I’ve been with my husband for eight years – married for five of them. We have a beautiful four-year old son, three dogs, and a cat. For the most part, we are a happy family.
My husband has been diagnosed with ADHD, borderline personality disorder, bipolar disorder and, most recently, major depressive disorder.
He has been treated with different medications for all of those things. The latest diagnosis we are treating is his major depressive disorder…
…but there’s something else there, aside from the depression.
There is rage– an all-consuming rage.
As long as I’ve known my husband, he’s had these episodes.He loses control, and snaps on everyone and everything in his path. He’s broken windows, phones, end tables, lamps – the list is never ending.
When these episodes happen, the man I married isn’t there.
He’s gone, and something else takes over. He’s told me on numerous occasions that he doesn’t remember what occurs during these episodes.
He can remember the episode, but he doesn’t remember his words or actions. He told his psychiatrist that he almost blacks out when he gets to that point in his rage.
She gave him some more medication, and basically said, “See you in a month.”
He feels worthless, and that makes him angry. He isn’t a talker, but when he does talk I can hear the anguish in his voice.
He says nothing happened to make him the way he is. Nothing terrible – nothing worthy of the rage inside him.
He doesn’t want to be this way, he doesn’t want to be anxious and hopeless and angry and sad.
But he doesn’t know how to stop.
It used to happen when he couldn’t find any weed. Then someone would come through with some, he’d smoke it, and the world would right itself.
But more recently, it’s been for no reason I can understand. A month ago, he put a loaded shotgun in his mouth, and he told me, “Good-bye.”
That ended with a police escort to the local hospital.
He spent three days there, changing his medication and talking to someone for ten minutes a day. He attended group sessions, and when he came home, he was ready to be better.
It was a week before he had another episode.
And since then these episodes have been happening every 3-5 days. Some are more serious than others. The last time, he threatened to kill himself.
Unfortunately, that isn’t anything new, except that, this time, he also threatened his mother and I.
We’re going to try therapy, but right now, it feels like he’s a ticking time-bomb, set to go off at any second. From the outside, I know it doesn’t look like he’s trying but he is, he really is.
So this is where I need help, The Band:
Do I stay, or do I go?
Do I walk away from my husband because he’s sick? Or do I stay, even if it’s to the detriment of my sanity, and my child’s well-being?
I don’t know what to do and I have no support network.
My son’s father was never in the picture, and my mother is a recovering addict – currently incarcerated. My godmother, the woman who raised me, is dead. I have a brother, but he has no job, and no home.
My best friend was witness to the gun incident, and has mostly given up on me. She told me that I’m codependent, and making terrible choices for my child. She thinks I should leave my husband, like she did. But her husband was an alcoholic – mine isn’t.
My in-laws have been terrific. Any time we need somewhere safe, their home is always open. But they are elderly – one of them is in a wheelchair. I feel I can’t burden them with this. I feel I am making them choose between their son, or their grandson and I.
Where can I go? What should I do? Please, The Band, help me. I feel so alone. I’ve prayed to every god I can think of, and I still feel so lost.
There is no handbook for when you marry someone with mental illness.
Dear Littlest Sister,
I wish, for so many reasons, that we were closer. It seems that all your life I’ve watched you hurting, and I’ve never been able to help you. Either it was out of my hands or you wouldn’t let me close enough to be any good.
I know I’m a disappointment to you, and that there are times you wish we didn’t share a name. I’m sorry. As difficult as our relationship has been, I have always been proud to call you my sister.
When you were five and our parents divorcing, I should have been more sensitive. I should have seen the Little Sister that needed reassurance.
Looking back, I don’t know why I minded it when you followed me around – you were so darn cute!
When you were playing softball, I wish I hadn’t been so wrapped up in my teenage-self. I wish I’d praised you for all your hard work; told you how great you were. Had I praised you, would you have felt shadowed by our middle sister’s spotlight? Would you still have given up sports?
Maybe it would have changed your future to hear how proud I was of you.
When you were experiencing your own depression, I wish I hadn’t been thousands of miles away. I’d have held you as you cried. Maybe then you wouldn’t have tried to overdose. If I’d been there to listen, would you have started cutting?
When you enlisted in the military, did I tell you how my heart swelled with pride? When you came back from your basic training and tech school I was, once again, wrapped up in my own stuff.
Did I tell you that I loved you?
Did I tell you that I missed you each day you were gone?
And now, when you’re hurting – when your life is spinning- the distance between us is more than the five-hour drive. I want to call you and listen to your tears. I want to to tell you that broken hearts hurt worse than childbirth, but that you’ll heal and be stronger.
