This has been a very hard post to write. A couple months ago when I decided to start a blog, I knew I wanted to write about suicide and depression. I’ve kept and added to a list of different topics I’ve wanted to address, some are just harder than others. This is the hardest one for me. It exposes me and is a vulnerable side of me.
Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the United States, according to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. They also state that 44,965 Americans take their own lives every year, meaning 123 suicides a day. Those numbers are only involving the United States.
Six years ago to this month, my uncle Steve took his own life. I was 15 years old, I had just gone to bed for the night, I don’t even remember what time it was, but my dad came into my room and told me that my uncle had just shot himself in the head and that he and my mom were going to the hospital. I called my pastor and told him what happened while I waited on my brother in law and sister to come pick me up from my parent’s house. When they arrived, I had to tell my sister. In my life, to this day, that has been the hardest thing I have ever done.
The rest of the night is a blur, to be honest. I don’t remember a lot of it. My brother in law took care of the two of us once we got to their apartment. We watched some TV, we played some video games, and eventually we fell asleep. I don’t remember falling asleep, I just remember hearing in my head “Uncle Steve shot himself” over and over and over. In the morning, my brother in law woke me up gently and told me my uncle passed away sometime early that morning. Andrew wasn’t the guy my sister married anymore, he became my brother in my eyes, as he held me while I cried. Trauma is a powerful force. It can create thicker bonds, tear apart a family, cause depression, and many other things.
My family entered the stages of grief. Which sounds like a great name for the next big roller coaster at Cedar Point, but really is just a roller coaster of emotion that no one really wants. If you’re unfamiliar with the stages of grief, they are: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and then acceptance, in that order. These stages are normal, it’s okay to feel any of them. Don’t be afraid to feel.
Every stage hit me, but anger and depression hit like a tidal wave. It takes a lot to make me angry. Very few people have ever seen me fully angry. I don’t enjoy feeling that way so I try not to let it happen. But when you lose someone it’s hard not to hold those feelings back. I was angry at every little thing. It scared me how angry I’d get over the stupidest, smallest problem. I feel like it drove people away, I didn’t know how or who to talk with about what I was going through. I didn’t feel like I could talk with my dad about it, because I knew he was feeling the same things I was. My mom was taking care of my dad so I didn’t want to talk to her about anything because I knew my dad would be talking to her. I couldn’t talk to my sister about it. If there’s one thing I hate, it’s seeing my sister upset or hurt. It crushed me to have to tell her what happened, to have to bring it up again wasn’t an option. So I bottled it, and I was a very angry person for a time before I found safe people to talk it out with.
In that time, something good came of it. I took my anger out on playing guitar. I taught myself how to play the guitar, and my anger pushed me because I could feel the music, I could feel the emotion in it, driving the chords I played. I didn’t realize that the times I would spend crying over that guitar, or playing until my fingers bled, was when I was starting to cope and move towards acceptance.
There are a few points I’d like to make in telling you this story. First off, suicide and depression are real things. They’re as real as the underwear you hopefully wear every day, and unfortunately they also tend to go hand in hand. Don’t brush anybody off as being dramatic because they’re depressed. If someone is exposing their most vulnerable emotions to you, don’t crush them or turn them away. You don’t know when the last moments you could have with someone could be. Don’t take your friends and family for granted. We all do at one point or another. Be mindful. Be aware.
Another point I want to make clear, that acceptance may take a lifetime. I’m still accepting that I lost one of my closest family members. I still get angry sometimes. I still cry. I still try to bargain with God. I still get depressed. But I know I need to keep going.
If you’ve dealt with depression or grief, make a goal. Have something you will uphold and look forward to. Something that you will chase after and strive for. As for me, I strive to be a better musician for my uncle. I push myself to play more, to play better, to play often. Because I know it would’ve made him proud.
Surround yourself with people who will be there for you when the rain starts to pour. If it wasn’t for a very select group of people in my life who have stood beside me to this day and have been the closest friends and family I ever could have imagined, I would be worse off than I am. If you don’t have a good support system you won’t heal as quickly. You need people. I know you want to shut yourself in a dark room and just lie there. But don’t, let good people help you. Thank you, to the people who have listened to me and helped me. I appreciate you.
In conclusion, I want to make anyone reading this aware that I am a safe person. If you need someone to talk to, to vent to, someone to just have a cup of coffee with and shoot the breeze with. It’s okay to not be okay. I’m here. I’ve been there. I’m willing to listen. I want how you’re feeling to be heard so you can get it off your chest. I want you to open up in your own time. I understand. Don’t be afraid to seek help. You are loved. You are needed. Everything will be okay eventually.
This post is dedicated to Steven Warford. I love you. I miss you. I’ll carry on, your memory will carry on. Peace be the journey till we meet again.