The Silent Killer

Ever since I started blogging about 6 years ago, I swore I would be brutally honest and forthcoming about any and all topics I wrote about.  I’m pretty proud to say that I have lived up to that promise pretty well.

Blogging has become my therapy over the years.  The dad blogging is for fun,  but talking about deeper issues; truly I tell you helps me make it through the day.  I know that sounds very melodramatic, but it’s true.  I see so much nonsense in this world, as I am sure most of you do as well, that it drives me absolutely bonkers sometimes.  I gotta vent or I’m going to go crazy man, for reals.

There are some obvious areas I have chosen to abstain from “true honesty.”  By that I mean I never refer to the Wife by her actual name, nor do I reveal my son’s name.  But, unfortunately, like many others, I have some very sick family members that would love nothing more than to track me down, just to cause me harm.  And when I say sick, I mean crazy-sick, not like curable illness-sick.  So you can see why I choose a certain level of anonymity in my writing.  Although this reality bums me out, I try and peel back the layers and let you all in as much as possible.

This blog helps me a lot; more than you may ever know, because there are still so many things I struggle with on a daily basis, but if you knew me, or were around me, trust me you would never know because I have become so good at hiding my pain and struggle that it’s almost as easy as breathing now, yet not as healthy.  But, some emotions have come bubbling up recently that I feel it only right that instead of hiding, like I am used to, I should stand strong, peel back another layer and show you a little more of me.  So….here we go.

Wednesday May 2, 2012 will be a day I will probably always remember for a long time, if not forever.  This is the day one of my childhood heroes died.  And not only did he die, but he passed in such a fashion that is so close and personal to me that it rocked me to my very core.  This past Wednesday, former San Diego Chargers linebacker Junior Seau was found dead in his home from a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the chest.  Yes, he committed suicide in his own home; he was only 43 years old, and this was not his first attempt.

In 2010, Seau drove his car off the road and slammed it into a tree.  While he survived and claimed he fell asleep at the wheel, rumblings began to stir that this was no accident and there may be something deeper going on.  Sadly, we now know what that “something” was, in fact going on.  Seau, always known to be one of the most energetic and positive personalities in the NFL, suffered from massive depression, which eventually led to him taking his own life.  In the weeks, months, even years to come, much will be made over the fact that he chose to shoot himself in the chest; presumably to preserve his brain to be studied for the effects of concussions received while playing.  Even more sad, Seau is not the first former NFL’er to do such a thing; former NFL player Dave Duerson committed suicide in similar fashion, and left a note explaining he wanted his brain to be studied.

So why am I taking this so personally?  Well, one, Seau was a personal idol of mine….but two, and most importantly, I know what it feels like to suffer from depression, and sadly, I even know what it feels like when you come to that conclusion that it’s time to check out….sorry to make that sound so casual.

I have gone through most of my life struggling with depression, and I still do to this day.  Much like when they tell you that you will never “not” be an alcoholic, but instead you will learn to manage and live with the disease; I feel the same goes for depression.  I don’t believe it ever truly goes away, you simply learn to manage it, and hopefully suppress it in a fashion that makes life easier to manage.

I don’t really know how to segue to this next part of this story without it being super awkward, so just like pulling of a band-aid or jumping into a pool; I’m just going to do it.  I also relate, sadly, to the rest of the story about Junior Seau, with one major exception.

Around the end of 2005 I had pretty much reached an all-time low in my emotional state.  I was heading down a dark and lonely path and I could not see any way out.  I had recently purchased a condo, which I had no business owning.  I was not in the financial standing to even utter the word homeowner, let alone be one.  But, like many times in my life I listened to poor, selfish, pressure-filled advice from my mother, and once again landed myself in a situation with only one possible outcome…and it was going to be bad.

