Depression is a disease, and most of us aren’t doctors.

Friday evening my phone rang, and I ignored it. I never answer the phone;  anyone who knows me texts. Then it rang again, with a number not in my contacts. I hit the end button and set it down, and it started ringing again. I picked it up then, knowing someone was dead.

“I just got the news about Conor”, my boyfriend said. His voice was gnarled with static and shock, calling from Germany, where he was at some hacker conference. “Are you ok?” he asked. He sounded terrified. He said something about Twitter. “I’m fine, baby, what’s going on?” He told me he’d heard one of our friends was dead by his own hand. He told me he was with M. and Q., that they were ready to help if I needed anything.

I was puzzled. Why would I be in danger? I’m in remission, the longest, solidest remission of my life, over a year. And I felt absolutely no surprise at the news. It incorporated itself instantly into my worldview, without a second of shock. Truthfully, I was more frightened for Q., whose cherished young ex-boyfriend killed himself last year, and M., whose husband killed himself in 2011.
I logged onto Twitter for the first time in years and saw a flurry of posts around our friend’s name. “People are going to Neil’s”, I told my boyfriend, “I’ll go there, it’s just a few blocks away. And don’t worry about me, sweetheart. I’m perfectly safe.”

I took the bottles of some kind of liquor that had been in one of our kitchen cabinets since my 45th birthday two years ago and put them in a bag, and drove to Neil’s. He was in the doorway of his West Oakland Victorian, handing money to a pizza guy for stacks of pizzas. “Neil?” I asked him, an unspoken question, and he gave me a nod that was more like a flinch, telling me it was true. It was true, and Conor’s wife Ava, my friend, was a single mother to their four-month old daughter Finn.

I went inside and handsome young people with tattoos and piercings hugged me. Some of them were crying, some were in shock. “Worst party evar”, someone murmured periodically, and we all laughed bitterly and hugged each other harder. I sat with my ex M., who had dated Ava before she married Conor. SF is a small town, and most of the people in the room had been lovers. “It’s not ok with me for my friends to die”, he said. “It’s never happened to me before.” He looked at me gently, knowing it was different for me.

“I want to punch him”, I kept hearing people say. I couldn’t understand their surprise or their anger. Do people get angry at people who die of cancer? I have no idea; I’ve never known anyone who died of natural causes.

His friends told stories of his life, his brio and beauty and sweetness. I say I was his friend, but we were more like collaborators on the project of trying to keep his depression from killing him. His friends did things like go to the climbing gym with him. They got high on drugs I’ve never heard of in the desert with him. They drank artisan cocktails in fancy bars with him. I sat at his dining table and paged through the list of participating providers on the mental health care section of his insurance company’s website. I made a Google doc where I marked the therapists and doctors I’d called, the ones who were accepting new patients, the ones who sounded promising. I sent him texts like, “Did you talk to the psychiatrist about trying a different med yet?”

I was not his friend; I didn’t actually particularly get him. He was masculine, athletic, conventionally gorgeous, outdoorsy, and a goth in the black-and-chrome housewares/industrial music way rather than the tattered lace and Keats way. I respected him and valued him and desperately hoped his life could be saved. We worked together on the project of trying to get him medical care for the disease that was killing him, because his wife had the courage to reach out to her friend most qualified to help.

I was alive to help because a year earlier, after I’d been 5150’d into the Kaiser ER and trudged through Kaiser’s outpatient treatment program for depression, my boyfriend got me onto his health insurance. When I found myself preparing my will and saying goodbye to friends, I called him (he was in Germany, at some hacker conference, as usual) and he came back early, and I called my mom and asked her to find me a therapist and a brain-doc. I knew I had to change meds, because the ones I was on weren’t working, but the Kaiser psych staff had refused to take the risk of taking me off them. They felt I simply wasn’t “stable” enough to take the chance.

I couldn’t have begun to cope with the hassle of figuring out how to use the Blue Shield site to find a psychiatrist who was taking new patients and a therapist who was a good fit; I’d been sleeping eighteen hours a day and getting up only for my part-time job. Each day as I drove home all I could hear was death. My mom searched the site and made the calls and left the messages and made an Excel doc, and I found a doctor who could see me and was willing to stop my Wellbutrin and Celexa and try something new. He picked Cymbalta and it worked. I started talk therapy again, even though I was sick to death of it, even though I’ve been in and out of therapy since I was seven, because the stats say talk therapy combined with medication yields the best chance of relief from depression. November of 2012, I went into remission.

So when I heard Conor mention being depressed at New Year’s, I wanted to pay it forward. I was so goddam grateful to my mom, who’d saved my life by finding me medical help as surely as she had when she put me on a plane to Hazelden in 1989. I made a coffee date with Conor, and we talked about depression, and Ava and I entered into a compact of what we hoped would be helpful communication around the situation. She was pregnant and working fulltime, totally unfamiliar with depression and life with a depressive partner, and she faced it with the fierce bravery that is her defining quality. We found a therapist he liked, his doctor adjusted his meds, and things seemed to be improving. I’d go over to sit with him sometimes, and embroider while he talked.

In July I organized their baby shower, and hoped he’d see her born. But there was a complication; he was using drugs and drinking on top of the antidepressants. His depression was killing their marriage. Desperate and terrified, Ava sent me a heartbreaking text. I came over on a Friday night to do anything I could to make the case for inpatient treatment. I knew that because he was using and paranoid, confronting him would undo all the trust he had in me, and probably end my usefulness to him.

But it seemed like I had to try. I told him over and over that his life was at stake. That he could die at any time. That his baby couldn’t be born into a house where her father was so distraught, rageful and intoxicated he was punching himself in the face. That his job couldn’t fire him for being sick with a mental health crisis. We talked about using the company EOP to get additional counselling, about outpatient programs, about his seeing a harm reduction specialist. (Even though harm reduction is not something I believe in. I was going to push anything that might clear the alcohol and benzos out of his system enough for his meds to work.) I talked to my therapist about it again, asked if she knew any outpatient programs that had sessions at night.

He was determined not to leave Ava on her own two weeks before the baby was born. He was determined to tough it out. He was young, physically perfect, successful, strong. He couldn’t imagine going into the hospital for his brain. He couldn’t conceive of going into treatment and abandoning his wife, of not being there for Finn’s birth, of risking the job he needed to support his family. He couldn’t trust that his bosses at a tech startup would recognize a mental health crisis as a legitimate illness. I said everything I could think of, including the things that would make him angry, knowing I was spending myself as an asset. I was out of my depth, at a loss, because I know what it’s like to self-medicate depression with drugs and alcohol, but it was a long time ago. I never took anti-depressants until after I got sober, so I have no idea how the interaction feels. I could understand his depression, but not what it felt like to be a man who wanted with all his heart to be the best husband and father he could. I told him it was better to miss his baby’s birth than her life, but he could not hear me.

