Depression is Not a Joke: Thoughts on Robin Williams’ Suicide From A Fellow Depressive

I lay in bed, phone in hand, reading about Robin Williams’ severe depression, how the disease beat him down to the point where he found suicide the only option. It didn’t surprise me. I’d known Williams’ suffered from the same condition I’ve battled for 3 decades. He’d been in and out of rehab for drugs and alcohol. He’d spoken previously about the darkness that swarmed his brain just as his breakneck wit overwhelmed the world with laughter, though he never revealed its true depth.


The great Robin Williams lost his battle with depression on August 11, 2014.

I’ve been there, though not as close…not nearly as close. I’ve imagined the bottle of pills in my hand. I’ve pictured the heft of the gun, the barrel cold against my temple. I’ve felt the fictional sweet kiss of the razor slicing my wrists. But I’ve never done anything about it. Even at my most fatalistic, pre-Elaine, pre-Sienna, I couldn’t put thoughts to action. Too frightened. Too scared of judgment. Post wife and daughter, the thoughts still appear randomly like fleeting wisps in the night. They’ve been there this past week and a half as I’ve suffered through a deep depressive episode triggered by something I’ve yet to figure out. My therapist and I are working on it, trying to pull me out of this feeling that I’m in the blackest ocean abyss, chains constricting my legs like an anaconda, arms flailing upwards against the crushing weight of the sea and the heaviness in my legs. I’ve had days this past week+ when I didn’t want to get out of bed despite my 2-year-old daughter needing her daddy. Sometimes my mom would come and take Sienna for a few hours so I could sleep (my usual means of recovery). Elaine took care of Sienna one evening last week so I could go see Boyhood, a movie filmed over 12 years about a boy and his family as they grow. The movie just exacerbated my mood as I felt time slip away. Just as the finale of Six Feet Under destroyed me with a montage of each character’s lives and deaths go by quicker and quicker making me lose my tentative grasp on time and causing a tearful breakdown in the car in my wife’s presence, so too did Boyhood, though this time from a parent’s perspective. As I watched Mason (Ellar Coltrane) literally age from 6 to 18 in the span of 2 hours and 40 minutes, I again lost that elusive and impossible grip on time, feeling Sienna grow faster and faster and faster. She’s still not yet 2 and a half, but I saw her graduate high school and I heard Mason’s mom’s (Patricia Arquette’s) heartsick words echoing through my head: “I got my degree. I got a good job.I put you through college. What’s next? My funeral?” (paraphrased). I’m almost never affected by film or television or literature, but I was by Boyhood. Knowing the state I was in, I should have gone to see Guardians of the Galaxy. I’ve had panic attacks this past week+ because I haven’t blogged in so long and I’m afraid readers and fellow dad bloggers will abandon me. For some reason I’ve been unable to even scroll through Facebook as if touching the keys would burn my fingertips and seeing the happiness of others will blind me. I’m terrified that if I don’t share other people’s blogs, if I don’t comment, if don’t hit the “like” button, they’ll all leave me. So I’ve shared some things without reading them. I’ve hit “like” a few times. I’ve made a comment or two. I’ve even posted about this, my most recent fight with this damn disease, and caring people have responded, some have send PMs, but I’ve been unable to read them. I post and run. Post and run. I can’t scroll long. It hurts too much. And I don’t know why.

This isn’t my first battle as I’ve said. I was unofficially diagnosed at age 9, 31 years ago. I kept everything inside until 1996 when I had my first nervous breakdown and then went back to bottling it up until my second nervous breakdown in 2010. I’ve been on so many different medications I’ve lost count. I’ve seen 4 different therapists and 4 different psychiatrists with my most recent ones being the best. I can be fine for months and then something can trigger an episode, something seemingly innocuous that leads to irrational thought after irrational thought until my brain might as well be a Sharknado, turning and twisting and biting. Each waking second I feel like I’m up against a Mt. Everest of negativity, 31 years of incongruous thought processes and feelings – wrong thoughts and feelings as my therapist will be quick to point out.

Depression is a fiercely selfish disease. When you’re deep inside its clutches, you can’t see how you’re affecting others. My sister taught me that years ago when she lectured how the world walks on eggshells around me, how no one knows what will set me off. I keep that in mind as best as I can but I still succumb at times. I’m better than I was 18 years ago, 10 years ago, 4 years ago. My episodes don’t last as long. Suicidal ideation is rare and cursory. But the triggers, those bastards, still exist and often I don’t see them coming and need time to work through them. And that’s what I do. I work. Hard. Each and every day. And I’ll never commit suicide. I have a responsibility to those I love. I can’t ever hurt Elaine and Sienna like that.

