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Showing posts with label suicide. Show all posts
Showing posts with label suicide. Show all posts

Friday, July 31, 2020

Not so beautiful trauma

It was nine years ago to the day that the police found my brother deceased in his apartment deceased.  A fuller story is in Don't you forget about me: The blog I needed to write one day about my late brother.  Anyway, we had been very close at times and had always had a connection.   He'd been fighting depression and I'd been getting bad vibes that he was struggling to hold on.  But, the life is kind of funny.   The people and things in life seem to be constant and 'always there' until one day they aren't constant and aren't there.   I had an inkling that he struggling.  Enough of one that I threatened to have a wellness check done on him if he didn't call back imminently--which he did.  He called back and said he was okay and acted like I was overreacting.  It wasn't too much later that I got a cryptic text from him saying, something about "feeling like I am dying".  He'd spoken figuratively before and I was going through a life crisis myself.   I took it as, "I'm dying inside" or "I feel like dying".  I little time passed and I got distracted by my own life crisis.  He literally had made himself invisible to family for extended periods and I'd occasionally show up unannounced when I couldn't get a hold of him.  So, I wasn't too shocked when I hadn't heard from him in a couple of weeks.  I now understand that when facing depression, sometimes the last thing you want to do is to show your hurt to those closest.  I speak on my understanding of the subject matter in Depression: It Ain't Over 'Till It's Over.  His words may have been a final cry and I'll never know for sure.  That has haunted me since.  But, I have realized over time you can't save everybody despite sometimes valiant efforts.

 Obviously, the day he was found was in some ways the worst of my life in some ways.  Anniversary number 1 of his passing wasn't easy either.  It has generally been easier every year.   However, for some reason, it was harder this year.   Maybe it was the stress of work deadlines and the pandemic and all that involves?  In any case, it got me to thinking about his life, my life and the dysfunction we grew up in.  Someone he know from college had given me a gift, albeit a painful one, her memories of him.  I didn't see him much when he went away to college.  So, she give me a bit of picture of his life away at school.  She related that even back then she knew he was hurting more than the average kid who moves away for the first time to college.  Anyway, talking about it with her and others reminded me of something I'd figured out along the way.

When we have unprocessed hurt, our tolerance or ability to take more hurt is lessened.  Think of it like this.  We are a 16 ounce glass.  Life's daily struggles can fill our cup part of the way.  If we have a lot of unprocessed hurt, our cup may be well on its way to be full.  So, add life's daily struggles and it can get close to the top.  Now, add a particularly rough period and well you know the rest: the cup cannot take on any more.  For some people, it results in alcoholism.  For others, it can result in gambling, etc.  But, for the really hurt ones, the cup seems to find a way on the grounded shattered in pieces with the contents lost forever.

We may make it and recover from that rough period.  I survived a his passing, losing my house, losing my job, bankruptcy and my dad's health failing.  But, like him I had been scarred in the early years and the period immediately before, during and after his passing had it's own troubles, though I was able to start processing a lot that I hadn't previously.   Anyway, you survive the hurt/injury, but like a broken elbow that heels, it isn't quite the same.  The limb has healed as much as it can and you have 'full' use of it, but it it's not the same.  There may be weakness or scarring.  You may be aware on a fairly regular basis of the injury, but you don't necessarily focus on it.   However, you bang that elbow and the pain from the original injury and/or scarring will be front and center again.

I think hurt, especially that which isn't fully processed or 'healed' is like that.
  • You know it's there, but it is just there and not really interfering with your daily life.
  • You run into a situation or circumstance that reminds you or brings it front and center, and you feel the pain all over again--just not necessarily to the original degree.
  • You retreat or find something to take your mind off it until it subsides.
  • You get back to your everyday routine again and it recedes until the background.

However, sometimes just like the cup that has never been fully emptied, there is always a bit of a risk of it overflowing.   You may never get that cup fully empty and that may be your cross to bear, however, it is never too late to continue to process hurt where it exists.  It is never too late to look for opportunities to heal.  The big key is a willingness to work through it and building a good support system.  As we've discovered more and more during this pandemic, people are social creatures and we thrive on good support systems.

