I've done my best to structure the story in a logical fashion, but it's a bit difficult. Here goes.
My father died to suicide at the age of 48 in October 2019.
This sent me into a depression of my own. I had suicidal thoughts, I blamed myself for my father's death, I didn't sleep well, I had a hard time focusing on simple tasks, I was no longer able to properly evaluate how I was coming across in everyday interactions (I was afraid that what I said was hurtful or "wrong" and needed to consult with others to make sure that wasn't the case), and my emotions were raw.
I clearly remember how every negative thing that happened in this period led me into a negative spiral of thoughts centering around my father's death and from there leading back to suicidal thoughts. It could be a discussion with my wife, or it could just be a slightly negative post or comment whether online or IRL.
Then there were of course also all the things that reminded me of my father. I got my interest in movies, tv shows and gaming from him, so it was hardly possible to do any of my usual hobbies without being reminded of him and thus reentering the negative spiral mentioned above. I also recall tearing up when I saw the trailer to Star Wars: Rise of the Skywalker. My father had introduced me to Star Wars as a kid, and now we wouldn't get to the see the conclusion together. After having watched the movie, I felt less sad about this.
I didn't tell any of my friends about my father's death for the first couple of months. It was just too difficult to broach the subject. I think partly because I didn't know how to, and I think partly because I've always felt uncomfortable about having others listen to my troubles. I think I've just always felt that "this is something that's happening to me, so why should I make others uncomfortable?". (Which is a general pattern in my life, a need to make others like me and to completely shy away from all conflicts or unpleasant interactions.)
I was back to work within a week, and we went through with our "moving in party" that we'd planned for the next week as well where I managed to keep up appearances. Of course, my wife and our families knew as did my colleagues. In hindsight, I was a complete fool for not taking a leave of absence from my work (the therapist had cleared me to take a "leave of sickness" or whatever you'd call it) and cancelling our events, but as the "responsible" person that I am I just couldn't bring myself to do it.
It's difficult to say how long the depression lasted, but I do know that it was very important that I talked to someone about it. Something that my wife had to convince me to do, so I finally went to see a therapist.
The first time, it didn't really do much.
The second time was the first time where I began to have "aha moments". Even though I consider myself very self-aware, there were just connections that I'd never made before when reflecting back upon my life. And it wasn't that the therapist claimed that these connections existed or anything, but the conversation led me to make these "conclusions" on my own, so to say.
The third time the unimaginable happened. I cried for only the second time in... My adult life? The first time had happened only weeks prior on the first night of the day where I learned about my father's death.
The impact of my father's death
The fact that it was suicide hit me hard.
At first, when my mom called to tell me, she hadn't mentioned suicide. So I assumed it had something to do with his heart, as he had suffered a mild heart attack a couple of years before.
I went over to their house and there were two policemen outside. I asked them what had happened and they said suicide. And it just completely changed everything for me. If the world had seemed dark before this, it was pitch black now.
That part might read strange to someone who hasn't experienced something similar (and maybe still some of those?), but... What was before a state of shock mixed with grief, I imagine, was now an endless flow of emotions and thoughts all centered around why he'd "choose to leave us", "what could I have done to prevent this", and the like.
I remember obsessing over how his final day was. Without being too direct, I wanted as many details as I could get from my mother and my 3 siblings still living at home. I searched through his browser history to see if there was anything - there was not. He didn't leave a note - I made sure to check everywhere I could. I wanted to know the approximate time of death, but the police said they don't check for that when it's suicide, which infuriated me. I wanted to access his phone and his email, but I didn't have any luck. How can there not be any way to break into an iPhone and see its contents if you don't have the password?
Like I already mentioned, I initially blamed myself a lot, then I was angry with my father, and I'm sure that cycle repeated a few times.
My father wasn't a good man. For those curious, uttering this was what broke me at the therapy session. Honestly, in some ways, it's better that he isn't here. I won't delve deeper into this particular part of the story.
So why did/does it hurt so much? Because I loved him and I miss him still. Because I know he loved me, I know he loved my siblings, and despite a strained relationship I know he loved my mother. In spite of all his shortcomings, I've never doubted any of this.
Also, I sympathize with his story, and I feel very sad at how his life turned out. He lost his father too soon. He lost his brother (my uncle) to an OD, and he lost his multi handicapped son (my brother) in 2006-2008. I was there, so I know it wasn't easy to have a multi handicapped son, but he loved him endlessly and was always there for him. On top of that, his wife (my mom) suffers from several mental health issues as well as physical ailments that might very well lead to her dying within the next few years. Then add to this his dwindling group of friends, his beforementioned heart attack, and then there's another huge part which I also won't get into publicly.
Suffice to say, though I am leaving many things out here, it wasn't difficult for me to piece together an interpretation of how he came to die by suicide.
"Moral of the story" - talking helped me
Despite all of these things, I had no idea he suffered from depression, much less suicidal thoughts. Looking back, it seems like absolute stupidity on my part. But I swear, his death was a complete shock to me and everyone else in his life. A complete shock.
I've found myself wondering... If I was a therapist or psychiatrist, would I have known? Maybe? Probably? But the fact is I had no idea.
And the main reason I had no idea was because he never shared it. He was a manly man who had gotten into many brawls in his life, and he certainly never talked about his feelings, unless they were of an angry or accusatory nature.
One might think this would leave me to absolving myself of my sins of not realizing his situation. How could I know it if he didn't share it with me? This is partly the case, and partly not. I still found (and find) myself thinking back to conversations that I only remember tidbits of, reanalyzing and reinterpreting the things he said. Were there clues? Was he ever reaching out in his own way, and I just didn't pick up on it?
But there is nothing to do about it. And I've come to terms with that.
Better yet, I decided to learn from my father's mistake. Despite having had the very same inclination of not wanting to talk to anyone about it, I caved and did what my wife pleaded me to do many times - to please talk to someone about it. That step can be very hard, trust me, I know, so that is why I'm a fan of this initiative. Having that push was immensely helpful for me, so if it can do the same for even just one other soul out there, this is all worth it.
And I've heard the feedback and I know maybe it won't help everyone. But I hope we can all agree that it's something worth exploring for everyone in a similar boat.
Where am I today?
I now no longer suffer from depression, thankfully. But I can still have minor "relapses", and certain stressors can amplify that.
The past couple of months have been worse than the months before. Which is probably not too strange, considering the stressors of being unemployed (I finally quit my job last year to focus on my mental health as well as my family), moving into and renovating a new house, failing my driver's license test a couple of times, and worrying about my mother and my siblings. A combination of stressors that on bad days can make me feel like a failed man.
And watching Bridgerton, funnily enough, also made me realize that I have an apparently common fear of dying at a young age caused by one's own father dying at a young age. This was very heightened at the time of my depression, but fortunately a bit more fleeting now.
But! Today I earned my driver's license, we're making good progress on the house, I am doing my best to be there for my family, and hopefully the job will come along soon.
I feel good right at this moment. But it's okay to feel bad. For me, talking helps. If anyone ever wants to talk, you can hit me up here on Discord. I'm not as active these days, but I'll reply at some point