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  • Leon 8:00 pm on December 30, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: automattic, aware, , grow, happiness engineer, mental hospital, pieta house, samaritans, suicide, wordpress   

    From Suicidal to Happiness Engineer (Almost) in 3 Months. 

    Almost is the operative word. The blog title is metaphoric unfortunately due to a job application which was derailed (more about that later..) but herein lies a story of overcoming (work in progress) personal difficulties and loss of self after a massive change of life and finding some new contentment and direction. My 2017 year in review follows.

    Spring

    So, the beginning of 2017 found me with a wife, three gorgeous kids, a lovely home in Leitrim we owned outright, a nice car we owned outright, no loans or debts and a small but successful design business of my own that paid all bills. I had pretty much everything that most people work for and aim towards in life. At age 41. But in conversation with the imaginary person in my head who regularly asked me “How are you doing Leon?” I always hesitated before saying “I’m fine”. Why the hesitation?

    Well, something just wasn’t quite right and hadn’t been quite right for a long time and I couldn’t really put my finger on it. We’d had the same problems a lot of people have in life; money shortage, health issues, the difficulties in raising three young kids, etc.. but it felt like something more than those. There was an uneasy feeling whenever I came home or was around my wife and kids for more than a few hours. I noticed my temper getting shorter, my patience with the kids growing thin very easily and my physical health suffering as I felt more and more stressed with each passing week and month. I had an office outside the house and I longed to be there whenever I wasn’t. Coming home was not something I looked forward to. That’s such a scary feeling. You know something is seriously wrong when you can’t face coming home to your wife and kids, particularly when you know they’d done nothing to make you feel that way and had only the deepest of love for you.

    I’d been seriously depressed before a few times, many years previously as well as having a family history of depression and suicide and it felt a little like that again but with lots of anger added for good measure. What was wrong with me? Why wasn’t I happy with everything I had? Why wasn’t I delighted to come home to my wife and kids every day after a hard day in the office? Why did I long for Monday morning on a Friday evening? Unfortunately I was to find out the answers to these questions the hard way and in the process, destroy some of the people that cared most about me, alienate all of my friends, family and in-laws and ultimately let myself down in a way I never thought I would or even could. A normally honest, tidy and intelligent person, full of integrity would turn into a liar, a cheat and a selfish arsehole and make the biggest mess of his life, changing it irrevocably, all in the space of a month or two and all because of a lack of courage, maturity and decisiveness.

    Summer

    The summer started as any other. Peas were planted, the garden wrestled with on a regular basis and a First Communion party at the house with friends and family present. Two long months of school holidays were contemplated and dreaded. Plans made to go camping, possibly to France. The kids first trip abroad maybe. Behind this seemingly normal family life lay a few oddities, my unhappiness, my wife’s unhappiness, the fact that I’d never really got on with my in-laws, didn’t really have any friends or the fact that my wife and I hadn’t shared a bed for over a year and a half. An odd thing for a married couple but something that was just accepted as normal for some reason? Then it happened. For the first time in a long time another woman gave me some attention. It’s a dilemma faced by many men (and women) I’m sure and like thousands before me I didn’t have the mental strength, honesty and cop on to stop it, instead, flattered by the attention and even needing and wanting it perhaps, I made the worst mistake of my life and had an affair. I enjoyed the thrill while it lasted and even managed to convince myself that it would help my marriage when it was over and give it a new impetus in some way. But that’s not how things turned out of course..

    My wife found out about the affair and from the moment she screamed at me that she knew (during a marriage counselling session), I felt my life was over. When I seen how much I’d hurt my wife, a kind, caring person who’d done nothing but love me for 15 years, I just wanted to die. For the next couple of months I lived out of my office, B&B’s and friend’s spare beds, contemplating where my life would go next. One day planning how I’d kill myself, to the point of actually looking for rope, guitar leads, medication or a big enough truck, the next, thinking about my three kids and how they would react to me dying and wondering if I could find some way to live happily and normally again. After a while my wife was gracious enough to tell me she forgave me and even understood why I’d done it and for a while we both entertained the daft notion that we could put it behind us, start again and be stronger together for the experience. We even tried it for a while when I moved back into the family home for a couple of weeks but something had died.