I guess my takeaways are:
  • We can't stop 'traumas' from happening to others, but we can be there for others after and provide them a support system.
  • Sometimes we have to face our own 'traumas' head on.  
  • In our recovery from traumas, it can be hard to get rid of the hurt that sometimes hides away.  However, it is best to address the hurt rather than just 'take a couple aspirin and sleep it off'.

If you know my blog you know I always end with a song and this song is screaming out to be included.  I have always liked her music because she faces pain and hurt head on in her music and lets face it, she's a very talented songwriter and singer.  She was hurt in a profound way by her parent's divorce at an early age and she found a way to turn it around into a positive (see Family Portrait).  A funny story: one time we (my girlfriend at time and I) were relating to a guy serving us about her concert and he intimated to me later how it was a brave thing to take her to a 'chick concert'.  I had to laugh as it was actually me that pushed us going to the concert.  I could have corrected him but why bother.  I don't have to answer for my taste.  On a related note, I'm proud of my late brother for being himself.

Saturday, November 23, 2019

Freedom: Part 2: Just Another Word For Nothing Left to Lose

I've always appreciated Janis Joplin's music.  She was a troubled, but talented 'child' of the 1960s.  She grew up in Texas, but really never fit there.  In a word, she was a misfit.  Anyway, I have always appreciated the bluesy, "Me and Bobby McGee".   I've written about a bit about the time period between 2011-2012 in my life.  To quote Charles Dickens, "It was the best of times, it was the worst of times."  Anyway, I never fully appreciated what she meant when she sang the verse, "freedom's just another word for nothing left to lose" in the song until that period in my life.

Growing up, I was the fifth of six children being raised on a postal employee's salary with the family often competing with the bottle for my dad's income.  Anyway, I never had a whole lot growing up and sometimes didn't even have enough clothes.  But I did have a good mind, which helped escape the poverty of childhood.   In any case, I was used to not having much, but what I did have I appreciated.

With my mind and education, I eventually was able to start a solid career in IT.  I was able to buy a new cars, buy a house, get married, have a child, etc.   In other words, the American dream.  I was able to buy luxuries and do things that we didn't have or do during my childhood.  I think part of me for a moment forgot what it was like to go without.  As the title of this blog suggests, this newfound lifestyle did not go on forever uninterrupted. 

My first marriage had some foundation flaws which I really did not fully appreciate until after it was over.  Anyway, starting in 2009, when my mom nearly died, my life as I knew it was, was on a path to forever change.  But, it didn't really start to show cracks until August 2010, when we separated for the first time.  Around this time, the company I'd worked for 10 years was moving its operations halfway across the country.  Given the turmoil at home, staying in town was the better option for me at that point.   By the end of the year 2010, my company officially closed operations in St. Louis, MO leaving me unemployed going into the new year.  That was blow number 1.

My and my ex got back together at the end of 2010 and I got some short-term consulting work, but that was a short reprieve from the storm.  This was true, especially since, my older brother Bill was going through his own turmoil at the time, which I didn't exactly know how to help him with.  He was struggling with demons from his childhood, with employment woes, with no luck in relationships, automobile woes and with depression woes.  Essentially he felt the walls collapsing in around him.  I wrote about him in Don't you forget about me: The blog I needed to write one day about my late brother.  I was fortunate, though mostly unemployed, I had means and I still had the love of my young daughter and faith to hang onto.  He wasn't so much.  Well, as the year went on, it became increasingly clear that the marriage was not built to last and that my brother Bill was in a very bad place.

It was clear around the beginning of July 2011, my marriage would not last.  I was still mostly unemployed and burning through my saving.  Though I was distracted by those troubles, I was still able to notice that my brother wasn't doing well emotionally.  I had started to worry that he wouldn't make it long term.  Unfortunately, my fears were realized much sooner than I realized.  My brother was found deceased in his apartment at the end of July that year.  Due to the timing of it, they were not able to definitively rule on the cause of death.  However, based on what I knew about him, the last thing he texted me* and details that few were privy too about his circumstance, it was pretty clear that he took his life.  I can't say for sure if he actively tried to commit suicide or if he engaged in death wish type actions/behaviors.  Either way, he was gone.  That was blow number 2.

