Support a dad who is struggling

Hi Anne
I am the Graham who posted on your site on July 23. Thank you for taking the time and thought to respond to me, a complete stranger.

Since then, I have entered into a CBT program. I’m not sure if it is helping yet or will help, but it’s something. I have had some days where I feel almost normal. Not 100% normal, because something is always lurking in my thoughts, waiting to pounce, but nearly normal, and with great clarity of thought. On those days, any idea of suicide is completely alien to me. I don’t understand why I would want to do such a thing, and I do see that suicidal thoughts do tend to be temporary. Generally, I have been feeling a bit better, and maybe even a glimmer of hope formed.

Then, the last 2-3 days, has been a relapse. Quite sudden, and very severe, and things are as bad as they ever were again. I can’t even think about CBT. I’ve tried talking to people again, but they do not understand the pain, and the inability to just make it stop. In the last 48 hours, suicidal fantasies have taken root in my mind again, and they are becoming stronger.

There is a horror about it, but also a feeling that if I can just take the step there will be a few moments of pain, which in themselves might actually provide some kind of welcome distraction and release, followed by oblivion and peace. I just need peace. Peace from my tormenting thoughts.

Anne, I’m crying my eyes out as I’m typing this because I realise the seriousness of what I am saying. You don’t even know me but I thank you for reading this. It’s as if you are in some way here and I can just talk to you and get these thoughts out. I have ceased to function properly as a husband or a dad.

My mental state has made me introverted and short-tempered. I am so focused on myself it’s like I am wrapped up in my own selfishness. And I can’t get out. I am walking on an absolute tightrope here. I have to try to get to another good day, but in this moment, and last hours, I believe that that can never be. Whatever happened to the happy, carefree man I once used to be?

Note from Anne Moss: This has been published with permission by the author. I hope you will comment and offer support.

17 thoughts on “Support a dad who is struggling”

  1. I’d like to take the time to thank everyone here again, and I thought I feel I owe everyone an update, as things have changed for me. Around last Tue/Wed – Sep 1-2 I hit another serious low whilst on holiday with my family, and I finally determined that I would seek some proper medical attention and request medication.

    I wasn’t easily able to get an appointment, but I did fire up my determination again, and something happened, around last Thursday lunchtime and then growing as the day went on. Just the merest chink of light, that my mood was lifting, and with it the ability to control my thoughts and think more positively. It’s hard to tell, if my thoughts drove my mood, or my mood drove my thoughts. Maybe it was a virtuous circle, but it just needed that first bit of momentum. That day, I went bouldering with my son and we both managed some difficult climbs we’ve not made before. The following day I had enough energy to go for a 5 mile interval run, something I’ve not mentally been able to do for a while. I felt good afterwards, and started to hope, but had to remind myself it was only 36 hours of feeling normal. I’ve been here before and then relapsed. The fear of relapse is huge, but somehow this time I feel more able to fight to defend my mental state. Like something fundamental has changed.

    Roll forward to today. This is Day 6 of feeling normal. I can’t tell you all how wonderful “normal” feels. When you have been in depression, the first few hours of feeling normal can feel so euphoric that you almost know you must crash from it. I did have that initial euphoria, still have it some now, but it has faded down to normal in a controlled way. I still have dangerous thoughts lurking in my mind, but they are weaker and less intrusive, and I am able to rationalise and combat them now. Sometimes, I don’t have those thoughts at all. Am thinking the longer I can keep this up, the more likely it is to crystallise and be permanent. I’m not confident I am fully well yet, and must be vigilant with how I manage my thoughts, but I am the best I have been in many long months.

    Thoughts of suicide are now alien to me. Life has become precious again, because I am starting to be able to enjoy things and re-engage with my family. I looked at one of the suicide notes I wrote less than a month ago. I still echoed and identified with the things written there, I still feel the same way, but the pain has largely gone from my mind, and with it the need to escape in this way. I won’t be reading that note again in a long time, because it was also slightly dangerous for me . . . always I need to be vigilant with my thoughts.
    I want to say, that everything I did, or other people did to help me, helped. The CBT helped a bit, people I spoke to helped a bit, forums I read helped a bit, and the people and comments on this group helped a bit. All those bits combined, were maybe just enough for me to get the first bit of momentum out of that hell. I have been an atheist most of my life, but I know people prayed for me, and in my darkest hours I was ready to open myself up to divinity. So maybe faith helped too.