I want to comfort you and give you the compassion and support that I know you won’t get from our mother or our middle sister.
It’s silly, really. We’re so much alike, you’d think we’d be closer. But, as I look back, I can see all the wedges I drove between us.
And so, I’ll write this letter to you; a letter you’ll never see. I’ll keep you in my thoughts as I wait to hear news of you. And I’ll pray that this isn’t the thing that causes you to hurt yourself again.
You are such a beautiful person.
You give so much of yourself to everyone. You, who never wanted children, are my son’s favorite aunt. He glows when he talks of his time with you and he tells anyone who will listen that he wants to join the military, just like his heroes. Do you know you’re one of his heroes?
Do you know you’re one of mine?
I love you to the depths of my soul. And no matter what, you will always be a part of me.
I am so infinitely proud of you.
Your Big Sister
Like a whole bunch of people in the Chicago area in late July of 2017, when Mike Malinowski completed suicide, I was crushed.
On the outside, if his social media activity was our only peek inside his life, the guy looked like he was living the dream: expensive cocktails and smiling ladies and fun looking vacations and hip hop shows and live music and a stable full of friends.
However it looked on the inside, I don’t and won’t know, but it was obviously a shitshow that none of us were invited in to witness.
I was 37 at the time of Mike’s death by suicide, and what’s weird about the whole thing, is that it’s almost like I don’t remember who I was before he died.
That morning, I remember, was eerily gorgeous. It was a Saturday or a Sunday, I had nowhere to be, but I woke up early anyway. It must have been close to 5am, which sucks because I NEVER get to sleep in and here I was waking up when I didn’t have to. I did what most people do, I grabbed my phone and headed to the bathroom to start my morning.
Within the first five seconds of opening social media while on the toilet I knew something was off. I had like four facebook messages, and no one ever wants to wake up to that shit in the first place, but these were from people I hadn’t talked to in a decade or more. Like everyone else would, I ignored the fb messenger notifications and started scrolling.
There it was. Mike’s final post. He had typed, just a half hour earlier, maybe 40 miles from the toilet I now sat upon, that he wasn’t a pussy and that he couldn’t take it anymore and that he loved his friends. But he was out.
That was it.
Of course at this time of the morning there were only maybe a dozen reactions, and I did what I bet everyone else did, I went into fb messenger and typed out “what did you do?” and sent it to him.
No response. Ever. Still.
I checked those messages I had tried to ignore. Every single fucking one said “what just happened?” or “is this fucking real?”.
My friend, hell one of my favorite pint sized musicians, had completed suicide and left his note as a post that I would morbidly stalk every few months just to remind myself that it actually happened.
Mike’s fucking gone, he peace’d out just after he said goodbye to everyone, on FACEBOOK no less, and here I was thinking I needed to be more like Mike, more in tune with what’s right in my life, more aware of how awesome the shit and the people around me are.
At 37, with the most beautiful woman in the world as my wife, and with three incredible, healthy, energetic children all still asleep in my house, I was fucking devastated.
Like, punched in the stomach, dragged through the streets, every ounce of everything inside of me depleted, just, devastated.
I remember returning to bed and sort of sniffling a bit and my wife turns to me and says “what’s going on?” as she’s still half asleep.
“Remember Mic One?” I say through ragged breaths.
“The littlest rapper?” she jokes, because it’s true. We fucked with Mike so hard, everyone did, because we loved the hell out of him.
My wife knew Mike, the rapper, because he was the sole reason why we postponed our first wedding anniversary trip waaaaaay back in 2005, all because he offered my band The Cankles an opening slot at one of his shows. His shows were epic sold out parties, every time, and his support to any artist on the come up in Chicago was huge, if even only on the inside. Mic One shows were where any musician in the indie hip hop scene wanted to be. My wife knew Mike as the guy who said shit no one else would even dream of saying on the social medias, he was the guy your wife rolled her eyes at. Always.
“Yea.” I responded. “He’s dead. Suicide. He posted about it on facebook about a half hour ago.”
Julie went up on one elbow, seeing my face as it dove for her chest, she didn’t say anything.
I spent the better part of a half hour just sobbing. Not just because he was gone, but because I felt like his taking his own life was sort of a kick to my own stability. If Mike couldn’t handle this shitstorm, how the fuck was I going to?
The rest of that day and the week to follow all went by in a sort of blur. I was communicating with friends I hadn’t seen or spoken to outside of social media in over a decade. Everyone was fucking hurting.
How did we not see this?
Why didn’t someone say something?
Why didn’t he ask for help?
I was a pile of absolute shit.
