'He Did Not Want To Die, He Only Wanted Peace'
I am sharing Doug's story in hope I can contribute to increasing awareness and make a difference in how we think and talk about mental illness and mental health.
This story is one none of us should ever have to live through. Death by suicide shatters lives, breaks apart families, leaves us with agonizing unanswered questions, self-doubt, and often leads to depression among survivors due to the profound anxiety and isolation. People don't know what to say so they avoid the topic leaving survivors in crisis with few people to talk to just when they need it the most. Families are blown apart, fraught with their grief, looking for answers they may never find. Fragments of clues left behind add to our self-doubt and guilt, and sadly the need for a reason leads to blame and misjudgement.
This has been my world for the past year. I've fought back with all the strength I can manage by keeping busy, getting fit, moving forward day to day, and month to month. I'm learning who I am, and who I am not, but I carry Doug's heart in my heart, and I know I will always love him and feel ever so blessed and thankful for our life together, for our kids, and our families, and the wonderful good times we had. Positivity is my choice. I will not accept negative thoughts, I will fight self-doubt, and I will honour this wonderful man that I loved so deeply, madly, and truly, always and forever.
But this isn't about me. It's about Doug. Doug didn't check himself out of this world cowardly, he didn't act selfishly or out of spite. He didn't hate and certainly didn't lack love. He was sick. Doug suffered from depression and his illness consumed him.
Doug’s illness went undiagnosed and untreated, though ironically, he was under constant care of a physician for an ever growing list of physical symptoms, one of which a rare condition known as Cluster headaches that he had suffered from his teens. The Cluster headaches were debilitating. They occurred seasonally and lasted from six weeks to three months. There was no known cure for these headaches, but pain management alleviated symptoms. His physician continued to prescribe a variety of medications for this and other conditions, but never assessed or treated him for depression, which I now know often makes physical ailments worse.
I could certainly see that Doug's tolerance level, particularly with the headaches was worsening. He had no energy; every joint and muscle hurt; and he was restless and tired at the same time. I would often find him in bed or going to bed much earlier than normal. Insomnia and hypersomnia are known symptoms of depression, I know that now.
Doug's behaviours were never near normal. He was naturally off-side, that was just him; part of what I loved about him, and what we all loved about him. He lightened the darkest room when he was feeling well. He told bad jokes, and retold the same stories over and over, making us all laugh or roll our eyes. That was the Doug we all loved. He was an excellent chef and loved feeding the masses, loved having all our family and friends over for a “Dougie-style” dinner. He was kind, generous and caring, always helping others, when he could, and doing beautiful work for his clients in his field of renovations. At the same time he was also very humble, did not take compliments very well, and sporadically expressed feelings of self-worthlessness; he had a very low self-esteem that often came out as jealousy or lack of trust and self-doubt that weighed on our relationship, despite my continued reassurance of love and commitment.
Doug was not good at managing money and paperwork. Though I stayed out of his financial affairs, I tried to be supportive knowing the ups and downs of being self-employed. Toward the end though, his financial woes were mounting uncontrollably and his growing inability to cope left some very unfortunate and significant debts.
Doug shrugged off his illness, masked with physical ailments, unusual behaviours, and oppressive thoughts. Tragically he suffered in silence, he could not escape his pain, he didn't know how to talk about his feelings, he tried to run but he could not hide. His negative view of himself, of the world, and his future amplified and consumed him. The convergence of so many negative factors left him trapped in dire hopelessness and unable to escape his insurmountable pain and suffering. He wrote his letter to us on March 15, 2014. He left subtle clues, visited his mother one last time, and continued to tell us he loved us. He did not want to die, he only wanted peace. Tragically and suddenly, Doug died by suicide on March 19, 2014.
He lives on in my heart always and the hearts of our children, our families and our friends, near and dear to all to us in the unique way he touched us during his life on this earth. He is at peace, and we must be OK with that, let go of what we cannot change, focus on living healthy lives and giving back.
I share my story in hope. I urge you all to get educated about depression and suicide, stomp stigma by accepting that depression is an illness. It is not laziness, it is not apathy, and it is not a weakness. It is cancerous and it will grow if not treated. There is hope, it is treatable. Dougie didn't see hope through his suffering, but for me and our family, survivors, friends, co-workers, and everyone suffering from Depression, seeking help, and fighting a daily battle, there is hope. There will be a better tomorrow.
- Margaret O'Dell is the Manager of Finance at Ontario Shores.