5 Reasons I’ve Never Attempted Suicide

I know it’s been a long time since I’ve posted anything and that is mostly due to fear and mental illness, but today, with the loss of Anthony Bourdain to suicide, I wanted to re-run this post with some updates and tweaks. I hope it’s the start of an important discussion about suicide and mental illness, particularly amongst men, and I hope it’s what leads ME back to being able to post new material.

Depression is an isolating disease and often a literal killer especially if you’re male. Woman are not immune, of course, as evidenced by the loss of Kate Spade just two days ago, but according to the CDC suicide ranks as the 7th leading cause of death in men and men are nearly 4 times more likely than women to take their lives. As a 44-year-old man who’s lived with chronic depression and anxiety for most of my life, I can tell you that suicidal ideation is real and it’s terrifying. It’s like a voice calling to you from the darkness, it’s Pennywise the clown from IT telling you that all of the pain and turmoil tearing your head apart could poof, be gone within moments be it through pills, bullets, razor blades or any number of means. It’s called to so many depressives. Today celebrity chef and travel writer Anthony Bourdain answered the call joining Robin Williams, Kurt Cobain, David Foster Wallace, Ernest Hemingway, and so many men who live outside the limelight. It calls to me frequently. It was strongest after my nervous breakdown in 2010, but to be honest, I hear it almost nightly like a wisp of wind, a soft breath of urging in my ear. I often lie in bed imagining a slow-motion bullet through my brain or a quick slice of the blade, but despite the calls, despite my disease, I’ve never attempted to kill myself. I’ve never come close. These are 5 reasons why.

1) I’m terrified of death. The majority of people on this shared planet fear death and that includes people with mental illnesses such as depression. It’s only when the torment becomes unbearable that the depressive seeks what he/she thinks is the solace of death. But death is finality. Death is blackness beyond the darkest moments of my life. It’s unfamiliar. It’s the ultimate unknown and the unknown petrifies me like nothing else because I have this desperate need to understand. There’s no understanding death outside of a clinical or religious focus. I don’t believe in an afterlife. I’m about as agnostic as you can get without being an atheist, so I’m not afraid of going to Hell and getting tortured by literal demons for all eternity for how dare I commit the sin of suicide. But even when that irrational part of my brain is at its worst and the whisper’s become a scream, I can’t do it because I don’t understand the existential consequences. It’s too frightening.

2) I’m mortified by judgment. Considering I live every second of my life feeling judged by others (imagined or otherwise…ok, mostly imagined), fearing what people will think of me should I commit suicide sounds patently ridiculous. But it’s true. What would people think of me? Would they dismiss me as weak and pathetic? Would they come to my funeral? And WHO would come to my funeral? I go through my list of family and friends and consider who’d be there. Even at my imaginary funeral I focused on the negative – not who’d come to show their respects, but who wouldn’t. But it’s not just judgment regarding suicide that worries my brain. It’s people scrutinizing my accomplishments or lack thereof. Between 11 and 29, it was people seeing my gynecomastia (male breast enlargement) in the flesh. It was childhood bullies laughing. In high school it was gossip about the stack of Playboys under my bed (“The boy liked to look at naked women?? The boy was interested in sex?? How disgusting!” It was and is everything and anything, pure judgment despite logically knowing I wouldn’t even be there to hear such imagined barbs.

3) Guilt. Guilt is so powerful it should be labeled as a weapon of mass destruction. I feel guilty about everything – taking the last cookie; wanting time away from Sienna; having depression. I could never kill myself because the guilt feels all-consuming (and yes, again it’s nonsensical for if I offed myself my feelings would go to the grave with me). I’d feel guilty about letting everyone down. My parents. My grandparents. My sister and aunt and uncle and cousins. My best friends. My therapist. My psychiatrist. Fellow dad bloggers. Acquaintances that probably wouldn’t even notice I’d disappeared. My cats. I already consider myself a failure. I already feel like I’m letting people down because I’m not rich; I’m not powerful; I don’t own a huge, pristine house with a giant backyard and pool and indoor bowling alley. Committing suicide would only cement that.

4) A promise I made to my wife. I can’t remember when I made this actual vow or how I did it, but at one point…it might have been during the recovery time following my nervous breakdown…I promised the love of my life I’d never reach for the pills, bullets or blades and I fully intend to keep that promise. I could never hurt this exceptional woman, this beautiful person who loves me, warts, depression, anxiety and all. I would never let her discover my body floating in bloody water or on the receiving end of a horrible life-altering phone call. And when my daughter came along, I doubled down. I made the promise to my babbling baby girl. Daddy will never leave you no matter how hard it gets. Often I hear the sweet breaths of sleep next to me and over the baby monitor as night turns to dawn as I lie in shaking in bed, dark thoughts whipping their way through my mind, imagining that slow-motion bullet through the head, but I never get up and grab the pill bottle. I can’t. I made a promise to never hurt my wife and daughter by taking my life and I will not break it.

