Why I Walk

Originally published on 7-11-2014

I have a picture of one of Baby C’s uncles hanging in his room. A picture of a vibrant young man climbing the rocks of Red River Gorge with a gargantuan smile illuminating his sweaty face. The picture hangs on the wall just above Baby C’s changing table, along with other pictures of family and friends. Baby C points to the pictures and identifies each person he knows and loves. “That’s bubby! That’s Granny! That’s grandma! That’s grandpa! That’s Uncle Revis! That’s Pappaw.”

I’ve recently made an effort to ensure Baby C knows just who it is in that picture. “That’s big Baby C,” I tell him. “That’s mommy’s bubby.” Now, if I point to the picture on the wall he can tell me exactly who it is. He doesn’t really understand who that is yet, but in time he will.

My sweet, precious Baby C is named after that uncle. He even answers to the same nickname his uncle did when his uncle was a wee lad. He has some of the very same characteristics as this uncle he has never met. Tales of his uncle’s antics have been passed along by his mother. What stands out the most among his uncle’s traits is how finicky he was with food. Much like his uncle before him, Baby C’s diet consists mainly of peanut butter sandwiches, strawberries, apples, and chocolate milk.

But he’s never met the man climbing rocks in that picture, and he never will.

I have never met Baby C’s uncle either. In November of 2006, just a few short weeks before Baby C’s mother and I began dating, Baby C’s uncle committed suicide. I’ll spare you any other details because they are just too gruesome to fathom.

If there’s anything worse than losing a loved one, it’s losing a loved one to suicide. For years I stood helplessly by while Baby C’s mother cycled between depression, grief, and anger over her brother’s death. She would become depressed because he was gone. Then she would become angry that he never considered how she and the rest of the people who loved him might feel if he were gone. There was never a moment when she was not tormented by some demon.

In the years since, she can look back and see the telltale signs of mental illness. He was depressed and untreated. He used recreational drugs and drank often. She and her mother would look back and openly wonder if he would still be here had they acted on those signs. Encouraged him to seek help. If only they had done that one thing differently…

I began walking in memory of the brother-in-law I never met the following year. I, with the exception of the year my ex-wife was pregnant with Baby C, have walked every year since 2007 in the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention Out of the Darkness walks. The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention is a nonprofit organization which raises funds mainly for two things. They have support programs for suicide survivors (both those who have lost a loved one to suicide and those who have survived a suicide attempt), and they also help fund research into mental illness. 90% of people who commit suicide have a treatable mental health diagnosis.

After seeing the havoc this suicide had on my ex-wife, her family, and her brother’s friends, I couldn’t not become involved. An entire community of people felt this loss and to this day I have yet to meet someone who knew him that doesn’t have warm feelings and fond memories of him. He was well-loved and many people were shocked and surprised by his untimely death.

As I’ve grown older and finally accepted my own mental health diagnosis, my reasons for supporting AFSP have evolved. I still walk in memory of my son’s uncle, but I also walk in support of myself and others I love who have mental health diagnoses. Mainly, I walk for my sons. The twins have mental illness on either side of their family tree. I have depression. My mother is bipolar. I have cousins who have succumbed to suicide. The twins’ mother attempted suicide at least once right in front of me, and threatened suicide many times over while I knew her. The twins’ aunt attempted suicide once. Their maternal grandfather is a drug addict and alcoholic. Baby C also has mental health diagnoses on both sides of his family, as well.

I worry about my children and the faults they’ve inherited in their genes. I remember one morning when the twins were 8 years old we were watching SportsCenter before school and they ran a story about a retired athlete who had lost all three of his children to suicide. All three. They all became addicted to some sort of drug or another (likely to self-medicate undiagnosed mental illnesses) and eventually took their own lives. I can not recall the name of the athlete, but as I watched the story I couldn’t help but think of my innocent, blue-eyed little boys watching along with me, no doubt without an inking of understanding as to what they were watching. I broke down. I bawled horrible, ugly tears and they, bewildered, asked me why I was crying. That led to our first talk about mental health. I confessed to them that my wife’s brother, whom they never got to meet either, committed suicide under the very same circumstances as this athlete’s children. I held them close and told them I couldn’t bear the thought of ever losing them.

Since then the twins and I have had many more talks. Just recently I discussed with them their mother’s suicide attempt. I have had my mom (bipolar) talk to them about her experiences with mental illness. I want them to know what to look for and when to ask for help. They are why I walk now. I hope the money I raise can lead to a greater understanding of the mind and its illnesses. I hope that my children, all children, can benefit from my effort and the efforts of everyone else associated with AFSP. My hope is that neither I nor any other parent will ever be left questioning why their child decided to take their own life.

