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Wednesday, 7 January 2015

The World's Hardest Thing to Deal With

Yesterday morning, I got a call from a distressed friend of mine. We work together for a company the runs pub trivia nights around the country. He rang to let me know that one of the most beloved hosts in the whole organisation, a man I'd known for two years, had killed himself the previous night.

I was dumbstruck. How could he have done that? He was always so happy, had such a magnetic personality. He was outgoing and always up for a good time. He had such a sense of adventure that one time it even got him interviewed on national TV. He's the last person I would have guessed. Everyone knew that Robin Williams had problems. You could see it in his eyes and he often talked about his depression in interviews. This friend of mine showed no signs whatsoever that anything was wrong. He was always smiling and drinking beer. He loved to laugh and meet new people.

Maybe we weren't close enough. We'd seen each other maybe four or five times since we first met at radio school. But I still felt very close with him. We worked on the same team in that school, making a demo that we were awfully proud of. Later, I used my position at Fresh to get him some publicity which eventually got him onto national TV. And then I was the one that introduced him to the pub trivia guys. He auditioned, they loved him and he became a star. Why is it always the most loving and the most loved people that end up being the most depressed?

I guess people in his position either don't know who they can trust to talk to, or don't want to burden anyone with their problems. It just makes me wish I could have done something. If I'd picked up any sort of sign that he was in trouble, I would have made more of an effort to catch up with him. But I doubt that would have helped. I don't think he had any shortage of people to talk to and it's not like I could have gotten rid of his problems just by being there. See, that's a big part of the problem. People who are having suicidal thoughts often don't feel like they can share with anyone or that anyone understands what they're going through. It frustrates me so much not knowing anything about it - whether anyone at all knew what he was going through, how long he was in this pit before it happened, whether he tried to call Lifeline or seek other help... Hearing this news and not being able to do a freaking thing to stop it, change it or even help. That feeling of helplessness is the hardest thing I could possibly deal with right now.

A study of his Facebook page indicated that nobody did know, not even his family. Scrolling through all the messages of condolence was heartbreaking. Seeing the pictures people shared of him partying and having a ball... that was much worse. But there was one photo in particular that made me lose it - made me curl into a ball and sob for half an hour. It was a photo taken off a local news website, of him sitting alone on a bar at the pub. He was smiling into the camera and saluting with a pint of beer. What was once one of his proudest moments has now become his goodbye to the world.

Please, please don't let this happen to you. I guarantee that if you're feeling the same way he did, you'll be able to find someone to help. People are so good at that. Family, friends, colleagues, crisis lines all over the world... find a stranger on the street if you must and talk to them, they'll all love to know that they're making a positive difference in someone's life. You are never, ever alone.

49 comments:

  1. Sending you hugs across the miles Michael. Often, the hardest part is not having a clear cut answer to 'Why'. The only real answer to that we can find, or create, in our lives is the fundamental decency of people like you.

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    1. Thank you. You're right, not having the answers makes you feel helpless.

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  2. Hi Michael. Good for you, sharing the crisis link. Pain shared is (often) pain lessened. Some may not believe that, and since we can't climb into their shoes - we are forced to accept the resulting reality of their decision... and it often sucks.

    I remember being 9 years old and my babysitter committed suicide. Nothing seemed to offer comfort until I read a copy of Kahlil Gibran's book, "The Prophet," where he speaks of returning again, born of a different mother. It's not that reincarnation was in my thoughts, it was thinking that my friend might be somewhere else, finally living happily. So at 17 years old, I finally felt peace. A long time, you think, but it often takes that... if then.

    I wish you peace and healing.

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    1. Wow, that's really sad. Especially since at 9 years old, you probably wouldn't have rally understood what makes people do that.

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  3. Nothing is so shocking as an unexpected suicide. "If only . . . " we tell ourselves. Been there, done that. But you're right -- many people are so good at hiding pain, that others have no clue that anything is wrong until it is too late. Heart's ease to you, Michael.

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    1. Thank you Debra. I'm sorry to hear that you've been through something similar. It's such an awful thing to deal with.

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  4. Michael, I'm so sorry for your loss!

