Hi. My name is Adam Gretz and this is my new Tumblr account. If you know me, you already know who I am and what I do. If you don’t, I’m a freelance writer from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and one of the people behind the CBS Sports Eye On Hockey blog and one of the founders and contributors to Steelerslounge.com.
So welcome to my own little corner of the Internet for my non-hockey and-football thoughts. I hope you stick around. This is my first post, and sadly I have to put on my serious face for it. It doesn’t happen often.
I had never known a person that took their own life. Or, as far as I know, even attempted it.
I had known of people. I’ve seen all the stories on the news, and even had to write about a few due to my job as an NHL writer over the past year.
But I had never had a person in my life or close to me that reached such a point.
Sadly, that all changed on Thursday, Dec. 13, 2012 when a long-time friend reached his breaking point. I won’t go into the details or circumstances (not important or relevant to the point I’m trying to make here), but I can’t begin to explain the wide range of emotions that I felt that day, and still felt in the four days that followed. Shock. Numbness. Horror. Sadness. Anger. Regret. A complete and total lack of understanding of how and why such a thing happens, not just for him, but for anybody.
Once the initial shock and numbness (and that’s really the only way I can describe it) of the situation started to wear off I very quickly had an overwhelming feeling of regret, and I have to admit that seemed to bother me more than anything else at that very moment. Back in June I had an invite to go out to Chicago to see a baseball game at Wrigley Field with him, something we had done multiple times in the past (and quite frankly, they were two of the most entertaining and exciting weekends of my life to this point).
And I didn’t go.
It wasn’t that I wasn’t interested (I most certainly was) or didn’t want to (I most certaily did), but I for whatever reason had plenty of reasons to not do it. Excuses. It was shortly after I had made three separate long trips for work in a span of about three weeks, and I knew I had another work trip coming a few weeks later. I just wasn’t in the mood for another long trip at that point and I put it off by saying something along the lines of, “Oh, there will be another time. Maybe next baseball season I’ll go out and we’ll do it then.”
Even worse, I didn’t even make any additional phone calls just to keep in touch and check in to see how things were going. And that bothered me. It still bothers me now, perhaps more than anything else.
I know it probably wouldn’t have made any difference, but I sat in my living room on Thursday night asking myself a series of “what if” questions.
What if I had gone on that trip? What if I had just called more to talk? Or sent more emails? Or done anything to keep in touch more? Would I have seen something or noticed something? could I have done anything? Would any of it have made any sort of a difference, even a little bit?
Realistically, probably not. In fact, I know that. The reasons people push themselves to that point aren’t really known or understood by anybody, even trained professionals, and beating myself up over these things isn’t going to help me deal with it.
But it seems unavoidable to ask those questions and that doesn’t make it any easier.
The other question that I kept asking myself was another one that doesn’t have an answer: What sort of help did he seek out? Any? Or any person in that situation? What help do they look for? What help is available? (For the record: The national suicide prevention hotline for 24/7 support is 1-800-273-TALK)
And that brings me to my biggest point here and the reason for writing this. I want do whatever I can, even if it’s in some small way, to raise awareness for this:
If you think you know of somebody that needs help — and especially if it’s you — say something. To somebody. Anybody. Get them help or get yourself help. There’s no shame in it and there’s nothing wrong with talking to somebody and working through it.
Whenever something tragic like a suicide — or the mass killing of 26 people — happens a number of discussions immediately start to take place (gun control is usually a big one).
One that does not happen enough, and this is true in times of tragedy and just in everyday life, is the one regarding mental health (unless it’s just automatically writing somebody off as “crazy” without trying to gain an understanding for what happened, why it happened, or what could have been done to prevent it from happening) and what steps people can take to get the help they desperately need.
But it’s not just people that are at risk for violence that should be seeking out help.
Any sort of anxiety issue needs to be taken seriously and can be dealt with in a number of ways.
And you know what? Sometimes it just helps to have somebody, anybody, to open up to.
People that know me well enough on a personal level might know that for most of my adult life I’ve dealt with my own sets of anxiety issues, mostly OCD and some general anxiousness in new settings or when I’m in a position to meet new people.
In the grand scheme of things I don’t consider these to be major issues. I’m not a danger to myself or society. The biggest problem I’ve created for myself or others is that I might have been a few minutes late because I had to check all of the light switches and locks before I left to make sure I didn’t return home to a smoldering pile of ashes because I forgot to unplug the toaster oven or an empty living room because I forgot to lock the door, leaving an open invite for a burglar.
(So if you ever came to pick me up at my house and it took me a while to come out, or were waiting for me to show up for a date or a get-together dating back to high school — sorry about that. I just had to check that damn stove top one more time).
If I really think about it I can think of some times in high school where I started to develop these OCD tendencies. They started to get worse and more noticeable for me about four years ago when I started writing full-time, a job that for the most part (unless I’m at a game or another NHL event) has me in my house, by myself, for most of the day. Even though I absolutely love what I do (and I really do. I don’t think I would trade it for any other job in the world. I mean, I get to watch sports and write about them. There are far worse ways to make a buck, and I’ve done them) all of that time alone starts to get to you. The isolation. The lack of co-workers to talk to and human interaction when your day hits a lull. Friends not coming by your desk at 4:50 and asking to go out for an impromptu drink after work. I think all of that has also increased my anxiety around new people and when I’m in new settings.
I can understand why people might be uncomfortable admitting these types of things and opening up about them because I used to be the same way. It’s not an easy thing to do, and the stigma that’s still foolishly attached to any sort of anxiety or therapy doesn’t make it any easier for people to seek out help. All of that makes these issues woefully under-reported, under-diagnosed, and largely misunderstood.
Even though I knew these things about myself for several years it wasn’t until about two years ago that I started to openly discuss them or admit them to people. My fears about admitting it were simply based on how people would react. Would my family worry? Would I lose friends or risk making new ones because it would change the way people felt about me or looked at me?
What I found out was that family and friends were not only 100 percent supportive, but that several people I know — and am very close to — had similar things going on in their lives and I had no idea about it. Some of them even took steps to talk to somebody and get help. The feeling of knowing that you’re not alone and that other people have the same fears, worries, and compulsions is actually in some ways a very comforting one. After all, every person on this planet has their own flaws and things they wish they could change about themselves. It doesn’t mean there is necessarily anything wrong with you; it just means you’re a human.
Over the years I’ve read a number books and talked to friends (one of my buddies is actually a psychologist and has an excellent website that is most helpful) and all of that has helped. But I’ve never actually sat down with a professional and talked about my anxieties or what more I can do to help overcome them.
That’s going to change on Friday. It’s something I’ve wanted to do for a while but kept putting off. Right now seems like a good time to actually do it. Maybe it will help me deal with what’s happened over the past week. Maybe it will help me understand myself a little more.
And there is absolutely nothing wrong with it.