Tuesday, May 18, 2010


OK so I guess I should have named this blog angst and death. But perhaps that's what I need to get out (or it's what I can publish--I've got some great drafts in here that I can't really share--but in the end, I think a blog is like a journal and in a journal guess who is the center of the universe? Me. And so sometimes I just write.). But I digress.

I happened upon the above article in Sports Illustrated this morning by Selena Roberts. Yes I read Sports Illustrated and no I don't actually care about the Swim Suit Issue because I'm really tired of giant fake boobs. Who can order a swimsuit anymore? No one's boobs look like that (forget the rest of the body). But I digress again.

What a great article. It talks about depression in a way that people can begin to understand. Depression is not just about being sad. It can be anger, it can be angst, it can be so many things. If we think of depression as just sadness, we will miss a lot of signs that we need to see. Take it from me, I know.

First of all, she talks about the dichotomy between this high achieving, popular kid. Who would think he was suicidal? She accurately points out how depression can "suffocate joy, bully perspective and intensify pressure until a nothing-I-do-is-good-enough belief crosses the threshold to an I'm-not-good-enough hopelessness." It's probably the hardest thing of all to understand about mental illness. How the brain can turn things around on you. Most people who hear voices started out hearing them because they needed someone to say something nice and reassuring to them. At first the voices do, but then they turn on you and begin to belittle you.

But back to this "nothing-I-do-is-good-enough belief." In my constant search to make sense of my brother's suicide, I keep coming back to this one thing. The more successful he became, the harder it became to be him. So at a time in his life when it looked like he had it all--a wife, a new baby, a great job, a promotion--it became nearly impossible to live up to the bar he had set for himself. And of course there was no one he could confide in because then they would know his secret--that he wasn't good enough no matter what he did. The boy in this story was in therapy and doesn't tell his therapist his true secret.

So just like the boy in this story my brother turned to alcohol to numb the pain. Then he went to a place where he had once felt carefree. He took his boat out and anchored off the shore of the place we vacationed when he was little (even using GPS to find the exact spot). Where he had spent hours fishing or surfing on his boogie board. Where there were no standards for success. Where there was just sand, sun, surf, family, friends and fun.

But alcohol is a disinhibitor. So I think it allowed the demon to take over.

In the SI story, that's the thing that's important to understand. The boy in the story has no memory of attempting suicide. In fact, he asks who pushed him out the window. People who commit suicide are psychotic. It means they are beyond rational thinking. Once he was back to his rational mind, it could not remember this irrational act.

So why am I on this this morning? Well for one thing it's this quest to make sure my theory is right. I don't want to blame someone for my brother's death. He alone is responsible. He was sick. His brain was sick. It was like an undiagnosed tumor that took over before the doctors could find it. Actually he hid it and hid it well, until it was too late. Just like my (great) Aunt Blanche hid her breast cancer until it was too late.

Secondly, I'm terrified. I'm terrified of teen depression and suicide. I'm surrounded by this great group of 13 year old boys whom I love. They are all wonderful boys, good students and athletes. They have great friends. They have great parents. They have a great life. And I worry and watch. Because I want to find the demon before it is allowed to grow. I look for changes--who is sullen, who is being picked on, who is angry, who is separating themselves, who is getting left out? It's hard, hard to know and hard to confront. No one wants a friend to tell them their son might be depressed. But I will. And I will watch. And I will listen. And while I'm no one's confidant right now, I hope that I'm in a place where I could be.

One last little thing before I sign off this very depressing little writing here. If you have hand guns and firearms. Keep them locked up. Hide the key. While girls attempt suicide more often, boys are 5 times more successful because they are more likely to use a gun. So access to firearms makes it easier and more tempting. That might be the one thing I could blame. My brother had a hand gun and he knew how to use it.

A Young Man's Fall To Grace - 05.17.10 - SI Vault