He didn’t understand he was desperately sick, sick unto death, was what it came down to. Even if he had, he was a genuinely tough guy. He might have been as unable to accept help if he had had cancer that needed surgery right before his baby’s birth. I didn’t know what else to do. We left town for a conference, and the baby was born, beautiful and perfect, and I was hopeful. But things didn’t improve, and Ava sent me a text asking if I knew anything about depression causing intense paranoia. I told her that sounded more like someone who was using stimulant drugs and hiding it, that he might be lying about reducing his drinking and drug use. I had no idea what to do if he wasn’t willing to go to treatment. We saw Conor and Ava at parties but never together. They separated, moved into different apartments in their building.

Then on Friday Ava was on Twitter asking if anyone knew where he was, because he’d been AWOL since Thursday. I was nineteen and in San Diego airport when I called my mom from a payphone and she told me my boyfriend had been missing for three days. There are things you know, and Ava knew. There is no feeling like it on Earth. I fell, like a cup toward a tile floor, and my friends caught me, and we caught her last night, but it doesn’t matter.

My best friend in high school, Gilly, used to say “It never gets better and you never get used to it.” It was a joke, part of our ghastly jaded New York drug addict posturing. I used to come into school every day late, and at Stuyvesant you had to get a late pass if you missed Homeroom. I’d go see the lady in the attendance office, and she’d shake her head at me. One day she asked, “What are you going to do when you get out into the business world and you have to be on time for things?” I didn’t miss a beat; I said, “Oh, I’m not going into the business world. I’m gonna drop out of high school, become a heroin addict, and die of an overdose on the Lower East Side.” “Let me know”, she said, “I’ll send flowers.” Gilly’s husband died in the North Tower on September 11th, and like me, she is haunted by the dreams. He’s still alive, it was a mistake, he just wanted to leave me, why didn’t they tell me he was alive. In those dreams you feel ecstatic, then scorched with corrosive guilt.

Today, long after I dropped out of high school and became a heroin addict, long after the times the paramedics came for me, almost twenty five years into sobriety, I met with my mentor and she said, “Some of us, for some reason, are able to get help.” It’s that simple. Depression and addiction, intertwined and unbelievably hard to understand, are fatal illnesses. Some of us are spared for a while, some for a lifetime. Friends can help, community can help, and sometimes, if we’re lucky, postpone a crisis long enough to get the medical care we need. But what we need is medical care, and we have to be willing to accept it.

A friend of Conor’s was devastated that she had been hundreds of miles away when he texted her on his last night. But if she had been there, she might only have been a witness. People blame themselves for suicides, but we don’t think we can talk our loved ones through a bad patch of cancer. People say, I should have known. But depressives and addicts are secretive. How many times did I walk away from a party, smiling brilliantly, holding it together, to collapse in tears in the car?

Some of us take a perverse pride in concealing our depression. I couldn’t stop myself from having the feelings, but at least I could control whether people had to see them, and that felt like the only strength, the only pride, I had left. The only control over the disease I had. Some of us do it pragmatically, knowing that if it people see it, it will drive them away. Depression is boring and irritating to be around. It makes people dislikable, the sum of their worst characteristics. Depressives are repetitive, rigid and frightening, and we know it. We put on a skin of normal to protect our loved ones. We make plans for the future because we hope, desperately, that we won’t have to hurt them. That we’ll find a way to cope with the pain enough to stay.

My boyfriend and I were at a Krampus party a few weeks ago. We were talking to my friend M. about her new job. “I was going to leave you my stuff”, I said, without thinking about what I was saying. Both of them looked at me in horror, but it was sort of funny to me, from the shore, with a year of remission under my belt. “You know, because you’d been unemployed for so long and you’re really good at selling things on eBay. So my mom and this guy wouldn’t have to deal with all of it, and I knew the money would help you.” She smiled at me, touched and completely understanding, but my boyfriend was shuddering. “I – I’m just glad I came back from Germany early”, he said.

I was glad he did too; it mattered to me that he came back early, damn the expense and the conference obligations, because he loved me. It  matters a lot in our relationship, every day, that he did that for me. But that’s not what saved my life. His getting me on insurance that offered more options for mental health care saved my life. My mom navigating the nightmare of the American health care system for me when I was unable to, and getting me medical care, was what saved my life.

We are each other’s keepers in the aggregate, not individually. We are a net, not a bowl. You can’t expect absolutes from human beings. Not absolute love, not absolute understanding, or absolute vigilance. We save each other every day, except when we don’t, and most of us aren’t doctors. Help get your friend a doctor if you can, and maybe it will help.

Many are asking how they can help Conor’s widow, Ava, and their 4 month old daughter, Finn. Please visit this site: https://www.wepay.com/donations/finn-turing-fahey-latrope-family-aid-support

If you or a friend is suffering from grief as a result of Conor’s passing, or suffering from depression in general, here is a page of grief & depression resources. http://finnturing.com/grief/

A picture of Finn, Conor and Ava's beautiful baby girl, taken by Conor.

A picture of Finn, Conor and Ava’s beautiful baby girl, taken by Conor.

Rob Delaney’s amazing post on depression and getting help.

Allie Brosh on depression. Her experience of depression differs from mine, but this powerful and beautiful work of art seems to help many depressives feel understood and to help people understand depression.

A person I don’t know wrote an amazing post here :

http://www.puredoxyk.com/index.php/2014/01/13/things-i-wish-werent-true/

about all the ways having depression is cognitively frustrating. It contains the deeply true and well-said phrase, “I don’t want to need medical care for my fucking feelings.  ”

 

This entry was posted in Chip In Head on by .

About Suzanne Forbes

Suzanne Forbes is a traditionally trained figurative artist, writer and bricoleur. She is an expat New Yorker living and thriving in Berlin with her third husband and their two cats. In previous lives she was a courtroom artist for CBS and CNN, a penciller for DC Comics on Star Trek, and a live-drawing chronicler of Bay Area alternative culture.

83 thoughts on “Depression is a disease, and most of us aren’t doctors.

  1. Starchy

    Thank you for posting this.

    I don’t know if he was still talking to you then, but I remember Conor telling me as recently as maybe October about how he’d found himself able to open up to you. From that conversation I know he appreciated your efforts.

    Reply
  2. gレy

    Thank you Suzanne, always wise and elegantly phrased over circumstances which are far from delicate. Your perspective is deeply valued and thank you for sharing. I could write a book on similar depressive cycles, but yeesh that is so not the thing I want to be doing, now or probably ever, so thank you. ^_^

    Reply
    1. Suzanne Forbes Post author

      G, you should know that folks love you and are worried about you too. Lots of people talking about it on Friday. We can help by finding you professional support and care, just open the door and give us specifics on what health coverage you have or don’t have, where/when is easiest for you to get to. If you don’t have insurance, there are sliding scale clinics. I don’t even know where you’re living/working these days, but if you give some info, we can get you support. You know I will always love you and remember Worst Christmas Eve ever, when our spouses left us and we sat by my fireplace under a blanket not able to do more than breathe.

      Reply
  3. Muriel Fahrion

    My son, a friend of Conor’s, suggested I read your post to help me understand what happened. Although your post about a specific sad event it also might explain why others I have known have taken their life. Thank you for the insight.

