Gone Too Soon: What It's Like To Lose A Family Member To Depression
Growing up, I loved Dr. Seuss. There was something about the way he wrote that appealed to everyone, child or adult.
More than anything else, the morals of his stories were both valuable and universal.
One of my favorites always was, “Those who mind don't matter, and those who matter don't mind.”
For some, hearing something like that is enough to make a meaningful impact in their life. For others, it is not as easy.
A little over two years ago, I lost my grandfather.
My grandfather was one of my favorite people. He was quiet but protective.
He didn't care much for people and quite frankly, got along better with animals. He was the type of man who would fight you for the check, even if he spent twice as many hours as you at work earning it.
He grew up poor, and not the sort of “poor” where you can't afford those new cool pair of shoes. He was the sort of poor where he grew up cold, literally.
He couldn't even afford a jacket to keep him warm.
For that reason, my mom bought him a winter coat every year for Christmas, and each year he would have the same child-like enthusiasm and appreciation.
When he passed away, there was a closet full of unworn winter coats, tags and all.
From the coat example alone, it becomes very obvious the sort of adversity my grandfather encountered during his childhood manifested into deeper issues later in life.
Violence was also present throughout his childhood.
He would wake up to routine, evening beatings from his laid off, belligerently drunk father. This was such a regular occurrence that my grandpa would wake up swinging if you woke him up from his sleep.
The oldest of three, my grandpa grew up fast.
He wasn't educated, but he was smart and he was a hard worker. He always relied on his physical abilities to compensate for his insecurities surrounding his education.
While he was notorious for getting into fights, he was an excellent baseball and football player. In fact, he was offered a full ride to play both sports in college.
Unfortunately, he had to decline every offer he received so he could make enough money to support his alcoholic father, unemployed mother and two brothers. It was a selfless deed no member of his family ever acknowledged or appreciated.
Following graduation, my grandparents -- high school sweethearts -- eloped and began what would be a very bumpy ride for the next 50 plus years.
He was a great father, a great husband and a great grandfather. No matter the good things everyone else found in him, he always saw the worst in himself.
My grandpa suffered from depression and experienced waves of suicidal thoughts throughout the course of his life. His childhood left him feeling unworthy of love and undeserving of praise.
Sure he was happy, but he was also a deeply sad individual without a person in the world who could help reconcile his feelings of self-loathing.
My grandpa died an intentional death.
My grandmother found him hanging in the garage from an orange extension cord.
In my opinion, the depression killed him before the suicide could.
Toward the last five or six years of his life, my grandfather had lost the will to fight off his demons and was never the same, for many reasons.
In my heart, I attribute his self-loathing behavior to his upbringing.
He never felt like he was good enough, smart enough, fast enough or capable enough of being anything but the worst.
His parents' lack of interest or support reinforced his drive to please them, something impossible to accomplish without any logical reason. He lived his life with a chip on his shoulder.
Everyone has demons, some more debilitating than others. Everyone is searching for something to make him or her feel okay inside.
But it's hard to help someone who doesn't want help. It's hard to love someone who feels unworthy of love. It's hard to save someone who doesn't want to be saved.
Depression is a real thing. Whether you think it's worthy of prescription is up to you.
Everybody has some sort of void he or she is trying to fill, but for some, it's easier than others. A feeling of completeness and stability has to come from within.
Every person is worthy of love and compassion. Though we may all come from different backgrounds, we should feel an immediate connection to another person for no reason other than we are human. As people, we have an intrinsic value.
You never know what people have been through. Even if their actions don't seem logical, there is always a reason people do what they do. And more often than not, it's done to make them feel safe and secure, not to hurt you.
My grandpa is responsible for so much of who I am today. He impacted my heart, my mind, my spirit and my values.
I can't change what happened to him, but you have the power to change lives around you with your kindness and your attempts to help others seek the help they desperately need.
Live every day like it's your last and surround yourself with the people you care about most.
Don't hesitate to let them know they're important to you because, "Those who mind don't matter, and those who matter don't mind."