On our podcast ‘Tales That Tethr’, tethr Founder & CEO Matt Zerker interviews entrepreneurs, experts, thought leaders, and regular people about what is means to be a man, the challenges that modern men face, and how to overcome challenges and live life in a more connected and authentic way.
When I made the decision to write about my son’s suicide, I had no intention of including my childhood stories in the book. How could they possibly have impacted his decision to end his life? Turns out, my childhood played a bigger role in my son’s suicide than I could ever have imagined.
Starting the book with his death was like entering the play in the third scene. It was only after my friend encouraged me to write about the instability of my early years that I begin to see how my childhood impacted my parenting and in turn my son’s choices. As I examined my father’s life through adult eyes, I felt an even deeper understanding of his choices.
My father’s mother spent her entire life with undiagnosed depression, something she inherited from her mother. Grandma Dean would experience bipolar mood swings which even she could not understand or explain. I can remember as a teenager coming into the room as she spoke with her daughter about being so sad after everyone had left from the family party. I did not understand this kind of unexplained sadness.
Like many of his siblings, my father inherited this depression which was not diagnosed until his early 50s. This diagnosis certainly explained my father’s volatility and why he changed jobs frequently and moved us every year. Each time my father would paint a picture of excitement and adventure. It was not until a friend pointed out how unstable and tragic my childhood was that I began to realize this was not normal. When one has nothing to compare against, how things are done seems very normal.
As I wrote of raising my son, who was wildly independent, I began to see how my parenting compensated for the instability in my youth. In order to keep the crazy voices at bay, I craved strict schedules and well organized spaces. My son wanted just the opposite, which resulted in most of our disagreements. What he saw as being OCD was my sincere desire to cope and gain some control of my environment.
When my father’s illness eventually got too much for him, he quieted the voices with a bullet. I was not well enough informed to know that when one family member dies by suicide, the rest of the family’s chances of doing the same increases by 50%. I also never realized my father’s illness had been passed on to my children, even though I actively watched for signs. My son kept his struggles and insecurities a secret, so we never saw that he too was struggling with his own demons.
I now see myself in the middle of a family chain holding hands with my father and son. I am the connector and possible healer between the two generations. Telling our story has not been easy, but it has allowed me to understand and forgive. It has also allowed me to see we are not isolated but connected. This is not the struggle of one but the struggle of many, and together we have a chance.
Lark Dean Galley is an author and suicide prevention advocate. Her goal is to help 100,000 people choose to stay on this planet and step into their greatness. To learn more about her book"Learning to Breathe Again: Choosing to Heal After Losing a Loved One to Suicide" and other work, visit www.LarkDeanGalley.com.