Suicide Prevention Month and the Dark Chasm

Last year, after the death of Anthony Bourdain I wrote a note on Facebook (Yea, I know – who does that? Hell – who blogs anymore?) about suicide and my relationship with my own brain. Since it’s September again and everyone’s talking about suicide all the time – I wanna talk about it. Specifically, I wanna talk about what suicidal ideation looks like when you are in the middle of it – then I want to address what I see as the ineffective campaign that is Suicide Prevention Month.

Trigger warning. I’m going to very descriptively explain to you what depression and suicidal ideation feels like TO ME. I am an expert on how this disease and everything that goes along with it affects me. The purpose of this post isn’t to ask for help; it’s to bring attention to my lived experience in the hopes that something recognizable that can help you understand yours better. This discussion will be very dark. If you have not struggled with your mental health, I ask that you reflect on that gratefully, because living the way I describe can be absolute hell.

Very important: Do not call me or text me about this post in order to check in on my mental state. If you do I will block you and your number. You may email or leave a comment. I am currently FINE!

The Dark Chasm

I don’t remember a time when I didn’t feel it. A Pit – my Dark Chasm. It sits right in the center of my chest where my sternum and my belly meet. It feels like a torn membrane of flesh with meat, teeth and all of the stressors of my life and the lives of those I take on. If you’ve seen Stranger Things – if I were to imagine what it looks like, it would look like the gate between this world and the Upside Down (the one Eleven closes at the end of the 1st season).

Copyright 2019 Netflix – Eleven closing the Gate to the Upside Down.

This dark chasm sits there and gently tears at me all day most days. When I’m suicidal it feels like I could reach in and pull out my organs because it’s ripped so wide and so deep. As I can’t recall a time in my life where it was not present, it’s always been the barometer I use to understand the state of my mental illness. Stress alone simply makes it feel present more, thinking too much about god or some other traumatic subject will widen the chasm more and more. The nature of depression is such that thought processes become a rather unending spiral and linking events and failures to personal flaws, which lead to self-hatred.

The sensation in the Chasm is real and physically painful. It grows as my thoughts spiral out of control. By the time I’ve broken down and allowed myself to cry I feel like I’m being ripped apart by my arms.

This past Sunday the chasm ripped open.

Suicidal Ideation Is a Bad Man

Depressed people often go through stages of depression. Ebbs and flows, ups and downs. There are months on end when life seems perfectly fine, the Dark Chasm is small and seems to be healing up – other times, times like now – it’s large and roaring with fire and brimstone.

I’ve often viewed suicidal thoughts and depression as this second man inside me. The Bad Man in my brain has one goal: He wants me to die, now.

Generally speaking, the Bad Man is very quiet. Sadness, however, is like a megaphone for him. Stress provides him with a microphone and speakers at the concert hall of my mind.

He tells me that I have more than I deserve.

He tells me that I’m going to lose everything I’ve worked for in my business because of <All the reasons why I’m literally quite close to that go here>.

He tells me that people only care about me because they can take from me knowing that I’ll freely give. (This is the one I have the most evidence for in my life.)

He tells me people don’t care about my time, message me and text me at all hours of the night for their menial computer problems because I am only useful to someone if I’m giving them free advice at 8PM on a Sunday after 7 straight 100 hour weeks.

He tells me that people will only care if I die because they won’t be able to take more of my expertise, time, and energy – since that’s the only value I have in this world.

He tells me my funeral will be empty, but my cell phone will be going off in the incinerator so that someone can ask me one last question – I won’t mind right?

He tells me not to be honest about these things because everyone will stop using my business if I do.

He tells me that in an ideal world I can put a gun to the roof of my mouth and in a hot instant, I get to be done.

He shows me what that looks like. He shows me places that I should go to take my life.

He points to a tree down the highway just sturdy enough to break my neck if I hit it hard enough and fast enough. If I need a better method or anything.

He knows how many of my prescriptions to take, how much vodka to take them with – to make sure that it’s a sleepy goodbye.

He makes me tongue the roof of my mouth to remind me of that option.

