In this digital world in which we live, it's... strange... to deal with the flesh-and-blood loss of human beings with whom you've only connected through an endless series of zeroes and ones. Sadly, I've experienced this awkwardly hollow feeling more than a few times over the past decade or so, and even more troubling is the fact that my online acquaintances that have died, have not done so by accident or "natural causes," but by their own hand.
Since 2007, I've known at least three people who have killed themselves (confirmed), and have known a couple of others whose deaths have been questionable. Two weeks ago, yet another online "friend" committed suicide. That man, was Marc Block - a fellow "Dad Blogger" known as "Divided Dad," that had reached out to me this past February.
I did not know Marc personally, nor did I know him "well" in an online sense. He was a member of a Facebook Group for Dad Bloggers, and through that and twitter, we'd connected.
I don't know how he finally ended it all, but from the bits and pieces I've heard through the cyberspace grapevine, I know that Marc was suffering from DEPRESSION. I also know that he's left behind two children.
Regardless of what many would like to claim, Depression still carries a stigma... especially among men.
For me, "Let it go" has always been particularly offensive. Why? Because I've been undergoing treatment for Depression for years. And YOU CAN'T "LET IT GO."
For the most part, I try to keep things fairly light here on The Rock Father, and honestly - I had second thoughts about about even bringing this up on my site. But it needed to be done. More people need to be talking about Depression as a real issue. And several others have stepped up and are doing the same using #ForMarc as a social hashtag. Ironically, this is all happening in National Mental Health Awareness Month.
Depression is not something that goes away. It's something that you deal with every day. It can be treated, but you cannot control it. This is something that those who have never experienced it cannot comprehend. When someone says "I understand," or "I know how you're feeling," odds are that they really don't. Depression is a scary thing, and it often comes coupled with other things like anxiety or anger. I know these emotions quite well, and they're all painful as hell.
For the most part, I've been "fine" for quite awhile. I take meds every day, and visit a Doctor a couple of times a year to check-in and make sure that the treatment is keeping things under control. It hasn't always gone this smooth, as proper treatment between medication and discussion (therapy) is sometimes a crapshoot. I've had some good times, and I've had some really, really bad ones. The wrong pills... or a wrong dose... can send your mind into a spiral, and I can think of one weekend where I almost had to check myself into a hospital. Around that same time, another friend of mine did end up hospitalized for a bit. Unfortunately, they're six feet under now.
On my XBOX LIVE account, I have a few "ghosts" that follow me. These are the gamertags of those who have taken their own lives, yet their online personas just sit there for what seems like an eternity. I believe that there's three of them on that particular list, yet I can't justify removing them just yet. I can't really explain why.
I am a parent. You know me as "The Rock Father." To properly care for my children, I have to take care of myself.
Recognizing the problem and seeking treatment is the big step to take... and there's a lot of men out there that are afraid to take that step. There is no good reason not to take it. One of the big reasons still tends to be the "embarrassment" of letting people know that there's a problem. Believe me when I tell you that those who would look down upon you for seeking help are nothing but garbage, and you don't need them. Things can get heavy, but as humans we have to get rid of this thinking that those who suffer from Mental Illness (and it is an illness) are "nuts" or any less of a man for getting back on the right path.
No matter what problems you are struggling with, hurting yourself isn't the answer. Call 1-800-273-TALK (8255) to talk to a counselor at a Lifeline crisis center near you, or visit Lifeline online for immediate assistance.
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About James: A work-from-home Dad with a pair of daughters (Released in 2009 and 2012) - James Zahn is THE ROCK FATHER™.
Bringing over two decades of experience in the entertainment industry into the family realm, Zahn is an Illinois-based Entertainment Writer, Media Personality and Commentator.
He serves as a PBS KIDS VIP (Very Involved Parent), has made guest appearances as a member of the Sprout Kindness Crew, was featured in the Father's Day issue of Lake County Magazine, and is a former contributor to Chicago Parent.
Creatively, James has directed/edited music videos, lyric videos, and album trailers for the likes of FEAR FACTORY, DIRGE WITHIN, PRODUCT OF HATE, ARCANIUM and others, has appeared as an actor in feature films and commercials, written comic books, and performed in bands.
James and/or his work have been featured in/on CNN, NBC, G4, The Chicago Tribune, Blogcritics, Fangoria, Starlog, The River Cities' Reader. Slowfish, Oil, and more. He's appeared as a music expert on CNN's AC360, and in 2013 he's been quoted on CNN, Babble, The Huffington Post, and The Good Men Project, in addition to making appearances on ABC News and WGN.
Learn more here.