    For anyone out there, reading this who needs hope, because that is the most valuable thing when you are at the lowest ebb, I will share the most helpful things I learned. Maybe they can help, but everyone is different.

    1. You always have a choice. Even at the point of maximum mental pain and despair, you CAN decide to start thinking differently. It is usually monumentally daunting when you are in depths, and takes huge strength, but just taking a first step, daring to challenge and rationalise just one negative thought, can start to stabilise you.

    2. You never feel like taking an action, or the benefits of it, until after you have done it. So take exercise, or do a task, even if you don’t feel like it. Make yourself if you can. It will usually help. Also, not taking an action, is an action in itself, and will often not help.

    3. Have some helpful thoughts written down. Much of what bothered me was fantasy, or at least an embellished version of reality. It seemed real. So real, that true reality seemed like me just being very good at kidding myself. To help shatter this horrendous illusion, having rational arguments written down, to counter your worst thoughts I found helpful. At my worst lows, I found that I did not even believe those rational arguments with my conscious mind, but I think my subconscious did, and that helps.

    Though I have been normal for 6 days, I still live with a fear that I could relapse because I know just how bad that would be coming from a place where I thought that I might have recovered. So am just taking a day at a time and fighting to stay rational with everything I have.

    1. This is one of the most inspiring comments I have ever read. You have said things here that are also helpful and educational. It’s like something rekindled enough to help you move forward. Your brain’s survival instinct broke through. Thank you for listing the tips, too. I will be referring people to those.

      Thank you so much for coming back to update me and the tribe. You have amazing courage and while I am grateful you are alive I know your family is too, even if they are not aware of how close you were. But I suspect they have noticed your change in mood.

  2. Graham,

    I am so sorry for the pain. Thanks for being so real and honest. It’s raw and it’s sincere.

    I, too, have had these thoughts. I am on medication and see a therapist regularly and I feel comfortable telling him about my suicidal ideations with out the fear of someone ‘locking me up.’ It sounds simple and contrite but a coping mechanism I’ve used is when these thoughts come is to run my hands through cold water or dip my hands in a bowl of ice. It gives me a minute to feel alive and allows me to stop and say the serenity prayer –

    God grant me the serenity
    to accept the things I cannot change;
    courage to change the things I can;
    and wisdom to know the difference.

    Someone said this to me once and I thought it incredibly cold and made me feel misunderstood but now I find comfort in it – ‘You aren’t the first one to feel this way and you won’t be the last’. Again, kind of mean. It hurt me but then I realized I’m not alone and I hope these responses make you feel like you’re on a journey but that you’re not alone. Much love and prayers.

  3. Graham,

    Anne Moss has built quite the tribe and you are now a member of us. We are fierce in our love and care. May you read each of these words and feel the love being wrapped around you, the strength to hold you through your darkest moments, the joy in knowing you are here for another day. With love and grace. 💙

  4. Dear Graham,

    I am so sorry you are feeling this way. For you, I pray for the strength and courage to push ahead for one second of serenity, then for one minute, one hour, one day.
    I will keep you in my thoughts and prayers. You are not alone and you matter.

  5. Thankyou everyone who has taken the time to post messages of support here. I have read them all more than once, and they all help a little bit. It’s so hard to keep going when after many, many months of determined effort you see no progress. Or even a worsening of things. I’ve never been afraid of putting work in to things in my life to achieve a worthwhile goal, but I need the encouragement that visible progress brings, to know that my efforts are slowly getting me somewhere. It seems that nothing I do, ever takes me a step forward. Everything I have is all geared towards just not breaking down again during the next 5 minutes. On and on and on with never an absolution on the horizon. And with so much focus on myself, I have almost no bandwidth left for any other aspect of my life – family, work, leisure – so every day I feel I am failing in my responsibilities, because I am. I want to just play with my kids and have fun, like I used to, but I can’t. I can physically play with them, like we had a board game yesterday and I did some puzzles with my son, but mentally, I wasn’t there and would keep drifting off as my sadness swamped me. Same thing at meal time when we all sit at the table together. I want to join in with the conversation, but mostly I can’t, because I am just so intensely sad I’m just trying not to let the kids see me crying again. They know something is up, but they don’t know what. I’m not able to be the role model I want to be, and it’s heartbreaking. I have to find something that can help me lift myself up out of this somehow and soon. There is a limit to how much of this any human can take.

