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Friday, January 11, 2013

Listen to Yourself.

Last night, while speaking with a friend, I learned that a former neighbor of hers had committed suicide. He left behind a trio of teenage kids and a wife.

37 years ago, as of next Tuesday, my own father did the same thing.

This fellow tried self-medicating, with alcohol.

So did my dad.

Today's keyword is hopelessness.

I don't know what prevented this fellow from getting some help. I can imagine myself in his shoes. Dad's blood runs in me. Combine that line with the thread of mental illness in my Mom's line and I get a sympathetic vibration for everyone in this tragedy.

The stigma that enshrouds mental illness gives resistance where almost any other medical condition would invite acceptance, the debate over health care costs notwithstanding. I wouldn't think twice about letting EMTs patch me up after a car accident. I *did* resist treatment for my own depression. I hung back out of shame. I made excuses, procrastinated, and continued to trip over my own feet for decades. What made the pain preferable to treatment? I didn't see it that way. I saw treatment as a prize far above my head and out of reach. Money, time, opportunity, what did it matter? I saw myself as hopelessly broken. There was no point in seeking therapy.

I wasn't entirely wrong in thinking depression would always be with me, either. It will. Depression's my cancer. I'm treating it with drugs and it's in remission. Past that point the analogy breaks down. It's an iffy thing at best to try and wish away a carcinoma but choice plays a big role with the healing process where mental illness is concerned. Therapy's taught me how to moderate the effects of depression. I've learned how to treat myself. I'm learning how to live with depression.

I've learned that hope never leaves. I couldn't see it because I'd pushed it out of sight.

And who am I? Ordinary. One red-haired, gawkish, muddling single adult white male. It has often felt like it's taken superhuman effort to keep myself going, but that's only me swimming through my own life. I am not special in the wider world of my kind.

You can do what I've done.

Try.  Please, try.

I can't ask it of my dad; it's too late.

It's not too late for you.