    Reply
    1. Pat Ketchum

      This past July a friend of mine died as a result of a brain tumor. During the last year of her life she was so very sick that when she passed I felt only gratitude that she did not have to suffer anymore. I did not know Conor, but I will say that I am glad that he does not have to suffer any more either. He was as trapped by his mind as surely as my friend was trapped by her body. Only some cancers can be cured and only some mental disorders can be treated with some success. People, me included, don’t know what to say at a time like this. They say things like “Time will help heal” and yes, it will a little. But that “time” hasn’t had ”time” yet. Right now the present is filled with shock and anguish with grief to follow. I am grateful to know that my daughter reached out to Conor and is helping to provide some comfort and understanding to his wife, family and friends. What she says is true. She was able to hide her depression from me for years. I hope and pray that the people suffering so much from the loss of Conor will find some comfort in one another and in their community. I remember when my sister died, I wanted so badly to talk about her. Just talk about her. I felt people didn’t want to. Maybe that was me, maybe it was true. But please, ask. The other thing people sometimes say is “everything happens for a reason”. I don’t believe that for a second. I believe everything just happens. Maybe down the road, someone will remember Conor needed medical help and they will get it. Maybe they will remember that because my brave daughter told them. I hope.

      Reply
  4. Jenni

    Some nights, I listen to myself breathing, and I consider that a triumph.

    We are losing far too many beautiful ones. It makes my heart sad.

    Reply
    1. Suzanne Forbes Post author

      Jenni, you just said it all. For those of us who have a disease that a) tells us we don’t have a disease, things are really just this bad, and b) tries to kill us in the most relentless, pervasive, Javert-like way imaginable, breathing is a fucking triumph. It’s business as usual for the diseases of depression and addiction when we die, but it’s a miracle when we live.

      Reply
      1. Tracey

        Yes. There are also times when I listen to myself breathe and wonder why I am. I find it’s hitting harder the older I get as well. I kept telling myself I only need to hang on until the kids were old enough then I got remarried and had two children and sometimes I find myself thinking that maybe it won’t matter so much. It does scare people when they find out how often we can think of killing ourselves and that we have plans in place.

        Thank you for writing this.

        Reply
      2. eric smith

        I was a colleague of Conor’s at a prior place, your post describes perfectly a good person with a disease as insidious as anything imaginable, just not imageable on a MRI or treatable with an easy protocol.

        And your comment above is a perfect description of what a person has to work with while facing this….

        he will be missed by many.

        Reply
  5. Jamie

    Thank you for this beautiful article. It made me cry. Depression runs in my family. I know exactly what it feels like to try and hide these things from the people around you. Bless this big city for sliding scale care!

    Reply
  6. J

    As someone who is a friend of many of Conor’s friends and who suffers from depression and who might have done the same thing at some point, reading this helped me understand what he was going through. Thank you for sharing and for helping. Sometimes it takes having been (or still being) in the hole to help others out of it.

    Reply
  7. David Taylor

    Hi,

    I don’t know you, but I’ve been battling depression for many years. I’ve recently enjoyed a few months of being happier than I can remember being. Unfortunately I can feel myself beginning a slide into depression again. I hope I can arrest it before the bottom. But your post was eloquent and touching and I just wanted to thank you for writing it.

    David

    Reply
  8. mamatat

    A friend passed this on to me, and I’m grateful she did. It gives me hope to see “remission” used with “depression”. Passing this on to my friends. Much peace to you all as you heal and grieve.

    Reply
    1. jenn

      Totally different response for me. When I saw the word “remission”, I felt physically sick. So I guess that I’ve been in remission for 6 years. SIX! It’s incredible! But I’d never thought of it like that, you know, that this is just a remission and a relapse can and statistically will, happen. That thought is so fucking terrifying, it makes me shake. Thanks for the article, and the wise words, and the reminder to take care of myself, be good to myself, and keep doing the things that make me whole.

      Reply
  9. Emily

    I didn’t know Conor, but am all too familiar with depression, losing friends to suicide, and the shock of unexpected death. I am sad for all of Conor’s family and friends, especially his wife and daughter, but grateful to Suzanne for sharing these thoughts and insights. May your net of friends hold tight for each other.

    Reply
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  11. Cmm

    My darling son was just involuntarily committed 3 weeks after his 8th birthday. The depression seemed to come on suddenly just 6 months ago. The hospital did nothing for him, we have a psychiatrist and counselor and I still feel like he is slipping away from us. We live in fear of him getting upset but still have to be parents and say no when we need to. I feel like we have been handed a life sentence. Please, tell me where I can learn to parent all over again. We have been dumped in an alien landscape and I just need to help my boy.

    Reply
    1. Kayla

      Cmm, have you looked into your local NAMI chapter? Most have a program called Family to Family where you can learn more about how to support your son and get some support for yourself too.

      Wishing you the best.

      Reply
    2. G

      I’m sending you a big hug, mother-to-mother. You’re an amazing woman bearing a large load. Be good to yourself and let others be good to you too.

      Reply
  12. Will Chase

    Thank you, Suzanne, for the helpful perspective. It certainly shifted mine. You’re a wonderful person, and I’m honored to know you.

    Reply
  13. Skippy

    Thank you for sharing this. I knew Conor, but there was a lot I didn’t know, and this was very helpful in making some sort if sense out of what is too often dismissed as merely senseless. Take care of yourself.

    Reply
  14. Christine

    I so sorry your friend is gone.

    Well said …
    “Some of us take a perverse pride in concealing our depression. I couldn’t stop myself from having the feelings, but at least I could control whether people had to see them, and that felt like the only strength, the only pride, I had left. The only control over the disease I had. Some of us do it pragmatically, knowing that if it people see it, it will drive them away. Depression is boring and irritating to be around. It makes people dislikable, the sum of their worst characteristics. Depressives are repetitive, rigid and frightening, and we know it. We put on a skin of normal to protect our loved ones. We make plans for the future because we hope, desperately, that we won’t have to hurt them. That we’ll find a way to cope with the pain enough to stay.”

    Reply
  15. L

    Thank you for this. My ex-husband committed suicide at the start of December, and this helped me to read. Reminded me of things it’s hard to remember while I’m grieving.

    Reply
    1. Suzanne Forbes Post author

      L, I am so very sorry for your loss. Survivor’s guilt for the loss of a partner or ex-partner is horrible, in my experience. Please be kind to yourself and take good care.

      Reply
  16. Dana

    I didn’t actually know Conor. But I saw the news take off on my twitter, and it hurts every time.
    I’m also a year in remission – for the first time ever, really – and this time I can read the news without feeling desperately like next time it’ll be me. I still wonder if it will be, eventually.
    (Viibryd, for me. First meds that ever actually worked.)

    Reply
    1. Suzanne Forbes Post author

      Dana, I’m so very glad you found a med that worked. Meds don’t work for everybody and the ones that do stop working sometimes; it just seems to be the facts. I feel like the only thing I can do to safeguard myself is become acutely aware of my emotional temperature, use tools like depression checklists, and when I start to feel bad, notify my doctor right away so we can try something else.

      I hope like hell the Viibryd (Jesus, who names these medicines?) works for you for as long as you need it, and I wish you the best.

