Notes on a Silent Epidemic

So here’s a thing: my newest release happened yesterday. Conventional wisdom says I should be pushing that, but what kind of man would I be if my first post was about not being too writing/book centered on the blog, and then my next post was nothing but pimping a new book?

Not much of a man, I think.

Instead, I have something far more important to talk about, something that affects far more people than we realize. Please return later in the week to see me whoring out 100000 words of epic fantasy.

**Trigger warning – depression, mental illness, and suicide**

About a week ago, my son posted a very brave and raw admission to Facebook. I am going to share it here–with his permission–but I wanted to touch on its subject myself first.

A number of years ago–I can’t recall exactly how many, perhaps 10 or 12–a man I knew, who we will refer to as a friend of a friend, stepped in front of a train. My friend, who had been very close with this man since high school, was stunned. His friend was a married man, with a family, and a job that paid him a six-figure income. Nobody suspected he had anything going on that would prompt him to make such a final decision. Stepping in front of a train is a very decisive way to take your life.

But don’t we all have similar stories? Perhaps not as final as this one, but don’t we all know someone with emotional issues that caught us off guard when we found out? The co-worker we poked fun at for taking ‘mental health’ days or for insisting on taking breaks during their work day?

I have suffered from depression for…I don’t even know how long. I believe it’s been about two years of medication and regular visits to both doctor and therapist but, If I had to guess, I’d say it’s something I have struggled with for at least a decade and perhaps much longer. Why so long, you might ask? Simply put: because admitting to something like depression or mental illness is also admitting to weakness.

That’s fucked, I know, but it’s what society teaches us. The truth is: not addressing your own issues is a sign of weakness and not being honest about them so others can learn from your experience and realize they’re not alone is cowardly.

I’m sorry I have not stepped up sooner, but my son has motivated me. At not quite 22 years old, he is already in many ways a man I hope to one day be and he is my hero. Please read his story and, if like me it makes you want to cry, then do that. Not only is it okay, but it is often necessary. (You might not want to be sitting in a Starbucks when you read it, as I am doing as I write this. Apparently tears make baristas and coffee drinkers a little uncomfortable).

Here’s Erik’s Facebook post. I hope seeing that what one young man has gone through can in some way make a difference in your life.

ErikI was never diagnosed with anything, but I did have this one experience this one time with mental illness.
This is a very personal piece of writing, a short description of my experience. If you believe in TMI (too much information), or over sharing, please don’t read.

TRIGGER WARNING; traumatic experiences below.

I’ve been content for about a year. Some days have been bad, but not many. Some days have been quite enjoyable, again not many. A lot of days have been o-k. For the most part, I’d say I’ve been content. This is a big deal, because if I compare it to how I was doing 3 years ago, I’m doing incredibly well.

3 years ago I didn’t think I was going to live to 20. I genuinely believed that my inevitable death was an impending one, and that it was going to come in the form of suicide.

Up until that point I’d lived a very happy, trauma free life… but for a variety of reasons (many of which I still don’t know or understand), I began to experience a crushing sense of apathy, sorrow, and despair.

I did a lot of work on my own to try to deal with my feelings, so much so, that by the time I ended up seeing psychiatrists and therapists I had already tried everything they had to offer with the exception of pharmaceuticals (which ended up helping in the long run).

As I continued my daily life, and attempted to fix things, the feelings continued to grow and worsen. By the time I had reached out to those around me I was thinking about suicide on almost a daily basis. As weeks and months went by, I continued to run out of energy, and it became a moment by moment struggle to think of anything other than death.

I had started on a medication; Effexor, and with that having little effect I found myself out of options. I began to experiment with what would be the easiest ways to die; I hung myself in the woods behind my work, but that was really uncomfortable, so I climbed up the rope and undid the noose. I never bought the bleach and ammonia, nor did I buy the gasoline to light myself on fire. I lived with my parents and we got rid of all the knives so I couldn’t slit my throat. There were no firearms to be had. It was an awful time.

My final experiment with suicide would be my last. I still find it difficult to use the word “attempt”, because if I had “attempted”, I was sure to have been successful. At the top of the Yates Street parkade I had decided I was going to do a swan dive. The death would be almost instantaneous, I would just have to make sure I landed directly on my head. I figured It would be far more painless than asphyxiation, burning, or stabbing myself in the throat.

I ran to the top but couldn’t jump immediately, I was worried there might’ve been someone below. Once I faltered I stopped completely. As I stood at the edge of the parkade, willing myself to jump, I was faced with the truth; I didn’t want to die.

I took the day off from work that day. I had texted a friend about what had happened, and the cops were contacted. I spent the next week in the hospital. Nothing special happened, but it was an interesting experience. I had visitors daily, and my meds were maxed out.

The next few months I spent wacked out on drugs, experiencing almost no emotions at all, which was a relief.

I spent the next few years recovering, and I still am. I pushed a lot of people away, and at the same time had a considerable amount of support. Sometimes support was as simple as not allowing me to push you away. I left a lot of people hurt in the wake of my own trauma, and I have lots of wounds that I’m responsible for besides my own. I’m taking it all one step at a time.

Most days, nowadays, I feel content. It’s a wonderful thing.

I might be vague in some parts, I’m sure my grammar and punctuation is awful too. What I wanted to do here was share with you an experience of mine. Maybe you can take something from it.

Please feel free to leave comments below or, if you are uncomfortable with a public forum but would like an ear to listen to your own experiences, you can email me. Also, please feel free to share this blog post. I know Erik would be pleased to know his story might make a difference for someone.

3 thoughts on “Notes on a Silent Epidemic

  1. Didn’t actually mean ‘like’ but I do understand. Not a very good feeling. Not wanting to hurt my father, because he had already lost so much, is what saved me. Though I wasn’t a fan of it in the first place, therapy did make living with depression a bit easier. One day at a time, as they saying goes.

  2. Reblogged this on AM Justice and commented:
    Fellow author Bruce Blake takes time out from promoting his latest novel to focus on depression, suicide, and having the courage to ask for help. Thanks for sharing, Bruce.

  3. It’s not easy to suffer through this kind of thing. But it’s hard to open up about it. I applaud your son’s bravery. ((HUGS))

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