    Autumn

    One night during this period my wife and I had a massive argument with physical violence which resulted in me trying to hang myself. The next day my wife drove me straight to our family doctor and from there I was referred to a psychiatric hospital in Sligo where I stayed for a week. On leaving hospital I was provided with anti-depressant and anti-psychotic medication which I’m still on at the time of writing. I basically came out of hospital to a brand new but uncertain life. I managed to find an affordable apartment in Mohill, Leitim which for those who don’t know can seem like a pretty desolate, isolated place and it didn’t help that my first night was spent in darkness with no electricity. I was quite worried about being isolated with no car and being on my own too much but slowly and surely, mostly with the help of my partner, some counselling from both professionals and friends, a local bus service and lots of thinking I managed to get into some kind of routine. One pleasant surprise I had after a few weeks was realising that I didn’t feel too bad being on my own. I’d been on my own plenty of times in the past, sometimes for long periods and with no outlet I’d gone fairly mad a few times. But this time I had work to get back into, a partner that came over nearly every day and ferried me around anywhere I needed to go and on top of those I was very pleasantly surprised to find that there were a few little classes and things I could get involved in in Mohill. I signed up for a Social Singing group, private Singing Lessons, regular local Mental Health talks as well as a local Grow Mental Health group and lastly a Cookery course of all things! I also read a lot and lost a lot of weight eating less and eating healthier.

    I’m not really sure where I got the motivation to get involved in any of these, maybe my medication has helped and I’m a little nervous about stopping it as I know I must soon, but with all of that I was kept busy and my mind wasn’t racked with guilt, sadness and depression over what I’d done, how much I’d lost and how much my life had changed. I now had space to think, be myself, indulge in hobbies, do many different things and get my shit together basically. One massive thing that still needed ironing out though was my three children. My ex-wife brought me to court to try limit my access to them as she was fearful of my mental condition. Something which annoyed me a lot at the time but I’ve now realised was probably sensible on her part although I would never have done anything to endanger my kids, no matter how low I was. We reached a compromise with the court and I’m glad to say I see my kids a lot now which is great and I have a great relationship with them. Probably a lot better than before actually. It’s hard to have a decent relationship with anyone when you’re fundamentally unhappy. I also have a much better relationship with my ex-wife despite what I put her through and that’s very important to me. We have to get on, if for no other reason than we are morally obliged to both raise our children the best we can and set good examples to them. But regardless of the kids, I think we need to get on for ourselves too. She’s also met someone else and is happy which is great for both of us. And our kids.

    Winter

    So along came winter and things were going well. I felt happier than I’d felt in years. I had a spring in my step. I got to thinking about my worse financial situation though and a possible career change to help fix it. I had a constant stream of jobs coming into my inbox every day and I sent CVs off to some of them never to hear anything back. Then one day I spotted a post on Facebook re an opening for a “Happiness Engineer” with a company I knew well, Automattic, the guys behind the awesome software I’ve used to build websites for most of the past ten years, WordPress. Now a position entitled “Happiness Engineer” is the kind of thing that would normally make someone a tad cynical like me puke but something about it caught my imagination. The irony and beauty of me possibly getting a job title like that after having the year I’d had or family history I had was something I just couldn’t pass up. It would have been a fairy tale ending to a difficult year to get the job. But a certain Automattic HR person hadn’t read my script.

