There’s a part of my life that I never really planned on sharing in depth on my blog. For the most part, I’m very open about myself. I think the only things in my offline life that are different than my online persona are that I actually cuss like a sailor at times and I am poverty level poor. What I’ve never told you is that I am a suicide survivor. The recent suicide death of one of my all time most favorite actors, Robin Williams, really REALLY brought up strong feelings that have made me feel in my heart that I need to share. Maybe it will be therapy for me, or maybe it will help a reader out there and save a life.
My story begins before my birth. My mother was 7 months pregnant when she divorced my biological father. He tried really hard to be “normal” but the fact is that he was a Gay man and it just wasn’t compatible with marriage to my mother. My father was fighting inner demons before he even met my mother. His own mother was an un-medicated Bipolar sufferer and of course that had an affect on him, as did being abused/molested/you name it by someone he knew. THAT tidbit is never talked about and I only know of it because of my mother telling me. So you see my father had many issues, among them was depression and feeling like there was no escape. As hard as it was on my mom to raise 3 kids ages 3 and under, I know that at least for a while, my father was happy that he had indeed gave “normal life a chance and had the opportunity to have children. We spent our summers in Alabama with our dad and his side of the family. BIG family.
Around age 12, about a year after my father agreed to sever rights to us and let my stepdad adopt us, we got a phone call saying our dad was in the hospital after an overdose of pills. This was actually the first time something seemed to be wrong. It was then that my mom let me know that he had tried to kill himself a couple times before this. I was still rather young though, and most definitely naive.
The next year I was adjusting to being an 8th grader at a new school. My two brothers were enjoying their high school lives and it was November. A chill in the air but just another day in Michigan. We got home from school that day and our mom sat us down. I knew something was wrong. Never will I forget the words.
“Your dad died, they found his body at the bottom of a cliff in a state park. I’m so sorry guys, we’re leaving tomorrow for Alabama”.
What? Huh? The overdose, the slitting of wrists, those didn’t work, but this time he made sure that he would finally be set free of his life full of fighting inner demons. He had a cigarette and then took a leap of a cliff and fell to his death. I was THIRTEEN. How was I supposed to even act? My oldest brother was distraught, and we were invited that night to hang out with his girlfriend and her sister who was also my dear friend. I didn’t cry, but he sure did. I’ve never seen him cry since that night either.
Suddenly we were in Alabama and in the funeral home, where my dad was laying in a closed casket. My middle brother sat staring with tears in his eyes. He later asked to see the body, not because of any reason but he was a kid too and wanted closure. We would never get that. Never get to say goodbye to a man we loved. We were told he was in a body bag not even sewn back together all the way because it wouldn’t be an open casket. We couldn’t see him, only a photo.
Family came and went, and I just sort of walked around. Across from my dad’s visitation was a policeman’s funeral and I could hear a girl crying so hard. I knew it was her daddy. I wondered why I wasn’t crying like her. At the gravesite and burial it became apparent why. When we walked away from the grave as the casket was being lowered, my mother collapsed as she held my father’s picture and was crying so hard. She loved my dad so much, and still loves him to this day. I felt I needed to be strong for her.
None of us admitted we needed to see a counselor. We stayed strong for our mom but this was a huge mistake. My brothers turned to drugs and alcohol to numb the pain. I didn’t go to drugs and alcohol but I had nightmares and began a life of denial and never dealing with my feelings of loss, guilt and blaming myself. I even thought that maybe if I had decided NOT to be adopted by my stepdad that it would have saved him.
The truth is people don’t kill themselves because of circumstances. Depression and other mental illness is VERY REAL and most people that do take their lives do so because they believe it is the only way to end the pain. They leave behind family and friends that will live with what they have done and never ever have answers. It took me years to stop being mad at my father for leaving ME. I felt like he didn’t even think about his children when he went. The truth is he knew that we were okay because the man that adopted us as his own was a good man. My father had pre-paid his entire funeral years before. He very meticulously planned everything but tried to make sure his kids were taken care of. He couldn’t have anticipated what we would go through mentally as a result.
He wouldn’t have known how hard it was for my brothers to go one single day not feeling pain. He wouldn’t know that his death put my brothers through hell. He would never see that they both are different men now, both very loving dads, and they bounced back. Normal guys? No but they try. My father would never get to walk me down the aisle or at the very least see pictures of my wedding. My father wouldn’t have been able to know that the day I had my first child I cried myself to sleep because he wouldn’t ever get to meet his first grandchild.
I survived, my father didn’t. He was part of a large family, a family that had and still probably has lots of mental health issues. Sadly, he was the first, and we’ve lost another 3 members to a similar ending. I cry inside knowing that some of my cousins and Aunts have had to feel the pain I felt as a very young teenager. I know now that it wasn’t anything I could have done to stop him. He was depressed and had so many issues that it was too much. He was not a coward, he just felt there was no other way. It still hurts. Suicide has nothing pretty about it. I am fortunate that the internet and nosy people didn’t exist back then like they do now. I didn’t have to fear the media like Robin Williams’ family has to now. They have to live this out publicly and I just want to hug them and tell them that I have been there. I’m feeling blessed that I never had to deal with people making assumptions as to why my dad killed himself. They don’t have a clue what goes on in the minds of people who commit suicide.
If you or anyone you know may be depressed or having thoughts of suicide, please reach out to them. They might deny it or even feel offended but to know that at least one person out there truly cares will help. I am very private about this part of my life but knowing that I battle anxiety and depression now as an adult, I am glad I reached out for help before I lost myself too.
I miss you Daddy. I miss Dr. Pepper and going to the lake. I miss your cologne, I miss the way you would put on a record and pull me up to dance with you. I miss your painting and incredible art.