Should it be the temple though?

These thoughts, the voice of the Bad Man, become increasingly louder. When they get too loud the voice I call my own is unable to overcome it, all my reason and my rationale – my love for myself and the love I feel from the people in my life are invisible and silenced.

This is the internal war that the people you love who have killed themselves have waged, and lost – all the while smiling and keeping up appearances. Taking selfies, making love, smiling for family photographs, being the funniest person in the room. I have talked people out of their own suicide and provided the necessary support to prevent it while simultaneously battling all the desires and urges that would put me in the same position on more occasions than I can count.

Suicide Prevention Month Ain’t

September is the month that we’re inundated with social media posts reminding us that “Someone is listening” and to call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline – so they don’t have to be the one listening.

Maybe the Hotline is helpful, I don’t know – but I can tell you from the perspective of someone who sees that number posted with great frequency that if I’m looking at my phone or computer and desire to call that hotline, I’ll use Google. I find it as useful as “thoughts and prayers” every time a busload of children are mowed down during their school day.

I don’t need to think about suicide more just because you incorrectly believe that social media is the place where I’ll come to the conclusion that I want to live. The news cycle, generally, makes me want to kill myself if I think about it too much – If I’m suicidal I need to avoid Facebook or just look at memes.

If you want or need to memorialize a friend or family member on social media who has died by suicide – do that in a way that honors them and begs honest discussion from the people around you. The last few years I’ve seen a lot of that. I find that memorializing someone you love with very honest conversation about this thing reminds me of the impact, and that I would not be forgotten.

Empty platitudes about my mental health do not help me and they don’t help anyone else. Learn how to listen, learn how to actively help people who are at the end of their rope feel just enough love to hold on for a bit longer. Never – unless you have already made an agreement with this person – call the police or any authorities to involve themselves. Many of us cannot afford a hospital visit and it’ll just compound this problem when we get the bill.

If you are in a mental state that makes you capable of helping someone, help. If you aren’t – get away or you’ll likely make this worse. If you aren’t sure, you should start having conversations with the people in your life who are at risk, if you are at risk yourself I find that a good way to start that conversation is with a little honesty about your own experiences. Much like many of you are reading this and thinking, “Shit. That’s me.” The ability to recognize your own struggle in the life of another person gives us the opportunity to learn and help one another.

Care wholly and love actively. If you fail in these most essential steps, you should ignore Suicide Awareness Month entirely. It is not a hotline number, or a half-assed Facebook message that is most likely to make the difference for us. Being cared about with every fiber of another person’s being, and being loved in ways that are demonstrable are the best tools we have in silencing the voices of our Bad Men.

Jeremy Smith - child predator

Trigger warning: contains sexually explicit material concerning a child predator and child molestation. This may be very difficult for some to read. This was originally posted on Removing The Fig Leaf June 21, 2016.

I started writing this post in 2013. I never could quite finish it. However, about a week ago I was with a group of other business people and community leaders taking a tour of our local county jail, and I saw my abuser there. Apparently he had been picked up for tampering with his tracking device.

People make fun of the word “triggered.” It means, to many, “I’m being overly sensitive and I want the world censored for me,” but I was standing in the control tower of the jail, and I saw his face and I was immediately flooded with memories that I’ve tried to pretend weren’t there for years. I immediately said it out loud to the person standing next to me, “That man molested me 20 years ago,” and she just stared at me not sure what to say. I don’t know why I had to say it outloud, but I did. I felt sick the rest of the day.

Last November (2012) I found out that a man had been released back into my community who had, 15 years prior, molested between 15-20 boys. I was one of them.

Before I continue this, I think it’s important to know that I’m not writing this to promote myself or ask for sympathy. What happened to me did cause some confusion during a tumultuous time in my life, but I’ve worked through most of those things and am quite comfortable discussing them. The point of this post is to give parents some tools to help them identify child predators and protect their children, as well as to ease discussion of a topic that is treated as taboo.

