And again, sadly

I hate this post. I hate that I wrote it last year, and two years before that. We just passed the one-year mark of my friend's husband's suicide, a few weeks after the anniversary of my other friend's sister's suicide. Almost three years since Ray went.

And then two more, just in the last few weeks. Friends of friends.

Is it something about this time of year? One of my friends said it was the change of seasons and change of light that is tough on people. There might be some truth to that. I was going through a low period myself, of feeling on unstable footing here near the always-slippery edge, and this light hasn't been helping. Too beautiful during the day, and then too dark too early.

And it's the end of the summer, too. Too much fun for other people, too many days not making progress, not getting what we want. It is so easy to forget what you have accomplished, or to relegate it to, "Oh, that." It is so difficult to face what you know you could do, if you could only do it well and not screw it up. Too much to gear up for now that Labor Day Weekend is over. Who has the courage to face all that? Tasks. Expectations. Potential.

But, and here is the but inside the why, today feels like shit and tomorrow may feel like shit and even next month may feel like shit, but if you leave then nothing ever doesn't feel like shit again.

There is one thing–one thing–that you can look forward to. Even if that one thing is months and achy, burned-out months from now. Think about that thing. Tell us in the comments what that thing is, so you can come back and see what you wrote and know it's still there.



Still, always for Ray. And for Jess and for Maryanne. Who else is it for?

36 thoughts on “And again, sadly”

  1. What if there is nothing to look forward to? It’s not fair to tell someone, “oh, but you have your son and your husband. You have so much to live for.” it’s not fair to place someone’s entire reasons for existence for other people. So, what if you have nothing of your own? And if you leave, YOU stop feeling like shit. Utterly selfish, yes. But possibly the only way, when you’re in the middle of it.

  2. Some days the only thing that has kept me going is the determination not to leave my son with that hideous legacy. There have been many, many days in the last not-quite-seven years that came down to that. And what I’ve learned is that even when I’m positive that I’ve never faced anything so deep, so dark, and I’m sure that there is no way I’ll get through it, somehow I do get through it. Alive, kicking, breathing. In a place that is wildly imperfect, ragingly unfair, horribly tragic — but full of people who love me, and whom I love.

  3. Anon for this, what got me and Emma (right above this comment) through isn’t the “you have so much to live for” line, but the absence of doing even more harm. I couldn’t face blighting my sons’ lives forever. And if I had to grind through the next however many years so that they could have a chance at decent lives, that was what there was. But leaving them alone to face the unfathomable without a mother to help them was something more monstrous to me than anything I was facing.

  4. Thanks for remembering Maryanne. My biggest fear has been she will be forgotten. My beautiful sister who was so full of life gave up. But I never will!! Suicide has many different faces, but the end result is the same — those of us left behind to forever wonder “Why?” To the survivors who feel they can’t go on hang in there. While the bad days are awful the good days make up for it. 2 years ago I was still in shock after my sister took her life on 8/6/10. Today I still grieve. But everyday I go on & try to live life for myself & for Maryannne.

  5. Yes, my people would think that I didn’t love them enough to stick it out, and and even when I don’t love myself…I love them too much to do that.This is also for Brian, the boy who grew up with us, who battled so many demons I never knew about, who was like a brother to me and a father to a beautiful little girl.

  6. The reason I would tell people to hold on is that it’s possible to get to a point where the pain actually ends. I used to get suicidal. For the first 18 years of my adult life, I don’t think I went more than a year without at least one bout of being actively suicidal.And then… I made it through to the other side. Therapy helped, and unlearning old brain patterns, and just working through it… and for several years now I haven’t felt even a little suicidal, and the depressions have felt temporary even as they happened.
    It is possible to get to a place where depression isn’t on the list of things you have to cope with. It’s possible to get to a place where you can look forward to living your life. It’s possible to get to a place where you can spend days and weeks and months feeling happy or content or even just neutral, without that weight of depression or despair.
    You can get to a place where you WANT to be alive. You can get to a place where you’re not fighting suicidal feelings.
    What did I do to get there? I just kept holding on, and working on feeling better, and I didn’t manage to succeed in a suicidal attempt before I got there.
    It took me almost two decades and a whole lot of work to get there, but what I can say is that if I could do it, so can you, because there’s nothing special about what I did.
    There is hope. No matter how awful things seem, no matter how many things seem like insurmountable obstacles, if you can hold on long enough, you can get to a place where the despair is behind you.
    Also, Hello, Cruel World by Kate Bornstein made a huge difference for me, and if you’re feeling stuck, take a look.

