I cried like a baby when I listened to the 911 call of U.S. Olympic skier Jeret “Speedy” Peterson. He made the call asking for someone to come and get his body moments before he took his own life. Jeret reportedly had long struggled with depression and alcoholism. I did not cry because I knew him or was a fan in any way. I cried because I felt his pain. I cried because every word he spoke were words that I often thought about repeating into a phone before I took my own life. I cried because he did not have to die.
Like Jeret I have have long struggled with depression. Like Jeret I have abused alcohol to deal with it. Not the fleeting kind of depression you suffer when your NBA team is eliminated from the playoffs. The kind that sometimes results in life changing and like Jerrett and many others, life ending decisions . The ugly “S” word. The journey associated with the often daily battle through fog and fear has taken me down many a dark road. I have seen people I know, unable to find answers or hope take the journey into the abyss from which there is no return. As I sadly read of theirs and Jeret’s decision to take that final jump into the final darkness, terminating the future, I am reminded of how all so fast it can happen.
This slide into darkness has its own unique components for different people. Some are luckier than others in the support they get or their ability to reach out for that support. I was very lucky. I had everyone who loved me living in my city and within a few miles of me. They were all in my life and knew my routines. That is what saved me. If I did not have that I would be dead.
I do not remember placing the Italian 45-caliber automatic pistol that my best friend had given me for a gift on my nightstand. I do not remember emailing him for bullets. I do not remember emailing others of my desire to end my life. I realize now that it was my way of reaching out for help. My only memory of those terrible few days on the edge 6 years ago was being wakened out of a Xanax stupor by people who cared for me, the pistol sitting inches away from me. It happens that easy. It was all so easy to slide in the fog from a Xanax coma to a 45 cal bullet. It did not happen. People loved me, cared and intervened.
While I think I have suffered from depression since I was a child, I do not have any sense of time in its effects as you have to realize it’s an issue to start the clock. It has had its ups and downs. Despite what Tom Cruise will have you believe, medication works. Talking to professionals helps. Having a family that loves me, recognized something was wrong and was willing to intervene is something that many who suffer do not have. I am very lucky.
There however was one dark period that the low was so low and the fog of depression was so great that I only have vague memories of literally living on the edge of permanent darkness.
I have thought about telling this story before. I have always backed off because of self-interest. I did not want to be perceived as weak. I did not want to be stereotyped, stigmatized or shamed. I did not want sympathy. In the end, it is what it is. If someone can take the message from this that there is hope and recovery from the edge of darkness to happiness and accomplishment in life. If someone will see that reaching out even when you do not want to has the greatest up side at all. If one person gets that I will take all the S’s people can throw at me. My heart goes out to Jeret’s family and all those who knew him who are casualties of the collateral damage that depression inflicts.