Today started with me rolling out of bed, and shortly thereafter, walking into the living room. My husband was folding laundry and had an inscrutable look on his face.
“You’re never going to guess who’s dead,” he stated.
I responded, “Patrice O’Neal? That happened yesterday.”
“Nope. Don Harman.”
And it felt like the floor fell out from under me. The first thought I had was for his little girl, so young. In some ways, she is spared the heartache her mother will carry for the rest of her life. Of course, like everyone else, we searched online for answers, and waited for more news to unfold, wondering if there would or could be any sort of an explanation for why a man in his prime, at the pinnacle of his career, could possibly be dead and by his own hand.
(For those who aren’t in Kansas City, or those who eschew morning news, Don Harman was the meteorologist for WDAF, Fox 4. We switched to Fox mornings after KCTV fired their morning crew, and laughed along with the team who consistently pulled in the #1 ratings in the market for their daypart.)
This is the second high-profile suicide here in two months, the first being John McClure, chef at Starker’s Reserve, about to open a second restaurant and arguable, at the top of his game as well.
And for the second time, I read comments from people online and winced. Sure, there are always assholes trolling around. But I have to say, for anyone out there who calls someone’s suicide “selfish”, let me gently try to convince you it’s the wrong word. I started to write this last month, and pushed it aside, telling myself it was too personal, it wouldn’t make a difference. But I’m not going to care about that part, because frankly, it’s too damned important, and it’s too damned frustrating to see another good person get sucked under by the undertow of pain.
There have been times in my life when I’ve known that pain, where the depression, self-hatred, bleakness all swirl together and try to drown you. I can tell you that in those raw moments, it is truly moment-to-moment. The pain is excruciating. The mind plays tricks, tells lies, and you are in a free fall into the abyss. There’s a reason the Greeks invented The Furies – mythical demons that chase you and hound you until you can no longer live. I come by it honestly. My father told me of times in his life, when he had the barrel of a shotgun in his mouth, tears streaming down his face, as he looked at death and saw it as a viable alternative to how he was feeling. Depression is not something that can always be overcome by force of will or temperament. There are many types of depression, there are just as many treatments. What I’m sick of is the accusations – or worse, silence – that surround the depths of depression in this country and the judgment and misunderstanding that cause it.
And this time of year is the worst. Expectations don’t match reality. Memories of people we’ve lost loom larger in the doorway, the hole they left behind seemingly infinite. Everyone expects happy, magnetic people to always be happy and magnetic. It’s hard to live that prescription every day – and unrealistic. People can tell you that you have everything to live for, even make you lists, but when the pain is so great, you can’t hear them. You can’t give credence to anything, because those people don’t fully comprehend how worthless you actually know yourself to be.
This is the best one-line summary of what suicidal feelings are like that I’ve found:
Suicide is not chosen; it happens when pain exceeds resources for coping with pain.
This summation, along with some really sensible advice for anyone who has suicidal feelings, can be found HERE. Want to talk to someone? Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, 1-800-273-TALK (8255). Want even more resources? Here’s a good place to start.
Does this mean Don’s wife, co-workers should have done something, could have done anything to change what happened? No. But until we remove the stigma of what it means to be depressed, until we are all better educated on what to do or what to say, it’s worth taking thirty minutes out of your week to do a little reading, possibly challenge some ideas or beliefs that keep you biting your tongue, or telling yourself it’s none of your business.
You wouldn’t tell a man with a broken leg to “walk it off”, would you? You can’t tell someone who’s depressed to “just get over it.”
Dear Don, You were part of my mornings, your cranky rants and willingness to laugh at yourself resonated in me, and so many others. I wish to hell we could have reached you in time. I’ll never forget meeting you (forgive the bad cameraphone picture below), and I’ll hope that somehow, some way, in some strange twist of fate, that losing your light can somehow save someone else from following you into that terrible, terrible darkness. You are missed. More than you ever believed possible.
Two blurry people. They look happy, right? Sometimes you just can’t tell.