Dan – the trauma of losing you has passed. But the grief of missing you, and my love for you, is just as strong as ever.
It’s been 13 years today since I lost my fiance, Dan Rieske, to Clinical Depression. He had a potentially fatal disease, yet he refused to seek medical treatment because our society told him it wasn’t a physical illness but a weakness of character. He was ashamed by his illness because the world around him told him he should be ashamed.
My daughter also has a mental illness, and the same society that drove Dan to suicide also tells her the same thing. “It’s all in your head” “You’re such a weirdo” “You just want attention” “You need to get off all that medication and find out what the real problem is” “Everyone gets depressed, you just need to learn better coping skills”
Hey society, we know what the problem is – a chemical imbalance in the brain. Dan and my daughter and everyone else with a mental illness have no more reason to be ashamed than a person with Alzheimer’s, or brain cancer, or Parkinson’s disease, or any other physical disability in their brain.
Our society is the one who should be ashamed. Every person who has ever questioned my parenting skills, or my daughter’s character, or pushed me for the “real” reason Dan committed suicide – should be ashamed.
She lost her battle with cancer, and leaves behind her partner, my friend Bobby. I’m very upset. She struggled for so many years. It doesn’t seem fair, but does it ever? I’m having a hard time expressing my sadness and anger. I know I need to cry and I just can’t. For some reason, I’ve always struggled with expressing that kind of emotion. Crying. It doesn’t come easily for me, and I don’t know why. But after my experience losing Dan, it’s become even harder for me to express grief. I think because my grief for Dan was so traumatic, I’m afraid to go down that road again.
Dear Suzy, I feel the tears welling up and my chin begins to tremble. But then I blink, shift my focus, pet the dog, clean something. Until my mind wanders back to you again. The tears haven’t fallen yet, I’m afraid to let them go. I’m sorry I wasn’t there to say goodbye. You had the best Christmas tree of anyone I’ve ever known. You were gracious and kind to everyone you met. You saved Bobby’s life. You are dearly loved. You will be sorely missed.
On this, the 12th anniversary of 9-11, I’ve been sitting here for quite a while trying to decide what to write. What could I possibly say that hasn’t already been said, and much more eloquently than I ever could? How could I – a humble little nothing who didn’t know any of them and was safe at home in Indiana at the time – honor those people who lost their lives? I’ve decided to honor them by telling the only 9-11 story I can tell – my story. I’ve been cautioned about telling my story. I’ve been told that it would not do honor, that’s it’s inappropriate, that it’s taboo. You see, there’s a stigma attached to my story. It seems I’m always fighting this damn stigma.
But, it’s truth. It’s my truth, no matter how messy or uncomfortable it makes others feel when they hear it. And in my mind, I’ve silently…quietly, always very quietly… honored those people on countless days since 9-11-2001. Not just on 9-11 anniversaries. On my wedding day, on the day of my son’s birth, on the day my daughter started preschool, on those Christmas mornings when I looked around at my beautiful family and thanked…God? Sometimes. But I also pay tribute to the victims of 9-11. Why? Because they saved my life.
Lighting a Candle near a Window at 8 PM offers people who cannot participate in a World Suicide Prevention Day event the opportunity to observe the Day in a private and personal way. Visit the official website here: IASP – World Suicide Prevention Day
The theme of World Suicide Prevention Day this year is “Stigma: A Major Barrier to suicide Prevention.” Suicide is one of the leading causes of death in the world, especially among young people. Nearly one million people worldwide die by suicide each year. This corresponds to one death by suicide every 40 seconds. The number of lives lost each year through suicide exceeds the number of deaths due to homicide and war combined. These staggering figures do not include nonfatal suicide attempts which occur much more frequently than deaths by suicide.
Getting your spouse to discuss the possible presence of depression is no small feat. Many times when Bern and I have led groups or offered presentations, the most difficult question to tackle is “How do I get my husband to even hear me?” And yes, it is almost always a woman asking about her husband, rather than the other way around.
This past week when we met with the support group we lead, a new friend joined us. And she asked the big question. She was considering the fact that her husband was self-medicating with alcohol, that fact that he has a family history of bipolar disorder, the fact that his sleep regimen is a complete wreck…over all, she was adding two and two and coming up with a “four” that made her feel very concerned. Combine all this with the fact that her husband refuses to see any kind…