I normally try to have something interesting, topical, relevant, or even political to share with you in the weekly editorial. Occasionally I delve into my personal interests. Sometimes I address problems in America generally or hip-hop specifically. I always seek to give you something worthwhile to read as my show of appreciation for you taking the time to stop by. I’m humbled that readers have given me a chance over the years to say whatever I want whether it’s important or trivial. Thank you for that opportunity.
This week what I have to say is not trivial. In the last week I lost someone important to me, very suddenly and without any warning. There was no indication to me at any point he was depressed or despondent. Quite frankly I didn’t even know he owned a gun. When the news was broken to me I wasn’t sure how to take it. I’ve had several days to process it and it still doesn’t seem real to me at all. I’ve played the blame game with myself. I look at past conversations we had in my head, playing them over and over like a tape recorder, trying to figure out if I missed something. The thing is that there were no clues. We talked about sports, the weather, cars, local news, various friendly chit-chat you make with someone you see regularly. There’s a comfortable familiarity when you’ve known somebody for over 15 years. Our conversations were so ordinary, so routine, that if there was a clue I don’t know how I would have found it.
Ultimately two little things pushed him over the edge that I never would have predicted — he had a physical ailment that was affecting his quality of life, and he felt trapped by the fact it was degenerative and would only get worse. I can’t imagine what was going through his mind other than to think he got stuck in a negativity cycle where he thought “If this is how life is going to be, life isn’t worth it.” That’s all it took. I wish I could have told him there were other options, that having a degenerative condition in one part of your life doesn’t mean you’re out of options in all of your others. I’m not saying anybody would be happy about losing their hearing, or their eyesight, or their mobility, or any other physical or mental affliction. And certainly when you’ve been used to a quality of life for your whole lifetime, any drastic change to that is bound to be upsetting. He never let on that he was upset about it though, not to anybody with him every day, and not to me.
If you’re reading this and you’re depressed, or think that you might be depressed even though you’ve never been diagnosed or treated for it, please keep all of your options open. The problem with suicide is that it’s the end. There are no other options. There are those who would argue it’s a quality of life choice – that you can and should live how you want and die how you want. I’m not here to tell you that someone with a terminal illness and a rapidly declining quality of life doesn’t deserve to make decisions about the way they will live or die. I am here to say that making an impulsive choice that you can’t change your mind about later isn’t the way to go, especially because those choices are made in an altered state of mind already, where you may not have fully considered the options let alone how a rash act can affect family and loved ones who are left behind.
These are just a few of the many resources available out there if you need help or want to help others in crisis. If you see a warning sign in others, take it seriously. If you see it in yourself, don’t be afraid to say it to someone. It’s not a sign of weakness to admit you’ve had dark thoughts. It’s a terrible world where bad things happen and sometimes that seems overwhelming, but none of us has to dwell in despair alone. Please get help if you need it and please be there for others in need as well. Listen. Support. Most of all take any cry for help seriously, no matter how many times you’ve heard it before, whether anything happened the last time or not. You wouldn’t forgive yourself if you lost a loved one because you thought they were crying wolf. Don’t make that mistake. Never take for granted that the people you care about will be there tomorrow. Tell them what they mean to you every chance you get.
I no longer have that chance.