In writing these letters to you over the past few years I have primarily focused on your act of suicide and the way it has changed the course of my life. You and I only briefly spoke about my own long-running history with suicidality, depression and self-injury… and it was only in the last few months you were alive that I began to really share those details with you. I’d like to share more about that with you now.
When you first admitted back in May of 2010 that you were suffering from a deep depression, you also told us of two previous suicide attempts of which we were not aware; one of those attempts was actually while you and I were living together as roommates in our 20’s. Those years were particularly hard for me too; I was extremely suicidal myself at that time… seems neither of us had any idea just how hopeless the other was feeling and we were living under the very same roof. Turns out you and I were quite good at protecting one another… even if the other wasn’t fully aware there was anything from which they were being protected. I know for me, the reasons for keeping my desire to die to myself were plenty. For starters, I was embarrassed. I told myself that “normal” people didn’t wake up every morning wishing they had died in their sleep. I couldn’t share that thought with anyone. I felt so strongly about wanting to die but recognized that if I were to reveal that wish and/or intent they would try to stop me and I wasn’t looking for attention or help…I was looking for a way out. I also wanted to protect you and our family from the feelings that would undoubtedly be stirred up by such a revelation from someone they loved: feelings of shame, embarrassment, guilt, sadness and the crippling fear that they would not be able to prevent the inevitable– the last of which I experienced in excess the last 5 months of your life.
I remember the summer before you died, shortly after you accidentally emailed me your suicide note. After receiving it, I desperately tried to help you. I began to open up to you about just how deep and dark my own depression went and told you about a file folder I had which contained about a dozen or so methods of suicide I had deemed feasible for myself after much research on the internet. For several years that folder, ironically, was a lifeline for me. Somehow, getting up in the morning was a little bit easier knowing I had those plans in place if that day ended up being the one that finally broke me once and for all. I cried myself to sleep nearly every single night and while I’m not religious, my last thoughts each night were prayers to “whomever or whatever is out there”… begging with every ounce of my being that they grant me some mercy and let me not wake up in the morning.
I am jealous of all you were able to accomplish despite your depression– mine has significantly held me back my entire life. From a young age (and even now) it was partly because of my sadness and crippling shyness that I failed to engage in a lot of activities that other kids enjoyed and I longed to do but of which I didn’t feel capable or deserving. Depression contributed to my constant inability to focus and I was repeatedly told by teachers over the years that “I didn’t participate enough” and that “I wasn’t working up to my known potential.” I knew that. Aside from the fact that I did not possess the ability to kick those depressive episodes out of the way long enough to do what everyone thought I was capable of doing, I also had sunk deep enough to not see the point of it all, anyway. I figured if I didn’t think I’d be here long enough for any of that stuff to matter, why bother?
You were so very smart, Brian. And so motivated and dedicated and focused! You always did so much better in school. In more recent years you managed to hold down a few jobs at a time while going back to school full-time and training for a bodybuilding competition… and you did so well at all of those thing all at once. I really envied that– especially now that I know you were suffering just as much as I was but yet you excelled at everything in spite of it. Grandpa Ralph used to compare me to you. He made me feel like a failure for having dropped out of college after only a few years… he said, “You’re just like your Aunt, she never finished anything, either.” It hurt my feelings a great deal; my depression and my increasing bouts of self-injury were the primary contributors to me prematurely leaving school. I feel pretty certain that he wouldn’t have understood that had I tried to explain it.
I still have not felt a shred of anger at you for choosing to end your own life. I have felt that inescapable despair and truthfully I still have moments where I envy your choice. I know that won’t sit well with a lot of people, but it’s the truth. I’m here in this new way of life without you and 3 years later there are still moments the pain literally takes my breath away and I can’t imagine feeling this kind of pain for another 40 years. I promised myself when I decided to share my letters to you on this blog that I wouldn’t “sugar coat” things to make them easier for others to read. I don’t want there to be so much shame and stigma surrounding this stuff– depression, self-injury, suicide. Keeping that stuff hidden only serves to give the illness more power than it deserves. I find that with each word I share about my struggles I’m taking a little of that power back.
Thanks for listening, dude.