This piece discusses suicide and suicidal ideation, and some people might find it disturbing. If you or someone you know is suicidal, please, contact your physician, go to your local ER, or call the suicide prevention hotline in your country. For the United States, the numbers are as follows:
The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-TALK (8255), or message the Crisis Text Line at 741741. Both programs provide free, confidential support 24/7
How did that happen?
That’s a question that I’ve asked myself many times over the past two years or so. It’s a question that many people ask, but not many know the answer to.
To understand where that question stirs from, I’ll have to tell you a little bit about my story.
It was March of 2018; I was sitting on an Amtrak train heading back to be with my wife and three kids back in Richmond. I was three months into my job as the Assistant AD for PR and Communications at the University of Delaware after spending the previous 13+ years in the city of Richmond. For the first six months, I traveled back and forth on every open weekend to see my wife and kids, who were finishing up the school year before joining me in Delaware, the home state of both my wife and I.
As I sat on the train, I made a decision to open up and tell my story of what had happened to me over the past five years. A very small handful knew some of the struggles I had faced, but no one knew the depths of my battle with depression. So, I turned to what I had always done, I wrote out my feelings.
I won’t tell the whole story again, but if anyone is interested, here’s the full link.
I tell that background because that became my outlet to finally be open about what I had been through and still was facing. I was back home in my home state and I was facing an opportunity to reset my life in almost every facet.
Over the course of the next two-plus years, I became so much more mindful of my daily emotions and feelings. I became much more routine oriented. I put my health, both physical and mental, at the top of my priority list, alongside my faith.
One of those routines was a morning walk that I try to do 4-5 times a week starting at 5:30 and goes for about two hours. And that’s when the question comes up…. “How did that happen?”
You see, I grew up in the suburbs, my parents worked their tails off to provide for my two brothers and I, I was very involved at my church growing up, my daily struggles weren’t anything compared to some of what my teammates or classmates faced throughout my high school or college career. I went on to play college baseball and was always surrounded by friends and family. I married my high school sweetheart and at the age of 26 was the youngest Division I communications director in the country.
So I have found myself asking, how did that happen?
How did I end up sitting in a garage holding a rope and standing next to a ladder? How did I find myself staring off the bridge into the James River in Richmond? How did I end up there?
You see, depression and mental health affects EVERYONE. It doesn’t matter what color, gender, occupation, age, background or faith you are. It hits everyone. You know the old cliché saying of “you never know what someone’s going through”, that’s not cliché. It’s reality.
I’ve had so many people, former colleagues, close friends, and others, whom I spent a lot of time with say to me, “I had no idea you were going through that”. I’m a pretty open individual, I don’t hide my feelings or emotions well, but I did in my darkest moments. Imagine those individuals who aren’t comfortable being open with their thoughts and emotions, imagine how they feel. That’s why it’s so crucial to be REAL and show people you care through your actions, not just your words. Even if it’s not an in-depth conversation, maybe a friend just needs someone to be in the same room as them.
Each and every person who have struggled with their mental health journey has a different path and a different story. There’s no clear cut, concrete answer for every single person. There’s no answer on Wikipedia or Google. Hell, even Amazon doesn’t have a solution for this one. The only solution I know is the support of incredible doctors, family, friends and a faithful God.
Don’t get me wrong, I still have several days where I get upset with myself for not being tougher or not being stronger to avoid putting myself, my family and my friends what I put them through. But I also know that I was put through those struggles because it has allowed me to impact others in a way I couldn’t have even imagined.
For much of my career, I’ve dedicated my daily occupation to impacting the lives of thousands of student-athletes at four different institutions through my work in communications, whether that be social media or a website or telling their story to the media. That’s what I had focused everything on.
A month ago, that all changed when my job was eliminated at Delaware. So, I was faced with another challenge. And because of the support system that has surrounded me since I opened up with my story, I know that another chapter of my book is coming and it’s going to be one hell of a ride.
I don’t know what’s next just yet, but I do know that I will continue to use my story and my voice to be a mental health advocate.
Throughout my life, I had several people close to me succumb to their battle with mental health and depression. I’ve seen the pain that suicide has caused and is causing at an increasingly alarming rate, so my hope is that my story can try and help others from having to look back and answer the question, “How did that happen?”