Today started out like any other day; the alarm on my phone went off and I lay in bed, not wanting to leave the sanctuary of my warm, toasty blanket and pillow pile, but then my dog, upon hearing the alarm and sensing my slow movement to turn it off, got up from his spot at the end of the bed and sat down next to my head, whining to be let outside for his morning duty. Heaving a heavy sigh of defeat, I reluctantly tossed the comforter aside, slowly sat up and put my bare feet on the chilly hardwood floor and groaned my way to standing. I put my slippers on and grabbed my bath robe and together, we both plodded through the living room into the kitchen to the back door where I let us both outside–him to pee, me to smoke.
I was getting ready for work, sitting on the bed and tying my shoelaces, when a loud “YYYEEEEEOOOOWWWWW!!” sound scared me senseless. I had forgotten I had turned my phone’s ring tone volume on from vibrate, so the sound of R2D2 screaming was a surprise.
I looked down at the phone to see who had sent me a text at 7:00a.m. and it was from my dad.
“Hi, good morning. Can you call me when you have a chance?”
I wasn’t too concerned because this was a normal text to receive from my father. I finished readying for work and as I sat in my car, waiting for it to warm up, I called my dad. I wasn’t greeted by his usual funny reply when I call him, so I was on the defensive immediately.
“I’m afraid I have some bad news.”
“Do you remember my cousin Dick?”
I did…barely. I remember Dick from family reunions over the years and seeing him occasionally in my hometown. He was always nice to me and would make a point to come talk to me whenever we saw each other.
“Well, he took his own life yesterday.”
A heavy, sinking feeling settled in my stomach. “Oh, no, Dad…I’m so sorry to hear that…”
My mind reeled at this. The Hoffmeyer Curse struck again.
The “curse” of which I speak is not to be taken lightly, as I seem to be doing, but it’s the only word I can think of to use in this situation. There is a family history of depression on my father’s side; depression which has caused five suicides in the family over the years. The statistics are staggering and I admit to thinking “oh, shit…” Compound this with depression/suicides also on my mother’s side…I’m scared shitless.
My heart breaks for my family. It breaks for the people I never got the chance to get to know. It breaks because depression is one disease people are nervous about, one that people don’t like to talk about, and that shouldn’t be the case. Think of all the lives that could have been saved had our society fully acknowledged depression for what it is and fought harder to help people suffering from it.
I feel like a bit of a hypocrite given my diagnosis of depression and suicide attempt. Here I am, calling out people for dismissing it so easily and not fighting for lives, when I myself didn’t give a shit about my own life. That isn’t the case any longer as I recognized my need for help and got it, but still. Or on second thought, this makes me a powerful proponent for depression/suicide awareness. “I’m not just a client, I’m the CEO” sort of thing. I’ve been there, done that and I’m here to help others. Perhaps this is my purpose here; to build momentum and get people more involved in helping those of us who feel we don’t want to be here any more.
Life is hard, but with the support of friends and family, it can be made tolerable and manageable. I’m not saying I’m “cured” by any means; on the contrary. There are days I feel like giving up the fight. There are days I want to lay in bed all day and punish myself with thoughts of worthlessness and shame and failure. There are days where I don’t think I matter to anyone and never will and I’m going to die alone. But because I have such amazing friends and family, those feelings don’t last and I’m given reasons to persist, and I do.
I am sad for the loss of a family member. I grieve for him and his shortened life. I am also angry at my family for not recognizing his plight sooner and encouraging him to seek treatment, but instead of harboring this anger and building resentment, I want to take time and write about depression awareness and I implore you, if you know someone who you think is suffering depression, don’t assume it’s just a case of the blues and it will pass. It doesn’t pass. It beats down on you mercilessly until you break into a million pieces, physically, emotionally and mentally.
It’s up to you to help them put these pieces back together and rebuild their lives because they are worth every goddamned effort to do so.
This post is dedicated to all of those who have suffered through life feeling like no one cares and ended their pain. Tragically, it’s too late for them, but it’s not too late for someone else.
This post is dedicated to those who helped me and are still helping me with my depression. Because of you, I’m still here.
And finally, this post is dedicated to the life of Richard “Dick” Hoffmeyer. I promise to help others become more aware of what we have been through and to seek the help they need. Rest in peace, Dick.