In August of that year (2011), my now ex and I separated permanently and I lost custody of my daughter for a few months.  That was blow number 3.   In the process, I lost my house and would over the next few years be forced to move around a few times.  Anyway, the foreclosure would only become official in March of 2012.  That was blow number 4.  Anyone who has been through a divorce, especially a contentious one, knows that they are usually bad for finances.   Though I had gotten part time work and some unemployment at the time, I had to file for bankruptcy.  Blow number 5.   I also was forced to deal with my dad's failing health while I was nursing all of those wounds.   Blow number 6.

I hadn't quite lost everything at the time.   My parents were still both alive and I was able to get partial custody of my daughter as well as had a car of my own.  But, I'd say
  • Losing a good long term job and being unemployed for an extended period of time.
  • Loss of my closest sibling.
  • Bad break-up and loss of custody of my daughter for a time.
  • Foreclosure on my house and loss of most of what was in it.
  • Filing for bankruptcy.
  • Dealing with my dad's failing health.
all within about a two year period was staggering.  Though I hadn't quite lost everything.  Losing so much in that period of time and being literally left with the clothes on my back, my laptop and my car felt pretty much like I had little left to lose.  But as I wrote about in Finding Jewels in the Darkness, there was some good that came out of the bad.

Anyway, back to the original point of the post.  Leading up to the 2011/2012 period, I had had to deal with the following (not in any specific order):
  • An unhealthy marriage and all the stress that goes along with it, including the fear of change and fear of loss of custody of a child.
  • Round after round of reorganization and layoffs at my long term employer
  • A brother who was increasingly struggling to cope and the constant stress over it.
  • Increasingly untenable financial situation which associated with coping with a rough marriage. I learned that you can't buy enough things, go enough places and do enough things to get away from this fact.  Though you can sure build up debt in the process.
  • The house payment was being increasingly difficult to make.

When it all started to tumble down in 2011 and 2012 and I survived each blow, a funny thing happened.  I realized that though I'd lost a lot, I gained something in the process.  I gained freedom. I no longer had each of those things to worry about.  My world became smaller, my stresses became fewer, my responsibilities became less, the remaining stresses I was fearful of, I found to be survivable.   Though I didn't have much, I had what mattered at the time: A car, a place to stay (a friend's house), enough money to get by on, my daughter, a few friends that survived the shake-up and my faith.  I also for a couple years more had my mom, whom I spoke about in Knew You Were Waiting For an Advocate.   It wasn't quite, nothing left to lose, but nonetheless, the responsibilities, burdens and stresses that had been weighing me down prior to 2011 were greatly reduced if not outright gone.  Though there was a lot of sadness, there was a great weight lifted off my shoulders.  I had little left after that time period, but what I had was what I needed and what I didn't have was the level of stress.  In short, though I'd lost a lot, I gained freedom to start fresh in the process.

* He texted me that "I think I'm dying".  It's one of those situations which haunts you.  When you are a kid and another kids says that he'll 'kill you'.  You take it to mean, I'm going to beat the crap out of you.  It was a similar dynamic to that.  
Given the conversations we'd been having at the time, I took it to mean I'm very depressed and dying inside.  In other words, at that moment, in that context, it came across as figurative.  Maybe at that moment, it was.  Regardless, the timing will probably always haunt me. 

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Observations on shame: The Shame Tipping Point

I previously discussed in the "The Shame Cycle", the idea of shame operating in a vicious cycle or keeping us in a rut.  In "Shame and codependence", I discussed how shame can keep us in unhealthy relationships and/or can keep us making poor choices.  In this blog I wanted to go in a slightly different direction and expand a little bit upon what happens when shame reaches a crossroads.