I always knew I shouldn’t be in that situation, but I wasn’t strong enough to say no to that woman.  I never was.  This had been the story of my entire life, and by the end of 2005 I just couldn’t see anything changing.  So, I decided to change it myself.  I didn’t see much value in living anymore, so as the holidays crept closer I had finally reached a decision to…..cash out, if you will.  I wasn’t quite sure how I was going to do this unspeakable act, but I simply didn’t care anymore, and I was fully prepared to follow through.

I started to quietly make plans to end things directly after the holidays.  I don’t feel the need to share my plan of how I was going to do it, but trust me when I tell you I was prepared.  I had already put in for 2 weeks off of work that would extend into the New Year, and I had come to the decision that a pre-New Year’s follow-through was what I wanted.  I didn’t want to risk hanging out with people on New Year’s Eve and start to feel guilty, thus backing out of my plans.  But, life had other plans for me.

Just prior to Christmas a friend from high school came into town for the holidays and she called me up to hang out.  This friend was actually a high school crush (on my end that is, she wanted nothing to do with me), and even though it never became anything other than friend-status, we remained cool throughout the years.  Like most school friends we lost touch when she went off to college and I joined the military.

We eventually reconnected through social media and chatted regularly via IM.  When she called me one day and said she was in town for the holidays and wanted to hang I was a little taken aback.  This was definitely going to throw my plans out of whack.  Nevertheless, we hung out.  In fact, we hung out every day, even after Christmas family stuff was over.  I wish I could tell seeing her made me so happy that it rekindled my joy for life, but that is just not true….in fact, to this day, I wonder if she was planning on doing the same thing I was planning.

This friend of mine had become the most annoying person I ever met, I swear.  All she did was complain about her life.  Every conversation was about her and all her troubles.  I feel terrible admitting this, but all I kept thinking was, “Good Lord woman, just jump and get it over with.”  I was so dumbfounded, how could this girl go from someone I was completely infatuated with in high school to…this?  And to top it off she just wouldn’t leave.  I kept asking her when she was flying back overseas, but she never had a straight answer.

And just like that, the very thing I didn’t want to happen did happen.  Since she never went home, we ended up hanging out on New Year’s Eve.  To this day I still wonder why.  There were so many other friends she could have hung out with, but instead she was with me constantly.  I mean all of her cackling-hen friends from high school were in town, yet she was always with me.  And before you start thinking there something sexual about this, I tell you now, there wasn’t.  Nothing ever happened.  Nothing ever was even hinted at happening.  She even crashed several nights at my place, but she always stayed on the couch, and neither of us ever tried to make something happen.

So, New Year’s Eve came and went, and I spent the entire night “faking the funk,” pretending to have a great time, when in actuality all I was thinking about was what I was going to be doing that very next day.  When the morning of Jan 1, 2006 rolled around (I remember it as clear as if it was yesterday) I was ready to move forward with my plan.  I walked out to my living room to BS with my friend a little bit and try and send her on her way so I could get started, but when I walked out to the living room she was already gone.  Blanket folded, pillow neatly placed on the blanket, and her dishes in the sink.  She was just gone.

As I later stood in the bathroom of my condo prepared to move forward with my plan I found myself standing and just staring in the mirror.  I stared at my reflection in the mirror, but that was simply an outward appearance.  In actuality I was staring into my soul.  I was watching the story that was my life; every disappointing day; one failed thing after another, and everything I ever quit.  And at that moment I heard the faintest voice in my soul speak, “You’ve never finished anything in your entire life…..”  Just then I started to cry at the realization of the brutal honesty of my life, but the voice was not finished.  As I prepared for more painful realizations, expecting even more affirmation to why my current course of action was the right thing, the voice said, “…..please don’t start now.”

Right then I was pulled back to reality like one of those scenes from a movie where the character was traveling through time and space.  Picture what it looked like when the Millenium Falcon went into hyper-drive.  I was no longer staring at my life, I was staring at my now.  I knew right then what I was planning to do was not the right answer; it was the wrong answer; the selfish answer.