      Reply
      1. Dana

        Thank you. I’m so very terrified that they’ll stop working, since I don’t think I’ll ever stop taking them otherwise.
        I thought for years I was one of the ones that meds just wouldn’t help, and I’d become certain that nothing ever would. I can’t believe the difference – in two weeks the constant suicidal ideation was gone. Just gone. Like a magical switch (well, if magic came with nausea and the ever-popular rampup “flu-like symptoms”, as well as sudden skin breakouts.)

        I just…it’s amazing.

        I hope you find something that works long term, as well. (and yes, the names. They can’t be real words, because then you can’t copyright them, but they have to SOUND like they have meaning, and…then you have viibryd. If they didn’t contain magic, the name would make me punch someone.)

        Reply
  17. Min

    Suzanne,

    Thank you for describing what so many of us can’t find the words for. My husband struggles to understand, my girls are confused and I feel so isolated sometimes. It’s treacherous ground, depression. I gave up on my therapist when it became apparent going up on my meds was in her mind a failing on her part. Then trying to find another became so godamned frustrating I gave up. So I feel like I’m the one that’s actually failing for not trying harder to navigate a broken mental health system. My primary care doc is scared to adjust meds, she only feels comfortable maxing out my current medication.
    I feel the most positive thing I have done is start dancing again this year. It keeps the claws of depression back. But how frightful it is to think that my mood is so fragile at times that it might not be enough?
    I wish for comfort and peace to all affected by Connor’s death, especially his wife and daughter.
    Btw, I really do want coffee/tea soon. It’s been far too long.

    Reply
    1. Suzanne Forbes Post author

      Darlin, I am so very sorry you are getting inadequate care from our broken system. It’s horribly ironic that a healer like you, who cares for people’s bodies, can’t get help. Would you like me to come over and see the girls and make some phone calls to psychiatrists?

      How brave you are to start dancing again! Exercise has never helped my depression no matter how much I do (and I’ve done a LOT at times), but it’s been incredibly helpful to some people I know; my ex M. and my friend E. manage their depression almost entirely by hardcore exercise.

      Reply
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  19. Nicol

    This was beautiful and touching. Depression and addiction are diseases that have touched almost everyone directly or indirectly in some capacity. I will re-share this post.

    Reply
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  21. Ogre

    As someone with depression, I just wanted to say “Yes.” This sums things up very well.

    I didn’t know Conor, but I certainly miss L. (Of the mentioned 2011 event.)

    Reply
  22. Kevy

    I did not know Connor. We only have a few FB friends in common but we seem to run in similar, distant social circles. I saw the posts last Friday through some common friends and just felt devastated for his wife and child. What a long and hard fought battle to lose. My condolences to you and his family.

    I really appreciate your insight into depression and mental illness. I also struggled with mine for many years. Once I got it under control and could look at it rationally I also began to think of it as an inherited medical condition. (it runs in my family) It was so hard to get there though. So hard. Over the years I have tried to be open about my illness knowing that people don’t talk about it due to social stigma or shame. Because I’m so open many friends and acquaintances have approached me seeking advice which is always the same. Get a doctor. This is a chronic medical condition you will battle for the rest of your life. And once you start treating it like one you will have a better chance of getting a handle on it. Of course our health care system makes it almost impossible to get the help that so many people need. And fighting with insurance when you can’t even fight your way out of your mind long enough to make a phone call is… well… part of the problem. I hope in our lifetime we’ll see things improve. Until then we just have to continue to help each other whenever we can.

    Again, so sorry for your loss.

    Reply
    1. Suzanne Forbes Post author

      Kevy, I’m very sorry you have this crap illness too. I agree completely that it helps a lot to understand it as an inherited medical condition. Our friend C. arrived at Neil’s house on Friday dry-eyed and unsurprised, like me. She told me why: she has had FIVE suicides in her immediate family. FIVE. The horror of it hit me like a truck. I couldn’t imagine how she had survived. But I could see it informed her experience that night. Perhaps, like me, she understood instinctively that Conor very likely wouldn’t make it, and began to grieve and let him go long ago.

      On Wednesday I was in New Jersey with my boyfriend’s family, and his brother was talking about a friend from high school. His friend’s father had developed a meth addiction – despite being quite outside the demo as a college professor- and committed suicide. It was a third generation suicide- his father and grandfather had both taken their own lives.

      Years ago I had a friend who would say “Alcoholism runs in some families- it gallops in mine.” I think there are families where suicidal depression is an incredibly powerful genetic preponderance. Your advice is the best I have heard:

      “Get a doctor. This is a chronic medical condition you will battle for the rest of your life. And once you start treating it like one you will have a better chance of getting a handle on it.”

      Reply
  23. Jesse

    I think you might be being a little disingenuous about not understanding the “I want to punch him” sentiment (which came up verbatim last May when a close friend of mine died), but in case in you literally can’t relate:

    5150 doesn’t work on cancer patients.

    Suicide is, in some sense, a choice, in a way that other diseases aren’t. A choice made by a diseased mind, certainly. But since it is a choice sometimes cajoling, convincing, manipulating, and forcing will keep somebody alive. And then sometimes it doesn’t. And that line between “struggling” and “giving in” is invisible from the outside, so it looks sudden. It looks like more convincing could have done the job. It’s an illusion – death is death and there’s no bargaining with it – but it’s a very vivid illusion.

    This year, I’ve had friends die from suicide, substance abuse, and cancer. Only suicide provokes the angry reaction. The ones who die after gradually destroying their bodies get sad sighs. Given my surviving friends’ reactions: it’s best to die of cancer. Cancer patients are gently laid to rest after a long battle. I don’t know why the other don’t get that honor. It isn’t very fair.

    Reply
    1. Suzanne Forbes Post author

      I truly didn’t mean to be disingenuous; I have never felt anger at the people I’ve known who died by suicide or substance use, and I’ve known a LOT of them. But I think you make an eloquent point about how it often looks, from the outside, like some mechanism – whether social or personal- could have been applied to make things go differently. And I am incredibly sorry that you’ve had such a horrible shit year of losses.

      Reply
      1. Jesse

        and I’m sorry that this community that’s just one social connection away from mine is suffering, too. Take care of yourselves. And remember that you have allies that you haven’t even met yet.

        Reply
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  25. David Willis

    I struggled with depression for many years, and through diet, lifestyle change and drugs (Celexa, 10 mg daily) it has been ground down to a vague disinterest, and slight inner sadness on an otherwise sunny day. I’ve been to the brink a few times, and your post is absolutely right on the money. I am fortunate that my depression responded very well to treatment. My deepest condolences. I did not know Conor, but have mutual friends who are hurting deeply.
    “We are each other’s keepers in the aggregate, not individually. We are a net, not a bowl.” These words are perhaps the most powerful words I have read in a very long time. Thank you for the reminder.

    Reply
    1. Suzanne Forbes Post author

      David, I’m so glad you’re relatively safe now. There is something I often say to my fellow depressives, that only makes sense to us. I say, “It’s like you’ve been being dragged along behind a pickup truck on a gravel road, and then suddenly you’re on regular tarmac. You don’t care about anything else, cause you’re just so glad to be on the regular road.” This is what an improvement in one’s depression feels like; when I say this to depressives it gets a big laugh, because they know exactly what I mean, even though it’s a perfectly fucking horrible thing to say. Glad you’re on the regular road.