Robin Williams’ decision to end his life wasn’t fair to his wife or his children, family, friends. But was it wrong? I can’t say that it was. He was tortured. Another tortured genius like Hemingway and Woolf who could no longer battle his demons. Depression, like most mental illnesses is a cancer of the mind. If the pain gets too intense, who am I or who is anyone to tell a person to keep going if there’s no fight left, if each breath, each second is a waking nightmare. If someone has cancer, is in unending pain, sees no light at the tunnel and wants to end it, isn’t it just as selfish of us to ask him/her to keep living and fighting because we want them in OUR lives? I wouldn’t kill myself, but I can’t say Robin Williams is wrong for taking that road. Who knows how deep his depression went? Who knows what he thought in his last moments? This is a man who covered his sickness as best as he could, who made millions laugh as his own brain probably screamed he was a failure. We were robbed of so many more laughs created by Robin Williams, but not by Robin Williams himself. We were robbed by Depression.

I couldn’t sleep last night after reading about Robin Williams. I kept envisioning his last agonized moments. And then I’d wonder if his death would push me over the unable-to-blog hump and I’d chastise myself for it. Then I started thinking about all of the bloggers that would beat me to the punch and/or write with a more poetic touch. And I felt so egotistical. So disgusted with myself. At 3-something in the morning I posted on Facebook about my insomnia, Robin Williams, and my warped warped thoughts and fears. I’ve yet to read any responses, though my mother said I received a ton of support. If I can I write this then I can read those responses. I’m proud of myself for writing. I think. I hope.

If there’s any positive in this tragic loss it’s that Robin Williams was such a high profile figure, such a supposedly kind and humble man in person, such a dynamo on film and stage, that maybe the light will finally shine on mental illness. Maybe more information about mental illness will be available to the masses. Maybe the government and insurance companies will do more for those of us who suffer either aloud or in silence. Maybe they’ll do more to create affordable therapies and medication. Most importantly, maybe we’ll all talk about it more. People will look to Robin Williams and no longer be afraid to speak up. I’ve found that talking about my disease with fellow sufferers has been a huge form of therapy. They get me. And there are millions of us.

It’s time to stop being afraid if you suffer from depression or any mental illness for that matter. It’s time to stop fearing judgment. Step into the light and talk about it. If you’re feeling suicidal, call someone. Call a hotline. Seek help. Because we’re in this together. YOU ARE NOT ALONE.

As proven by the unfortunate loss of Robin Williams.

Depression Hits During A Father’s Day Week of Success, Envy, Pride and Guilt

I held the book in my hands and turned to the table of contents. My name in black and white. Twice. “I’m published!” I thought. “I’m really published!” A little electric jolt awoke my stomach’s butterflies. But lurking beneath the jolt like a cancerous cell was envy and self-flagellation and the irrational side of my brain yelled, “So what? You’re not on The Today Show! You’re not on Good Morning America! This is nothing! You’re nothing! You’ll never reach that pinnacle!” What exactly is that pinnacle? I have no idea. But my depressive brain seems to know or at least claims to. The butterflies fell ill, calcified, settled in my chest and belly like stones.

It didn’t matter that the same day I saw my stories printed in Dads Behaving Dadly: 67 Truths, Tears and Triumphs of Modern Fatherhood (available at Amazon and Barnes & Noble), I debuted on with a paid story about the first time it hit me I was a dad and was listed on Mike Reynolds’ awesome site as an important dad blogger to read. It still wasn’t good enough because I still haven’t hit Huffington Post or appeared in a commercial or sat next to George Stephanopoulos on a talk show set.


I held my book and despaired and screamed at myself to “STOP!” I pinched myself hard enough to leave a welt.

