I deal with stress very well.  But when it comes to loss or grief, I don’t think I do as well but I try.  I feel like I’m just a paper-thin shell that can fold at the tiniest strain of thought towards the lost one.  So far in this post, I feel like my words are coming across as slightly mysterious or outright vague, and in part I think that is deliberate, so here is the skinny:

I’ve had a loss this week: my uncle hung himself.

My uncle was battling with some serious demons and lost, and he took the drastic road of a suicide attempt that has left the people who cared for him with unanswered questions and a strange trail of grief and uncertainty.  Here’s the uncertainty piece: he’s not actually dead (yet).  Well, not physically dead, but there is no more brain activity.  My uncle is brain dead.  I have difficulty reconciling that fact with the fact that his body is still alive and breathing with the help of machines.  So when it comes to the grieving process, I am confused.  I’ve dealt with loss before, but never like this.  He’s brain dead, which to me is as good as dead.  I want to grieve… but I can’t, at least not fully, and not until his body is gone as well.  It’s weird.  I feel like my family are all sharing these same or similar feelings, but none of us are explicitly talking about it.  Why can’t we grieve now?   Why can’t we let go?  It’s almost as though, like my uncle, we are in a strange limbo state, and until his body passes (which is probably within the next 24 hours), we are not free from this state.

I didn’t know how to deal with this.  I didn’t know how to cope.   Then I got the idea to just write.  I started writing, because I thought it would be cathartic.  I wanted to share it with everyone too.  To generate discussion, and to help with the grieving.  Maybe this is my grieving?

I had no idea my uncle had such severe depression issues.  I know that he’s struggled with addictions, and that he’s recently been in a bad place.  But I felt like he was getting the help and support that he needed.   Despite that help, the issues were severe enough that he took his own life.  This is what I have a hard time with, I think.  There is a history of depression in my family, and I like to think that I’m there for them.  But am I really?  Do I think that things are rosier than they are?  It comes down to the talking and listening part I mentioned earlier.  Is that enough though?  I think so, because I’m an optimist at heart.

All of this comes on the heels of the Bell mental health awareness campaign this week.  They’ve done some wonderful things and raised a lot of money and awareness for mental health issues.  I think this is awesome, and truly believe that awareness is the key.  If any of you are still reading this, first of all thank you.  I know it’s long-winded and mostly self-serving, but I do have genuinely good intentions for writing it.  So if you’re still reading, and you think “yeah, I’m having some issues” then please, PLEASE, talk to somebody right NOW.  I don’t care who you talk to – it can be me, the person next to you, Telecare, your EAP, a dude on the street.  Just talk to someone, and get some help.  It’s out there.  There’s always a way.  There’s always an alternative.  Suicide is not an acceptable answer.  It’s an altogether too easy out for you that is selfish and leaves everyone around you in a trail of pain, guilt, grief, and uncertainty.  You may think, in your lowliest state, that nobody cares for you, but that couldn’t be further from the truth.  I guarantee it.  Call me on it, and I will show you.

RR

2015.01.30

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So what do you think? I’m interested in hearing from all of you, regardless of your mental health state whether you’re strong or needing of help.  Weigh in on any part of my post. Have you been in this scenario where someone you love is brain-dead and on life support?  Have you had to put on a happy exterior while dealing with pain on the inside?  How are you doing anyway, really?  Let me know – it can be publicly posted or private messaged.

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7 Responses to “Depression… it’s been a tough week”

  1. Awesome writing my only son. I would send this to Clara Hughes!

  2. A. Nonymous Says:

    Very well written article Rick. I believe I can speak to this from the other side……at least a little. For some of us, the fight to keep it together is a losing one. When you look around and all you can see is the pain and suffering that you’ve caused to everyone around you, sometimes you start to consider that taking that selfish route would be best.
    That inflicting one final ‘hurt’ to those around you seems like the lesser of two evils when you see that you continually hurt the ones you love. At least there would be some closure for your family and friends, instead of a lifetime of ‘why does he/she keep doing these things? He/she is getting help, shouldn’t things be better?’
    I admit that it would be selfish, yes, and i honestly never ever would have thought that I’d be speaking from this kind of experience. Ending your own pain, as well as the continued suffering you put your loved ones through, can be appealing at times. But here i am, still holding on, more solidly some days than others.
    My deepest sympathies to you and your family, and I sincerely hope you’ll be able to find the answers to some of your lingering questions.