So I ask you, dear reader, to contribute to my cause. I know many of you suffer from depression. Some of you know people who have committed or attempted suicide. Some of you have attempted suicide yourselves. The money raised will benefit us all. I implore you to get involved with AFSP if there is a chapter in your area. Join the walks. Raise your own money. Raise awareness. Find your own reason to walk.

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Think link for this picture has been updated for this year’s walk. I implore you all to donate whatever you can. If you are unable to donate (trust me, I understand) please help spread the word about this amazing organization and their fundraising efforts. Shining light onto the darkness of suicide and mental illness is the first step to helping those too ashamed to seek help. 

I realize I’m a day late with this, but Big Baby C would have turned 40 years old yesterday. Happy birthday Big Baby C, wherever you are. I hope that you are watching your nephew grow and laughing along with me as he cracks his jokes and just acts plain silly. I hope you have found the peace which eluded you while you were here.

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About Twindaddy (328 Articles)
Sometimes funny. Sometimes serious. Always genuine.

77 Comments on Why I Walk

  1. wow what an emotionally raw post. thank you for sharing this. i really hope it can help someone. hugs to you and yours.

    Like

  2. Truly, hats off to you. This kind of thing needs to be said this clearly, this compassionately, by more people, more often. I will share you everywhere. Bravo.

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  3. You can count on my support. Thank you for participating in such a worthy cause, and for sharing this incredibly personal story with us. You’re an incredible dad. And you rock!

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  4. Done. Wish I could do more — it’s an important cause.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Oh wow, this is an incredible post. Chilling, heartbreaking, sad….all of it. I’m proud of you for having those conversations with your children, and for doing so much to support an incredibly important cause. The hubs and I worry about our boys too. My side of the family is riddled with mental illness. My father. My brother. My late grandmother. A cousin……
    I do watch for signs. If I ever suspect ANYTHING with them, I’m gonna be on top of that shit so fast…..

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    • Well, I hope by talking to them about it that they’ll realize how important it is and what the consequences can be if they don’t.

      I have never had self-harming or suicidal urges, but there was a time in my early teens where I would frequently tell my mother she’d be better off without me. I’d die if one of my children said that to me.

      I just want life to be better for my children. Mine has been filled with so much bullshit. I want more for them.

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  6. Thank you for all you do.

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  7. Aaaaaad I’m crying. Very heartfelt TD, and I’m proud of you for walking.

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  8. I started to read and had to stop. I will come back, however. My step brother committed suicide six years ago. He drank a bottle of straight liquor, filled his pockets with rocks, and walked into the ocean at the same beach on which he was married. I don’t know that I can ever go there again. My son will never know him and my stepfather has never recovered.

    I will be back to read and donate.

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  9. Such an honest post. If more people spoke up they might get the help they needed in time to change so many lives, and if more people allowed us to speak about mental health issues it might allow those who need to speak to have the courage to do so.
    I have an Irish blogging pal who blogs at Sunny spells and scattered showers who writes very honestly about the mental health issues. She is now getting the credit she deserves, appearing on TV and being heard on the radio. Just today she had a post in the UK huff post and the title was “Ready to Talk?”.
    If more like you and Fiona get talking I really believe the next generation will live better lives. Well done for doing something, and for talking.

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  10. Thank you so much for putting suicide front and center. I too, hope that Big C is at peace. Really, that’s all we are looking for.

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    • I hope so, too. Though I never met him, I feel like I know him through all of the things I’ve heard about him. I really am disappointed we never met, as I think we would have gotten along famously.

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  11. Sharing this. This is such an important conversation. It speaks to what a great father you are. By sharing this with your children, they’re now more aware & may even go on to help others just as you’re helping now.
    Hats off to you, TD. ❤

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  12. Great post, dude. I see so much of this at work and I gotta say, the blogging world has really helped me to better deal with people on the verge. Especially for young men, I try to convey that it’s perfectly normal. The brain gets sick just like a spleen or foot or whatever. I don’t leave without a trip to the hospital being made, or at least a promise to see someone. It’s tough to see.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Don, I can’t imagine, and don’t want to, what you see on a daily basis. I’ve witnessed one suicide attempt and that’s more than enough for me. It paralyzed me. I like to think that in an emergency that I’ll know what to do and react well and save the day, but the truth is I froze up and bawled.