  7. Thank you for remembering my Jess! Someone said at his funeral that Jess was the guy who always went out of his way to make sure everyone felt included and happy and comfortable, he just forgot to feel that for himself. I think that will stick with me forever because it completely tells of his spirit. He was “that guy” who talked to anybody and everybody to make them part of whatever group. Maybe he did that to fill whatever void he felt? I don’t know.What has gotten me through the last 55 1/2 weeks is knowing that he is no longer suffering with his demons. He no longer feels the weight of this painful world on his shoulders. And most of all, I want to make sure no other families go through what we have experienced. I will stand on the front lines of suicide prevention, educating and promoting ways of crisis intervention. My husband’s story is so much more than his final chapter, so I will live in honor of his life and hopefully saving a few along the way.

  8. I cannot say better what Julia has said.But from 8 to 28 despair was my constant companion. I actually had a daily conversation with myself, “what if Catholics are right and suicides are damned? Then if I do this it will eternally be even worse than this.” I don’t believe that’s true. But it kept me alive until loving friends pushed me into therapy. Life isn’t perfect or even close. But I’m so glad I didn’t succeed the two times my conversation wasn’t enough.
    Find someone (friend, family, therapist, pet) to tether you to a future and work to build it.
    Paul, I see you in crowds still, 39 years later.

  9. I feel lucky that I have never actually been depressed enough to think of suicide as the best answer. And like Anon above, now that I have kids, I especially couldn’t consider leaving them that blight forever. And then, after my mother died almost two years ago, and realizing how dark that has made my world since then, how lucky I was to have her for so long and how absolutely everything is different now, I think I could never choose to put my children in the same place I am with respect to losing my mother one minute sooner than the inevitable.So the things I have to look forward to now are seeing a lot of my dad, sister’s family and brother’s family over the next three months; someday feeling like I might have mastered organizational and managerial skills that are like piercing myself with a thousand swords, but are thoroughly useful; watching my children play at the beach in October, and hopefully outgrow the fear of sand in their clothes. 🙂

  10. Julia, I was just thinking last week about how much better I’m getting at a) seeing and remembering that there is a “feeling better” and even a “feeling great” when I’m in the bottom of the pit, and b) doing what I know works for me to get myself out of the pit. Like, radically easier, the more I do it.I’ve been focusing a lot on not getting too close to the edge. So to know that if I do slip in I am better at getting out is kind of a revelation.

  11. I can’t do that to my boys. Honestly I think my husband would be relieved that I was gone, although he would be pissed that now he had to do all the housework and childcare. (I am not joking.)I feel my mom and my brother and sister and my best friend would also miss me. But it’s my boys that need me and I have to keep going in spite of the days that feel like I need to claw my own skin off.
    I keep trying to make things better for myself but I find myself crying a lot…my life seems awfully hopeless in so many ways.

  12. I forgot to post one thing to look forward to. But I can’t really think of one that means enough to keep me going. Except that maybe this state will end.

  13. My heart goes out to all of you who are actively suffering. My spouse is the one I worry will leave. Things have been better overall the past couple of years (cognitive behavioral therapy helped him a lot), but the thought of him “leaving” is always a tiny nudge in the back of my head. Thank you also for the reminder about the change of seasons and light. I remember reading that as well and will take it into consideration, as he has been in a bit of a funk the past week or so.

  14. For Phil, who left so abruptly, so unexpectedly, so shockingly …And for Missy, who I never met. He longs for you, and weeps for you, and rages at you, and I hold him, and cry with him, and watch from afar as your children and grandchildren disintegrate into a million shattered pieces. Your parents are husks of themselves, and your sister has a black and gaping void inside her that I have tried for 10 years to fill.
    My daughter has your dimple, and it terrifies me. If she has that, what other legacy have you left her?

  15. I wonder if tomorrow’s anniversary exacerbates those who are already underwater. I’m far from those days, myself (my suicidal periods came in college, before I was medicated), but the second week of September always sends me into a whirling vortex of unfocused hopelessness. I often succumb to whatever bug is going around and spend the anniversary sick in bed. After a decade, it can’t possibly be conincidental. Maybe that dip is enough to put some people over their threshold.