I should tell you, because it matters in this here story, that I’m an “elected official”, an alderman, in a small city in the Chicago suburbs called Yorkville. There’s 19,000 people, it’s rural-ish, but with way more suburban folk who wanted less people and bigger yards, it has all the comforts of a larger suburb closer to the city, without a lot of the noise.
Anyhow, my mayor at the time, Gary Golinski, got word of what had happened and, because he’s fucking awesome, he called me to check on me. I told him I was a pile of shit and I didn’t know how I was going to bounce back from this sort of blow. He listened to every mumbled word I said one night and asked me, “Well, what are you going to do about it?” to which I responded, “I don’t think there’s much I can do, he’s dead.”.
And then he said something I’ll never forget. “Well, you gotta do something. I’ll wait.” and then there he sat, on the other end of the line, just sitting patiently. He wasn’t offering me much, but he was present.
Over the next half hour, as I sort of talked to myself with Mayor Golinski listening, I sort of went over my options.
I could do nothing, which is what I had been doing for the last week, basically ignoring everything in my life.
I could say something at a meeting some day soon, but those are just words. I needed something a bit more public and uncomfortable.
Together we decided that I needed to make this a turning point in my life, and make a public and official testament that suicide is an issue, that there are resources available to those who need help, and that just saying hi or simply being present for someone can help turn their day around. Oddly enough, that last part was a direct result of Mayor Golinski just being there on the phone with me as I worked through my shit.
That night I drafted what would become the National Suicide Prevention Awareness Month Proclamation. And with the direct support of my city, the United City of Yorkville, we were going to proclaim, with Mayor Golinski as my bullhorn, since I still couldn’t talk without crying, that September was Suicide Prevention Month, that suicide was an issue, that mental health resources were available, and that a little slice of humanity can go a long way when someone is having a tough time.
We adopted that proclamation in late August 2017. The night of that meeting I went home and emailed every elected official I knew and asked them to do the same. I was hurting, but I was fucking fired up. I’m sick of people not knowing they matter, sure, but I’m also sick of that fact that whenever I say the word “suicide” people look at me like I just screamed the word “MASTURBATION” in a catholic school.
Denial about a subject doesn’t make the subject any less real, talking about it seems like the best way to make something taboo less terrifying.
Sure, I was terrified of having to talk about suicide, but I knew that if I didn’t, someone else I love might consider it their only option and then actually follow through and I’d lose someone else.
I was fucking done sitting still.
I haven’t sat still since.
In 2018, I got permission to conduct official outreach on behalf of the United City of Yorkville a bit earlier, and I ended up sending out about 3,000 emails on my own and got 234 cities, and 20 counties, in 40 different states to official talk about suicide by adopting the NSPAMP.
That same year, I reached out to a group in Chicago called Hope For the Day, a proactive mental health and suicide prevention non-profit, and immediately fell into step with their approach and knew I had found a home for the fire lit under my ass.
While working parallel in my own little suburban bubble, HFTD saw something in my communication style, and rather than them just high fiving me for continuing to talk about suicide from my position as an alderman and a dad, they nudged me to consider being more physically involved in the proclamation project than just a guy sending emails.
In 2019, along with Hope For the Day, I’ve still sent out 1,000 or so emails, but my numbers are only in the 70s as of this writing, but I don’t care, because we’ve already visited and presented in front of a handful of city councils in the state of Illinois. We’ve directly interacted with those impacted by suicide, and we’ve demonstrated to those who have NOT been impacted by suicide, how devastating the loss of one human from suicide can be.
In 2017 and 2018, I was still unable to attend many of the readings and adoptions of the proclamation, because it was still hard to talk about.
In 2019, it’s not any easier to talk about, but fuck everything else, I’m not done trying to make sure that Mike Malinowski didn’t die in vain and that I can’t do what I can do impress upon humanity how important we all are.
We’re in this shit together whether we like it or not, so I’ll be around if you wanna fucking talk about some shit. I also like tacos.
Oh, and I just got hired by Hope For the Day on August 15th, 2019, as their new Public Policy Director to directly communicate with people on all sides of government, to not only ensure the money we spend as a country on mental health and suicide prevention is well spent, but to make sure we all realize it’s human to hurt and our job is to talk about what sucks so that it doesn’t end up hurting someone or losing one more person to suicide.
So, yea, I cuss when I talk about pain and suicide and hurting and shit, but it’s ok not to be ok, and I’ll grow up someday (I’M LYING).
TALK ABOUT SUICIDE.
BUT TALK ABOUT THE SHIT THAT SUCKS.
More than half of all suicides occur in adult men between the ages of 25-65.