This is such an important week. For the first time I can recall, fathers are being celebrated across the country in a way they never were before. Dove Men+Care debuted a tearjerker of a commercial showing dads as real, significant, beloved, responsible people:

Today Moms changed its name to Today Parents. My friends and fellow dad bloggers attended the first ever summit on working dads at the White House. Friends and fellow dad bloggers, people who have been so kind and supportive to me, have appeared and will continue to be featured on The Today Show and Good Morning America throughout the week. A great friend nabbed a job writing for Friends and fellow dad bloggers took park in huge brand campaigns about the changing views on fatherhood. Andy Hinds wrote about how 2014 is the Year of the Dad. And I’m so happy for them. I’m so proud of them. And I feel so damn envious that I’m NOT them. And coupled with that envy is this corrosive guilt, something my therapist constantly reminds me serves no purpose except as ridiculous self-castigation.

I’ve been blogging for less than a year. In that time I’ve created some sort of presence in the dad blogger community that I don’t understand because I feel my work sucks. I’ve spoken at the 2014 Dad 2.0 Summit. I’ve seen my writing appear on The Good Men Project and at the National At-Home Dad Network. I’ve been on the Life of Dad podcast and the NYC Dads Group podcast. The NYC Dads Group blog has shared my blogs as well as original work for their site. And each time something happens I feel that jolt of pride and joy followed almost immediately by that acidic, destructive jealousy and shame.

My brain, my ludicrous, hateful, powerful brain refuses to let me enjoy these successes and realize that having near 290 Facebook likes just weeks after launching my Raising Sienna FB site and near 270 Twitter followers is enormous, that it took some dad bloggers years to reach those numbers, because I’m too busy comparing myself to those dad bloggers with 95k likes. I’m too busy measuring myself up against the “big boys,” the ones that have sweated and worked for 3, 5, 7, 10 years to reach the levels they’re at. I’m too busy telling myself I’m not good enough because I’m not them.

I become obsessed with symbols, be it getting on a big website or television show or having a former teacher promote my work on her site or be picked to participate in a big campaign. Right now that symbol is getting on Huffington Post. Nothing compares to getting my work on HuffPo. I’m desperate to get on the site and each time I see a friend of mine share one of their HuffPo pieces, I’m so proud of them and so so covetous. I’m also extremely thankful to my fellow dad bloggers for lobbying HuffPo to print my work and because I’m so jealous, I don’t think I’m deserving of their kindness. But regardless, the point is that should I somehow reach the HuffPo level, I’ll feel that similar jolt of excitement and then it will be buried by whatever becomes the next symbol. I’m as yet unable to enjoy the present, the gifts I’ve received, the things I’ve accomplished. That’s what depression can do. That’s how strong and insidious this disease is.

I’m working so hard to get out of this treacherous, sickening mindset. I scream at myself. I physically slap or pinch myself to bring me back to rationality, but so far the irrational side of my brain is as imposing as the 700 foot ice wall from Game of Thrones and seemingly just as punishing to conquer.

But I’m not giving up. I REFUSE to give up. I’ll continue to go to therapy. I’ll continue my regiment of meds. And one day I’ll climb that wall. One day I’ll be able to look back at all the things I’ve done as successes instead of thinking about all of the things I haven’t done. One day I’ll be able to hold my next book and enjoy it for more than a few minutes. I’ll bask in my triumphs for days, weeks, months, years. The present will hold deep meaning. And I’ll no longer covet my friends’ feats thus eliminating that horrible guilt from my life. I’ll virtually jump up and down with them and revel in their accomplishments. One day there will be no despair. Nothing but pride and happiness.

One day.

Now I’m off to go sign Dads Behaving Dadly for my parents.

Breaking Patterns

I sat in my aunt and uncle’s house on Sunday, mere days before Dad 2.0, anxious about having to talk about the conference but wondering why I received zero congratulations. I sat on the couch waiting, butterflies fluttering throughout my torso and into my throat. Nothing from my aunt and uncle. Nothing from my cousins or their spouses. I couldn’t understand it, especially from my grandmother who supposedly was “thrilled” for me and cried when she read my post about Sienna and the moon. Wasn’t this supposed to be a big deal of sorts even if it made no sense to me why I was chosen? Even if I was having trouble accepting compliments and validation? Face-to-face with my extended family and there…was…nothing.

I asked Elaine her thoughts and she said maybe they were afraid to say anything that would upset me. My mom said the same and asked if she should investigate and if it turned out that there was a moratorium in place on talking to me about Dad 2.0, should I give my consent to lift it? I said yes. What followed was some whispering amongst my relatives while I sat, nervous, not knowing what I should with my hands. On one hand I dreaded the compliments and discussing the summit. On the other hand I craved them. My mom came back smiling and said that that’s exactly what was going on. My relatives were afraid of upsetting me, once again understandably walking on the proverbial eggshells.

