When a beloved member of our global community dies at his own hand, it creates a controversy. Some felt he was selfish; some felt he should have simply sucked-it-up; some think he should have sought more council, embraced his faith or upped his prescriptions.
Some are sympathetic, some are saddened, while others just don't understand.
I, myself, was stricken with depression earlier this year. I am still battling through it. There are humorous things that happened to me during the past few months, and I will share them in this story, so please don't judge me too harshly. I am not poking fun at anyone who suffers from depression and I'm not making light of the recent Robin Williams tragedy.
Back in March, the grocery store I was working for added a fresh fish line. Being the meat department manager, I took on that very delicate, time-consuming project without the aid of more labor. In addition, our store had a two-week anniversary sale in April, then came the Rothbury Festival, which increased our business twofold.
My days became longer, and I started working on my days off as well.
Amy is a teacher and she was in her final weeks of school, so she was unable to give me any relief from my duties at home, so my marriage began to suffer as well. With seemingly no one to talk to, I slipped into this black hole of bitterness, anger, tiredness, hopelessness and self-pity of which I felt there was no escape.
At that time, there was an ever-present thought in my head that the world would be a better place without me. I wasn't having any fun and wasn't able to do any of the things in life that I enjoy. So, on the first Monday in June, I sat down at the computer to write my column for the Grand Haven Tribune, but instead, I wrote a suicide letter. Quite an eloquent one, too, I might add. I figured, if it turned out to be the last thing I ever wrote, I wanted it to be good.
In the letter, I mentioned what it might be like if I took too many of my prescription drugs. I went downstairs and had a pleasant supper with my family (the first one in months). After supper, I asked Amy if she would proofread my column while I went to the pharmacy to pick up my prescription. She assured me she would.
On my way to the drug store, I thought, "Crap, she'll read the letter, call the pharmacy and my plan will be ruined."
My plan was not to take the drugs, but to frighten Amy and let her know that I needed help fast.
I didn't really want to kill myself, I wanted to keep from killing myself. I didn't want to die, I wanted to live — so my plan was to reach out and hopefully get the help that I needed.
After I picked up my prescription, I thought, "Crap, she didn't read the letter yet." So, to kill some time, I went to the frozen yogurt shop, got a huge serving of chocolate fudge frozen yogurt and covered it with chocolate chip cookie dough, brownie bites and chocolate syrup. After that, I went for a drive by Lake Michigan and went home.
When I got home, nobody was there. "Crap," I thought, "Amy left without reading my letter."
I tossed my pill bottle into the cupboard and went for a walk. On my walk, I was thinking about what a failure I was because I couldn't even fake a suicide attempt properly.
Then, a police car pulled up to the sidewalk with its lights flashing. The officers got out, checked my pockets, asked me a bunch of questions and hauled me back to my home where about a dozen of my family members had gathered. Then it dawned on me that while I was enjoying a heaping helping of frozen yogurt, taking a relaxing cruise by the lake and indulging myself with a leisurely evening stroll, my family was out frantically searching for me.
My plan had been successful after all, but I didn't have time to gloat. The police drove me to Holland Hospital, where I spent six days in a program to help people like me. I got lots of sleep and plenty to eat in the hospital, and every day I got visitors that made me feel loved and needed. The doctors, counselors and facilitators equipped me with much needed awareness and assertiveness skills.
By the last day of my stay, I stared out the hospital window and wondered what life would have been like without me. I pictured my wife getting remarried to a guy that would come into my house and fix all the stuff I'd been ignoring. Then I pictured this guy selling all my Joe Namath football cards and spending the money on stupid stuff like power tools. I also envisioned this fellow trading my classic 1959 Edsel for a (gasp) muscle car. I knew I had to stick around and prevent that from happening.
I left the hospital renewed, re-energized and very equipped to handle the stresses of daily life.
With the help of family, friends, doctors, counselors and medication, I am in the process of slaying the dragon of depression.
For some, like Robin Williams, the beast isn't so easily concurred.
I believe depression is a medical condition not unlike asthma, epilepsy or an irregular heartbeat. You wouldn't tell a friend to just suck it up and get over his heart disease, so be sympathetic if you think someone is suffering from depression. Advise them to seek help, because there's an army out there with weapons that can help to defeat that monster.
— By Grant Berry, Tribune community columnist