I will first touch on/revisit the consequences of shame that hasn't reached a crossroad. At least as I have seen or come to appreciate it.
  • Poor decisions are often made based on shame, especially hidden shame.  I've heard of couples in which the spouse--usually the husband--gets his wife a new ring, a new car, a fancy vacation, redone room or something similar in an unusual or unusually timed way.  In a sense, it is a compensation for a shame that isn't spoken of.  In some cases, it is an 'understood' payoff, in some cases it is hopeful inoculation against consequences should the shame be discovered.  Often times it is a poor financial choice that wouldn't be done in a more level-headed setting.
  • Taking credit (shame-wise) for something which one shouldn't to overcompensate for known or unknown shame.  Known shame is like a poison that is purposely being bled out.  It can cause us to 'own up' to too much wrong in an attempt to bleed the poison out faster.  For example, taking sole blame for the family vacation that has gone awry can show how 'contrite' we are.  On the other hand, unknown shame is a poison that needs doesn't have an obvious outlet, especially if the unknown shame is too devastating.  The hidden outlet can end up being false humility or taking blame where not due. For example, Rep. Foley couldn't own up to his inappropriate behavior with underage pages.  So, he became the Chairman of the House Caucus on Missing and Exploited Children.  This allowed him to feel better about himself by absolving or bleed out some of his shame for his destructive (and hidden) issues without having to own up to them.  In  a sense if he helped many other children, he could atone for or bleed out the poison of his own behavior.

But, to move back to the point at hand, often times shame reaches a crossroads or as I call it a "Shame Tipping Point" in which the dynamics of the shaming relationship or situation change dramatically.  From what I see, the "Shame Tipping Point" ultimately is a "Fight or Flight" response.  Before I go further with this I want to make a disclaimer or two:
  • Some harm or injury to others is so profound--such as murder/child molesting--that it is understood that the offending party has little right to expect the offended party will ever lift the weight of shame from them.
  • Flight, while it can be a self-protective tool, isn't necessarily the right or proper tool, especially if amends are proper to make or the consequences of 'flight' or too devastating.

So, let's take the "fight" response.  Say you've made poor choices along the way that have caused harm to others.  A natural response is to feel shame about it and to act 'hangdog' around the person(s) you've harmed.  There is of course value in showing contriteness and taking steps to make amends.  However, in many cases, the injured party takes it too far.  The injured party continues to use shame as a club to beat down or to extract a pound of flesh and/or concessions from the injuring party.  For example, if I bullied a sibling as a kid, yet realized as I matured how wrong that was and made attempts to make amends for it, it is realistic to expect that my sibling would eventually be forgiving.  However, as we know many times in these cases, the sibling realizes the power in holding the guilt/shame over the head of his/her 'childhood tormentor'.   The sibling will often use continually try to pay back or stick it to his/her 'tormentor' and hold them down in shame.  In other words, the sibling will actively work on shaming his/her 'childhood tormentor' At some point, if the "Shame Tipping Point" is reached, the former 'tormentor' will be pushed too far and realize that he or she is now the 'tormented'.  Once he or she realizes this, they probably will never again accept the dynamics of the relationship.  At this point, the former 'tormentor' will have regained his/her self-respect and will accept whatever consequences of taking his or her power back.

Now, let's take the 'flight' response.  Ultimately, 'flight' can either mean running away from the shameful circumstance/relationship or in worse case scenario, 'checking out' or taking his or her life.  Unfortunately, I believe for my brother Bill, he was living with unchecked 'shame demons' and he took his own life.  For the sake of discussion, I believe most of his 'shame demons' were largely not of his own making, but instead things done to or around him.  Also, I believe he was living with mostly 'illegitimate' shame--that is shame that wasn't his to accept.  But, try and tell someone in that situation that they are off in their thinking.  It's like trying drive halfway across the country in one day.  While it is not always an impossible task, most of the time you end up short of the result you are trying for.  In any case, most of the time, the flight "Shame Tipping Point" results in the other party falling into major if not total retreat.  Rightly or wrongly, when you press someone's shame button too often or too hard, the sting or hurt of the shaming instead of pushing them to change, pushes them to make themselves scarce.  The shamed person may 'deserve' the shaming--such as when they are not doing their part to help take care of an aging parent--but just because they 'deserve' it, doesn't mean they are ready to face up to it.  If they really aren't ready to face the reason for their shame, then it is more likely that they will retreat or take flight from the messenger who delivers the shaming message.

I'm not totally sure what the point of this blog was.  Perhaps it was help people see their role in uncomfortable (and potentially) shameful behaviors, situations or relationships.  If I help one person to step out of the shame cycle, to see that blindly accepting a shaming is wrong, I feel I will have succeeded with the blog.  If I help a party to understand or see the flight response in another and adjust accordingly, I will have succeeded.  After all, a famous hymnal doesn't express that "Shame is the Victory", but instead says "Faith is the Victory (that overcomes the world)".