      Reply
  26. Kris

    I didn’t know Connor. I have known the sad emptiness of a major depressive disorder and nearly constant suicidal thoughts since as far back into childhood as I can imagine. Now nearly 30, I find myself always wondering when it will stop.

    I have periods of remission that rarely last longer than a few months and only because I expend incredible amounts of energy and money distracting myself so that I do not stop and wonder why I’m working so hard to continue a life that seems to lack purpose and meaning.

    It is only two animals that have kept me tied to this planet and I fear for the day that they are gone and I am left alone with only my father to really mourn me.

    Your article is so poignant, so perfectly and accurately descriptive, and chilling. You describe an illness I’ve struggled to describe and finally just accepted that others won’t understand so I don’t try. I’m so saddened to know that there are others who do understand, as I wouldn’t wish this on anyone.

    I’m so sorry that you lost Connor and so many others. The waters to find help are so murky and filled with red tape and when someone barely has strength to do more than breathe, I don’t know how one could ask for help. You’re a wonderful person for doing what you can to help another suffering from this illness. Even in my times of remission, I haven’t felt strong enough to be in the company of others with depression problems out of fear I’ll slip back down the slope of suicidal thinking. You’re incredibly brave for both helping Connor and his family as well as helping all of us by writing about your own experiences.

    Reply
    1. Suzanne Forbes Post author

      Hi Kris- I’m so glad this was of some help to you. I really felt like I needed to share the story of how hard Conor tried, knowing how hard we all try to stay. I wouldn’t be here if I hadn’t had help getting help, if my mom hadn’t negotiated those murky waters for me, if at earlier times my friends hadn’t taken care of me when I couldn’t take care of myself. It’s just too hard to do alone.

      Reply
  27. Jordy Berson

    I worked with Connor. I didn’t know him well but was happy to be getting to know him better. I said hi to him just about a week ago as I walked by his cube. I talked to him as he led a meeting really well recently, and he asked me if I’d gotten all the info I needed. I said yes, because I had.

    When he first joined, I saw a good-looking guy w cool hair and I wondered if he would be one if those “too cool” guys who thinks he’s the shit. I soon found out he was a sweetheart and I instantly liked him. He seemed to me so genuine, and such a gentle soul. He reminded me of somebody I’d have been friends with in elementary school; we could’ve played Legos together.
    I never knew any of what many of you did, so when a friend told me this morning I was shocked and sad and angry. Mostly sad. To his wife and daughter, I’m so sorry for this and can’t imagine the pain.

    Jordy

    Reply
    1. Suzanne Forbes Post author

      Jordy, thank you so much for sharing this. For me knowing Conor was an education, because I had ideas about how people who seem effortlessly handsome and masculine and cool must be jerks, or shallow, or the products of easy lives. And he was none of those things, but instead a goofy and gentle guy who had worked incredibly hard for everything he had, with the texture on his soul of a lifetime of pain. I watched him do things in his kitchen, and his hands were neat, methodical, careful as he made tea or prepared dinner for Ava. There was nothing careless about him, and you could have played Legos without his ever taking all the good pieces.

      Reply
  28. Don McCasland

    Suzanne, thank you so so so much. My wife just read this to me, knowing that I’ve suffered from this disease in my life, am also ‘in remission’, and have tried to help many friends who were suffering get into treatment over the years.. sometimes failing. I really appreciate how clearly you’ve laid this out… communicated things that I know, but have a hard time bringing to bear on my losses sometimes. Thank you.

    I never knew Connor, but many friends dear to me are feeling this loss particularly hard right now. I know this has been a salve to their wounds as well.

    Reply
    1. Suzanne Forbes Post author

      Thank you, Don. The idea that I could write something about depression that might be helpful to someone never really occurred to me before now, even though I write content for a living. I think because we all feel so incredibly alone in our worlds of sorrow, and the disease feels so powerful. Getting responses to this from people like you has been an amazing experience for me, knowing that people are reaching across the gulf. Thank you for taking the time to reply, to share your experience.

      Reply
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  30. Verena Souw

    I knew Conor in college at Wes. We became friends during a time where both of us were in very dark places, and it bonded us. We fell out of touch around 2002; and like many who knew him-sadly his suicide is not surprising…it just really hurts. Thank you for writing this. It’s devastating that he lost his battle with depression, sweet to see the same Conor I loved in your description of his life the past 10 years, and comforting to know so many people loved him and tried to save him.

    Reply
  31. Hr

    Thank you for this. I come from a family with a strong history of depression & mental illness. I’ve got my own cadre of diagnosis that gives me a title longer than the most decorated scholar. I’ve fought against it since 5th grade, but silently until I was 18 when I started the long road to recovery. I never consider myself in remission although I’ve been off meds for over 7 or 8 years. I still get therapists, after going over my history and my current struggles, who ask me “how are you still alive?”. I’ve been granted a strong husband who can support me in all my dips & steps backward. I fear hurting him as I once did. I cut myself with a piece of glass. The look on his face when he sat at my feet, holding my hands and looking at my arms will stay with me forever. The pain that once moment, when we were just starting to date, keeps me going. And now, the pain that I could bring to my two darling daughters. The thought of leaving them without a mom forces me to find new ways to overcome the fact that my brain is trying to kill me.

    Depression is a fatal disease, and it’s time it was treated as such. As you note, we treat fatal cancers with the aggression they need. Now it’s time to do the same for depression. By sharing this tale, and each person I’ve seen who has shared it, I hope we take away the stigma and the fear of it. I’d love to see walks, runs, telethons and other fundraisers for research on how to battle this horrid ailment so that there are less and less of us suffering and more and more of us in remission.

    Reply
  32. Emma

    There are a number of us who were very close to Conor in college, before it all fell apart. We spent very similar nights trying to help when it did. And a lot of us still loved him and our memories of him, even though we weren’t close anymore. I sent a few of them this writing, and I thank you for doing it. My heart goes out to his wife and child.

    Reply
  33. penny

    My son died at 19, almost three weeks ago. It happened so fast that we never did get a diagnosis on what he was suffering from. Meth addiction had left him with a strong psychosis, but we feared there was also an underlying issue, such as depression or bipolar disorder, that led to his drug use. For two months I tried to get him help. Living in a rural part of the Midwest made this even more difficult to find.
    I feel no anger towards my son. He was sick and unable to get the care he needed. It was nice to know other people feel the same way. It also helped me to have you say that often people are good at hiding suicidal thoughts. I was not expecting it to end this way. I will always live with a bit of guilt, but it helps to know that maybe I was not just missing the signals, maybe they were not there.

    Reply
  34. Siggy

    A truly horrible experience for all those close to him. I hope you know that those (like you, like Ava, like other people I won’t meet) in his life at the end, those both improved and now terribly wounded by his absence, are the final victims in the sad chapter in the personal struggle that defined him since at least high school.