I’m not certain of the exact number of victims he left in his wake, but between 15 and 20 young boys at his karate school had been singled out to do things ranging from touching to more sinister acts. These acts were recorded on camera for his later enjoyment, and he was only caught and found guilty when his wife discovered the cassettes containing the abuse. I was not one of the boys on camera who told his parents about it. Every boy was silent while this abuse occurred – it took a chink in the predator’s armor to catch him. The victims themselves will rarely make it known unless the parents ask direct questions.

My abuser focused on young boys who had no father figure in their lives, or who had unreliable ones. He attempted to become friends with his victims and took them to movies or to his house to watch wrestling or MMA pay-per-view without parental supervision. He knew that the mothers of these children, like my own, would be glad that someone had taken an interest in their child when the father had failed to do so. They would be unlikely to suspect that the reason he wanted to spend time with us had nothing to do with our benefit.


The Grooming Process


Grooming is the process of establishing a rapport and friendship with a child and their parents in order to lower their inhibitions and ease the predator’s access to them. Child molesters are almost never fly-by-night predators. They generally insert themselves into the lives of their victims long before making them victims. More often than not, the predator is a family member or person close to the family. They don’t go into bathrooms dressed as women and rape kids they’ve never met. That’s not reality.

Read more

Yesterday I found out that my father died.

All I feel is a mixture of numbness, a relief, and a very quiet sadness about what a pitiful life his was.

I don’t have any fond memories of him. I’m trying to be fair to his memory, but – my life with him was limited by the fact that he was mostly an absentee who made violent interludes into my life at his own convenience. He was an alcoholic, he was violent, he was racist, and he dedicated more of his life to finding his next stash of narcotics than to providing for those who would have depended on him had they ever been foolish enough to do so. I’m bitter at him for so much and I feel myself processing this odd grief for his life and death that I’m not properly certain how to define. I hate him, but I pity too that his life was influenced and molded by his own father who was a special sort of terror in his own right.

Writing this is – well it’s going to be shittier than my normal shit. My childhood is a dark canvas with few distinct but very vivid memories interspersed throughout. There are bits that I wonder if they aren’t fabrications of my younger mind – I wouldn’t know. The fear I had of my father made him seem like a monster to me, I wouldn’t be surprised if my imagination painted his actions more egregious than they were – I don’t know. What I don’t remember is, I believe, a result of dissociation.

(This post is not for everyone. This is a trigger warning for violence)

Recounting fuzzy memories

My mother married my father twice, she met him at her workplace and had a brief affair with him, left her then husband and then had me.  Sometime after that they divorced, she remarried again, and then divorced that husband 9 months later and married my father again. It was always confusing to me to keep up with her marriages, but the important bit is that theirs was born of an affair and was frequented by affairs.  She had two children from the previous marriage and he had one.  None involved have left uninjured from his presence, but their stories aren’t mine to tell.


Age: Don’t recall 8-10ish?

I found the polaroids mom used to prove that she was beaten by him. They were hidden in her little cedar keepsake box. She kept a little purse of collectible coins in there, and I liked to sneak in and look at those when she was at work. She used it as evidence to the Sheriff’s.  Best as I can recall, this has something to do with one of his stints in the county jail.


Age: 3-5ish?

My sister was frequently required to drive my dad around when he was drunk, well before she had a license.

One night she was driving him to go get a bottle of something and I was sitting in his lap.  (she would have been about 13-15)

She recalls this story much better than I.

She ran into the local Walmart, she told him she needed to make a phone call or…something.

She called the police on him and had him arrested that night so that we could have a peaceful night at home.

I’m not sure what for, but…probably for some beating or something.

I remember being scared and confused and crying.

I remember thinking, as I grew older, that I had never seen bravery like that in anyone in my life.


Age: 9mo-1 year

My sister tells the story of one beating my mother received that resulted in the entire living room wall falling in on my bed as she protected me.

I bought the same house I grew up in, the same house this event occurred in.

It’s the only wall made of sheetrock in our home.

There are a few scars left on these walls from him.


Age: prior to my birth

He always beat women, aside from the many times he had fights with his brother – beating women was what he did. He got drunk, he beat women.