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Don't you forget about me: The blog I needed to write one day about my late brother.

I usually have a splashy saying at the top of my blog entries, but this is one that I just think I will dive right into.  Eventually, if we live long enough, we will face a loss so deep, so profound that it cut us to the bone.  It will be a loss that haunts us, a loss so profound that it changes the trajectory of our lives.  A loss so painful that there is no way we can quite cry our way through it.  In a way, it is the loss of soul so close to us, that we are never truly the same after it.

UPATED (11/9/18)
(Brother facing childhood sexual abuse as well? If I did, likely he did.)

What makes it worse is when this loss by all accounts appears senseless.  Suicide is what I speak of.  Anyone who truly knows me knows that I am speaking of my late brother Bill.  I figured one day after my parents were both gone, I'd write this.  Not that I was afraid of this getting back to them so much as just the timing wasn't right.  Anyway, I've written and read eulogies three times in my life, but the hardest one to write was about my brother.  To me, a eulogy is a few highlights of a person's life, mostly kind words, just a few words to say and to give them a decent send off, but not enough words to tell whom they really are,

I am winging this and I don't know how it will proceed, but I guess the best way to write sometimes is just to let the words come out.  Here goes Bill.

A little bit about him.  Bill was a kind soul.  I didn't really realize how kind a soul he was until later in his life.  Bill was a very sensitive soul.  He loved kids and even my daughter to this day remembers him.  She was nearing only four years old and hadn't seen him too often, but she remembers him.   She remembers the day that he put together her tea cart.  She had met Bill before and I'm sure thought positively of him, but in one brief afternoon around Christmas 2010, he reached deep into her soul and they formed a bond that has lasted the test of time.  She felt in my brother the love he had available.  He struggled to love himself, he struggled to find someone who would treat him the way he deserved, he sometimes struggled to appreciate those who did love him and he struggled to find trust in his dysfunctional family of origin.  But one place he didn't struggle was connecting with children.   Sometimes people are very bright, but are clueless as to how to connect with kids.  But, that wasn't Bill.  He knew how to reach kids where they are, not where he was, but where they are.  I am decent at that, but he schooled me in that.  :-)   Hence, it wasn't too surprising when he found himself eventually gravitating towards working with kids in the Hazelwood School District.

He excelled in math and other logic based subject matter, but at the same time, he appreciated the simple things too.  In no particular order, here are some of the thinks he liked: he enjoyed hanging out with friends, dressing nicely, collecting and listening to music (a set that was uniquely him), collecting unique clocks and he loved baseball.  He pondered political, social and faith issues, even if he struggled with the answers.  He liked things and entertainment, but most of all, he cherished personal relationships.  He was complex in many ways, but he was simple in others.

How do I know him?  I will describe in a few ways below.

- I knew him as a troubled kid growing up in a troubled family:

  He was always a very sensitive kid in a family that generally didn't get him.  I'm not going to go into great detail and I'm not trying to speak ill of the anyone in particular, but there were a few negative things that I will share that influenced him
  • We grew up in a very dysfunctional family of origin.  Before I elaborate, I will say this: at the time you see your family dysfunction as uniquely uncomfortable/embarrassing, but as I have found out over time, family dysfunction is more common than we know.  Some are just better at concealing it and it varies in degrees in families, but I digress.  My dad had a rough childhood and had an anger streak.  What effect that had later?  Dad was an alcoholic and let's just say he wasn't always nice to my mom, even to the point of getting physical.  
  • My dad grew up in the foster care system and ultimately was a product of a strict no-nonsense old German foster parents.  It was a system by which what the dad says was law and you didn't ever challenge or question. Anyway, what my dad learned was the old school 'deal with it' type of attitude and felt opening up, expressing feelings and counseling and the like were a sign of weakness.  In dealing with his own kids, he 'appeared' to have little understanding or interest in really understanding them.  As long as they appeared to be doing well in school and didn't cause him grief, having to deal with the school or embarrassment all was well.  Sadly, he was the type that be more likely to demean or criticize his kids rather than praise them.  I dunno, maybe it was 'toughen them up' attitude that he'd learn from his foster dad.  But, in a way, it was I don't want to hear from the school about problems.  So, that meant if someone picks on you, you don't fight back as that would get the school involved and therefore he would have to deal with it.  So, in a way, it was a lose-lose.  You deal, but I don't want your dealing to cause me any trouble.  Now, I truly believed he cared about his kids, but wasn't really given the best tools to project it.  I've come to understand that often times people make mistakes not on purpose, but instead on ignorance.  If you didn't hear your parents outwardly express love to you as a kid, you will be less likely implicitly understand to do that.  
  • We had 5 siblings, one working parent for much of my childhood and that parent blew money on alcohol.  That obviously didn't leave much for the kids.  So, we were sent to school looking poor/poorer than classmates.  In other words, targets for ridicule.
  • Our house looked torn up/out of order at times as a function of the dysfunction and it made it harder to bring people over.  Some of that was of having eight people stuffed into a small space. Some of that was having rambunctious kids full of energy and some of it was monetary neglect. 
  •  I suspect that he was molested by a 'family friend' as I was.  He said there was a lot that he didn't remember and that itself upset him.  He actually caught onto the molestation before I put it together.  He was instrumental in pushing the 'family friend' away.  In other words, he protected me and my younger brother.
With these things working against him, I think he, like others, were at risk for problems later. In short, he was a troubled kid/person.  None of this worked in his favor when trying to make friends in school or for that matter being understood.  I will come back to his teen years and adult years a little later in this blog.

- I knew him as (at least somewhat) kindred spirit.  He was
  • Very sensitive and I believe intuitive.
  • One who wanted to do the right thing.  
  • One who was inclined to believed in God (or wanted to).  Were were baptized at the same time, when he was a Sophomore in high school.
  • One who took up running--both of us did Cross Country and Track in high school.
  • Struggled for acceptance at times.
  • Could be intense, but also had zany moments and could relate to kids.
  • Liked to try new things and mostly did, but sometimes was afraid to.
  • Questioned things, didn't buy the prevailing 'conservative' view, but didn't automatically buy the 'progressive' view either.
  • Had eclectic tastes in music.
  • Wasn't able to just ignore the hurt/pain/suffering in the world.  
  • Sometimes had a hard time letting things roll off his back.
  • Could be his own worst critic.
  • Was socially awkward early on and took into his adulthood to start to come into his own.
      For whatever reason, God blessed me with an ability to take more blows and recover I think.   
      I often wonder the following--we diverted in our 20s.  I got breaks, where he didn't necessarily get them.  Had the situation been reversed...

- I knew him as a kind and gentle soul:
  • He would often help others out before he helped himself out.
  • He loved kids and was able to reach them and make them feel important.
  • He might get upset or even a bit angry, but he'd never actually hurt anybody.  If anything, he'd be more likely to wonder if he did anything to cause it.  Even if he did know that he was wronged by another, he was likely to blame himself for putting himself in that position.
  • He was socially conscience.  When he wasn't stressed worrying about thing in his own life, he felt/pondered. Unfairness in society and the world.

- He was a troubled teen and troubled adult.

