While watching CNN's Jake Tapper this morning and Congressional Representative Jamie Raskin discuss the upcoming impeachment trial of Donald J. Trump, I learned that Representative Raskin lost his twenty-five-year-old son on New Year's eve from his battle with chronic depression. During the interview, I was stunned to learn that one in four people, twenty-five years and younger, had contemplated suicide in just the last thirty days. We are attempting to navigate a raging pandemic, a nose-diving economy, an epidemic of suicides - which has risen 200% higher than in previous years. We also have to save our democratic republic from insurrectionists radicalized by President Trump:
"Democratic Rep. Jamie Raskin said Sunday that he's "not going to lose my son at the end of 2020 and lose my country and my republic in 2021," in a moving message that comes as he grapples with his family's loss and his role as the House's lead impeachment manager in President Donald Trump's second impeachment." LINK
I decided to write this OpEd because I have intimate knowledge of PTSD and chronic depression, albeit I have no idea of what is causing it to occur in epidemic proportions. The PTSD and depression came about for me in 2012 when my twin sons murdered a journalist in Pensacola, Florida, and then buried him in my backyard in Winder, Georgia. When I discovered what happened, I called the police. There was not any viable alternative, and I knew I would be a man without a family. What I did not know was how that event would adversely affect the rest of my life. I also developed a case of ADHD that has altered my ability to write and stay engaged enough to finish anything I start. As of this moment, I have been working on this, off and on, for three hours.
About six weeks ago, my PTSD and depression culminated in me flying into a rage when I found out my unemployment was suspended because it was under investigation. To make a long story short, I went from bad to worse and opened up the propane I used to cook my meals. (I was living in one of the prefab cabins and had been diligently avoiding going out for fear of COVID19 since March of 2020.) A company based in Los Angeles had been bugging me to do another documentary regarding my sons, and it opened-up wounds I had been carefully avoiding. While raging at the Governor's office, I was in a state of disarray that I never wanted or anticipated. I was breathing in propane for hours and was surprised that it didn't kill me, but it did make the rest of what happened a haze of uncertainty. My memory of how the propane ignited is akin to a dream/nightmare.
I thought I was in the minority of PTSD and depression; I was wrong. Depression is at epidemic levels, and addressing it is a national emergency in itself. Our youth appears to be more at risk than adults. I understand what triggers me, and a good part is an uncertainty of what will happen to our nation. I grieve for my country and those who will never live to understand what we have lost. These United States are not the ones I grew up in, nor do Americans have the same rights I enjoyed as children and a young American. To me, the thought of losing our democracy is almost as bad as losing my family. I would suggest that millions of Americans feel the same way.
Those of us who have PTSD and chronic depression are not crazy; however, I admit we are wounded and unable to cure ourselves. I live in the back of my Jeep and consider it a well-deserved punishment for the grief and anxiety I have caused to those who used to be my friends. I am 70 years old and unable to figure out how to recover from my actions, which brings on more depression. If you see someone in need with a history of PTSD or depression, call someone, preferably their physician or pharmacist. My friends knew I was falling into the rabbit hole and didn't know what to do. I am in no way casting blame, but acknowledging that people struggling with psychiatric issues cannot cure nor necessarily help themselves.
This OpEd is also an apology for the pain and suffering I have caused others. When it comes to domestic terrorism, the authorities state if you see something suspicious, tell someone. In the same breath, if you see someone who is exhibiting behavior that you know is associated with PTSD or chronic depression, don't stand by and watch; tell someone that can intervene, and the life you save could be someone in your own family.
I'm in a motel in an area where I hope to find professional help. I can't afford the motel, but Georgia is experiencing a frigid winter, so I don't have much of a choice. I tried to reach out to someone where I was treated for my burns, but COVID19 has made finding help a nightmare. Everything that is plaguing our nation at this moment has been due to misconduct at the highest levels. If we don't come together as a nation, we will suffer consequences that, to me, are unimaginable. Freedom is not free.
I tagged this OpEd as time-sensitive because suicides and associated behavior is happening on a daily basis. I believe it is a moral imperative to alert the public to act proactively when this type of behavior is recognized by friends and family. If we educate the public to the seriousness of reporting information that families often keep hidden because of social stigmas that working together, we can help to save lives rather than being embarrassed or in the alternative, hurting someone's feelings because of their psychological problems. It's OK to not be OK as long as help is brought to center-stage.