(This was originally posted exclusively for those on the emailing list.)
When I first started Dadding Depressed, I was encouraged by readers’ excitement. The topic seemed to resonate with people, and many expressed their interest in joining the dialogue of mental illness in men, grateful I created the platform. I raked in clicks, visits, and views like it was a Fall Christmas, and the trees were extra generous this year. People reached out to me personally while others commented on social media thanking me for my boldness and insight. It was fulfilling to be back in starving artist mode, and I was proud to be the creator of something to which others responded positively. I knew I was doing something valuable.
Then, Mother’s Day came charging in like a leaf blower. I don’t know what it was, but my website-hit numbers dropped dramatically, and I was caught playing in a pile of leaves no longer there. The excitement of a high high was replaced by the discouragement of a low low. Maybe I didn’t live up to expectations – Maybe I disappointed – Maybe I’m not a relevant writer – Maybe I’m not a writer. Have I failed already? Disheartening thoughts weighed down my hours and slowed my work; negative self-talk reeled me into a dark territory I had been before.
Fortunately, I have a community who supports me, even when my numbers don’t. Messages trickled in from my wife, sister, good friend, and mother, all encouraging me to keep going, not get down – “it’s important work.” I listened and lifted my brow though a remnant frown lingered quietly.
Later, I received a notification on my phone. It was from the Lansing police.
[1:43 P.M.] “MERIDIAN TWP PD: We need your help finding Ross Baldwin, may be suicidal and we are trying to get him some help.”
My heart slumped but stayed beating. I continued on with my day.
Mr. Baldwin, a social studies teacher at a local high school did take his life that night. Mr. Baldwin was gone.
I don’t know his story, but I don’t necessarily need to know. He is another man fallen victim to the hibernation of mental illness. My heart breaks for him and his family over this tragedy.
Suddenly, the leaves don’t matter. Clicks, visits, and views are useless — numbers are meaningless in light of the words. Dadding Depressed exists, not for popularity, but for men — humans — who are hurting, silently-struggling. Depression in men is an issue, but the stigma that keeps them quiet is the bigger problem (Read my post, The M-E-N In Mental Illness). We need to take strides against the silence.
So, Dadding Depressed continues. And, suddenly, the words matter much more than the numbers ever could.