    1. That’s true Graham. Have you considered medication? Together with some kind of support from a counselor or a group things can improve. If your brain is in a depressive episode it may need some medication help to regulate your mood. If you went to a doctor here and described your symptoms they would suggest you check in to a hospital for a few days to stabilize. Like any other life threatening ailment.

  6. Graham
    Please hold on to a thread of hope. Your family needs you. The world needs you. You are worthy. You are enough. On the other side of the suicidal thoughts is always the sun- it will shine again. Let us hold you up in the darkest times and love you. You are brave. You are loved. Keep working on yourself. Keep trying to find a therapy and or medication that helps you heal.
    Wrapping my arms around your pain. Holding space for you in my heart. Hold on.

  7. Graham,
    I’m so sorry for the struggle you’re going through and the pain you’re feeling. It must be awful to be unable to stop these dangerous thoughts in your mind. I hope that knowing you were able to come out of this dark place in the past, will give you hope that you will once again be in a better place.
    Then one small step at a time, with love and help, you’ll be able to put those thoughts aside…..
    Praying for you…..Kim

  8. Hi,Graham iv been going through hell,keep asking for help n doctors or councillors .can hopefully help you,keep your family close,as they towill be feeling everything how you feel. Ifeel your pain and emotions. I too feel like susidal every day.I also just lost my father last week,its very sad time Graham.but please keep going,Anne moss has been my guardian angel,she is so kind and truthful,so hope to here from you soon.take care we are here to help.

  9. Hi, Graham. I am so sorry you are having a very rough time and so grateful that you are reaching out in your need. I am especially glad you began CBT. What you are doing takes wrenching courage, and a will so strong you will not know where it comes from. But it’e there–IN YOU. And you need help to find it again. Please find a doctor to help you with appropriate medicine and treatment. As with any big problem to solve, depression needs TOOLS, like doctors, medicine and therapy. There ARE people who not only understand exactly how you feel, but who know how to help you find your way back. It works.

    But you have started. You have begun. It’s a thousand mile journey, but you’ve taken the first steps. You went to CBT. That takes guts, because it’s easier to give up. You are NOT giving up. You are reaching out. Please know there are so many people who are praying for you, rooting for you. I am one of those.

  10. Graham, I have had suicidal thoughts also, that I thought would never ease. Some days are unbearable and I understand you wanting the pain to end. I know how guilt can effect our thoughts. I hear in your words the guilt you’re carrying. Please don’t be so hard on yourself. You’re hurting and suffering from a terrible illness. It’s not your fault. You don’t choose to be depressed. Keep fighting one moment at a time. Give yourself a break for not being the best dad and husband today. Your doing the best you can. We never know what tomorrow will bring or what treatment will help. Keep searching, reaching out for help. You deserve it! Praying for you to find help and hope. It’s out there.

  11. Graham, depression is SO hard and there are some days you feel like you can’t crawl out of the deep hole that you are in. But you are stronger than you realize right now. It sounds like you have had some success with therapy and possibly medication before. I hope you will revisit that. Sometimes it takes trying many medications and/or therapists before the right combination helps. You sound like a smart and sensitive person who has many people that love and care about you. Many of us struggle and have struggled with the same emotions. I feel your despair but please know I will be praying that you will be able to start to take small steps and then larger steps to coming out of what I call the “dark cloud hovering over me”. I am cheering you on because I know you will be able to eventually see better days. Continue to reach out to friends, family, professionals, this group for help. We care.

  12. Hi Graham. I am so sorry that you are having these tormenting thoughts. Try to remember that no feeling is ever final. The world would NOT be better without you in it. Trust me – my son had those feelings and when he left, my world, as well as many others was destroyed.
    If you do not have one, try to find a talk therapist and talk about medication. Talking REALLY helps. I hope you find peace and relief. Please take care.

  13. Graham, I’m sorry you are going through this. Please know that you are in my prayers and I hope that you find the strength and comfort in those who love you to bring you happiness.

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