My Dad committed suicide 15 years ago this month.
He didn’t ask for Depression.
He didn’t have any control over his sexual abuse as a child.
He had no way to prevent his MS.
He did what he could for as long as he could - until he couldn’t anymore.
Since he died - the day before his 62nd birthday - I’ve been ever more conscious of time and of the things I can control and the things I cannot during my time on this planet.
Choices versus just life.
I have been hyper-aware of my own mental state wondering if and when that chemical imbalance of Depression - surely marked somewhere in my genes - might show up and throw me into a tailspin. Just life.
I’ve been ever cognizant of my aches and pains and weaknesses in my joints, dizziness in my head, wondering if and when MS might show itself. Again, life.
I am grateful every day that I have not yet experienced the physical brutality of MS or that dark hole of Depression. But, I also know that their absence in my life is no more because of my choices than their presence in my Dad’s was due to his.
The last year has been rough on all of us as we daily face new questions and determinations of what is in and out of our control, what is really a choice - doing our best to get through the day either way. We have been stressed and stretched in new ways and like never before. We have proven we are bigger and more expandable and flexible than we ever knew and at the same time more vulnerable.
Nobody asked for a pandemic.
Nobody had any control over a tornado or a derecho or a flood or a damaging 70 mph hail storm.
Nobody could have prevented 2020 in all of its trauma (and 2021 has been mostly more of the same).
Yet, we have done what we can do to get by - and for me, as long as I can do it.
For the first time in my life, I met a mental breaking point in December. I was never Depressed and certainly not suicidal, but something in that experience awoke my Dad’s ghost.
I rebooted for a few days and went back to work and life just as I’d left it. Back to grinding. Nothing changed. Nothing newly controlled. No new light.
I learned that as I kept pushing myself and kept grinding that something in my psyche kept getting ever so slightly darker and dimmer. Will this growing darkness awake those sleeping genes somehow? How long can I stay in this trauma before something in my biology gives?
A shadow sits just over my shoulder. Just out of sight. Just out of reach - telling me I best be mindful of where I come from.
And yet, as I openly and willingly talk about mental health with my children and with others - encouraging them and helping them get help - I find myself tested for the first time and failing. My hypocrisy around my own mental health adds another layer that dims the day further ever so slightly.
I must step up. I must control what I can control. I must practice what I preach.
I must listen to the ghost of my Dad and live the life I can while I have it. I have no idea if or when Depression or MS or another pandemic or anything else may come knocking.
Who knows what tomorrow may bring?
Today, I am fortunate to have choices.
I simply must have the courage make them.