I come from a very small family. I have one sister, an aunt (my dad’s sister) and uncle, two cousins and unfortunately only one grandparent (we’ve lost two and the other I never knew). I have a number of second cousins, but I rarely see them. Since I was born, we’ve gotten together with my aunt’s family about eight times a year, so if you think about it, I grew up with my cousins, though we’ve never been particularly close. We rarely see each other outside of holidays, birthdays celebrations and the like, and because I’ve suffered depression since around age nine and because I was a very angry and morose child, my kin (had to use that word!) tended not to know what to do with me. Depression can be a very selfish disease. One of its consequences is that it affects everyone around you without you realizing it. I remember a time before my first breakdown when my sister yelled at me to open my eyes to how my mood and behavior impacted my parents. It was the first time I saw the egocentric aspect of depression, but I was still too weak to act on it.

So even though my cousins and I can now sit at the “adult table” and even though my entire extended family has experience enough to discuss anything from politics to raising children, we generally don’t, and since my breakdown in 2010, it’s gotten a bit worse in terms of avoidance of certain subjects. I get that, but it also hurts and sometimes it’s not conveyed to me that that’s why there is no conversation. Thus it builds up in my head (Why? Why? Why?) and leads to further anxiety. For example, there was a miscommunication about Sienna’s 1st birthday that led to anger on both sides, but it took forever to resolve because we didn’t talk to each other directly. Likewise, this past fall, I unwittingly hurt one of my cousins when I wrote something on my blog, but it wasn’t discussed until I broke down in front of my uncle, hyperventilating, tears streaming down my face, my chest like concrete. He took me for a walk and I told him how I felt everyone hated me and was angry with me and how guilty I felt, how the last thing I ever want to do is hurt anyone. We sat on a stoop and I went deeply into my childhood and how I wish there was more communication in our family to draw us closer together. He had his arm around me, talked about his own childhood, insecurities and wishes. He even teared up a little. He assured me that no one hated me. No one was furious at me. Everything was water under the bridge. Everyone loves me. When we got back to my house, I talked to my cousin about the incident and everything was ok. I’d been advised not to bring anything up, but I had to lest I explode which, of course, I eventually did.

So here I was again with my family wondering why no one was talking to me about my upcoming adventure in New Orleans, about how I was chosen to read from my blog in front of 300+ people. Once it was cleared up and my mother handed my nearly deaf grandmother a sheet of paper on which was written, “It’s ok to talk to Lorne about New Orleans,” things got better. I spent an hour using my dad’s IPad to explain the conference to my grandmother. She read the piece I’d been asked to read. I told her how I was advised to create business cards but made the mistake of writing, “For the first time in my life I can say, ‘Here’s my card'” which only reinforced in my brain the poisonous “success = money/job status” mantra that permeated my life. (ASIDE – that I recognized my negative phrasing is significant. It’s something I couldn’t have done before). I asked my grandmother if she was proud of me. She said she was “mesmerized” and then added she was excited to see where this leads. I took this part as if being invited to read at Dad 2.0 still wasn’t good enough for my grandmother even though she probably didn’t mean it that way.

I felt drained when the conversation ended, took a deep breath and shook it off. I went into the kitchen where my cousin told me he was proud, that he loved to read my blog (I didn’t know this…or I did and swatted it away like an annoying fly because I refused to accept it) and that I was going to do great in New Orleans. As the day continued, I received compliments from everyone and though they still stung, they didn’t destroy me or create a massive panic attack. I was glad I addressed the lack of communication, breaking the pattern of an innocent, yet hurtful, miscommunication roiling in my stomach only to morph into rage. I took action even if I timidly used my mom to solve the mystery.

By the end of the evening all was well. At one point I sat talking about Frozen with my cousins’ kids and we all watched a clip of “Let It Go” on my phone. I observed Sienna (who’s never seen the film but has heard the song countless times) interacting with her older cousins, singing along in own way, mimicking the gestures of Princess Elsa and I felt…rich. I wish for Sienna to develop a closeness with her family early and it’s partly my job to move things in that direction. It’s time for me to speak up. It’s time for me to stop relying on Elaine and my mom to diffuse and/or explore these situations. And I will. Yes the compliments about Dad 2.0 stung and added to my anxiety because I still feel underserving, but at the time I need to hear them if I’m to grow. I need to hear that my entire family loves and believes in me. One day I’ll believe it myself.


