The piece I am sharing today is written by the very talented, LJ. If you read my blog pretty frequently, you probably remember her post from Pride Month. Something about the way LJ writes is so captivating to me.
As you will soon read, her piece is about her stepdad and his struggle with Parkinson’s disease. I love the insight her story gives to this month’s topic. In my opinion, it’s easy to assume that suicidal thoughts have a direct correlation with mental illnesses like depression, but it’s easy to forget how many other factors can drive someone to want to take their own life as well.
The point of Suicide Prevention Awareness Month is to share a variation of stories in an effort to shed light on such a taboo, stigmatized topic. This is LJ’s story.
As painful as it probably was for her to share these words, they are so important. More than 10 million people worldwide are currently living with Parkinson’s Disease. After doing some of my own research, I also learned that, although suicidal ideation is known to be a very serious issue in patients with Parkinson’s disease, there is a lot that is still unknown. Doctors are still trying to figure out a relationship between suicide, age, medical treatment and disease within patients with Parkinson’s.
Having said that, LJ captures his stepdad’s experiences, and how they impacted her family in her words below:
May 17, 2016.
If I had known on this day the events that would happen the next morning, I would have done things differently.
May 18th, 2016 at 8:39 am
I had just finished unpacking my work bag and was talking about my weekend plans with a coworker when I received a call from my mom.
Barely audible and between gasps of breath, my mom informed me that she had just found my step-dad, dead from a self-inflicted gunshot wound.
My step-dad’s name is Bob. He married my mom when I was ten. He is the love of her life and he seamlessly became another father figure for my brother and me.
A few years ago, Bob was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease. If you do not know, Parkinson’s involves the malfunction and death of vital nerve cells in the brain – neurons. While many people associate Parkinson’s with shaky movements, not many realize that the disease also has a huge impact on mental health.
When I think about it now, I realize that I experienced the complete life cycle of Bob’s Parkinson’s. Before my very eyes, I watched this bubbly, adventurous, and energetic man transform into a mere shell of himself, full of anxiety and pain. Parkinson’s had won.
While learning about my step-dad’s suicide was devastating, what torments me still is the impact it’s had on my mom. Seeing the woman that has consistently been the force of strength in my life break down is heart-wrenching. Knowing that there is nothing I can do to fix it is debilitating.
A lot of people say that taking your own life is selfish, but I refuse to accept that dialogue. I know that my step-dad loved my mom more than anything in the world. He would have done anything in his power to ensure her happiness. Parkinson’s destroyed his mind and his will to live.
I strongly believe that if Parkinson’s stayed the fuck away from my family, things would have turned out differently. I wouldn’t be constantly wishing I had called home on May 17th 2016.