Your names always went together, or maybe after 30 years of marriage, one remembers the names like that, like salt and pepper. You can imagine the surprise and shock when I got the news- actually delayed news. I received a message late at night/early morning, telling me to please phone, it’s not good news, it is devastating news.
It was too late or too early to phone, so I was lying awake, tossing and turning for at least three hours. I knew someone already died, could tell by the tone; it is already done. We never knew. So it was a few shocks all at once.
One you had Depression; two, you shot not only yourself, but your wife, my sister too. So my brother-in-law and my sister are gone. We were not aware that you suffered from Depression and took medication. The mixed reports are not only baffling, but keeps returning in the early hours, substituting a sound sleep.
Depression is an illness with many dimensions. It’s often described as a constant catatonic feeling, which influences a person’s basic ability to function. “It’s the leading cause of disability in the world, causing lost productivity and care for the many physical and mental illnesses related to it, like anxiety, posttraumatic stress disorder, migraines and sleep disorders. Scientists are gaining a more nuanced picture of what it is – not a monolithic disease, but probably dozens of distinct maladies.” *
After the initial shock came the questions, why, where, when. Some didn’t want or needed that much detail. As it was such a great unexpected shock, the questions seem more intense. Your note, clarified your frame of mind, but sadly the whole event is not unique and has become part of statistics, yet again. What do they say; often everyone is a victim but the victim.
As the New Year approaches, new resolutions are made. A clean slate on many levels let Depression in men be one of them. It’s real, it’s out there and it can be fatal. “Experts agree that faster ways to feel better are needed, without waiting the typical four to eight weeks it takes for antidepressants to kick in. When the drugs work, they’re life-changing, but they don’t work for everyone. Scientists have no idea why some people get better and some people don’t.”*
We learned that you stopped taking your medication a week or two prior to the day. It didn’t work for you, instead the sleeplessness increased. The utter despair and loneliness you must have felt. At that stage the tiredness and constant headaches (which we knew of) must have overshadowed it. You spoke to only a few friends of how you felt, that is how you really felt, not the standard answer one tend to give.
Actions have consequences, in this case, a daughter, a sister, a mother, a son, a brother and a father all taken in moments. We are left behind with a variety of emotions, most of all unanswered questions echoing in the silence.
Matt Pappas writes in “Guys talking about why guys don’t talk” that it takes a special kind of person to be vulnerable and write about the daily struggles of trauma, depression and anxiety. “They have to release the shame of their own demons and challenges. Doing so means not only are we helping others, but we are continually facing down our own challenges and working on the journey of recovery. Everyone has the ability and right to reach for the life of their dreams, even the face of tremendous odds both in daily life now and from their past. We believe that we do not have to live a life of shame, lurking in the shadows. It’s often a struggle to reach out and talk to our guy friends about personal, sensitive subjects. We often resort to chatting about sports, by the end of the evening we wish we would have taken the time to “really talk” and not have blown an opportunity to reach out for the support that we need. That of course, leads to shame and beating ourselves up because we knew we needed to talk. Why should those living with mental health challenges, feel any less confident in what they feel called to do.” In his podcast he and his colleagues talk about taking steps on their own behalf to help erase the stigma that we not only put on ourselves, but also what society perpetuates as well.
Your children are part of your legacy, your likeness and the characteristics uncanny, you can both be proud. Dearest Sister, your craft, your passion, your talent evident in the quilts and bags you made for so many. Then there’s red, your favourite colour. You loved it. You personify the passion, love and courage that it symbolizes. It is said those that adore this colour has the desire to experience the fullness of living which in turn leads to constant activity. It is so you, always busy and an abundance of energy. We will treasure our red moments and send it ever so often, into the skies tied to a red balloon sealed with a prayer.
The English painter and poet David Harkins’ prose poem is apt. Here’s looking at you, Sis.
“You can shed tears that she is gone or you can smile because she has lived. You can close your eyes and pray that she will come back. Or you can open your eyes and see all that she has left. Your heart can be empty because you can’t see her. Or you can be full of the love that you shared. You can turn your back on tomorrow and live yesterday. Or you can be happy for tomorrow because of yesterday. You can remember her and only that she is gone or you can cherish her memory and let it live on. You can cry and close your mind, be empty and turn your back. Or you can do what she would have wanted, smile, open your eyes, love and go on.”
As the New Year starts, we look back at the old year and what “marked” us for life- the tragic loss of my sister and brother-in- law. A New Year is like deciding on a new tattoo and what it would say. Be bold, above all be brave and brave enough to speak out. If you are not fine it’s ok to say that, even for men. Granted an attentive audience would help, the bored clerk at the late night shop might not be suited. Seek advice, seek help and do not empower the emptiness and silence. Then go get that tattoo.
*The Anti Antidepressant by Mandy Oaklander Time Magazine August 2017