  • Given a dysfunctional family of origin and troubled circumstances, he was socially awkward.  At church he identified he seemed to get along best with the grown-ups.  He never felt accepted by the teens.  At school, he never really felt well accepted.  He struggled with making friends.  
  • Our parents divorced during his sophomore year and I suspect while he hated the dysfunction, the divorce probably hurt him more than he let on.  He tended to relate better with my late mom.
  • Near the end of his sophomore year, the pressures of a broken, dysfunctional family, failure in making effective connections, including dating, the sense that given the dysfunctional family environment he'd never have a chance, a dad was likely to be critical and not give credit, the general sense that he was a 'failure' and who knows what else drove him to take a whole bottle of Tylenol at the end of his sophomore year.  After he had his stomach pumped, he was put in in-patient at a local facility that deals with troubled youths and suicide risks.  I believe ultimately the message he sent was never fully appreciated by our parents, especially my dad.  Nor was it fully appreciated by the rest of the family.  It was almost like lets just sweep this under the rug and get him back home.
    • My dad thought it was the divorce and his having a rough cross country season, but that was never it.  It was always more than that.
  • Ultimately, he 'recovered' (at least to some extent) from the blows of his early childhood and teenage years.  He started at a Florissant Valley Community College and as soon as he could, he left for what is now called MU.  I believe he met his closest, dearest and most enduring friends there.  I had the pleasure of meeting Collette, Dan and Joe from his MU years and I think on some level, besides myself, were the family he never had.  This isn't meant as a slight to Heather, Nicole or Brian, or others I may not be thinking about at the moment, but I digress.  Anyway, he graduated with a Bachelor's Degree in Math.  He struggled to find a job that suited his talents and eventually found himself working with kids in the Hazelwood School District.  Though he loved kids, I'm sure he felt like a failure not directly using his degree.  
  • My brother was a very genuine, authentic person, but by worldly standards probably some would have said not 'successful' and I believe this wore on him.  This wore on him reaching out to people and this wore on him in how he felt he was perceived.  When you don't feel successful, unfortunately, it has a way of bringing you down and he wasn't able to rebound or recover from that.
    • Unfortunately, some possible mates aren't able to look pass 'wavering confidence'  and look at the soul underneath.  This in turn, can lower confidence, which can be a vicious cycle.
    • Dating can seem very cruel, the 'losers' seem to be rewarded for being jerks, while the nice guys seem to be ignored or just treated as an if all else fails option.
    • A genuine, kind and authentic person often is taken advantage of by those who don't share those values.
    • For worse or better, dating is harder these days. With people not being as connected by church, school, family, neighborhood as they used to, its hard to know where to turn.  I found my wife through and I'm fine with that.  But, I have struggled at times in my adulthood in dating.  Sometimes, the usual places just cut it and if your 'scene' and/or your group of friends don't yield anyone (or anyone healthy) for you, where do you turn.
  • Ultimately, after being repeatedly being taken advantage of, he became discouraged and this discouragement bled into his work.  I won't go into detail, but the one job he really did like-working with kids in the Hazelwood School District--was taken away from him for what I believe are political/budget reasons.  I lost a job before where cuts had to be made and I was the new person, without any standing on the team and therefore was an 'easy target' to get cut.  I believe my brother was subject to that.  He treated people right, but he wasn't a favorite and wasn't union either.  Therefore, when the perfect political came along to get rid of him and cut the budget came along, they took it.  He ultimately won his unemployment claim as they couldn't justify denying him it based on their petty politics, but the experience had left him discouraged and despondent.  I tried to get him to see that he was better than the d*mn petty politics, but you know, sometimes you can't reach someone when they are hurting.  He felt like the whole experience tarred him on his resume.
  • He had another part time job and ultimately, I think the weight of being taken advantage of repeatedly, being subject to politics in employment and losing his job because of it, not being where he wanted with regard to relationships or just overall "successful" just weighted him down.  He lost his part time job and I hate to say it, but looking back it was a matter of time as expenses and options, the weight of feeling like a failure, and not feeling loved or like people cared (when I know it was different) got the best of him.
As my brother moved along in his life, he 'disappear' for weeks at a time.  That is to say, he wouldn't answer calls or reach out when he needed to.  One time, I ambushed him at his place as I was concerned about him and he reassured me things were fine.   Unfortunately, I was in a very spot in my marriage at the time and I was facing having to find a new job myself as my company moved its operations mostly to Utah, so I wasn't fully attuned and being that he'd disappeared for weeks at a time before 'resurfacing', I wasn't 100% there the way I could have been.  Anyway, downward drift started at the end of 2010 and continued into April and then June of 2011.