From there on out I made the decision to get up and move forward.  I realized it didn’t mean that my life was any better, because truth be told it was not.  In fact it got a lot worse before it got any better, but I never would have known any of this had I followed through with my plan.

I decided to take small steps in improving emotional state.  I even convinced myself to start taking chances in life; small chances, and if they didn’t work out, then so be it.  My first small chance challenge I gave myself, ask out that Cute Girl (that’s what I called her at least) you see every day at work, but have never had the courage to speak to.  You know what I call that Cute Girl now…The Wife.

Now, I’ve said that I wanted to be brutally honest, and for the most part I have, but I also realize that I’ve skirted around the real issue in this blog. One of the hardest things I’ve learned in my time in therapy is that one of the best way to openly face your issues are to say them out loud, call them by name and take their power away. Because if you don’t, they will forever have a hold on you.  So here we go…

I have suffered from depression my entire life, and on January 1, 2006 I planned to commit suicide, but I chose life.  I continue to live with depression every day, but I will always choose life.  My heart goes out to all those who struggle with depression on every level, but most importantly those who cannot choose life in the end.  While some will point the finger at those who do succumb to depression and follow through with their plans that they are weak or that they are cowards, but I tell you now suicide is the greatest cry for help anyone can give, and know that even those individuals who are carrying their plans, they are not happy about it; they are crying out.

Now, to bring this full circle.  The passing my childhood idol hit me really hard.  I am still finding it hard to believe that a man such as Junior Seau would end his life this way.  Instead of morning his choice of suicide I am choosing to celebrate his memory, or at least my memories of him.  What does sadden me a little has been to see the amount of people who are so upset by what happened, but instead of properly mourning the man, they choose to degrade him by calling him weak or a coward.  On friend of mine on Facebook said he did not deserve to be called a hero because he was a coward.  They could not be more wrong.

If you do not want to see him as a hero, that’s one thing, but don’t sully his memory by calling him a coward because he could not fight off a debilitating disease.  He will always be one of my idols, but it’s more important to remember he was a hero to many people, but none more than the 3 children he is leaving behind.  He was their hero, and he always will be.

However, I will say one thing. The most important thing I ever did was to reach out for help.  I had to admit to myself that I needed help, and I still do.  I rely on the love from my friends/family and most importantly my Wife.  Had Junior been able to see the pain that his actions have brought on his family, I truly believe he would have chosen a different path.  There is no positive taken away from someone taking their own life.  I just wished he would have just been strong enough to say he needed help.

I know this is a heavy topic to read, but it’s all true, and it is long overdue for me to talk about.  I have never shared this story with anyone, including the Wife, and while I am not proud of the state I reached, I am proud that I was able to pull myself out, and most of all I am proud I chose life.  And I am proud to share this story with anyone who will listen.  If this story somehow makes you see me in a negative light, then I am sorry for that, but I am not sorry for sharing this story.  I am also proud that I have been strong enough to admit that I need help, and also strong enough to accept that help from others.  My Wife has long been an inspiration for me to grow and change and become the man I should have been long ago.

I have told my Wife several times throughout our relationship that at times I feel like she saved my life. I know she has always taken this in as some sort of over exaggerated show of affection.  Now she knows I mean it.

#55, you will always be one of my heroes; I’m just sorry things had to end the way they did.  I pray you find the peace in death that you could not find in life.

 

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14 thoughts on “The Silent Killer

  1. Thank you for speaking out about your depression; it’s difficult, but it helps others. I experienced the worst depression I’ve ever had earlier this year (after suffering two miscarriages), and had suicidal thoughts for the first time in my life; those thoughts simultaneously scared the shit out of me and brought a sense of relief. Thanks to a great therapist and some medication, I’m feeling better than ever. Thankfully, you never went through with your plan and are able to share your experience with others. Never be afraid to ask for help!