I don’t know the situation around this – but at some point before I was born or just after he was beating his own sister, punching her in the face and kicking her – brutally. (I’ve seen these pictures of her pre-op and…i don’t know how he wasn’t charged with attempted murder)

My cousin, who would have been 3-4 years old at the time had to jump on him and stab him repeatedly with a screwdriver to make it stop, to save his own mother’s life.

He’s been a terror.

To every life he’s ever touched.

Seen and not heard

He believed that children were to be seen and not heard. He was his father.

He believed that never should you coddle a crying baby or child. You let them cry, if they cry too long you hit them.

I’ve been told that I was made to stop crying a number of times. I don’t know.

I do remember hearing all my life, “if you don’t stop crying, I’ll give you something to cry about”

Those who know me, know how little control I have over my tears.

He got so angry at my tears.


Age: 6 or 7

I was playing with a toy car in the living room – he was playing too. This was during a relatively calm period.

He asked me to give him the car, so I threw it at him – but I threw it too hard, and it hit him in the lip.

I saw the look on his face, but I don’t remember what happened after.

The letter B

Age: 8/9

In the third grade I received my first B on a report card.

I just want to acknowledge here that living in a violent home is hell on one’s ability to function in a learning environment.

I was riding the bus to my grandmother’s that day. His mom’s. He was living there or had remarried or something – so this is after the second divorce I guess?

On that bus ride, her’s was the very last stop. The ride was over an hour and half.

I stared at that B and played in my head how I’d talk him out of beating me for an hour and a half.

He beat me angrily. He beat me again for crying. He used a belt and he didn’t seem to ever stop.

He didn’t even let me get inside. He met me outside, he walked me around the side of my grandmother’s trailer…and he just wailed.


Children have a tendency to overhear bits of conversations that adults have and fill in the missing pieces with their best understanding. I think I did a lot of that as a child.  One of the recurring themes of my childhood was that of escape.  My aunt and uncle on my mother’s side lived in  Rome, GA and later in Cedar Bluff, AL – and during the frequent events in which my mom and I needed to escape him that’s where we would go.

For some reason one of the associations I had with my father was with a bar in Macon, GA called Whiskey River – I don’t know if maybe he went there at times and came back home ready to fight, or if maybe it was just the word whiskey that scared me, but I recall being terrified as we passed that place on the way to escape to my Aunt’s.

In 91 or 92 we moved to Rome for a short time while mom tried to start her life over. We couldn’t sell our house so we had to move back.


I used to be afraid of Hank Williams, Jr – because he looked (to me, my mother disagrees) just like my dad.

For some reason Whiskey River and Hank Williams, Jr had an association together when I was a kid? I dunno – that’s probably stupid. I was really young.


He went to a lot of rehab, to the best treatment center ohio.

The most successful stint was in my pre or early teen years – it was a Christian based organization (similar to Teen Challenge) which he attended for about a month before becoming the President’s right hand man. He was terribly charming when he was sober. I have few memories of him being charming, but I do remember how people just – liked him, trusted him even….

He had either been married for a few years prior to going into this, or got married shortly after to wife #4 (I count mom twice)

He stayed sober for 4-5 years. I visited he and his wife every other weekend.


(intentionally obfuscating some facts here)

In order to cover up some crimes that occurred, I recall watching him destroy thousands and thousands (4-5 gallon zip lock bags full) of narcotics at a family member’s home of wife #4. (this was prior to rehab – which I think was court ordered) He burned them in a 50 gallon barrel.

I never understood why he was at the pharmacists so much, but he was apparently distributing a lot of pills and had always had a knack for them himself.

Car Door

Age: 12ish

Wife #4 was nearly killed when he got drunk one night (prior to rehab) and repeatedly slammed her head in the car door.


He served no time for that.


After rehab he became a …kinda normal person. Families perplex me, I don’t understand normalcy. I realized this when I met my wife and experienced hers.

