I had just arrived at work earlier this week when I got the word — an old friend and colleague Bob Owens had committed suicide.
I was, frankly, heart broken. This was the second colleague I'd lost in a matter of weeks, both to senseless tragedies. Bob and I broke into the blogosphere at about the same time at PJMedia, where both of us worked on the Operation Fast and Furious scandal. Bob's knowledge of, and commitment to, the Second Amendment knew no bounds, and he and I were both outraged at what the administration had been doing along the southern border.
Eventually the demands of my day job meant I had to step away from the national coverage I loved doing for the more lucrative, (for me at least) community journalism. Bob stayed with it and eventually became co-editor of the great Second Amendment blog Bearing Arms.
I was also angered, because frankly, suicide is one of the most selfish acts a man can commit. His pain is over, that of his wife and his children is just beginning. And yes, I understand he was mentally ill.
I understand all too well.
You see, I've been there. I was first diagnosed with depression at 10, after my father died. In those days adolescent depression was not well understood so there was no medication for me, just a couple years of therapy that ended when I was a teenager because I wasn't willing to talk to the therapist any more.
Fast forward a few years and I've married my first wife. My depression cost me that marriage. I was suicidal after that and managed to haul myself back from the brink — barely.
I went and got help.
There was only one problem. I found that, while antidepressants helped for a time, I would (as I seem to with any medication) have the most obscure and rare, of the most obscure and rare, side effects, and then, within a year or so, they simply stopped working unless I took a dose high enough to drug me into oblivion.
You can ask my second wife, it's been a struggle these last 17 years. She's stuck with me through the rages, the black depression, the second bout of suicidal thoughts — again pulling back from the brink.
Since medication is not an option for me I've had to learn to cope. Which in some ways has been as big a strain. A generally gregarious and expressive person, I've had to learn to be stoic. To stay busy. To find ways to distract myself when the blackness closes in around me. Finally there was the epiphany — I was self destructive. Not always physically, but I found ways to destroy myself. To sabotage jobs, to destroy relationships. I didn't believe I had the right to be happy. The last few years have been much better. I know how to handle it now.
So I get it. I really do.
Depression, like other mental illnesses, is no different than any other chronic disease. There is an unfortunate stigma attached to mental illness which stops people seeking treatment when they would never consider not seeing a doctor for, say diabetes.
My hope, is that Bob's tragic decision — and make no mistake, it was still a decision — will be a wake up call to those who may be struggling and about way we treat the mentally ill. That some other poor, depressed soul who sees no way out and no hope will stop for a moment to think and find the strength to go on one more day. You see, that's been the key for me. On the days when I simply do not want to go on, when I see no hope, when I just want to lay down and die. I go one. More. Day. And then one more.
And then another.
For those of you who have struggled, as Bob struggled, as I have struggled — go one more day. Fight.
"Rage, rage against the dying of the light."
All IMHO, of course.
— Patrick Richardson is the managing editor of the Pittsburg Morning Sun. He can be emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org, or follow him on Twitter @PittEditor.