  16. I have never dealt with that kind of depression, even though there have been dark seasons. Lately I’m experiencing lots of anxiety, just dealing with sending T. to school and other issues of his, but that’s what keeps me going to Zumba, the elliptical…so I can work out my feelings and do something positive in the midst of my worrying. Not to mention I’m worried about a friend in a hellish marriage. Today another friend is burying her sister, who was killed in a car accident, and left two children – one six weeks old. Is that not a parent’s worst nightmare? And in the meantime, there is an abusive man who is still breathing oxygen and it all seems so deeply unfair and unjust. One of those days where I have to talk to God, a lot, and tell Him I think he has terrible ideas on how to run this world. He doesn’t take it personally, thank goodness. Life is hard, and painful, and I just hope that whoever is in that scary place can hang on, just a little bit longer.

  17. My mom killed herself in late March. For those of you contemplating taking this way out, let me speak for those left behind.I will probably feel responsible for this every day for the rest of my life. So will my brother. So will my aunt, so will her friends. Because that is what the survivors of suicides do- they wonder every day if they have just done this, or said that…would she have not picked up the gun? If I had just been paying better attention, if I had just told her how much she meant to me…would it have made a difference?
    Those people left behind have to live with that torture every day.

  18. For Jerusha and her dad, BarryI have sat on the edge of wanting to leave. I know that pain. I first felt it when I was twelve. But I have always looked at who I would be leaving and what it would do to them.
    There are a lot of things I am glad I haven’t missed. Among them my husband, daughters, and the rest of my family and friends. But also traveling, good food, new experiences, incredible sights. Seriously, I have sometimes thought that one of the best reasons for continuing to live is the pursuit of a perfect cappuccino. There are so many sources of pleasure and delight in the world.

  19. Sept-Nov is a peak period for androgens on an annual cycle, so you may also see hormonal changes in men and women related to androgens in the fall/early winter. More anger, more inward/outward displays, more aggressive responses to internal and external prompts. Hormonal irritability at this time is fairly typical for any men sensitive to the shift, more rage, and at least anecdotally more depression in both women and men. I watch for that because my dad’s cholesterol is really low (yes, low), and that means his hormones are always minimal levels (we need cholesterol to make hormones). Hormone imbalance can cause all sorts of trouble, in either direction.Yeah, it’s like the PMS argument, but includes men – it is just one factor, but being out of kilter when you are already out of kilter can be too much tip to handle alone.
    I have an ongoing battle with PPD/Maternal Depression, and have been suicidal a few times, including when I was just seven years old (post sexual assault). The facts were always clear to me, though – no matter how much I knew the world would be better off without me, no matter how much I believed I could not survive the emotional pain for one more heartbeat, no matter how much I fundamentally believed that trying to face the unfacable fears (or the pain of healing them) would physically kill me, there are people whose lives would be irreparably harmed by my death, and worse if it was by my action or intentional inaction. There’s no recovering from that, no repairing it, no way to provide recompense, no way to apologize or make it better, ever. You cannot make amends for that, and the universe cannot, either.
    It is like a child dying, there is no fundamental redeeming value there, nothing gained by what was lost. We might learn how to live better later as we learn to live again, but we could have done that with the child still alive, too (my mother’s words, about my eldest brother dying in her arms when he was three).
    There’s no good shortcut. There’s only carrying on through.
    When I first thought it out, at seven, I figured that it would be a life stage before I was ‘better enough to be okay at all’ – I figured it would be when I was grown up. A decade or so, maybe a bit more, before I was unbroken enough to live. I was way better than just ‘okay at all’ at that point. There was more to do, and more after that, but each nibble better was better.
    Up, down, in between, lots of muck to deal with, lots of therapy (yay therapy!), other traumas and mistakes and challenges and work and supplements (yay supplements!) and exercise (erg, way low on that lately)… and increasing skills over time in spotting when I’m slipping so I can get myself caught before I get to the ‘please will my body just die already so I can stop’ stage. Because really, it’s skills that make it function. My skills are not always enough, so I learn more, and lean on others when I can’t manage on my own skills.
    Gradually, I unbreak, just because I refuse to shatter all the way.
    The problem with the long view is that it is too long to grasp without overwhelm. I could decide that it would take a long time to be better, sure, but I had to live the days a heartbeat at a time. My body is wiser than I am, and has stubbornly refused to die from the pain at any given point. Because I *did* survive it one more night, I know I *can* survive it one more night. That gives me time to figure out the how, and build more skills.
    Leaving ends the opportunity to figure out how, too. Most of my ‘how’ have been things I just couldn’t see until someone else showed me, and things I didn’t get right on the first try (just like any skill, like learning to walk, lots of falling, but that’s expected!) … and given all that building up and falling down, and all that can’t be seen until it is shown by someone else, this is a great time to be in community (faith, therapy, online support groups, etc.). Before I could learn to catch myself, someone else had to catch me. I still have epeepunk eternally on call to ‘catch’ when I’m sounding like I’m slipping, because otherwise I’m a lot farther slipped before I catch myself. My mom, my sister, my friends, all will raise a flag when I’m slipping, because I asked them to and will do something about it when they do (which is HAAAAAARD, I really just want to deny it, thanks!)… but no matter how much I don’t want to or can’t deal on any given day, I can’t get past the truth I knew from the beginning. It would do unrelenting unforgivable harm to others.
    Short form: In terms of Moxie’s post from yesterday, Someone else can do the jobs you’d abandon that way, sure. Nobody can replace the relationship. Ever.