You have to remember that this man had been abusing his body with so much alcohol and narcotics his entire life (one time he tested with a BAC of .38 if I recall correctly – while still awake, I think he was even driving!) that he had created for himself a pretty serious dependency. He was always a hair’s breadth away from relapse.

He always had a misogynistic view of the world, even though he never brought any real income into the families he had (which seems to be the backbone of a lot of misogyny – breadwinning and providing security?) At least he wasn’t hitting anyone.

One day we went fishing at the river near his apartment (Section 9 housing) and a friend of his came along too. His friend packed a cooler of beer and a few draft beer chosen from the

He resisted most of the day, but a few hours in, he made me hand him a beer.

That turned into about 30.

I didn’t see him again for about 2 years and another wife.

I don’t remember a lot about wife #5 other than maybe she wasn’t actually married to him because #4 never finalized the divorce…and she was a Jehovah’s Witness and he didn’t tolerate that very well.

Senior Year

I didn’t see or hear from him except once or twice from 15-18. (this is my best estimation of those ages).

One day I came home from school, I was getting ready to graduate and trying to figure out what to do with my life – I got off the bus (we couldn’t afford a car for me, so I used the bus), and he was sitting in my living room.

MY living room. In MY home. The place that I now felt safe.

He was talking with my mother.

He moved in that day. They were getting back together and I just needed to deal with it.

This didn’t last long, a few months. It was tense. He wasn’t drinking, he was just surfing through his previous wives to find which of them would give him a home to live in as he owned nothing and had earned nothing his entire life. He was charming when he was sober, but – I guess not charming enough to stay forever.  He eventually moved in with wife #1 after he left our house.

He immediately positioned himself as the runner of the household though. He didn’t pay any of the bills of course, he didn’t contribute to anything.

I resisted his orders, I told him no. I told him he had no right to tell me what to do.  Eventually he left. I don’t know why, I’m glad he did.

I never have felt like I could trust my mother since then. We were close prior to that.


About 8 years ago I got a call from wife #1, whom he was living with. He’s drinking again, he’s doing pills again. He’s on enough xanax to sleep a horse.

He wants to get clean but they don’t have the resources to do it.

He’s a goddamned mess when I make my way over there.

I acquire power of attorney over him over the next couple of weeks and I submit him to an inpatient treatment facility housed in a local nursing home (less than a mile from my house)

I inform him that, under no circumstances, will he be given another opportunity to clean up using my emotional labor and energy.

This is my policy on any addict in my life.

I don’t do it twice. I can’t.

He lasts in there for two weeks – he calls me and tells me the nurses are poisoning him.

I tell him he’s full of shit,  because he is.

he begs me to remove him from the facility.

I do.

I have not spoken to him since.

– – –

Occasionally I have received calls from some hospital or nursing home, or more recently, hospice unit – to ask me something. I tell them not to bother me.
I tell them I don’t care.
I tell them.

I tell them to let him die.

They tell me it won’t be long.

One time they tell me, “He’s escaped the hospital and is walking home – it’s an hour and a half away by car”
I say, “well…let him walk”

11 months ago I sign the papers to have him cremated because “any day now.”
Never underestimate the ability of shit to stick to the bottom of your shoe.

I hate him for making me feel this way about another person.

Hate isn’t natural for me. I’m not cold.

But I’ve forced myself to not feel anything about him until now.

Odd Grief

I’m stuck here, feeling bitter and angry about a childhood I hardly remember because I know a few things about my life could be different if he’d been different. I think he could have been too, or he could have just – not procreated.

A good father in my life could have helped me avoid a child predator when I was 10.

A good father in my life could have helped me avoid the pitfalls of a fundamentalist faith, which I retreated to in order to replace him.

A good father in my life could have provided a stable income for me, safety and comfort for my mother – so she could have worked normal hours  (rather than, at times, 3 jobs). I may have been able to go to college.

I’m less angry about who he was than who he could have been, and what a waste he was.

And yet, I know that this Saturday there will be people who he nearly killed years ago talking fondly about him.

and I’m angry about those lies they’ll tell.

and I’m so goddamned angry at these tears.