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  13. Oh TD this made my heart hurt and hit me like cold water to the face. My daughter was diagnosed with DID, formerly known as multiple personalities. I did not have the chance to raise her and her condition was caused by a psychotic break due to emotional trauma. When I found out after she was grown, it was like a punch in the gut. Mental illness is an evil sneaky monster that can cause untold grief and sadness if left ignored. Thank you for being strong enough to get this important message out.

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  14. Wow. Great post. Great cause. I know about mental illness all too well. Thank you.

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  15. Donation made for making me cry.

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  16. Natalie DeYoung // July 12, 2014 at 1:17 pm // Reply

    What a fantastic post. Your support for this cause is invaluable. As someone with a history and family history of mental illness, it makes me happy to see people rally around and do something positive so we don’t lose family to this deadly disease.

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  17. You are a good man…

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  18. TD, I won’t bother with my own history but suffice it to say that I did spend quite some time training people in suicide intervention. Most of us are familiar with training in CPR and First Aid if someone injures themselves in front of us but what about the mind? If you get the chance to do a course on Suicide Intervention do it, it’s like emotional First Aid training. The course I taught was called A.S.I.S.T Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training. There are other courses out there as well. I can’t recommend any of them other than ASIST but any training is better than no training. It’s the kind of preparation that really helps open your eyes to the signs when it’s happening right before you as well as equip you to be able to take action sooner rather than later. Sometimes help is as simple as knowing who to call when someone’s in trouble. Great post, well written. Respect REDdog

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  19. This is so heartbreaking to read. So many things you wrote really touched me. First, the fact that you are helping to keep your brother in law’s memory alive for his nephews makes me want to cry. My children never got to meet my brother and I am always talking about him so that they “know” him. And I think they do. They seem very comfortable with the memory of him.

    Very close friends of my family lost their son to suicide. My parents met them in a Kindermourn group and they became friends and now they are like members of our family. My mom’s friend organizes this walk locally every year and is very involved with counseling for families who are dealing with suicide. She’s an amazing woman for spending her life trying to help others with something so close to her heart. I honestly don’t know how she does it given everything they’ve been through.

    And I didn’t know that your mother was Bipolar. (I don’t know if you have written about it, if so I missed it). A few years ago one of my best friends, a friend from college who is like a sister to me, was diagnosed as Bipolar. I never could have imagined just how difficult and terrible this disease could be until I saw her go through everything she’s going through. It’s been about 5 years and she’s still trying to get on solid ground. And she’s amazing and strong and I’m so proud of her.

    Thank you for writing this…

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  20. I am still at a loss for words but I hope you know that my heart is with you. It’s brave to write a post like this that leaves you wide open. I completely understand why you wrote it, because it should be and must be written. Thank you.

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  21. Kristi Campbell - findingninee // July 13, 2014 at 12:25 pm // Reply

    You’re doing goodgood things, my friend. I love that you’re speaking to your twins about it – so important for everybody to know that no matter how horrible and alone we are feeling, things can change, meds can work, and life can be beautiful. It’s recognizing that you’re in that dark and horrible place. The more talk means better chances of getting help. XO you.

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  22. You are so amazing. I love the way you talk to your boys about life. Many of us go along with our lives not wanting to “scare” the kids and giving the false illusion that all is peachy. To have this open line of communication with them is wonderful. 🙂

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    • I don’t want my kids to go along thinking life is great and that nothing is hard. They would be in for a rude awakening at 18 (or whenever they get out on their own) if I did. I want them to know there will be struggles, and I hope that I can teach them to handle them better than I have.

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  23. Loved this. You are so open and honest with your kids — I wish mine had been.

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  24. I don’t want to say “I love this” because… obviously. But I love that you have these conversations with your kids– it’s so incredibly important to have these conversations with anyone and everyone but especially the people we love.

    I’ve lost several friends to suicide, and I deal with it almost constantly at work… It’s part of my job to track any deaths, actually. I don’t know why that’s my job but it is and it can be so discouraging. Causes like this give me hope.

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  25. I hope more people follow your example of talking with your children about mental illness and teaching them what to look out for. I’m sure as they grow you will be there to guide them through their challenges. Thanks for helping to make the world better!

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  26. Very poignant TD! I know how you feel. Although I have never lost anyone to suicide, I have been so low I have twice contemplated suicide for myself.

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  27. Thank you so much for sharing your story. We also touched on depression this week and would like to share our story with you.
    https://diamondsfromthedump.wordpress.com/2015/10/14/down-the-dark-rabbit-hole/

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  28. Keep walking, dude!

    Like

2 Trackbacks / Pingbacks

  1. Ten Things of Thankful #56 | Stuphblog
  2. No One Commits Suicide Because They Want To Die | TD421

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