  3. Lori H. Says:

    Great article Richard. I am so sorry for your families loss. Depression is a scary thing, and so many people just don’t know how to make that first step. Stay strong

  4. CollP Says:

    Thank you for sharing Rick…. My mom had Major depression and has been on different depression medication since 1978 at which time she had a full mental breakdown. Us kids were taken away from my mom and it took her a year to get back on her feet. Depression medication helped my mom deal with life and day to day living, but something changed June of last year. My mom died Sept 3 2014 and we were told mixed drug toxicity. My dad committed suicide Jan 1994 with drug overdose and alcohol poisoning. Then I get the news that my mom, my best friend may or may not have taken her own life.I myself was on depression medication for awhile about a year before my mom died, but I had to stop due to hazy thoughts, unable to focus, headaches, depression got worse for me. I informed my doctor that I would rather be sad, then have all those different side effects, and stopped the medication.I remembered something very terrible from my past and it ripped me from my core. I keep pushing myself to get up everyday and just deal with everything. My fight is far from over, however I am tired of smiling and pretending everything is okay when deep down it’s a deep dark struggle. I never thought my mom would take her own life but I guess the pressures became to much. I worry everyday that it could be me one day doing that and hurting my kids. I never want to hurt my 2 boys the way my parents hurt me and my siblings. I have depression but I am fighting it everyday because I love my boys, my husband, and my siblings and I don’t want them to hurt for me like I am hurting after losing my parents. Mental and emotional problems take a toll on family units. I’ve personally been a witness to the struggles of two people near and dear to me who suffered from deep major depression for a many years. I know that depression is serious. It can take a toll on the healthiest of families and can destroy lifelong friendships. Their are things harder in life but one of the hardest, is watching someone you love lose their laughter, sense of joy, and purpose in life, and you wonder if they will ever find it again. It’s impossible to push the will to live onto somebody who no longer desires it. No amount of reasoning, logic, or reminders about all they have to live for will put a smile back on the face of a loved one that has a cloud of depression hanging over them. Sometimes people are so busy taking care of everybody else that they lose sight of themselves. I know this all too well I too am one of these people. If you have been affected by major depression, my heart goes out to you. A shattered body is easier to mend than a broken. Depression is real, you may not see it, but it is there.

  5. Beth Says:

    I wish I knew how to respond to your powerful message and for sharing your thoughts/feelings. I’m so sorry you are going through this and my heart goes out to you and your family. I lost my father to suicide fifteen months ago and it has been the most difficult journey for myself personally and as a family. Wishing you all strength in the coming days.

  6. Dwayne Stewart Says:

    I was in a relationship with someone who was bipolar for 5 years. He has had two past suicide attempts, one ending in a short coma state before I meet him. I read a book once about how to be a partner of someone with a mental illness. One of the chapters started with lines that basically said you have to be the strong one, no matter what because there will be times when your partner can not be, they are in a place sometimes where it’s just not possible. You can’t expect them to be. I remember talking with him once and he said that I could not ever truly understand, that I would never feel the deep sadness that he sometimes felt. He was right, I couldn’t. No one not in the position can. Not 100%. All you can do is try to be there, try to (as you point out here) be a shoulder to lean on, try to let them know that you are there to do whatever you can and they are not alone. At the end of the day, as hard and as frustrating as it can be, sometimes the disease wins. Just as cancer sometimes wins despite a persons best efforts, mental illness is a disease that wins sometimes. It’s not necessarily anyone’s fault. The person suffering tried to fight, people around them tried to help them fight, but sometimes the disease still wins. What it does tell us is that just because it wins sometimes, it doesn’t mean we shouldn’t all try and fight both for ourselves and our loved ones because sometimes we win and the disease loses.

  7. Well at least you had an uncle to grieve for. As I’m sorry for your loss, you don’t know what it feels like to have NO family love at all. You got to experience love and that’s why you miss him….I’ve never had that. Ever. So consider yourself LUCKY to HAVE that love. MANY do NOT.

    /one of the ones with serious mental issues

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