When I was a young man, maybe fifteen or sixteen, I had been paired up with an IT consultant named Adam. Adam had ADHD like I did, he medicated for it, and he seemed to be pretty successful. My step-father (who had his own issues) wanted Adam to be my mentor, hoping that seeing things from Adam’s perspective, seeing how he had dealt with his ADHD and built a successful consulting practice would inspire me.
What we didn’t know, was that Adam was in an arranged marriage (his family was from India) and he had been juggling depression and anxiety along with his ADHD. One day Adam decided he didn’t like the path his life was taking, taped a plastic bag around his head, and killed himself.
That is a story about Adam, but it’s hard for me, having been paired up with Adam as someone to look up to, not to think somewhat selfishly about how it effected me at that age. I was a “bad kid” by most standards, I skipped class to hang out with the theater instructors and build sets, I skipped class to hang out in the computer lab and taught myself Photoshop by competing with the other kids on cool designs we’d come up with in the Macintosh lab, I also skipped class to play Star Wars Episode 1: Pod Racer in that same Mac lab, but that’s not really part of THIS story. I was a “bad kid” and I didn’t follow the rules and my mom and step-dad really were hoping Adam would straighten me out.
But now Adam was gone. I remember calling his number and getting a member of his family, this was years ago so forgive me if I pull a Ben Carson and forget the exact details of who I spoke to, but let’s say it was his sister (that sounds right). Come to think about it I left a voicemail, and she had called me back, wanting to let me know what happened. She was sad, and probably gave more details than you should give to a fifteen year old, but it was good to know what happened and at least part of why he had been so depressed.
He was a smart dude, tall, thin, I can somewhat recall his face and feel like he would have worn glasses, he loved computers, he loved technology. I don’t know what kind of music he liked, or what his favorite food was, I didn’t know he was so unhappy. I was only a kid, but I feel like it should have been obvious. It’s not obvious though. We don’t know what someone is going through, and often times those who carry the most sadness are the ones with the biggest smiles on their faces as they try to entertain others to cheer themselves up by doing so.
Trying to do so, it’s hard for me to think back to times I have been depressed, but I know I have been. The most obvious time that stands out above the rest is when our first dog Casey went missing for four days in the Lawrence Creek greenbelt. That’s my dog, yes we have six, but Casey was my first dog as an adult, still our only boy, and he’s the one who doesn’t have a crate, he sleeps in the bed with us, etc. I have dogs, but Casey is my dog.
I was terrified for him, my grandmother always told me that I had unlimited optimism, that no matter how bad things got for me as a kid I was always looking forward to tomorrow, to the next opportunity, not backwards on all that had gone wrong, but I was terrified. He was out there, he had no food, fortunately it was a time when it wasn’t too hot, wasn’t too cold, and he did turn up on the 4th day not even a scratch on him.
I’ve been depressed after a break up, or after a big fight with a friend, but I’ve been married now almost four years so the relationship dramas of old, holding boom boxes over my head to try to win whoever back, those days are behind me. I’m probably the happiest I’ve ever been, it just makes me sad that I hadn’t met Adam at this time in my adult life, I might have been more perspective, I might have been a better friend.
Suicide is a topic that no one likes to talk about – it’s easy to get angry at someone who has committed suicide, that anger flavors the event and it makes it difficult to continue the dialogue. Someone ends their own life about every twelve minutes, and someone attempts suicide once each minute, with our service men and veterans impacted by those statistics the most. On that topic, I love the Bernie Sanders quote “If you can’t afford to take care of your Veterans then don’t go to war.”
I wanted to share my story, well, Adam’s story, but also my story of losing Adam to suicide. I don’t know why he did it, but I know it made me sad, I know I felt his loss, and I felt for his family and I was also probably mad at him and mad for him, and I wish I could have known what to say or do to be a better friend.
What I learned from Adam in my adult life has little to do with ADHD or being a consultant – though I am now an adult with ADHD and I do nerdy internet consulting, so maybe he had a bigger impact than I admit – I learned the importance of friends, and community. We’re always the house hosting the BBQ, we’re always feeding our friends, and hugging them as they walk in and hugging them as they walk out.
I don’t know what your week looked like, I don’t know about your debt, or your fight with your mom, or your marriage problems, or your fear about being a good parent, or any of a million things that can weigh so heavily on someone. I don’t know, and even when you ask you only get part of the answer. I do know that everyone has to eat, and everyone loves a hug, so I can at least do that.
I’ll finish on a quote, I was present when this was said in another life, the quote comes from Van Jones who said; “Everbody wants to be a powerful speaker like Dr. King but the reality is the key to coalition building is to be as powerful a listener as Dr. King was a speaker. So that your listening is so attentive and that you’re bearing witness in a way that calls the other person to speak, and to speak in a deeper way than they knew they could speak from.” That quote always resonated with me, maybe because as someone with ADHD stopping long enough to listen at all is really difficult for me.
Listening is one of the greatest gifts you can give. Time is the one thing we can never get more of, and sharing your finite time with someone else can make all the difference in their life. So to be a true friend, be it to hopefully let your friends and family know that you are there for them, so if they are ever so down, hurting so badly that they are considering ending it, that they know they are not alone.
Holly, Sara, our friend Laurel and I all attended a 5K Walk called Out of the Darkness this past Sunday, supporting local efforts in San Antonio to prevent suicide and help those who have experienced that loss. We raised some money, we walked through some beautiful parks, it was an interesting emotional ride because you’re out, it’s a beautiful day, but at the same time you’re reading shirts, you’re hearing stories, you’re seeing folks who are still truly hurting and were effected by someone’s suicide.
You can help by following The Out of the Darkness Walks on Facebook, and just by being there for people who need to share their experiences, need to talk about what is incredibly difficult to talk about. Your time, your friendship, a hug, a coffee, a BBQ, a kiss, a compliment, all of it could help brighten someone’s day and you never know who might truly truly need it.