  20. I saved a friend once, there was just something in her voice when she called me. I think about that day here and there even though we have both moved on with our lives in different directions. She lost her sister to suicide a few years ago and while im sad for her, im glad she failed where her sister didn’t. When it was my turn and I was standing on the cliff, the one thought that got me through was thinking how much it would suck if I left and the next day would have been the best of my life. I think buried deep inside myself is a hope that if you can get through the bad then the good stuff is just right around the corner. If you can just hold out until it’s time for the good stuff to come, because it will, no matter how bad it is right this second/minute/hour/day/month/year.

  21. Things that I noticed that were worth it, since the first time I seriously felt the need to die (aside from every day):`Fresh peas
    `Windy warm evenings
    `A long vista with plenty of time to drink it in
    `Discovering a new author I like
    `The scent of early morning rainstorms
    `Finding out that a friend has had a success
    `Getting into – and out of – a really good argument with someone who likes a really good argument and knows how to really dig in without making it personal
    `Discovering an undiscovered talent (I can sing, when I practice and train, and I always thought I was terrible – but turns out I have three octaves plus a note in range, and as long as I’m not performing on stage, I am good enough to enjoy it)
    `Dancing in the kitchen to a song on the radio, and turning around to find my daughter is dancing, too
    `Figuring out what would motivate my child, and having them thank me for it (seriously, that one is rare, and sooooo nice)
    `Giving a really good gift, and seeing the ‘oh wow’ expression
    `Getting a really good gift
    `Apple turnovers
    `Pursuit of really spectacular sushi (I could live for that forever)
    `Having a recovering alcoholic find me to make amends
    `Passing on something that helped me, and seeing it help someone else

  22. Possibility. To leave is to give up what could be, and I can’t miss that.You didn’t leave, Moxie, and if you had you wouldn’t have practically single-handedly ended the Mommy Wars with one little post.
    It’s why I oppose the death penalty, too: it forecloses. There is always a chance, no matter how slim, that the whole world (or just your world) will change for the better. That is worth sticking around for.

  23. I post this every year, and it bears repeating again and again. This is a completely perfect example of what often happens with depression:
    The key thing to remember is that *serious depression is a disease* like diabetes, and like many diseases it can be treated. We as a society spend too much time treating mental illness differently than physical illness, and it needs to stop.