    • Lauren, thank you for your words, and thank you for sharing your personal story with me. I am happy to hear you were able to find the help you needed.

  2. Thank you for sharing your story Mike! My family has a long history of anxiety and depression so I’m familiar with its crippling effects. Thankfully, none that have led to suicide but still to other self-destructive habits. It became my purpose to study Psychology and Social Sciences because of them and now neuroscience seems to be my area of interest. I think understanding the dynamics of it all has helped me cope better with my own. It is a lifelong battle – I will forever be an anxious mess and my anxiety can induce depression so I know my patterns; learn your triggers and I think by you keeping your distance from your family you’re setting boundaries that will help keep episodes of depression at bay. Sorry to hear about your idol – it is sad to know people reach that point to cry for help but it is a cry; it’s the worse point of their depression but things can get better if only they had the smallest glimpse of hope to get through it. I am happy you chose life and hope you always continue to do so 🙂 Take Care Mike! -Iva

  3. Thank you for sharing your story Mike! My family has a long history of anxiety and depression so I’m familiar with its crippling effects. Thankfully, none that have led to suicide but still to other self-destructive habits. It became my purpose to study Psychology and Social Sciences because of them and now neuroscience seems to be my area of interest. I think understanding the dynamics of it all has helped me cope better with my own. It is a lifelong battle – I will forever be an anxious mess and my anxiety can induce depression so I know my patterns; learn your triggers and I think by you keeping your distance from your family you’re setting boundaries that will help keep episodes of depression at bay. Sorry to hear about your idol – it is sad to know people reach that point to cry for help but it is a cry; it’s the worse point of their depression but things can get better if only they had the smallest glimpse of hope to get through it. I am happy you chose life and hope you always continue to do so 🙂 Take Care Mike! -Iva

  4. All I can say is “wow.”

    Side question: I “knew of” Junior Seau, but nothing about him. Was he known to suffer from depression, or did it ever come out after his death that he was depressed, or that there was some sort of sign? As a fan, do you think the sad outcome had something to do with brain trauma? This is interesting to me (I’m an armchair mental health advocate and lifelong mood disorder sufferer).

    I’m glad I found your blog.

    • The crazy part about Junior was all through his playing days, and even well after, he was known as the happiest guy in the NFL. He truly was like a kid out on the field. I have read so many stories about what a great guy he was, and how nice he was to everyone; give you the shirt off his back kind of guy. Yes, I do believe was from brain trauma. That’s why, I believe, he shot himself in the chest; to preserve the brain. After he passed several stories leaked out that many thought he was depressed from other *odd* actions he has taken over the years (i.e. 6 months prior to his death he supposedly fell asleep behind the wheel, but many thought that was his first attempt). Sadly, tests on his brain didn’t show the kind of trauma others have had, but I still think there is so much on that topic even doctors haven’t discovered yet. Or, maybe, he was really depressed and no one knew…..like me. Either way, it was a very sad time for me.

      I am so glad you found my blog too…..WELCOME!

  5. Pingback: It’s Been a Year, And I Still Miss You | Papa Does Preach

  6. Thanks for writing this. Your honesty is appreciated and it’s an added bonus that you write beautifully. I’ve read some of your other pieces – you’re slick and funny.

    Someone close to me has battled clinical depression for years and weathered several suicide attempts. I’ve made several attempts to express how I feel about this but I can’t so I’ll move on to you, if you don’t mind:

    Glad you were able to pull yourself out of it. You had everything man-planned down to the finest detail which in itself is very moving. That kind of tunnel-visoned, laser-focused thinking a man can do is downright beautiful and when it is aimed for a certain target, there often isn’t much that can thwart it until the desired result is achieved.
    You seemed to do a complete 180 within moments. It’s astounding.
    It’s like you defied your own nature in order to live.

    Again, thank you for sharing your story

  7. Pingback: Daddy, Why Are You Sad? | Papa Does Preach

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