    Again, your loss is tragic, and the bright, sensitive side of Conor was a truly amazing person, but I just want to reiterate to everyone I can that many many people tried their damnedest to help him, and he was unable or unwilling to accept that help. When someone makes the choice to bow out, those left behind always have the guilt, the burden of “could I have done more?” He has caused many people to ask that over many years, and this most extreme and tragic finale must be excruciating, but I know those around him did what they could, and I hope that the survivor’s guilt does not take too big a toll on those of you who are, of course, mourning the loss of an irreplaceable person.

    I have also been horribly depressed, suicidal, and a previous breakdown of Conor’s nearly dragged me along the path he so recently followed, so I’m not coming from a place of incomprehension of mental illness. However, for all that Conor is not to blame for his mental health issues, he is to blame for not communicating clearly with his wife what he was like when depression had a hold. To carry on the cancer analogy, no one is mad at someone for dying of cancer, but if someone has had recurrent cancer that doctors have been clear is likely to recur, or another physical issue, it is selfish and irresponsible to not tell a spouse. We would be mad at someone who had a child while knowing that he/she had cancer and wouldn’t treat it, and it is ok to be mad at Conor even while you mourn. He is to blame for deciding to have a child and then not getting help when those around him told him how desperately he needed it. You clearly did so much to try and help him open the door from his cage, and he couldn’t or wouldn’t take the risk of really giving 100% into getting better, and you couldn’t control that choice. Ava couldn’t control it. No one but he could control it. Chances are he stuck around as long as he did because of what those around him did to help him hang on, but it was still his choice and responsibility.

    Conor taught everyone he knew many things–because of him, not only do I still have shoes that read “Wankel Rotary Engine” on the bottom, but I know that love, even extreme love, and support, and being willing to do anything for someone are often not enough, and sometimes the best we can do is not be sucked down with them. I so hope that Ava can, eventually, rebuild from this tragedy. Your post shows what a caring and dedicated friend you are, and how you have your own struggles and identify with Conor, but from what I’ve read you are aware of the fragility of remission, are open with your partner about what that means, and have not chosen to have and then abandon a child. I hope that Conor’s suicide does not cause you to relapse, as achieving remission from depression is such hard work, and you have clearly been so diligent and dedicated to keeping your own health. Please don’t blame yourself for his choices–we can try to help other people, but we cannot take responsibility for their actions.

    I’m glad so many posts about him call Ava strong–I don’t know her, will never know her, but being caught in the riptide of someone else’s self-destruction is shattering. Dealing with a baby, however wonderful, is also an extremely taxing time. I have a 3 year-old, and while I adored her from day one that does not mean things were not insanely hard, especially when she was still small and fragile. That poor baby is lucky to have a strong mother to help her weather the legacy of “I was born and then my dad killed himself.” I’m also glad to see that Ava has a strong community of friends to help her, and I will be contributing money to help with Finn’s future. I always hoped Conor would let the angel side of him win, and I’m so sorry he couldn’t stay with his family and friends.

    Reply
    1. Suzanne Forbes Post author

      Thank you so much for your perspective and sharing your experience, Siggy. I'm so sorry that depression has been such a painful, powerful force in your life as well. I'm learning so much about Conor's life, and about how long and how hard his friends struggled to keep him alive. It's a far deeper, more tragic story than I knew, knowing him just the last few years.

      I appreciate your kind words and support so much. I want to clarify that I don't feel like I'm one molecule different from Conor in my strength or weakness or willingness to get help. I just had the advantage of being a terrifying crazy drunk and junkie very young.

      I feel like I was given a huge gift in terms of coping with my life-long depression by being an alchoholic and addict, and by developing late-stage chronic alcoholism by 22. I was introduced to the disease model of alcoholism, and came to understand that something as nebulous as the soul-sickness of addiction could be clearly identified as a medical illness, and sometimes successfully treated. I was also lucky enough to go to a great treatment center, where a roomful of us were told something very important on my first day. The counselor said, "Of the ten of you here today, statistics show only one of you will still be sober ten years from now." I told myself, "That's gonna be me." And it was.

      Getting an understanding of mental health as a fragile, physical thing you could lose or keep has proven completely fucking life-or-death invaluable to me. Spending the past almost twenty-five years in the recovery and self-help community has given me a precious and deep understanding of how sick we can get, how much work it takes to get well, and what it looks like to be able to be willing to get help.

      When I got sober, in 1989, there was much less understanding of depression, but one of the first things I heard was that quite often people with longtime sobriety didn't relapse with a drink- they went straight to the gun. While I was in treatment one of the people I was in with killed himself, and two others within the first couple years. Plus, having been a junkie in the East Village, I'd been seeing people I knew die one way or another for years. I was clear that mental health issues kill. Most people aren't.

      I had other pretty severe mental and emotional health issues, like OCD, a sleep disorder and PTSD, all of which created enough of a smokescreen for my depression that I didn't get real help specifically for depression and suicidal impulses until I was around sixteen years sober. Even though my first suicide attempt was when I was just thirteen, even though I was in ongoing mental health care, even though I was active in the recovery community! That's how subtle the malignance of depression is.

      So unlike Conor, who had often been highly functional, who was professionally very successful, and whose alcohol use was fairly controlled while I knew him, I've been barely able to keep it together my whole life. That's actually an enormous gift and advantage for me. Being a "designated patient" in my family system and in my first two marriages meant that I always knew I had a problem, and even so, it's been incredibly hard for me take my depression seriously.

      Depression, like alcoholism, is a disease that tells you you don't have a disease. Conor very likely didn't understand that even though he had a long period of remission, he could get sick again any time. He also had the powerful denial system of a person who's using mood-altering substances more than they want to in place. It seems to be the nature of the beast that when you are self-medicating your pain, the medications want you to be loyal to them! People who knew Conor during the "middle period" of his life people speak of a person I never met, a sunny guy who seemed past the dark times, and I'm sure he thought he was that too when he married Ava and chose to have children.

      It's true that I am explicitly clear with my partner about my mental health crap- but not knowing enough to be clear, being too sick to know I was sick, and other mental health related issues destroyed two marriages for me first.

      And I chose not to have children, not because I believe absolutely that my alcoholic, depressive, litany-of-initials genes need to stop for good at this station (although I do) but because I don't like kids. Except Finn, who has a strangely alluring serenity and mystery in her dark blue eyes, an old soul in her tiny body. So I can't imagine what it feels like to desperately want children and go ahead and have one in a spirit of hope and courage.

      What I'm saying is, I will never believe that Conor abandoned Finn. He loved her and wanted her desperately, and I believe he did everything in his power to stay here for her. For some reason, that wasn't enough. For some reason, he wasn't ABLE to be willing to get more medical help in time.

      Ava was planning to talk to him about inpatient alcohol rehab the day she found him; maybe if he had lived one more day he would have gone, and lived. Or maybe he would just have killed himself in treatment, like the guy I knew in 1989. I believe he lived every last day he could, and that maybe it cost him everything, everything he had to make it just that one more day or two so that Finn wouldn't grow up with a father who killed himself on Christmas. I believe that was an act of incredible courage.