    I already knew that Automattic were regarded as a very progressive company to work for and there were many great benefits to working with them and when I read the job spec I got very excited about working for someone else for probably the first time in over 15 years. I sent in my initial application and was delighted to be invited to enter the interview process. I managed to get all the way through to the paid trial contract stage and even sent off the signed contract before some shit hit the fan! Automattic make a big song and dance about allowing employees the flexibility to work around their personal, social and family lives and all of their online literature seems to be very employee-centric. So you can imagine my surprise when out of the blue, with no prior mention they sent me a “Conflict of Interest” legal document and told me I’d have to completely fold my 15 year old freelance business if I was to take a position with them. I panicked a little and questioned their HR person as to why I’d have to do such a drastic thing and she explained it to me. I said I understood (which I did. I’m taking clients off their premium WordPress service technically! Not sure how I didn’t spot that initially..but more importantly, how they didn’t spot it either and allowed me through the various interview stages) and said I’d continue to do the trial and see if I liked it enough and see if the salary was enough to give up my business completely. A little later that same day I was then told they’d changed their mind about advancing me to the trial stage and would be cancelling my application with immediate effect. “Good luck with your future endeavours” etc… To my eternal shame, I replied to that email and basically begged for a second chance and that I had thought it over and came up with a plan to fold my business in favour of working for Automattic but the HR person was having none of it and stuck to her guns, completely ignoring my argument and basically writing me off for finding it hard to swallow the bitter pill of having to kill my baby, my business I’d built up from scratch over 15 years. My efforts in the interview process, my qualifications, my experience with WordPress and my obvious great desire to land the job were all ignored because I queried having to wind up my business. Hows that for employee-centric!?

    What’s To Learn?

    There’s nothing like learning from your mistakes, so they say. The bigger the mistake, the more you learn. If you’re not killed in the process.  It’s important I think to recognise your mistakes, acknowledge them, apologise for them if necessary/relevant but not let them define you or continue to affect you negatively. Everyone makes mistakes at some stage. Everyone needs to make them and, more importantly, learn from them. I’m not a bad person despite having done bad things, especially this year. I’ve done a lot of good things in my life too. Far more good than bad things actually. I’m also capable of loving other people outside myself as my kids and partner will testify to.

    I know many people who know me (and some who don’t I’m sure) will read this and judge me as I’ve been judged since this summer but your judgement can do me no harm because I’ve already judged myself. Mercilessly so. Also, I have the wisdom of experience and self-awareness now. The kind you only get from making spectacular mistakes and from scraping the bottom of the barrel.

    To my Ex-wife. You are a beautiful, kind, caring and funny person and a great mother who deserves to be loved, looked after and have every happiness in the universe. You were the best friend I’d ever had and you didn’t deserve to be treated the way I treated you, regardless of the fact that I didn’t love you anymore. I have no excuses. I wish I was man enough to have ended our relationship naturally rather than so very unnaturally. I am so very sorry for what I’ve put you through and hope you can forgive me some day. I also hope you realise in time that our 15 years together created three wonderful little people and made us both a lot wiser, happier and better people..

    Leon

    PS – If you are feeling low or suicidal, there’s plenty of help available. Try these:

    Grow
    Pieta House
    Aware
    Samaritans

     
  • Leon 2:00 pm on June 25, 2010 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , suicide   

    My Mother, 10 Years Gone Today 

    On this day, 25th June 2000, my mother Noeleen Quinn, 52 years old, sat down in front of a train at Sandymount Dart station, Dublin and ended her own life. It was a life that had become unbearable in the previous 2 years and was the last in a long string of suicide attempts in that time as she desperately tried to get off the planet and find peace. It was a life that had never really found true happiness and one which, at the end, no person could reasonably be expected to endure for too long and retain any kind of sanity.

    My mother was a deep, thoughtful, intelligent, creative, artistic, well-travelled, nature-loving, strong-minded person with a quick wit and who didn’t take any shit from anyone. In many ways, the last person you would think who might commit suicide. In fact not long before she got depressed and while she and I were looking at a tv program about depression, she mentioned that she could never understand how anyone could kill themselves.

    She had found some kind of normality in the years leading up to her final bout of depression, successfully gaining a Degree in English and the History of Art from UCD in 1998 as a mature student. A great achievment for an early school leaver especially as she was caring for my similarly mentally unwell grandmother during studies.

    She graduated just months before a serious cancer scare which turned out to be the final straw that sucked the will to live from her. Despite successful surgery and getting the all clear, the post cancer treatment took its toll and she had a nervous breakdown. For the next 2 years she done everything she could to die, multiple drug overdoses, jumping in rivers, drinking and even burning. I also suspect based on marks I seen on her that during her stays at various different mental hospitals, she tried other common methods too.