Suicide is how she lost her brother.
The Band is about breaking apart stigmas and blasting the shame away from the dirty, dark secrets no one talks about. My family needs a band. Or, rather, we needed The Band.
I like to think I’m an intelligent adult and that I ultimately know it’s useless to play the “what-if” game. But after stumbling across The Band, I wonder: what if Ty had The Band? If we, as a family, had been raised to talk about our problems, our feelings, would he still be with us?
I don’t know.
I do know that for every waking moment I have, I’ll have another where I wish I could go back to that night and ask him to talk to me, made him talk instead of letting him hide away in his room.
Maybe then he wouldn’t have called his ex.
Maybe then he wouldn’t have written that note.
Maybe then he wouldn’t have wound the noose around his neck.
Maybe then we wouldn’t have lost my brother.
In 2004, I was pregnant with my daughter and at a job I enjoyed with a morally corrupt boss that I hated.
But I was fine.
When I was 32 weeks pregnant, my father came for a visit. Dad lived two hours away from me, so having him show up suddenly for a visit wasn’t unusual. In fact, I loved it. I’d wake up to the smells of breakfast cooking, coffee brewing, and my Dad whistling happily to himself as he took over as caretaker in my house.
There was something very comforting about my Dad’s presence in my house. My father was a six-foot tall and solid man. So when he hugged me, he enveloped me. The feel of his embrace, the scent of his cologne, the unmistakable him-ness, could give me strength and faith that no matter what, I would always be okay.
My father loved me. My father was my friend. My father was a fabulous grandfather to his grandson. My father was my foundation. My rock. My stability.
And that morning, my father showed up and made breakfast. Blueberry muffins. He spent the morning talking to my son and I. He helped my son tie his shoes for school. I could hear them laughing and talking and whispering to each other as Dad helped his grandson fix his hair for school.
When it was time to leave, my son did not want to go. He wanted to stay home and spend the day with his grandpa. I remember saying to my son, “Come on, I’m taking you to school. Grandpa will be here when you get home.”
My son hugged his Grandpa goodbye. His grandpa told him he loved him. He told his Grandson to have a great day.
I told my Dad I’d be back in about an hour; I needed to stop at the store before I came home. My Dad told me to be careful. He kissed me on my forehead and told me, “I really love you, kid. I’m glad I came to see you.”
As I drove out of the driveway, I glanced in the rearview mirror and saw my Dad taking out my trash and for one moment; one tiny moment, I thought to myself, “Maybe I can let my kid skip one day of school. We could all just spend a nice day together.”
But, my son had a spelling test, and his gifted class that day and I didn’t think he should miss those. I looked at my father in that mirror and I felt so good that he was there. I was so glad to have my father show up that week.
I remember thinking, “Time with Dad is just what I need.”
It was early spring here. The morning was slightly chilly but the sun was shining brightly. The day was bright with promise. After dropping off my son and a quick stop at the store, I headed home.
I got out of the car and grabbed my few bags of groceries and went into the house. At 32 weeks pregnant, I had an awkward sense of balance, but I managed to get to the door in spite of the dog and that’s when I thought, “What’s the dog doing outside? She doesn’t stay outside by herself.”
I went inside to find that my father had killed himself.
Much of what happened that day after that is burned into my brain and I will never, ever forget it. Some things are gray and fuzzy and lost to the haze of my grief and I’ll never remember them.
What I do know is that my world, my foundation, my entire sense of who I am was taken away in one moment by the one person who was supposed to keep me from ever feeling like that.
I’m doing okay with it.
So why am I telling you this story?
Because suicide is bullshit. And it’s aftereffects last a lifetime. In our case? Two lifetimes. It’s shaped who I am today and who my son is as well.
Because if there is anyone here reading this who thinks that suicide will end pain needs to know that it causes a lifetime of pain. Pain, confusion and hurt.
Because no one wants to talk about it.
When someone loses a parent to an illness, an accident or at someone else’s hand? People are there for them. They listen to them. They commiserate. They form a support for them that is so goddamn necessary to heal. Not so when someone you love takes their own life.
Suicide is a topic that no one wants to be connected to.
People don’t want to talk about it. They can’t hear about it. They don’t want to comfort you because they don’t know how. It’s not something that they want to believe can happen to you. They don’t know what to say. They don’t have the answers either, and that makes it difficult for them. It’s because of this that my father’s suicide has made me the loneliest I have ever been.
I’ve been isolated in so many ways because of it. So isolated that I don’t know if I will ever not feel like I’m separated from everyone else again.