      What I wish Conor could have seen was truths like this shared above in the comments on this post:

      “Get a doctor. This is a chronic medical condition you will battle for the rest of your life. And once you start treating it like one you will have a better chance of getting a handle on it.”

      Reply
      1. Siggy

        Really really excellent points, and thank you for responding. It’s good to know that he did have some time free of his depression, and it’s scary that it came back with such a vengeance. I live in fear of my meds failing and mine returning, but like how you decided to be the one who was sober in 10 years, I have stubbornly decided that while I can’t guarantee always making the best choices or not having depression return (as no on chooses that!), I will make sure I get help so that I can be a role model for my daughter as well as being a functional parent. I had not thought about how he may have held on longer to avoid killing himself on Christmas. Other than venting some of my own experiences, I just so hope people can mourn him without feeling like they failed him. I am really glad you wrote what you did, and I am going to use the “remission” terminology forever because that is more true than “I used to be depressed.” It’s not like chicken pox–it lurks, and that’s terrifying.

        Reply
  35. H

    A heart-wrenching and necessary read. Thank you. As someone who has struggled with depression since I can remember, this is the most honest and understanding peice on the subject I’ve ever come across. I hope everyone reads it, for everyone’s sake.
    I only interacted with Conor a few times, and he was always inadvertently intimidating as much as, and because of, his being “effortlessly handsome and masculine and cool”. Another friend also killed himself a few months ago, and like Conor, he was never someone I’d have thought even for two shakes that struggled with depression. It truly is a disease, and like any disease, can strike anyone.
    “We are each other’s keepers in the aggregate, not individually. We are a net, not a bowl.” This is such a wonderful metaphor. I feel it’s a good reminder to sometimes check in with those humans who you love, every so often. If we keep enough connections we will automatically become a net. I feel like that’s at least as useful the other way around, too: when I am having an especially hard time I never want to burden someone with my awful thoughts and brain dribblings. (Yes there are people who say, truthfully, that they won’t be burdened with such ephemera, but that always gets lost in the noise and second-guessing yourself) It is much easier and feels much safer to reach out to many humans (twitter, &c), and have a net catch you instead of asking one person holding a bowl to do the same.

    Thanks again for writing this, and everyone else for comments worth reading! <3

    Reply
  36. Alex

    I worked with Conor as well. Just like Jordy said – the first time I met him, I thought, he’s either so full of himself, or so real. He was real. We both started around the same time, and from the day I met him on, we were friends. He was a blast to be around, whether it was a meeting , softball game, or friggin’ Safari West. He always had a smile and was down for anything. Although I was aware he had issues, I had absolutely no clue how deep they went. A dear friend of mine battled depression for years, and teetered at the brink too many times, but it never happened. I had prepared myself to ask the questions back then, that I find myself asking now, and a lot of the answers I can find in the comments and paragraphs above. This piece, as beautiful as it is, has helped me understand this whole situation tremendously.

    I was visiting family when it happened, and have only been back in the office yesterday and today. I’ve walked by his desk so many times, and have absolutely no idea what to do when I pass it. It’s like I’m convinced he’ll be there.

    Reply
  37. Loraine

    I found your post after you mentioned it yesterday and I sit here in tears reading all of this. If I can just get one more tiny glimmer of understanding of depression, how it affects friends, myself, relationships, then I am grateful.

    You are truly amazing and I am so honored to know you.

    Reply
  38. Jess

    Thank you for sharing this. Depression runs in my family and as far back as I can remember, even as a young child, I have struggled with it and having thoughts of suicide. Even untreated it ebbed and flowed. Remission is a word I’d never thought of but it is very apt. There have been times I’ve run on pure willpower and times I would call in to work or skip school and just lay on the couch or in bed all day, crying. I’ll be sharing this on FB along with my own status. One of the things I try to do is get the facts about depression out there and fight the stigma that still, frustratingly, exists. I talk about my own depression publicly and matter of factly in the hopes that someone who may need help will see it and feel more confidence and less shame in getting help. So I’ll share this. Thank you.

    Reply
  39. Heidi

    Thank you for this. My father and boyfriend both committed suicide within eight months of each other. I never blamed them because I’ve been so close so many times. I still struggle with guilt. Thank you for helping me let some of it go.

    Reply
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  41. Emily

    I happened upon this from clicking on a friend’s post on Facebook–a random click that has me bawling. I don’t know anyone involved personally–Amanda and Neil are only names in the news for me. But I am so touched and grateful, even if terribly sad. My father committed suicide the summer of my 12th year. I am 39 now, and a mother, and many days I no longer think of him or that terrible time. But you slip into the loss again so easily; a small crack and you’re down that well of grief and sadness. I have spent a lot of my life sorry I never was able to know my father as an adult. My understanding of who he was is permanently arrested, a child’s view and confusion, with posthumous interpretations by other people. I have come to understand he was terribly depressed. At the time I had no knowledge of depression, or even that my father had it. It was shocking, it was terrifying and it was wretched. I was terribly angry at him for abandoning me for many years. I know now that it was not about me. I come to understand he was ill, and that the choice seemed like his best option. But your post brings me a deeper perspective–a real glimpse of who he might have been or maybe felt. I too, have had bouts of depression and anxiety, but all of a sudden I believe that perhaps, unwittingly and unknowingly, my father may have saved my life. Who knows what would have been had it not happened. Some of my distress was also his to claim. But I have never been suicidal, and I have always felt myself slipping and asked for help. I have always believed (and still do), it was because I knew what it was to be left behind. Until now I never really thought of it as something he also left me besides the legacy of depression. I know we truly still have a long way to go in understanding all the interplay between brain chemistry and emotion, and maybe I would never have been suicidal in any life, but I find something in me healing after reading this. For the first time, perhaps I feel a little…grateful? Or at least forgiving. You have helped me understand him a little better, and for that I am so grateful. Thank you.

    Reply
  42. Anamorphosis

    I found myself repeatedly doing other things when I meant to continue to read and finish your piece. That’s actually a pretty high compliment. You struck nerve after nerve, so without even realizing it, at times, I would shift to another internet window and realize a half hour later that I had been trying to complete your piece, and that I wanted to complete your piece. I had been suicidal most of my life. My first attempt was at age three. It turns out my depression was more situational than many others. i was able to put my life back together after I moved away from my family and I immersed myself in therapy for about ten years. My life is amazing now. I still have the ghost of depression nipping at my heels form time to time. My half sister took her life through heroin a few years ago just after she got her first modeling contract. My full sister landed in the hospital time after time in near death due to the stress she intentionally put on her body. My brother is a heroin addict and is in and out of jail. I guess the crazy runs in the family. I am grateful I can wake up every day and feel love for the wonderful things I have worked so hard to have around me.