One morning in mid to late June of 2011, he texted me something which got my attention in a worrisome way.  I called him the next morning and left a message that if he didn't me back in about 5-10 minutes that I'd send the police out his way.  I don't remember what it was, but obviously that's beside the point.  So, he called back shortly thereafter to reassure me that he was just venting.  But, obviously, I had suspected otherwise.  So, in dealing with my own financial/job issues and failing marriage, I was obviously distracted and could not devote as much attention as I could have to his deteriorating will.  I say this not to blame myself--as I know nothing that I could have done would have changed the trajectory of his life--but just as a recounting.  I know I was there for him to the extent that I could be given my own life issues and I know I could tell him it was partly sunny outside and he would have replied, no it's very cloudy.  Anyway, long story short I got a text from him around July 7th or 8th, 2011 saying something that included, "I feel like I'm dying".  But, based on his prior texts and prior statements, it appeared to be life sucks, I feel like I am dying inside, I hate life type situation.  As I indicated previously, it was a very trying and distracted time for me, so I didn't put two and two together, especially since he reassured me on multiple occasions that he had venting in such situations.  Unfortunately later that July, I got a call from my mom stating that he was found lifeless in his apartment.  I called the police to verify, you know my mom, God rest her soul, was an excitable sort and had been known to jump to the worst case scenario.  Besides, you know when you get a call like that, you don't just say okay wow sorry to hear.  You do what you can to verify.  Unfortunately, the police verified that.  I had felt guilty that I hadn't checked on him sooner, but you know, but hindsight is 20/20.

The year that followed for me was let's just say was a living hell.  I got enough strength to pull myself together, do him a eulogy and make sure he was remembered respectfully as well, but as anyone who loses a close family member to suicide realizes it, especially if you don't get to see them in a casket, it is a surreal experience where you struggle for closure.   At times, you know it brings you down to a bad spot, especially if you are going through you own troubled (divorce, bankruptcy, unemployment,...).   Knowing him and knowing how bad he was hurting and being very down myself, I feel like but for the grace of God and a change of circumstances....  But, I digress.

I wasn't there when it all ended for him and they couldn't definitely call it a suicide, but based on what I knew about him, the direction things were going, his deteriorating frame of mind, a note that he left--which usually I suspect people leave clues in their words--I think if he didn't 'actively' try to end his life he took prescription and medicine together and really didn't care what happened afterwards.  Did he know that he was going to die?  Can't say for certain what his exact mindset was on the day he apparently mixed drugs and alcohol.  Maybe it was I don't care anymore.  Maybe it was, I am just going to do this as I am tired of the pain?  Who can say?   But based on my understanding of my brother and my own moments that followed, I can say the following--bear in mind this is my own understanding of it:

  • Losing the will to live and not taking care of yourself is a passive form of suicide.
  • I believe someone who is pondering it, may reach out, but their own sense of humiliation and shame might get in the way.  That's why you get unclear or mixed messages.  It's not like they happily or loudly announce, "I'm going to end my life today".
  • Think of the path to suicide as a series of steps to the basement.  From what I see, most people wouldn't leap down all the steps at once.  Instead like walking down the steps it is a series of blows that take a person closer to the full way down.  Sometimes the final step is a final blow.  Sometimes it is just the weight of all the blows finally crushing them and they "snap".
  • I believe people don't actively wake up and say, "I'm done" and end it like that.  I think it is a tortured struggle between doing what they know is not right and fear of the thereafter vs. staying in a painful life situation--physically, emotionally and/or mentally.  
  • Even when actively ending their life, I believe some people are still conflicted--overdose vs. suicide by gun for example.
  • If you are positive someone is considering it, DO NOT let them tell you tell you that everything is fine, no matter how they reassure you, especially if they have a long history of depression.
  • Above all, always let them know you are there for them and be willing to be resented by them for doing an intervention.

When I decided to write this, I was at Disneyworld in Florida and it was 2am in the morning and I watched The Breakfast Club and heard this song and it clicked: It's time to write about him.  Something told me while you know you've moved forward and adjusted to his passing, that I needed to tell his story for a few reasons.  
  1. To help those who knew him better understand things.
  2.  To give him the respectful treatment of more than a few paragraphs at a eulogy. 
  3.  To help those who are struggling in there own life identify and related.
  4.  To let him know wherever his spirit is, that he is not forgotten.
I am honored and blessed to have known William Richard Shepard as my brother and to have had the honor of sharing that earthly bond with him for 42+ years.   I believe the world is a better place in at least a small way with his having been in it.  If it be God's will, I hope to see him again one day in the way, way distant future.  As much as I hated it, I feel blessed that God entrusted me to give him his final words, his final resting place and his story to be told.  God bless you Bill.

I hope these word prove beneficial to others.

-- Rich