  24. Oh, boy. I’m in my mid-30s, single, childless, and partnerless, and I’ve been depressed, on and off, since I was 17. I’ve been continuously medicated since 19. Also, almost continuously in therapy since 29, with maybe a few breaks of a few months each.Medication made the difference for me, for the most part, between wanting to die and not wanting to die, even though meds don’t make me want to live, per se. Before I was on them or when they aren’t doing their job, I walk around and think of how I could kill myself using almost anything I see around me, including kitchen knives, barbed/razor wire fencing, cars and trucks on the street, a razor in the shower, a train or subway, cleaning supplies, medicine… It’s horrific. I can’t make it stop. I don’t act on it, but always go and turn myself in at an infirmary (in college), tell my therapist, eat a pint of Ben & Jerry’s or a milkshake (both have a tremendously calming and happifying effect on my mood–not candy; only dairy + fat + sugar), watch TV to numb my brain, etc. I don’t ever really want to kill myself; I only want the pain to go away and never come back. The only reason I can think of not to is because I think it would destroy my parents and siblings and because of something a psychologist told me when I was 19: “Depression is 100% curable unless you commit suicide.”
    I no longer believe that, but I do feel that it must be manageable–there must be a way to keep it at bay–and I think I could somehow have a good, happy, fulfilled life with a partner and children if I only stick it out. (That’s what I want most in life and always have. A career would be good, too–I love to write and am okay at some other stuff, too, but a spouse and children–that’s what I really want.)
    The fall is harder for me than the spring. There is totally, 100% for sure a seasonal component to my depression. I bought a Sunbox light box and need to start using it for 20-30 minutes every morning in late August/early September. It helps. I know that exercise would help a lot, but I can’t get myself to a lot of the time. So much is so hard for me every day, but I just keep on truckin’.

  25. I meant that I’ve been in therapy since I was 19, not 29. Whoops.Also, about to start CBT for the 1st time to see if that will help.
    Also, this is how I feel almost every single day:
    “It is so difficult to face what you know you could do, if you could only do it well and not screw it up. Too much to gear up for now that Labor Day Weekend is over. Who has the courage to face all that? Tasks. Expectations. Potential.”
    Spot on! Thank you as always.

  26. I’m another who couldn’t possibly do that to someone. I once decided to live not for myself, or any of my own reasons, but for other people. It did not feel good; it did not feel purposeful. Living for other people is kind of crappy. But you what else? It kept me alive. It was the thread that I hung onto, for dear life, until life carried me to a different place, to another shore where I could find other reasons, better reasons, joyful reasons. So living for other people isn’t an answer, but it can save someone’s life. Of course there are situations where this is not applicable, of intolerable persistent suffering. I get that. I’m just offering a possibility.I am full of joy now, when once I thought there was no hope.

  27. When I was in my teens I thought about suicide probably every day. Failed attempts at 19 and 23, over boyfriends. But the look on my mom’s face at the hospital, the second time, “cured” me. I have had some very low lows since that time, but now that I have a daughter of my own and I understand the pain that my death would have caused my mom, I am so glad I was unsuccessful. And now my daughter is my insurance policy.

  28. Oh, this makes me cry. God bless my husband, who suffers with this much more than I do. OK, I may not feel good right this minute, but late this afternoon, I’m going with my 5 year old to look for dolphins in the water. That does truly sound wonderful. I will look forward to that all day.

  29. I have suffered with clinical depression since I was 25 and there have been times that I felt like ending it. After my second child I was diagnosed with bipolar I I disorder. This was thought to be brought on by the pregnancy and stress I went through with my second child. I take medication everyday and I try so hard for my kids, my husband and myself to find the little things in life that make me happy. I hope my kids never go through this, but if they do I want them to look to me for inspiration and say if mom can do it so can I. She didn’t give up and either will I. My husband has stuck with me through it all and has never given up on me! He puts up with a lot, but he understands this is a disease. I live for my family and I live for me. I won’t give up. Never.

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  31. I too lived with despair and fear for many, many years. If you are in that place, hear me–I promise this is true. “IT GETS BETTER.” I did a lot of therapy to deal with my shit. I found friends who “got it.” And I found a doctor who helped me correct the brain chemical imbalance (partly heredity, partly the result of years of sexual and psychological abuse) with the right antidepressants. I have a life now, and I love it. I promise, it gets better if you hang on. There were days I didn’t think I could hang on–so I get it, I really, really do. But just hang in there for today. Then do it again tomorrow. IT GETS BETTER.

  32. This is for Channing — beautiful, golden-curled boy, nearly a man. I captured a picture of him, without his permission, just as he turned to realize he was being photographed.We were in Rome and we all had such bright futures ahead — he most of all, we all thought. Following summer, I heard the news of his suicide in my dorm room from a mutual friend. Twenty years later, I still wonder why he couldn’t realize the gap he would leave behind, never to be filled. Would he still have ended his life if he’d known?

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