Sienna and her cousins watching and singing along to “Let It Go” and yes we immediately got her off that table!


I’ve always hated New Year’s Eve. I become way too focused on another year gone, another year closer to death, another year in which I still have not met my warped definition of success. I find it especially hard to concentrate on what I have and instead watch all these people celebrating surviving to see an arbitrary turn on the clock. For years I’ve become more sullen and depressed the closer we get to Dick Clark’s favorite holiday (just as I do my birthday since its “meaning” is in a similar vein). I don’t know how I’m going to do tomorrow. It’s going to be quiet here in our apartment – just Elaine, Sienna and myself. I’ll be with the most important people  in my life and I hope I can engross myself in that. Regardless, rather than spend this post being all pessimistic, I want to write about something that happened yesterday, something that made me realize that I have indeed improved mentally since my last nervous breakdown in January 2010. Yesterday I leased a new car.

I know that doesn’t sound like much, but the last time my lease was up I went through one of the most embarrassing experiences of my life. It was early 2011 and we were still living in New Jersey. Knowing it was a little over 3 months before my lease matured, I drove out to my usual Honda dealership (I was on second Civic), walked through the door and stood frozen looking at the bustling showroom and all the salespeople I figured would take advantage of me because I had so little knowledge about real world things like leasing a car and because I didn’t know how to play the game. Anxiety squeezed my heart with an icy grip. Sweat poured down my face. I walked up to the receptionist desk and stammered something unintelligible. Then, shaking, I burst into tears and ran out the door.

In the end my parents wound up having to drive out from Queens to help me thrash out the new lease. I barely spoke during the process. When I did I stuttered. My hands and legs shook. I didn’t wail or anything, but tears formed in my eyes and sometimes silently slid down my cheeks. I sat listening as my parents tried to get me the best deal, my mind black with thoughts and feelings of frailty and failure. I was 37 years old. A 37-year-old man (I still have difficulty considering myself a “man” as I so often feel like a child) who couldn’t take the pressure of signing a new car lease by himself and instead had to rely on his parents.

Flash forward 2 years and 6 months. I’m at a Honda dealership in Queens since we no longer live in Jersey. My father’s with me. This time I do most of the talking and ask most of the questions. The salesperson’s extremely affable and low key which looking back I think helped, but the fact is I I’m able to joke with him about how ludicrous it is that the color “grey” becomes “Urban Titanium.” My father plays the game a bit and gets him down a few bucks a month (“I like round numbers,” my dad says). But really, it’s my deal and it’s hell of a lot better than my last lease. I put less money down. They buy out my remaining payments and any existing car damage. And I’m paying $38 less a month while getting new features like bluetooth, a rear camera, automatic headlight shutoff and of course that cool Urban Titanium exterior. My hands never shake. My eyes remain clear. I smile and laugh. I never stutter…not even once. I feel no anxiety. Zero. I need to acknowledge that and even say so to my father while still at the dealership.

My dad keeps my mom updated the entire time and as we drive home he tells me how proud of me the 2 of them are. I don’t know if I’ll ever get used to hearing those words, a phrase I’d craved hearing my whole life. My initial reaction is always to refute compliments because I feel somehow undeserving. But as I think about it, I really have come a long way. Two years and 6 months ago I entered a similar situation and was a wreck completely reliant on my parents to get me through it. This time I was in control of both myself and the negotiation. My dad noted I he felt I didn’t even need him there as all he did was save me about $24 bucks a year. The more I think about it, the more I realize he’s right and the more I realize I’ve grown.

I don’t know what feelings New Year’s Eve will bring, but I do know today I’ll go pick up my new car. I know my mind will try to contradict reality, but I’ll battle because I’ve evolved. I have fact on my side. Zero anxiety while leasing a car? That is clear personal growth.

O The Places My Mind Goes – Part 2

The first part of this blog entry sapped most of my energy, but it was worth it. I received a ton of encouragement from friends, family and fellow dad bloggers urging me to remember that I’m not alone in feeling depressed, anxious and overwhelmed, nor am I the only one whose brain can go from stressing over writing a blog to suicidal thoughts in a matter of seconds. I greatly appreciate all the kind words written about my last post. It reminded me that I started this blog about raising my daughter while battling depression/anxiety for the reasons many of you proclaimed – to comfort those with similar issues, to show they’re not solitary entities. I’ll do my best with this second part. I hope it’s up to par.