5). A glimmer of hope. I don’t know why, but even during the harshest, blackest times there’s remained a scintilla of hope somewhere in my head or stomach or right big toe – hope that I’ll get better; that I’ll learn to live with my disease and find not necessarily happiness, but contentment; hope that I’ll stop comparing myself to others. It’s a different sort of hope than when you’re at raffle and they’re randomly choosing the winner of a 50″ flatscreen tv. I know that feeling. It’s a burning sensation in the pit of my belly, a combination of hope, negativity and jealousy. I’ve never felt this ghostlike glimmer of hope. I wish I could. I wish I could project this speck so that I can see it spread across the sky, so that it wraps me in its glow and my outlook turns from pessimism to optimism. But I can’t. So how do I know it’s there? I don’t know. I don’t have an answer for that. Even when I felt my most “hopeless,” I knew, somewhere deep inside, that that smidgen of possibility existed. I know it’s there, but I’m not yet able to focus on it or use it as a tool, a building block. At the moment positivity eludes me. Each second brings me a new barrage of self-loathing and distrust through which I need to fight. It’s exhausting. And yet that glimmer helps keep me fighting through the seconds, minutes, hours, days. That speck helps keep me alive.

These reasons for not attempting suicide are mine and mine alone. Some are wonderful, some you might find silly, but all have kept me on this earth. It’s also helped that I’ve spoken with other depressives, especially men, because I know I’m not alone. And I have a sense of awe for people who have tried to kill themselves only to find awaken in hospital beds, sutures on their wrists, bellies pumped. There’s no judgment because I know how hard it is. I know how strong you have to be to take that last step. Most people without mental illness consider it cowardice. I don’t. I know its reaching a limit of pain. I know the voices have turned to banshees. I would never commend or recommend suicide for anyone, but I understand because it calls to me too. Until you hear that sickening voice, you’ll judge. You’ll focus on the selfishness of it rather than the help that person needed, the turmoil in his/her head.

We lose too many men to suicide. It’s become an epidemic because truthfully there’s a stigma within a stigma. Men have to be stronger. Men can’t be vulnerable. Men must never cry, must never hug other men, must never show weakness. So men clam up when they need help the most and their minds beat them to death. We need to make it a priority to help men suffering from depression and other mental illnesses. We need to vigorously redefine masculinity so that men feel safe to open up. It’s part of my mission as a mental health advocate. It’s part of the reason I write my blog – to show other men, fathers or not, that they’re not alone. We’re not alone.

If you or someone you know needs help, please call 1-800-273-8255 or visit the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline or the Suicide Prevention Resource Center.

#ThanksBaby, For Proving Fear Can Turn Into Love

When you were born and I held you for the first time, I felt wonder, but my overwhelming emotion was fear, and my brain kept whispering, actually shouting, that I was going to fail as a dad. I became obsessed with trashing myself for both not adhering to the cliché of falling in love with you the first time I held you.

I kept waiting for THE MOMENT, the flash of light, the mental click of a button. I suffered through panic attacks during which I sobbed and curled into a ball while you cried and ate and pooped and cried and ate and pooped.

Around six months after you were born, your mom took a picture of us. When she showed it to me, I was stunned. As I stared at my facial expressions, the softness in my eyes, the slight smile and I realized I’d loved you all along.


Boy was I wrong! My mind had trapped me in this cycle of shame and guilt and self-loathing refusing to see the truth, the utter joy you brought to my life.

Never again.

As you grew we developed a strong bond filled with love, playfulness, silliness, wonder; the shared love of going to the movies; Transformers (the original cartoon, of course); all things Star Wars; superheroes; powerful girls and women like Wonder Woman, Rey, Black Widow, Princess Leia; nature (you still love that video about the mimic octopus of Indonesia); and funny sounding words and phrases.

“Did you see or touch any monkeys?” I’d ask when I picked you up from Pre-K.


“Did you eat any poison dart frogs?”

“Daddy! That would make me sick!”

“Ok…whatever you do, don’t say ‘Bork Bork Bork!’


And we laughed, both of us with gleaming eyes and silly grins. We laughed like a father and daughter who shared a special secret.