    I lived with my mother through these years, just the 2 of us in a 2 up 2 down in Dublin and I still don’t have words to describe how horrible it was to see a normally strong minded and strong willed person completely lose their mind and will to live. The pressure and stress in trying to keep my mother alive and deal with her attempts were the hardest thing I’ve ever or possibly will ever have to endure and I’m not sure how I made it through. It seemed that every time I woke up or came home there was some dreadful situation to deal with. I think the only thing that got me through that period and prevented me from becoming another sad suicide statistic myself was my ability to shut off mentally and pretend I was somewhere else.

    They say that 2 of the hardest things to deal with in life are bereavement by suicide and the death of a child. My mother’s death was different. Strange as it sounds, the relief I felt when the guards came to the door on Sunday night June 25th 2000, was immense and still stays with me today. There comes a time when life becomes so hard that death seems like a better state and that’s how it was. Depression is a horrible living nightmare for all concerned and connected but none more so than for the person suffering it. You retain your intellect but are paralysed and weighed down by an unexplainable grief and apathy. The psychotic self-harming tendencies that can result from unsuccesfully treated and long term depression are very, very scary and nightmarish to deal with and I’ll never, ever forget what it was like to see my mother desperate to die and even begging me to kill her on occasions when she herself had failed. Killing yourself, as my mother found out is really not that easy.

    I’d known long before she died that the mother I knew and loved and that raised me had gone for good and I was left with a hideous, evil creature, possessed by a devilish disease of the mind. It was obvious to me that after so many different treatments had failed to cure my mother and after any friends and family she had had been scared off, that it was only a matter of time before she died. She really had little to live for. The only shocking aspect was the manner in which it happened. She mirrored the death of my Aunt Helen, my mother’s closest sister who also took her life on a train track in the 70’s and I think, something which my mother never got over fully.

    In the weeks and months that followed her death I had no option but to get on with my life. Bills had to be paid so I had to go out and get my first proper job and basically go out into the world and find/re-find myself. I had a little scare a year or 2 afterwards when I felt lonely and down and for a while I thought I was next in the family tradition to lose the plot but somehow, perhaps due to what I’d witnessed with my mother, I avoided that and managed my way eventually.

    I am proud of my mother for what she achieved in life and perhaps controversially I am proud of her for being brave enough to end her own life. In some ways I see what she done as a kind of sacrifice for my benefit as well as her own. I knew that she knew how badly her behaviour was affecting me and how much I was at breaking point. Her death allowed me to live and I haven’t look back since. She of course was the biggest benefactor of her actions and in this case the so called selfishness of suicide was fully justified and allowable in my opinion.

    I would like to take this opportunity ‘ma’, wherever you are, to thank you for all that you’ve done for me and for giving me the tools to succeed in life and to find the happiness you never did. I will keep you with me always and remember happier times and I will tell everyone who is interested, the many ways in which you were great. I will raise your beautiful grandchildren as you raised me, with an emphasis on learning, creativity, individuality, integrity, honesty, laughter and strength of character with a healthy dose of your cynicism thrown in too.

    Love,
    Your only Son and Child,

    Leon (Nooney Moon)

    Contact Aware for more info and support for Depression.

    Some photos of my Mother, Noeleen:

    [nggallery id=1]

     
    • Eddie 3:32 pm on June 25, 2010 Permalink | Reply

      Hi Leon,
      That was a brave thing to write, I’m sure it was difficult but well done. Speaking about suicide still seems to be a taboo in this country even though its something that affects so many people. Its good to see people talking about the issue instead of choosing the easier option of ignoring and hiding from it.
      Eddie

    • Leon 4:24 pm on June 25, 2010 Permalink | Reply

      Thanks Eddie, it’s for those reasons precisely (taboo) that I chose to write this and also just to remember her. I’m sure it will make difficult reading for some.

      Can’t believe its been 10 years.

