My name is Jeff Watts. I am a husband, dad, teacher, co-founder of an orphan ministry, diagnosed with a mental illness, a four-time psych hospital patient, and a suicide attempt survivor.
I’ll start the part of my story having left home with an associate of arts degree in psychology from a community college. I wanted to be a counselor. I went to an out of state university and lived in an apartment on my own away from the support of my parents for the first time.
The lack of early intervention and continuity of mental health
care for our youth in Virginia is tragic. Our state ranks at 47 for treatment
of childhood major depression–the leading risk factor for suicide. That means
7 out of 10 kids most at risk for dropping out of school, ending up in prison
or dying by suicide don’t get the help they need.
My family lived that statistic. My son died from it. After years
of struggle with depression and addiction, the funniest and most popular kid in
school killed himself–my 20-year-old son Charles.
This year we left the country the day after Christmas and took the fam on a river cruise; my mother, Richard (my son), Randy and myself. And these are some of the people we met and had fun with on our adventure. This one in Vienna.
It is the people and experiences that make my vacation. It’s not stuff. It’s not hotel rooms. And that’s what we got. Many on this cruise had lost someone and wanted to be with others over the holidays. I met women who had … Read more...
Every year since Charles died, I feel guilty for celebrating a new year and ache that I’m leaving my child behind. As the fireworks explode I have my foot on an imaginary gas pedal as if I could stop the new year from happening.
I have always loved change and moving forward but am ambivalent about that now.
Will the memories I have be forgotten? Will he be forgotten? Will his picture look dated? Will I remember his scent? Will the feel of his hugs fade? Would he resent that I was leaving him stuck in 2015?
The diseases of despair are deaths by suicide, drug and alcohol poisoning, alcoholic liver disease and cirrhosis.
“Mortality from deaths of despair far surpasses anything seen in America since the dawn of the twentieth century. (The trend for middle-aged whites reveals a more dramatic rise but only goes back continuously to 1959.) The recent increase has primarily been driven by an unprecedented epidemic of drug overdoses, but even excluding those deaths, the combined mortality rate from suicides and alcohol-related deaths is higher than at any point in more than 100 years. Suicides have not been so common since 1938, and … Read more...
I’m 58 and I’ve attempted eight times, nine if you count the train incident, over a period from 1978 to 2011. So, yeah, I’ve struggled with depression and lost at times. Three of those attempts, and the train incident, occurred while taking prescribed psychiatric meds.
I’ve been on just about every anti-depressant, plus meds to counteract (unsuccessfully) the negative effects of the anti-depressants. I’m talking about two to four months of waiting for any, ANY, positive effects. The last psychiatrist just looked at me after we went through the list of meds I’d been on and sighed. … Read more...
Richard made the ornament on the left. Charles the one on the right.
Those macaroni trees and homemade wreaths, glitter reindeer that have long lost their sparkle, styrofoam snowmen held together by toothpicks are all my favorite ornaments now. The ones with Charles’ picture make me smile and ache at the same time. We had no idea back then what was to come. Life was so normal.
Spending the day with my family and extended family on Christmas. And I’m fortunate to have that. But I’ll always mourn the one who isn’t here. I’m sure those of you who’ve lost … Read more...
Look what the plane brought from Los Angeles to Richmond. This is my oldest son, Richard. You are free to say how handsome he is. So this momma is happy. We might see some of him. He’ll want to see all his friends but on Christmas, we’ll hold him hostage.
He’s our only child now. And I know there are some of you here who’ve lost your only child or even both. I’m thinking of you and holding space in my heart for you.
For those of us who’ve lost someone before their time–a sibling, child, parent, spouse–tears hover closer to the surface. So we give back more to balance the pain and ease that persistent ache. It’s how many of us manage the pain of that loss that is sharper during the holidays.
We are less likely to get caught up in shopping frenzies or black Fridays, focusing more on our loved ones, friends and neighbors. Life is not about stuff but more about connecting, remembering, finding hope and joy, grieving and managing hurt so it … Read more...