I gave you my childhood toys and watched with glee as Frozen‘s Elsa took on the Decepticon, Shockwave (remember Transformers were made of metal? Craziness.). I watched you dress up as Rey from Star Wars: The Force Awakens and my heart filled with pride and happiness.

There’s no more fear in my eyes when we take pictures together. Just joy, fun, love.









So #thanksbaby. Thank you for showing me that I’m not failing nor will I ever fail as a dad. Thank you turning that fear I felt 5 years ago into unconditional love. I’m your dad and I’m proud as hell to be your father. And on this Father’s Day, I remember…I remember that fear, but I KNOW that love.


Sunday is Father’s Day and I’ve partnered with Pampers on their #ThanksBaby campaign. In addition to this post and some great stuff from me and other dads on social media, we’re also hosting a Twitter chat on June 17 at 8 pm EST, where you could win a VISA gift card worth $250.

Also, please check out and share this fantastic video from Pampers honoring dads.

Disclosure: I have partnered with Life of Dad and Pampers for this campaign, but as always, all opinions are my own.

The Modern Dad – Teaching Pre-K and Fighting Stereotypes


“She’ll be fine. Their teachers are so loving and warm. It’s so much better for kids to have female teachers Pre-K teachers because they’re so nurturing. It’s why you don’t see any men teaching Pre-K.” – The mother of a fellow student in Sienna’s Pre-K class.

I’d just dropped Sienna off at school and she was having a hard time letting go. She’d suffered through strep throat and wound up having a 4-day weekend allowing her to spend considerable time with Mommy and Daddy so it’s understandable that she didn’t want to go to school and that she bawled when I left. I’d picked her up and held her, making sure to kiss her head 10 times and hug her 10 times and tickle her 10 times, but still her teachers needed to literally pull her away from grabbing my jacket as I left.

That’s when the woman mentioned made my blood boil by inferring that men weren’t nurturing enough to teach Pre-K. I know just how nurturing I am. And I’ve read enough blogs and been to enough conferences held by the Dad 2.0 Summit and the National At-Home Dad Network to know that I’m far from alone.

So I decided to do a little research into men and early education and didn’t find all that much recent work regarding Pre-K, but I did find a couple of alarmingly similar articles about how society (and not just American society) views male teachers. In a 2013 ABC News article by Susan Donaldson James titled “Why Men Don’t Teach Elementary School” for the past 20 years, male teachers in American elementary and middle schools “stagnated at 16% to 18% according to MenTeach, an organization whose mission is to increase the number of males working with young children” and that there were no statistics for Pre-K or kindergarten, ,”but in 2011, the most recent year for which there are data, only slightly more than 2 percent of kindergarten and preschool teachers were male.” 2%? In 2011? Seems to me that there’s a glass ceiling when it comes to men and early learning. The question is why?

It comes back to what Sienna’s classmate’s mother told me this morning. There is an outdated, stereotypical view that men can’t be as nurturing as women. Ms. James quotes Massachusetts psychologist Michael Thompson co-author of Raising Cain, a 2000 book that claims American society shortchanges boys due to the “feminization of the classroom.”

According to Thompson, “It’s very hard to change the suspicion of men who are going to elementary education when there are so few of them,” Thompson said. “Schools ask me to talk to men on their faculty and when I sit with them behind closed doors, they say the moms look at them like potential pedophiles.

“If they are too nurturing or a mother comes in and sees a teacher reading in a chair and the child is leaning against the teacher or cuddling him, they freak out,” he said. “Men tell me they only have to look in the mom’s face to know what they are thinking.”

This is a similar thought when it comes to modern dads taking their young kids to the park only to be glared at with suspicion by moms as well as the age-old advice given to children should they become lost – if you can’t find a police officer or similar person of authority, find a mother with children – which infers men, even dads with kids, are dangerous.

As stated above, the lack of men in the classroom, particularly in the early learning classroom, and the stereotyping and suspicion of male teachers doesn’t just exist in the United States. In a 2013 article titled “Teaching in Primary Schools ‘Still Seen as a Woman’s Job‘” posted on The Telegraph‘s website by Education Editor Graeme Paton, studies concluded that “figures show[ed] that around a quarter of primary schools in England – 4,500 – are staffed entirely by women. In all, men present just 12 per cent of the primary school workforce, while just three per cent of teachers in state nurseries are male.” Why? Because of “deeply ingrained gender stereotypes combined with fears that men will be falsely labelled as paedophiles.”