    The thing about people (in general) is that you never know what is going on in their head. The liveliest, most fun loving person in the room may be the most likely to suffer from depression. They are making an effort to pull themselves up, I guess. And they're probably pretty good at keeping it all in and putting on a front.

    Still...so sad. Like you said, there's always help. It's just tough to explain that to someone who feels so helpless.

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    1. I wonder if it's better that they're at least trying to be happy on the outside?

      Probably not. If they're so deeply sad, then it becomes stifling.

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  5. There is no real clear answer sometimes and sometimes we don't see it because they hide it so well, not admitting they need help themselves. And when they snap, their brain doesn't work in the same way. sadly seen it up close here, not all are the same but they all seem to think there is no other way out.

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    1. Here's another thought I've had: When he was just about to do it, do you think he was feeling fear, distress or numb?

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    2. Depends on why his true motivations were for doing it. Numb would be my guess as the guy I know who did it just snapped, numb to the world. I think fear is only there when you don't really want to but you find yourself doing it, like someone who lost 1000s at the casino and does it, which has happened here as they went and jumped off the bridge.

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  6. Mike, so sorry for your loss. Suicide is an escape for the person, but it leaves so much pain in its wake. Those left behind suffer with confusion and heartbreak, always wondering when they might have been helpful. Thanks for your encouragement to those suffering from depression.

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  7. That's dreadful news, Michael. I can't imagine what his family are going through. Those crisis lines don't get enough publicity - I really admire the people who work for them.

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    1. Absolutely. I believe Elephant's Child does work for Lifeline. It's incredible work.

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  8. Michael I am so sorry. For your loss, and for the pain your friend and so many others felt and feel. I am heading off to Lifeline shortly to do a shift, and this reminded me (again) that we are sadly very necessary. And sometimes not enough.
    Hugs.

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    1. I'm very interested in what it's like volunteering at Lifeline. It would be so hard.

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    2. It is hard and it is sad and it is challenging. And it is HUGELY rewarding.

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  9. That is very sad and I am sorry to hear it. Sending his family and friends prayers and good vibes to get through this difficult time. Xo

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    1. Thanks Jax, I hope something good can come out of it for them.

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  10. I often wonder about this. That the person people present to us in public or even in private, is nowhere close to who they really are, or what is going on inside of them. It's sad to see his depression had blinded him to how many people there were that loved him and would have been willing to help.

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    1. Or maybe he was fully aware of it and that thought terrified him. There's just no way of knowing, and that's frustrating.

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  11. I understand your pain and confusion. Years ago there were a couple of suicides in my family, and it was devastating. I still think of both of them and wonder why they couldn't have asked for help. Thank you for sharing the crisis hotline information.

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    1. Wow, two in your own family would have been extraordinarily painful. I'm sorry to hear that.

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  12. Oh, I'm so sorry to hear this. It is just a tragic loss when someone commits suicide and it is so hard on those left behind, because everyone wonders what they could have done to prevent it. It most definitely is one of the hardest things to deal with, because it is hard to get closure. But you know, maybe your cheerfulness might have been something that delayed him from doing it sooner...maybe on a day he spent with you, you gave him the courage and hope to keep going for another day. That's all anyone can do, be a positive light where they can and you definitely do that.

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    1. You know what, I think he buoyed me more than I buoyed him. He once shared a picture on his own Facebook page of himself, me and another trivia host. He was giving me a big drunken kiss on the cheek and the caption was something like "It's these awesome cats that make it all worthwhile"

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  13. So sorry to hear this! Depression is no joke. I went through an ugly bought of it after my first pregnancy, feeling like I had no one to talk to, so I actually can kind of understand the mindset. I had a network of family and friends I could have turned to for help, but in that frame of mind, I really didn't think anyone would understand, so I bottled it all in. Thankfully it didn't escalate to the point of hurting myself or others, but it truly was a scary time. We definitely need to stop sweeping mental illness under the rug. It's very real and a problem we are sadly seeing more and more of lately.

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    1. That's terrifying, I could never imagine how it feels... How long did it go for?

