Trigger warning: Suicidal ideations
My wife, Mel, and I were talking about my therapy visit and depression recently. We were in the car, alone, driving to a date night out. She asked me how it was going, and I said fine. I’m not sure how we got on this topic exactly, but I told her that if it weren’t for her and the kids, I might have succumbed to suicide years ago.
She laughed at first because she thought I was joking, but when I didn’t smile, she realized I was serious.
I have a good life. I’ve been happily married for almost 14 years. I have three bright, cute, and wonderful children. I have a good, stable job with benefits at a university. I went to college. I have a nice house in a nice neighborhood. I have friends and hobbies and passions. I have a church that I love, and I give back to my community. I am often described as a happy person. I know that I have a lot to live for.
But the reality is, I have depression and anxiety. Sometimes, when things get really bad, it turns into obsessive-compulsive disorder. I’ve had it all my life, and it is a constant fight to keep my head above water.
People have been talking a lot about the deaths of Anthony Bourdain and Kate Spade recently. They both died by suicide, and both, from the outside looking in, seemed to have very good lives. And the fact is, they did. But depression is like a fog that creeps in and consumes you, and regardless of your possessions and your status, you can’t see past it.
I can’t speak for their specific struggles. And while there’s a rational side of me that 100% understands all that I have, depression, anxiety, and mental illness are not rational. They make no logical sense. Sometimes it feels like there is this battle inside of me between my irrational depression and the rational side of me that says, “You have a good life. Enjoy it.”
My default setting includes thoughts of suicide. It seems to be somewhere in my head at all times, waiting to move to the forefront of my thoughts. I remember growing up and hearing people say that suicide is selfish. And you know what? I can see how anyone without depression could see it that way. But in the moment, in the sorrow, in one of my bad, really bad, moments, it feels like living with real, actual pain. It is in those moments when I ask myself if I want to continue living like this, if I can keep living like this.
What I’ve found helps almost every time I experience pain like this is to think about my children, my family, the people in my life I genuinely love. I think about how I want to see them grow up. I think about how my father wasn’t around when I was child, and I don’t want them to ever feel that. I think about my wife, and how I watched my mother struggle as a single mother, and how I never want that for her. Sometimes I sit and look at pictures of them on my phone to pull myself out of those dark thoughts.
And the wild thing is, when I do this, when I think about the fact that I’m needed, it doesn’t make the depression go away. That sorrow and empty feeling in my heart doesn’t drop off. But the realization that I am needed can help me pull through. It gives me the extra bump I need to push on.
After I told Mel all this, she was silent for a little while. I told her that I didn’t want this to come off as an “If you leave me, I’ll kill myself” sort of thing, because it isn’t that. I don’t wish to put that kind of pressure on my wife. “I want you to stay in this marriage out of love, not fear that I’d do something to myself,” I said. I explained that there are times when I get low, when I get down and depressed, and thinking about the fact that my family needs me keeps me going.
I’d never told anyone this. I think most people with depression and families don’t. It’s a scary thought. But on the flip side, it’s the reality of being a parent with depression. I have to assume that there are other parents like me, who have to think about their families to keep going. I hate to think that I am alone here.
“I just want you to know that you and the kids give me purpose. You make my life worth living. You give me something to live for.” I said. “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to scare you.”
Mel reached out and took my hand. And we kept driving on, together.