Again with the pedophilia fear. Sienna’s teachers (both female) and her previous teachers (3 females) have all been wonderful. They’ve never been afraid of offering their students hugs should they need them. They’ve never had to worry about being seen as incapable and predatory instead of smart, protective, tender and warm. But modern dads have to battle mistrust and the stereotypes of coldness, cluelessness and creepiness. We modern dads must battle these stereotypes every day when taking our kids to the park or shopping or or anything remotely deemed “feminine” work, not to mention the underlying fear that we’re somehow abusive criminals.

I’ve personally gotten to know hundreds of dads of young children who are expert nurturers sometimes even surpassing the abilities of the family’s matriarch. Each and every one of these men are capable of teaching Pre-K and could bring creativity, warmth and patience to the classroom. Each and every one would hug and try to comfort a crying child without pedophilia ever entering his mind.

It’s time world societies begin recognizing that along with eliminating the ridiculous stereotype that men can’t change a diaper comes the fact that modern dads are much more involved in their children’s lives, are much more affectionate and are more than capable of teaching in a Pre-K classroom. With apologies to the mother of Sienna’s classmate, having a female Pre-K teacher isn’t better because women are inherently more able to nurture in a classroom – it’s because people like you won’t even let men try.

Don’t Let Depression Rob You Of Those Magical Parenting Moments


         Father/Daughter Silliness

“Daddy, I wish you’d smile more.”

“I’ll try. I’ll really try.”

“I like when you smile.”

I nod because I have no words, because my 4-yr-old Sienna is right. I don’t smile enough. I don’t laugh enough. Too often I look serious or sad or angry – not at her – at life. I’ve been in a fairly dark place the last few months, depression corroding my insides like rust or acid, blinding me to the joys of being a father. I see my daughter after school and count the hours and minutes until it’s time for night-night. And she knows it. This little girl is so damn smart and intuitive. I don’t want to be this way. I don’t want to miss out on things I’ll never again experience.

A couple of months ago I lay with Sienna in her bed. She needs either myself or her mommy to stay with her a bit until she feels comfortable with being alone. Monkeys, squirrels, cheetahs, owls, penguins surrounded me. At the foot of her bed Snoopy hung out with Darth Vader. Vader held a pumpkin that wished all a happy Halloween. I listened to Sienna breathe…so much quicker than my own air gulps. She held a ratty scarf she’s had since she was a baby and sucked her right thumb. I held a Star Wars blanket to my chest and kept one arm around Sienna. The slurping from thumb-sucking filled the room. I’d do anything for this little girl. I want to share her joys and triumphs and defeats and sadness. I want her to share mine. But depression always gets in the way. Depression makes me nod and say and empty, “Beautiful” when she shows me a picture she drew in school…her as a sparkly purple queen.

As we lay there together, I looked around the room I’d helped decorate – Inside Out and Star Wars decals adorning the mint green walls; a painting of Batman and Superman; my mother’s artistic take on Charlie Brown and Snoopy; a cupcake clock that had stopped ticking now for more than a year; butterflies and flowers she’d made in school; a photo I’d taken of Siena, Italy. As I looked around the room anxiously wanting to leave, to be rid of my child for the day and have my space – maybe to watch something stupid like “New Girl,” Sienna started to squirm. Somehow she maneuvered herself sideways until she lay on top of me, back to my chest. She felt warm. I felt trapped, but I didn’t move. Something in my brain told me this was special. My depression relented a bit. I breathed slowly, deeply as her breathing slowed and sleep took her away for the night. Her thumb dropped out of her mouth covering my face with saliva. I lay still. Despite my depression, despite my difficulty smiling, she felt safe and loved. She’s 4 years old and she loves her daddy. Would I ever experience this again? This closeness to my daughter? This miracle? Before I know it she’ll be a teenager and want nothing to do with me. I can’t let my depression steal moments like this. I can’t. I need to be strong. I need to take it all in and remember. I need to make it all about her instead of making it all about me.

We lay there for a good half hour before I gently moved myself from beneath her and gave her a kitty to hug as she dreamed.

“I love you,” I whispered. “I love you so much…so much. I’ll try. I’ll try to smile more. I’ll beat my anxiety. I’ll take Xanax if need be. I’ll be a better daddy.”

I pulled the cover to her waist and watched her breathe in and breathe out. Her eyes remained slightly open which always makes me laugh. She sleeps like the undead.

sienna sleeping

                  Zombie Sienna

I won’t let my depression take this memory from me. Not this one. It’s already taken too many. And I’ll do my damnedest to fight it. It’s so hard when your brain’s constantly pelting you with the needles that are negative thoughts as life goes on around you. But I’ll keep battling because Sienna deserves it, because I deserve it, because I never want another extraordinary moment to slip by.