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Spiraling Out of Control:: A Dad’s Story on Depression and Suicide

Spencer is a practicing patent lawyer who lives in East Memphis with his wife and two daughters. A native Memphian, he and his family relocated to the Virginia/DC area for a few years before moving back to the mid-south. He is passionate about bringing awareness to the issues of depression and suicide. For further support and resource please visit his personal blog: I’m Not Nameless.

I’m Spencer, and I suffer from depression.

Living with depression is a journey.  It’s a long journey with highs and lows.  The lows are rough, but with treatment, I can persevere and make it to another day.  Here’s part of my story that may be beneficial to wives and mothers.

The first time I experienced depression was in my first year of high school (which was 10th grade at the time).  I was rather socially inept; I began the year with huge ugly glasses and clothes my mom picked out.  I also began an advanced literature class.  I didn’t want to take the class, but the school counselor talked me into it, saying that I’m a “smart kid” and I didn’t need to be in the English class with the “regular kids.”  On the first day of class, we started studying mythology, and my math and science brain just didn’t understand.  I went from having all A’s and two B’s, for my entire life, to failing grades.  I remember sitting in classes, slouched inside a heavy coat, and looking forlorn, hoping someone – anyone – would notice me.  I can’t say that the literature class triggered depression.  Sometimes depression just happens.  I think it was just a perfect storm of the academic challenge, a new environment, and the changes adolescence brings.

I didn’t know I had depression at the time, but I knew something wasn’t right.  Others noticed, too.  The same school counselor called me into her office to talk about my falling grades.  I told her my classes were just hard, and she was satisfied and sent me back to class.  Classmates noticed and went so far as to tell their pastor at church that they were worried about me.  Of course my parents knew there was something.  I never got treatment.  I don’t put blame that on anyone.  It was the mid-90s, and treating depression wasn’t as much of a thing as it is now, especially for a fifteen year old.  But luckily, and by the grace of God, by the end of the year the depression was gone.  But it wouldn’t be gone forever.

Depression reared its head again in college.  I remember thinking how strange it was for me to be depressed, since I viewed my life as perfect – I was having fun and had made amazing friends.  I had no reason to be depressed.  As I mentioned earlier, sometimes depression just happens for no reason.  During one of the periods of depression in college, I thought about suicide for the first time.  I went so far is to begin an attempt, which I aborted.  The main thing keeping me from going through with it was knowing that I’m an only child, and my parents wouldn’t have another child to love.  Like before, the depression came and went on its own.

After college, I was largely depression-free for the next fifteen years.  I got married to a beautiful woman, had two little girls, and landed in a great city with my dream job.  But in the fall of 2016, depression came back.  I confided in some friends that I was depressed and asked for prayers, but I told them not to worry, since it would pass like it had in the past.  But this time was different.  It got really bad, really fast.  A few weeks in, desperate for relief from the pain – any relief, even temporary – I did something I would have never seen coming: I started abusing prescription opioids.  Being severely depressed and on the fast train to addiction, I made the decision to take my own life. 

Depression has an interesting way of messing with your mind.  I believed that suicide was the best choice for everyone I knew.  My wife would be able to marry a guy who would be the husband and father I couldn’t be.  I honestly believed that my wife, kids, and friends would be smiling at my funeral because the burden of me would be gone.  I felt, simply, like a burden on the world.  I even started skipping meals, because I viewed it as a waste of good food.

My wife didn’t know anything was amiss.  She didn’t even know I was depressed.  I hid it from her because I didn’t want to bother her with my troubles; I thought I was enough of a burden already.  I made orderly plans for my suicide, but the illness was starting to give me impulses to do it quickly – now – without waiting for my plan.  It was at this point that I knew I was powerless to stop my depression, my addiction, and my suicidal impulses.  So one evening, after the kids were in bed, I mustered the energy to do one of the most difficult things I’ve ever done in my life:  I went to my wife and said, “I’ve been depressed, and I need help.”

This got the ball rolling for treatment.  I visited a psychiatrist for medication and started seeing a therapist.  Over a year later, I can attest to the fact that treatment is a journey.  There is no magic cure.  It takes a lot of effort.  I have to be proactive with my doctors, continue therapy, and put myself in a healing community.  I’ve been very open about my struggles, and I’ve learned that depression is everywhere.  One amazing community I have found is Celebrate Recovery.  I find healing and support knowing that when I open up about my struggles, there are people listening who know exactly what I’m going through.  You don’t understand depression unless you’ve experienced it.  And that’s ok.

I believe God has called me to share my experiences in order to help others who are suffering.  Neither the people in my life nor I knew how to seek treatment for depression.  No one had the tools to dig deep and realize how close to suicide I had become and my urgent need for treatment.  When I share my testimony, I try to give hope to the suffering and tools to the rest so that people can get the help they need.  It’s ok to ask someone if they are depressed.  It’s ok to ask if they are suicidal.  And it’s ok to ask for help.  It’s hard, I know.  If there’s one thing I want everyone to know, it is this:  you are loved.  The disease of depression may give you disbelief but trust me, I’ve been there, and it’s true.  YOU ARE LOVED.

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