Until 2010 every Labor Day that came around in my family was a happy time to celebrate just like most people in America.
But that year everything changed.
My fourth cousin, an alcoholic and drug addict went to visit his parents on Labor Day, desperate for anything that would get him high.
Broke and at the end of his rope, he entered the house and while his mom told her husband she was just going down the street to the convenience store to get a couple of more items for the Labor Day meal, my cousin decided he would make his move.
As soon as his mother left the house he began interrogating his father.
“I know you have some pills,” he said, desperately.
“Son, I don’t have anything for you,” his dad told him.
His father was on prescription medications but he wasn’t going to give him those.
My cousin kept insisting and begging.
Then he disappeared into the other room and came back with one of his father’s shot guns.
When he realized his dad was not going to give him anything he killed him then went out on the deck and did himself in.
In the time it took his mother to return from the brief trip to the little store, the police and ambulance were already there.
My mom called and told me about it and though I had never met these relatives it affected me profoundly since I have struggled with suicidal ideation, depression, and alcoholism my whole life. Though I’ve been in recovery this time since 1995, I still have suicidal fantasies and fight frequently to keep the demons at bay.
My mom and sister came to visit a couple of months after Labor Day 2010 and Mom revealed another family secret. She told me that another relative related to my fourth cousin suffered from such severe depression in the 1950s that she underwent electric shock therapy but it didn’t work. My mom at the time called the doctor and told him that the procedure didn’t appear to have “taken.” She noticed that when her relative got home she was out of sorts and seemed “odd” before she was going to lay down and take a nap.
The doctor brushed my mom off and told her she’d be fine.
But my relative went into the bedroom and killed herself with a gun.
My mom said back in those days it was very unusual for a woman to use that method to commit suicide.
Hearing this additional information about my history given my own story was stunning. This went back generations.
Every year Labor Day weekend and especially on the specific holiday I would get very depressed as my mind and psyche was made aware that this is when two relatives died by murder/suicide. And though it may seem like an odd thing given I didn’t know them, they were my family. Up until last year I would go into a deep depression on Labor Day and the days leading up to the holiday I would be filled with a sense of dread ever since this tragedy happened because it was like my mind had to acknowledge it. And I would be filled with such a profound sadness for my relatives who died and for the surviving aunt who had to endure the incredible pain of losing her husband and son in that way.
That’s why I get so aggravated when people say things like, “You need to stop being depressed. It’s getting old” or “Just put your depression aside.”
When Yahoo published an editorial I wrote about my battle with dental hygiene regarding my depression I couldn’t believe the onslaught of hateful comments from people who simply don’t understand depression.
The ignorance is mind-blowing.
I will continue to educate people about depression because it is that important.