    • Lorraine 5:31 pm on June 25, 2010 Permalink | Reply

      Hi Leon, you have done so well and your mum would be so proud of you. It is really nice to see these pictures of Noeleen. Thinking of you today L xxx

    • Steve Murphy 9:43 pm on June 25, 2010 Permalink | Reply

      Very brave Leon, makes me very sad to read it, brought back some childhood memories, I was always remember her sense of humour.

    • Dean Davis 1:46 am on June 26, 2010 Permalink | Reply

      Wow, I had no idea that your mother had passed, or in such a manner.

      That was a very powerful blog; you got your message across very affectively. Thanks for sharing it with us.

      I know your Mam is truly at peace now…and I hope you are too.

    • Orla 2:21 pm on June 26, 2010 Permalink | Reply

      Leon,
      It broke my heart to read it but i’m so glad I did. You’re so beautiful to share that part of your life with people, I hope it helps others touched by suicide to see another out look on it. xxx
      Orla

    • Maria 1:54 am on June 30, 2010 Permalink | Reply

      A well loved gutsy, artisitic, intelligent mother to a well loved, gutsy, artistic, intelligent son (by the looks of this piece) This is a beautiful tribute to your mum and a tribute to the way she raised you. It seems that despite huge adversity you are doing well, and really thats so important. Thank you for sharing this, it’s wonderful and a stunning, beautiful tribute to your mums life. x

    • Martina 11:31 pm on August 6, 2010 Permalink | Reply

      Leon

      Your mother was a wonderful person. Her suffering became too intense for her, and she could see no other way out. Suffering is a major mystery in this life but somehow it will benefit you because this is what she wanted, to love you, not to make you suffer, because of her. She is a major intercessor for you now. Well done for having the great courage to write about all of this. I hoped it helped you. It helped me enormously to read it. May she rest in eternal peace.

    • Audrey Delaney 11:40 pm on August 11, 2010 Permalink | Reply

      Leon,

      You have a deep understanding of what depression is and you’re extremely accurate in your descriptive terms. I instantly got absorbed in your analysis and your portrayal to anyone reading this made it easy to understand, yet very detailed in an absolute, matter of fact, common sense way of explaining your wonderful mothers state of mind and pain.. I for one could relate to it like a blue print.

      On a personal level I was deeply moved reading this and choked with tears for both Noeleen and you. You have a great perspective, an open mind, a very mature and rational attitude of what its like to be in the blackest of black places, one can ever find themselves in, all without judgment. Of course you have had your low days. Clearly you have a survivors spirit and optimistic outlook. I believe you are someone others can gain from and learn to deal with anger or search for reasons having been effected by both depression and the all to often detrimental result of suicide.

      Your empathy for your mother generously out weighs your own feelings but from what I have read it seems to have also helped you come to terms with her decision. The relief you felt was a natural reward in itself a tool to keep you strong. I have no doubt the pain is there still.

      I for one am proud to be your friend and feel privileged you would share this sensitive and personal story. Man can conquer continents but we have yet to conquer the mind.

      Warmest thoughts and admiration

      Audrey

    • Karen 3:01 pm on August 17, 2010 Permalink | Reply

      As I am reading this I have just come off the phone with me brother in Cork, (I am in Dublin), and he is deciding whether to live or die. I have been through this so often with him and have been begging him to go to a doctor or hospital. I am resigned that I can do no more and I hope so much that he chooses life and gets better, but I also know that no person could bear the pain he is in. It hurts so much that I can do no more. Thank you for your story.

    • Denise 12:10 pm on September 3, 2010 Permalink | Reply

      WOW! Just going through an “episode” with my mam at the moment. She suffers from Bi-Polar and it just breaks my heart to see that you can only try to listen and have patience with this horrible disease. It is very hard to try to come to terms with not being able to help and for others to realise that too. Well done you – as a mother myself I know she would be so proud of you. Thank you so much for writing this as I know with me and I am sure with others it is nice to know your not alone.

    • Caroline 11:17 pm on June 25, 2012 Permalink | Reply

      I never comment on blog posts but was moved to tears when I read this post this morning. It is beautifully written and so very brave of you to share such a personal story.

      Thank you for sharing Noeleen’s story.

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