Sometime after 5 am I fell into a restless sleep, the type of fitful doze where you hover between wakefulness and dreaming. My alarm went off at 8 (I’m lucky in that Sienna is so quiet in the morning that I honestly have no idea when she wakes up). I hit the snooze button a few times because I wasn’t ready to deal with the day – having to put on a brave face while playing with and teaching a rambunctious toddler; fighting over meals; trying to write a blog about what I’d gone through the previous night. One thing I did know – there was no way I was stepping outside my apartment door. When I did finally get out of bed around 8:30, I struggled down the hall to the kitchen, lower body leaden, head filled with helium, stomach churning, an invisible anvil squashing my chest. Shell-shocked, I moved like something out of The Walking Dead. Suicide? Do I still hate myself that much?

I gave Sienna breakfast, but had nothing myself. The meal was nearly silent on my part unlike most days when I sing her favorites whether it be “C is for Cookie” or the theme from “The Golden Girls” (no idea why, but she loves it). After breakfast I set Sienna down in her playpen so I could shower and do the dishes just as I do every morning. I got the shakes in the shower but recovered. We spent the morning playing with cars and stuffed animals, me watching the clock, begging for the seconds, minutes, hours to pass so I could put her down for a nap and perhaps conk out myself.

I peeked at FB a bit, but couldn’t deal with the pressure. At one point I wrote this: “Very depressed. Doing my best trying to hold it together for Sienna. My brain went to horrible, self-loathing places last night. Some things I haven’t thought about in a long time. Scary. Have purposely stayed off FB but feel guilty for not checking and ‘liking’ things people post or reading other dad bloggers’ words (which is really what set this off to begin with because I couldn’t write myself and became anxious). UGH!” I then shut the computer.

I was supposed to have a phone session with my therapist, but I couldn’t talk. I knew that between Sienna’s running around and my inability to form complete sentences, it would be a waste of time. I texted my therapist and asked if we could postpone saying I’d gone to terrible places the night before and had had an anxiety attack. She urged me to talk, but I apologized relentlessly and claimed i just wanted to sleep. Here are the texts that followed:

Therapist: No need to apologize – breathe and remember you feel like this right now – it won’t last. Just a feeling, it doesn’t define you. Reread some of your blogs (I didn’t follow her advice – the “feeling” was too powerful)

Me: Having trouble writing again. Last night thought of suicide and it scared me. Realized I can’t ever do that now because of Sienna. I have no idea why I thought of that. Looking at people’s houses and knowing I’ll never be able to give that to Sienna. Brain went all over the place. I’m so tired

Therapist: Never say never. You never know what you can accomplish when u get out of your way – and if you ask Sienna which she would prefer – a father who showers her with love and affirmation though he’s not a millionaire or an emotionally abusive millionaire father who would she choose

Me: I know, but still not good enough (my warped view of success impeded rationality as it so often does).

Therapist: That’s your self-hatred and mental issues. It’s not and never will be Sienna’s truth. Would you rather have had a loving father and less material stuff. Stop listening to your illness. It lies and is a huge waste of time and life

Me: I just need to sleep (my illness continued to rule me)

My mom texted me to say she’d read my FB post and asked if I needed help. I mentioned I’d appreciate it if she’d give Sienna dinner – just the thought of putting together a meal and getting her to eat was too much for me to bear. My mom agreed to come over even though she had a cold leaving me to imagine Sienna getting sick as my punishment for being so pathetic.

I don’t remember much of the afternoon. I’m sure I followed Sienna around whenever she grabbed my hand and commanded me to sit so she could show me something or we could play. I struggled to smile. I kissed and hugged her when I could gather the strength to do so. I couldn’t wait to put her to bed.

Was I asleep when my mom rang the bell at 5:30? Was Sienna still in her crib talking to herself in the dark? I can’t recollect. I sat on the couch staring into space while my mom fed my daughter eggplant rollatini. She brought me a salad which I eventually ate, the first food I’d had all day. My mom tried to get me to talk, but I couldn’t. I mumbled. I spoke in short sentences. I didn’t mention suicide despite the flashing neon sign in my mind.

