robin williams committed suicide today. i could tell you a lot of stories about his movies or how certain scenes he was in from these films impacted me. i’d be telling you the truth, but the important thing to take from this story is that people hurt, people that you think could have everything in the world, people that seem to be happy & seem to not have a problem in the world. they hurt too.
growing up my dad was the happiest & most well adjusted man i’d ever known. he was my hero. it shocked me when he began battling depression after being forced out of his job that he had had for over 30 years. the man i knew so well suddenly became someone i didn’t understand. it scared the hell out of me. so much so that i purposely avoided going home, because i didn’t want to see him like that because it made me angry and sad. i regret those years because i didn’t know how to be there for him. i regret knowing that my mom & brother were going through hell & i was feeling completely unable to help them because i was so scared of what was going on. the depression got so bad that 4 years ago my dad attempted suicide. i remember getting that call after work one day, i remember flying home not knowing if my dad was going to live or die, i remember sitting at a hospital for weeks with my mom & brother, i remember all the calls, texts, emails, facebook messages. and i remember my dad being lucky enough to not “succeed” at sucide and getting a second chance at life. when my father’s suicide failed, my dad ACTUALLY succeeded. he became someone stronger than i ever imagined he could be. i was lucky enough to see my dad learn to deal with his depression. it wasn’t easy. he had to go to a mental hospital for awhile, he had to do shock therapy (which was a godsend), he still sees a psychologist and he still takes medicine. but today my dad is happier and more full of life than at anytime i’ve ever seen him.
the thing they don’t tell you is depression isn’t something you can “overcome.” it’s something that is apart of all of us. it’s something every single person you know, including you, struggles with in some shape or form whether they’ll admit it or not. because we are not perfect people. because we hurt.
the following year, i lost two people who were very important in my life to suicide.
growing up benny peters was a close friend of my dad’s and played a very important role in my childhood. benny had overcome a lot. he was a prisoner in his early adult years, he found christ, he started a fantastic family and turned his life around. he spoke at churches - he was the only guy i’ve ever seen park his motorcycle in front of a church and walk into the pulpit with a bible in one hand and a bandana on his head. i thought he was a badass. he had a very soft spoken nature to him and a heart that was just so gentle and cared for others. he helped with the youth in town. he was an inspiration & just an all around great man. before he passed, i had heard benny had been suffering from depression and i had promised myself when i was home i would try to make time to go visit him. but for whatever reason, i never got around to it. that is another regret i’ll always live with - because i never got to tell benny how much i loved him and how much he meant to me and my family before he passed. i remember hearing the news of benny’s death and it just hit me like a ton of bricks. here was another man i knew that was solid as a rock and it saddened me that depression had caused his life to become so fragile. i remember i was in new york for work and immediately canceled my plans & flew home so i could be at the funeral. benny’s wife becky is also a very close family friend and helped me so much when my dad attempted suicide. his daughter brandy went to school with me from elementary to high school & we both grew up in the shadows of two extraordinary men. when i saw them both at the funeral and hugged them, i hurt for them so much that i could barely let out “i’m sorry.”
then i got a call one night several months later that year that a former colleague and close friend of mine named johnny diamond had taken his own life. i remember this because i had just moved to nashville & johnny had called me a few weeks earlier to see how i was getting adjusted to a new town. on the call he seemed so happy. i knew he had battled anxiety and depression issues for awhile, but he seemed to be doing fantastic when i spoke to him. he was exercising more and he was even telling me about some of the new bands he was working with and just gushed about them. johnny had this brightness about life in him where he’d get so excited about something and he wanted you to feel his excitement. going to his funeral that november just destroyed me. i couldn’t visit the city after that funeral for over a year because the thought of visitng charleston and not seeing johnny just felt wrong. johnny was one of “my guys.” he had came up in the business with me at the same time, we were roughly the same age and we had shared a lot of ups & downs professionally as well as personally. that night after the funeral, one of the local venues in town threw a concert to celebrate his life with all of johnny’s favorite bands - some he had worked with, some he was fans of, but all he was friends with. 2 songs into the first set, i had to leave, because i couldn’t control my emotions.
i don’t tell you these stories to make you feel sad. i tell you these stories because depression is real & it impacts everyone in a different way. some wear it on their sleeve, others keep it well hidden. but the people that suicide hurts the most are the people who love you.
i’m a firm believer that if everyone saw a psychologist and was involved in therapy the world would be a better place. there’s so much we try to protect ourselves from and so much we don’t know how to deal with, that having an unbiased perspective can be invaluable. i’ve seen two therapists in 4 years - one in chicago and the one i currently see today in nashville. both helped me get through incredibly tough & frustrating situations in my life. not every conversation has to be intense or impactful, but the process itself has helped me feel less anxious and more aware of my own insecurities and demons. the experience of therapy and talking to someone about the issues i have or have had, has made me feel like a healthier, happier and more understood person. it’s something i hope to do off and on for the rest of my life, because it’s something that scares the piss out of me and i think it’s important to realize that sometimes the things that scare the piss out of you or feel like they can’t be overcome are usually the most rewarding situations once you see them through.
the thing i know i’m not good at is always telling people how much i love them and care about them. i can be a pretty hateful, snarky and sarcastic bastard most days. it’s easier for me to poke fun at or tear someone down then it is to really let them know what they mean to me. i’m working on that. but when you lose people that mean the world to you, and you can’t tell them how much you care about them, well you can’t get that back and that hurt sticks with you for awhile if not forever.
so for me, i’m going to take a selfish approach to suicide. i want everyone in my life to know that i love them, that they mean something to me and i don’t want to lose them if they’re in a place in their life where something seems too hard to overcome. i don’t want anyone in my life to be gone because it will affect me, and i know that may make me sound like a selfish prick, but i’m happy to admit i am.
be nice to each other, support one another, love one another, and pray for robin williams family & friends tonight.
i’m glad you’re all in my life. let’s keep it that way.