I could sit here and tell you all the ways this has changed me. All the ways I am stronger. All the ways I am scarred. About crying in absolute emotional pain and just wanting my dad when just a few weeks later, I gave birth to my daughter. About all the irrational fears I have. Someday, I may tell you about all of it.
Today, I want to show you that my Dad was a real person, just as I am. I love him today just as I always have.
The day my son was born, my dad wasn’t able to be there. I can’t remember why. I believe my dad was cooing to him. But the obvious joy at having that boy makes this photo one of my most treasured memories. I wanted you to see it.
My Dad was a real person. He existed.
Today, I tell you about my Dad because this community is amazing. I read your stories and I am humbled by your courage, your tenacity and your amazing support for each other.
I’m so proud to be a part of this project, even in a small way. I’m so proud of every person who has posted and who has commented. I’m so proud to know that this community exists.
You have no idea how much you would have helped me in 2004, but I do.
I tell you my story because you’ve told me all of your stories. Your stories, in your voices, about your experiences have made me feel like people don’t suck as much as I thought.
I need you to know that if you have lost someone to suicide that it’s time we start talking about it and making it okay to talk about it.
I need you to know that if you are thinking about killing yourself, my story is a very good example of what you will leave behind. By killing yourself, you will have caused more pain than you can imagine. Pain that will never go away. Please, please, don’t do this to everyone in your family. Don’t do this to your parents, children, and friends.
I need you to know that for six years, I’ve stopped believing that anyone would love me more than they love themselves. I don’t know that I’ll ever believe that again.
I need you to know that I am sharing my story because I trust you.
Thank you all for inspiring me.
Thank you for making BB2G the community what it is today.
Thank you for being here.
If you are feeling desperate, alone or helpless, or know someone who is call 1-800-273-TALK (8255) to talk to a counselor at the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.
Here is the Band Back Together Suicide Prevention Resource Page
Here is what happens to loved ones left behind from a suicide.
I was never going to write on here. I was going to comment and offer support… but I was never going to write about how I felt.
“It’ll go away later,” I’d tell myself. “There worse things out there in life than feeling down every now and then.” “Everyone gets overwhelmed this time of year.”
But then I wonder if it’s worse than that.
I’ve always been relatively smart. My elementary school wanted me to advance to 2nd grade during Kindergarten. I was in Beta Club and always enjoyed school. Then, in the 3rd grade, my parents split up. I vaguely remember an incident where my dad hit my mom. They got back together when I was in 6th grade. But, things weren’t going well.
We moved after 6th grade. My best friend had moved away a year earlier and I had a hard time making new friends in my new town.
I was smart… and smart kids aren’t the cool kids.
So, I dumbed myself down.
Things weren’t good at home, either. My parents were not happy and it showed. My mom had a meeting with my teacher’s my sophomore year of high school to discuss my poor grades and my English teacher told her it was because I was bored with school. It was too easy for me, and I had given up.
I had driven myself to the point that I actually told my mother that I wanted to kill myself.
To this day I can not guarantee that it was an empty threat.
After we moved, everything about me changed. I became my mother… she gets upset too easily. She’s depressed. As far as I know, she’s not gotten help for it and she’s always telling me to stop getting “into tizzies.”
I’ve been in some bad relationships where I was used and cheated on and emotionally abused. I was called a “butterface” (everything is okay about her, but her face), ugly, and fat. I think the worst thing people made fun of me for was my nose. It’s on the larger side and now every time I look at myself in the mirror all I see is that damn nose.
How it makes me far from perfect.
I’m engaged now and I love my fiance with all of my heart and I know he loves me, too…but there’s this voice that comes out every now and then and eats away at me.
That voice says that he deserves someone beautiful and he’s going to find her and leave me. My self-esteem is not great.
I trust that he loves me and won’t leave me… but that voice in my head won’t shut up.
The best way to describe how I feel is when you go to a store like Best Buy. If you go to the back of the store where all the TVs are, and you put each TV on a different channel and close your eyes. All those voices, all the things running through your mind – and I can’t make it stop.
My self-esteem is so very low. I can’t even make simple decisions like what I want to eat for dinner. If I go to make a speech or presentation in class, I get so shaky I can barely stand up, let alone speak. In some classes I can’t understand the material, so I cry.
When Tony asks me what I don’t understand so he can help, all I can muster is, “I just don’t understand.”
What’s the most important thing I don’t understand?
Why I went from a smart, outgoing kid to someone who wants to hide in their room with the lights off.
And, then there are days when I feel great and nothing is wrong and I just say to myself, “it went away like usual. See? Everything is better. Sometimes people just get sad.”
Until that voice in the back of my head finds those remotes again.