After dinner my mom stayed with us. I went to change the cat litter and it was like a perfect storm. We have one of those cat litter boxes that you roll over to get the clumps out, but it picked this time, THIS TIME, to fall apart leading to urine-infused litter spilling all over the kitchen floor. IMMEDIATE hyperventilating. Facial tic going like crazy. Sienna kept coming into the kitchen and I stuttered, “Sie-Sie-Sienna ou-ou-out!” I cleaned up the mess on the verge of both tears and my second panic attack in less than 15 hours. My mom hugged me when I finished cleaning. Did I hug her back? I don’t think so. I think I was like a rag doll.

Back to the couch. Sienna picked up ribbons and Mardi Gras-type beads and wanted me to spin and shake them. She climbed on my lap. Minky, the intuitive black, long-haired puffball, curled up next to me and purred. I kissed Sienna’s head while petting Minky, his purr rumbling against my thigh. I still had that 100-yard stare, but my mom observed something else and later wrote in an email:

“After you threw away the cat litter and barely made it back to the couch, your beautiful, wonderful daughter took one look at you and with all the love in her heart climbed in to your lap and cuddled with you. And while fighting through your embarrassment of having her see you this way (yes, I saw that too) she held firm and would not let her daddy go. Tell the world how you both looked at each other and ever so slowly she was able to calm you down (with a little help from a purring Minky) until the softness showed in your face and you were able to begin to play with her. She only had her daddy in her eyes and I watched as the two of you played with the ribbons over and over again and pure glee showed in Sienna’s face and smiles came in to your face. It was a beautiful moment between father and daughter. She was there for you all the way and while you were not free of all the anxiety and panic she helped you hold it together. And because of her you fight on. You were given the powerful gift of pure, unadulterated love yesterday while you were most vulnerable. That is what it is all about. How amazing that a 21 month old has such a gift. That is the perk of being able to share these moments with her. That is something the world and all the stay at home dads need to know.”

I wish I remember things in this manner. I remember Sienna in my lap. I remember Minky. I remember playing with ribbons. I don’t remember my face softening or my brain unlocking or an ease coming over me. All I have are my mom’s words and that is why I included them here as a reminder. She’s right. The unequivocal father-daughter bond must have been there allowing me to keep fighting despite my extreme fears and vulnerability. And though the events my mom witnessed are foggy in my mind as is my collapsing into Elaine’s arms when she got home and my nightmarish confession about my suicidal thoughts, I CLEARLY remember the following morning when I had my phone therapy session and Sienna, a toddler bursting with energy, sat on my lap for 20+ minutes as my tears dripped in her hair and Minky, intuitive Minky, curled up next to me and purred.

Days have passed and I feel much better. I don’t know when exactly I crossed the line into feeling better, but I do know the words of encouragement from fellow dad bloggers after I posted part 1, the emails and phone calls from friends and family, and the unburdening in therapy (I think I spent most of the time crying and repeating my usual “I don’t understand” and “I’m trying so hard” and “When will it stop?” refrains as my therapist pointed out how much I’d accomplished over the past few years – I have difficulty remembering), did help.

I don’t know when I’m going to suffer another panic attack. With depression you’re never out of the woods. There are so many triggers and dangerous thoughts that zip through my brain each and every second that anything can set me off at any time. Some suggested this most recent attack could be seasonal, and I think that played a role. I do tend to get depressed the closer it gets to New Year’s and my birthday in February; it doesn’t help that my next birthday will be my 40th making the insane, absurd expectations and definitions I’ve created for myself regarding “success” (job, money) glare even more – pessimism abounds as another year comes and goes without me gaining that house, elite job status, book deal, million dollar retirement fund. But I do know that I have people that care about me (I still struggle to understand why – I wish I could just accept it) and I have blogs, my own words, to read and reread as proof that I’m gradually moving down the right path. I know I’m going to face blog anxiety again. I can’t avoid it. But I also know there are fellow dad bloggers out there who support me even though we’ve never met. David Stanley, a member of the group, told me Dad Bloggers was a safe place. I hope he’s right.

Most of all I have my little family – an incredible wife, a brilliant, funny, beautiful little girl who gives me “the powerful gift of pure, unadulterated love” and our two cats, one of which always knows when I’m hurting. And as my mom so aptly wrote: that’s what it’s all about.

Sienna in bin

My Sienna