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    2. Thankfully, just a few short months, though I panicked when I got pregnant with my second that it would start all over again. Thankfully, I was fine with that one though. Just a few meltdowns that my pants wouldn't fit when I wanted them too lol.

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  14. I am close to tears, Michael. I read the title of this post and hoped you weren't talking about suicide. I wish I could give you a big hug right now. The pain and shock of suicide cause a wound that never heals. Coincidentally, I'm going to a few conferences in the upcoming weeks on the crisis.
    There's no understanding it, because clinical depression is a form of mental illness. By definition, it doesn't make sense. But the fact that he was a drinker could've played a fairly significant role. Alcohol, of all illicit substances, puts an already depressed person at a much higher risk.You likely already know this, and it doesn't help. But it's a small factor to a tremendously monstrous problem.

    I'm so sorry for your loss. You aren't alone either. Love to you.

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    1. That thought did occur to me, but I haven't been willing to admit it. From what I could tell, his love of drinking never turned into a dependency. But then again, if I couldn't tell he was depressed in the first place, I probably wouldn't know if he was abusing alcohol :P

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  15. It's wonderful that you are sharing the message at the end. I hope if someone needs to see it that they do.

    Learning of someone's loss that we care about is never easy, that is especially true when it was unexpected and we feel it could have been prevented somehow. :(

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    1. I'm sure we always feel it could be prevented. I doubt it's true very often :P

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  16. sorry to hear of your loss - extra tough when it's unexpected. It just makes you reflect on life in general. Thanks for this post

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  17. I'm sorry you lost your friend. That no one had any idea is scary and very sad. Sounds like he had a lot of friends that would've talked to him if he'd reached out.

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    1. Meeting and talking to all the people he knew, that's the most common thing that pops up.

      Sorry your first visit to my blog was such a sad one :P

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  18. Writing this was probably hard. Thanks.

    I've thought about this a lot before. I have relatives who have made attempts at ending their lives, thankfully unsuccessfully. These were complicated situations with a lot of emotional abuse. That combined with a variety of mental illnesses makes it somewhat more understandable than the situation that your friend was in.

    You can never know what's going on in the mind of someone else. You CAN let people that you're fortunate enough to have in your life know that you are there to provide help if it's ever needed.

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    1. I'm sorry to hear what your family's been going through. You're right, I'll try and make more of an effort to let people know I'm there for them.

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  19. I"m so sorry for your loss, Michael. I guess some who have depression are able to keep it well-hidden. So sad.

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  20. I'm so sorry you lost your friend, Michael. It was nice that you helped him get a spot on TV, and I'm sure you would've given him even more support had you known he needed it. It's so hard to know what's going on in someone's head. Thanks for sharing this in the hope of helping others.

    Julie

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    1. Thanks Julie. If I can encourage one person to seek help, that will make it even in my mind.

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  21. That is hard!

    I've only felt that way once. Luckily I snapped out of it. All I can say is that you don't think about those you love. You just drown in the sorrow of your mind. Anyhow that was a long time ago - 1996. I haven't felt that way since.

    I'm thinking of you. It's hard when someone goes unexpected. Now that person is missing out of your life. It's certainly not easy.

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    1. I'm sorry to hear that, but I'm glad you're okay now. I've had to try a bit too hard not to think thoughts like "How could he do this to us?" because not only would that be insulting to him, but also unfair.

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  22. I think the most sensitive and thoughtful among us are at the biggest risk. I think you hit the nail on the head that they don't seem to understand how important they are to us and don't want to bother us with their problems.

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    1. It's really sad and I wish that could change.

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  23. Hi Michael, thank you for your nice comment on my post about the similar topic. Very sad indeed.
    I think that is often something we overlook in the 'mental health' realm. It is so, so hard to determine who is suffering so deeply because people have their best face forward most of the time. It makes you feel even worse as if you had overlooked something. Ugh, it is just heartbreaking.

    There are no wrong feelings about it or ways to deal. Just relish in your good memories of your friend and hopefully some good will come out of this awful situation. And I really believe, it helps to just be a little nicer. :) Hugs.

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    1. I definitely have nothing but good memories of him. I try to be as open as possible, but someone else in that position recently told me that she just doesn't feel like she can tell anyone anything.

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