    Reply
  43. Melissa Honeybee

    I’m just going to vent. Which is selfish because this is about your loss, but, its hit a tiny flickering nerve still holding on. I came here from facebook where this link sat on Amanda’s page- Waiting for a lot of us. Suicide. God, I never say it out loud. (or type it) It is a constant tug of war inside of me that will start without me even hearing the word “GO!”. Luckily, so far I have always won- without truly knowing how. Although, I do admit to absolutely white knuckling through minutes and hours and using sleep to fast forward to the moment where I think ” that was close, what was I thinking”. In truth I wasn’t thinking anything, maybe I wasn’t even feeling anything- I just wanted it to stop. Everything about my depression is a contradiction to who I am. Although, so is my anxiety and agoraphobia. I am the woman who can do anything and does- except when I can’t and I don’t. I don’t have a support system. I don’t have close friends. I never had supportive friends. I don’t have anyone who hasn’t been drenched in some sort of Algonquin round table armor of dark humor- I can reach for help all I want from anyone and all I will get are quips. I never want to kill myself. I don’t want to die. If for some reason, one day I just can’t fight it- I want no one to be able to honestly say to themselves or out loud that they were shocked or had no idea. If there is anyone out there who knows what I mean by that- I send you an enormous hug. I was in the hospital once and a woman was talking to me after group about wanting help and not being able to get it no matter how much she asked from the people around her- so she took some pills and her tiny frame hit the bathroom floor and woke up in another bathroom with a charcoal surprise waiting for her. I said to her ” it gets to a point that you feel you have to set yourself on fire”. She cried and nodded. She had set herself on fire and I hoped when she left from then on in everyone would love her enough to notice if she had coals in her eyes. It’s funny the little things that I would love- I would love it if a friend just stopped by for 2 minutes with their car running and knocked on my door and gave me a hug on their way past my house. If someone just sat and watched a movie with me or read a book next to me while I napped- being near when I needed someone close, but, not too close. My walls can’t come down that far anymore. Little things can mean so much. So, for any of you who also wish for just little things- once again I send you my love and if I could I would read you books until you fell asleep on days full of anxiety and unexplained fear and just sit and be alone with you while you did dishes because it just feels nice to have someone there. I wish you bluebirds. I wish you love. I wish it for me as well. I am sorry for all of your losses. I am sorry for any loss I hope to never leave behind. It is true about- we are a net not a bowl. To a possible future someone- you could not save me, but, if you loved me- it was more than enough. I’ve heard many times that suicide is selfish and being someone with suicidal thoughts, I agree and selfishly that adds to problem. You are living for everyone else. I honestly- I live for my dog. She’s 17 and she almost died when her first love died and me leaving would be awful her. Yes, a dog- I live for my dog. As life has gone on the list has gotten short. I have people in my life who have told me that if I did commit suicide they would understand. These were/are two important people in my life. I just snickered/snorted and had an intense feeling to punch a wall and cry. Has anyone ever told someone they felt suicidal when they actually were on the brink? I’m not sure if this has happened to anyone (I’m going to assume yes- I’m not the lorax) if you don’t do it- you somehow have pissed people off for getting them so upset for NOTHING. This happened to me two years ago. I was having a horrible night. Pacing, cutting. I can’t believe I started cutting when I was 30- I think that every time I cut. Late bloomer. So, one night- I reach out. I don’t want to cut, but, I’m cutting like crazy. The unabashed cutting that you would never do because its important to hide and cut where no one will ever see- even possibly yourself while showering. I left messages at 2am just crying and saying how I was self harming and I felt like I was going crazy and I was sad and lost- and in the morning the two people I called were pissed that I had basically worried them. I say “pissed” because they said they were pissed off. I would give anything in the world to be able to hear from someone who left me a message like that and hear their voice- I would be relieved. That was the last time I reached out. Lesson learned at 33 – from continued lessons through out my childhood and teen years. Message received. I hate that some of us don’t have anyone. I hate that we have terrible health care. That in some states there is one therapist in your entire city that actually takes your crappy medicare. That medication can only go so far. That we have been talking and talking in office after office with every different soothing painting of a sailboat or poppies and every indoor plant possible that can live under fluorescent light- and its numbed us to a point that we know the deal. The 60 second summary of our lives that bore every new doctor- every burnt out and stale doctor. But, I am proud of myself and of us- who get through it, with ourselves- by ourselves- minutes to minute- we get through. Unless of course one day we don’t and it is no one’s fault and I hope more than anything that beyond this life there is peace. Peace to balance out the wounded left behind. Venting done. I wrote this 30 minutes ago and as I went to click post, my computer went offline and I laughed a bitter laugh and said “figures”. I stubbornly came back anyway.. thinking, maybe someone would like to hear this. I liked reading a lot of the things here, thank you all who got to the end of this.

    Reply
  44. Abre

    Re: anger at someone who suicides – anger is one of the stages of grief. I can understand the feeling that the person did this – to themselves – in the immediacy of finding out – the wish to punch passes quickly. I’ve found that with illnesses (especially battles like cancer) you have the chance to be angry at the cancer and the unfairness of everything before the person passes away and that anger has already been expressed because you’re grieving before the finality of death – I lost a friend in a car accident rushing to get asthma medication because she left her medication at school while she went home on vacation – I was furious at her for not remembering her puffer, at the pharmacist for telling her to “hurry” etc etc…

    Thank you for your perspectives. Good luck with your remission.

    Reply
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  46. Drazil

    Thank you so much for writing this, and thank you for trying to save Conor, and on behalf of all the people who love you and who will ever love you, thank you for trying every day to save yourself.

    I love someone with PTSD who tries to save himself some of the time, and tries to get through the day some of the time. The ways he gets through the day will probably kill him sooner or later, and I fear that it will be sooner.

    I know he loves me and he leans on me sometimes, more than he leans on anyone else I think. But he won’t get help. I had been working up to it for a while and this morning finally I asked him to please try seeing a therapist. I was too scared to just ask him so I put it in a note. He said don’t ask him again.

    I know that therapy isn’t a magic pill. Although I will say, speaking as a person who suffers from cyclic depression and from secondary trauma, that the therapist I see who is trained in EMDR has helped me hold it together more than I can say. If I were not living a life that includes slowly watching a person I love more than almost anything in the world slowly kill himself with alcohol, I’d be in the best shape of my life.

    I know sometimes you do absolutely everything you can think of to do and it isn’t enough. Some days are harder than others. Keep trying. I’ll keep trying too.

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  50. S

    Thank you for posting this.
    I know who you are, your face is familiar from the ubiquitous sea of black attire circumnavigated by martini glasses and tumblers… but i don’t know that we’ve ever met, or exchanged words.
    Then again may we have and i was too drunk to remember.

    In all the posts and emails that went around 3 years ago I missed this one. It’s a shame. I don’t know if could have fully appreciated it then, but i do now.

    It’s both moving reflection on that awful event and what lead up to it. But also a reflection of my own dis-ease terrifyingly astute and honest. There is a lot in here that can help our allies understand us better, and, perhaps more importantly, help us more clearly see ourselves.

    After another incredibly difficult period this fall, i finally got desperate enough to try medication. I’m on day 13. It seems to be helping. The difference between getting wet, and drowning.

    Thank you for your hard won wisdom expressed in such deft language.

    I wish you the strength and endurance in your own struggle.

    Reply
  51. S

    …Also I know i’ve relied on various friends like you to keep me alive at many points in my past. Let me thank you in their stead for doing that work with connor.

    Thank you.

    Reply
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