John Jones thought he wouldn’t be much if he didn’t become a father. Without his daughter, he might not be here at all.
Editor’s note: Below is the story of John Jones, a pseudonym for a single father and member of the Armed Forces, in response to the Men and Suicide series.
This week on the Good Men Project there is a special series going on concerning Suicide and how that deals with men. Having read through a few of the articles I felt like it was time for me to put down on paper things that I have never told anyone. Not my friends, certainly not my family, definitely not my coworkers, and to be honest, things that I have tried to forget about, myself, because of my shame. Because I am so very ashamed of things I have done, I am not using my real name for this piece. I still worry about what they may say or how they will see me now. For now, you can call me John Jones.
Coming to grips with your own demons is quite possibly one of the hardest thing for anyone to do. My demon, or as Dexter would call it, my “Dark Traveler,” is always with me regardless if I am having a good day or bad. I am not a blood-spatter expert who kills bad guys in my spare time. I’ve never killed anyone nor do I ever plan on killing anyone. However, I have thought about killing someone. You see, a couple of years ago I almost killed myself.
I grew up the oldest child in a good home with excellent parents. Being the oldest, and because of my dad’s job, there was a lot of pressure on me to be my best: not from my parents directly, but from outside of our home, to reflect well on my family. Because of this, I have always strived to be good at whatever I do. I became a neurotic perfectionist who was always looking over my shoulder when I would make a mistake to see if anybody noticed. This unhealthy streak has followed me to this day in the form of self-doubt, self-loathing, and depression. I am also in the Armed Forces. Even with the new initiatives being brought in to combat suicide and mental illness among soldiers, there is still a stigma against seeking help. We are supposed to be the best of the best, and the best can’t ask for help.
Being from a big family I always wanted to have a family of my own. When I grew up it didn’t matter what job I took, as long as I became a dad. I wasn’t very popular in school due to having big, thick glasses and not being able to afford clothes like the cool kids wore. My luck wasn’t good, but it didn’t put a damper on my desire.
When I was 23, I met my first wife. She already had three kids from a previous relationship and was interested in having one with me, so I saw it as a win-win situation. I had a wife to spend time with and kids already. But my dream turned into a nightmare. We got married after knowing each other for only about two and half months because we found out she was pregnant. About a week later, she had a miscarriage. Going from the extreme high of finding out that I was going to be a father, which I had always wanted, to the dark depths of learning about miscarriage was devastating. I threw myself into a bottle of liquor and cried for a long time.
The pain of that started to get better when we started trying to have another child. It all came back with a vengeance when I opened the mail one day and found a statement from the insurance company. At first nothing seemed amiss, just an ordinary bill for ER services from when my ex had her miscarriage. What caught my eye was the notation that the miscarriage was of an 8-12 week pregnancy. The timing didn’t work out. We had only had sex for the first time about six week prior to the miscarriage. After confronting her she admitted that it could have been someone else’s, but she didn’t know. I thought it was mine. I should have known better.
She got pregnant again and now I have my amazing child. Tyler is the only thing that makes me thankful that I stuck with a marriage that by all accounts was a bad idea and doomed for failure. Looking back and having done research on the subject, I would say that I was an abused spouse. The abuse wasn’t always physical: that was the least of it. The vast majority was emotional and psychological.
I got to the point where my life was totally wrapped around making her happy at the expense of my own sanity and health. I never told anyone of the abuse and ridicule I took at home because I was ashamed. I was ashamed that I couldn’t make this woman that I loved care enough to not treat me like that.
The abuse wasn’t limited to behind closed doors. She would belittle and berate me in front of the kids and in front of our friends. Because of my low feelings of self-worth I started to have performance issues in the bedroom. To make things worse, she used my performance issues against me when I would ask if she wanted to have sex. “Why would I want to? You’re only gonna last a minute or two.” She would joke about it to her friends and in front of mine. All this did was to cause me to shrink away from the looks of pity and laughter, and to feel like less of a man.
About two years ago my Dark Traveler made his first visit to me. Toward the end of the marriage, I turned to porn to find some relief from the fear of being rebuffed and belittled. Things had even been on the upswing a bit. She had become a little more affectionate with me and made a deal that if I lost 20 pounds we would have sex every night for a month.
I weighed myself every day and I hit my goal while she was home visiting her family on vacation. She didn’t seem all that excited when I told her on the phone, but I wrote it off to her being with her family. Over the course of the next week I started noticing things that didn’t feel right. After she disappeared for a couple of days, I confronted her because I feared that she was going to leave me. When she texted me back that we needed to talk when she got home, I knew that it was over. She was leaving me for someone else.
That realization is hard for anyone, but it felt like more than my marriage; I had dedicated my whole life to pleasing her and making her happy. Never in my life had I ever felt like more of a failure. I was losing my family: the one thing I always wanted my entire life. My kid and I went to visit my family for a vacation while my wife visited other family members in a different state. Part of me wished that Tyler wasn’t with me on that trip; now, I don’t want to think about what I might have done if I had been alone.
The day before my wife got home, I spent the day cleaning the house from top to bottom, still thinking that if I did a good job she might change her mind. Tyler was outside playing while I cleaned the kitchen. While I was doing the dishes I started putting the knives away. As I got ready to put the last knife away I just stood there and looked at it. That was when my Dark Traveler started to whisper in my ear. “Just do it. All this pain will go away. Tyler will be better off without a failure like you. It’s your fault this is happening. Your life insurance is worth more than you being alive. Just do it: it will be quick. You’ll just fall asleep and it will be over.”
Slowly I flipped the knife around and brought it to my arm. Right before I started to cut, my kid walked up behind me and gave me a hug. As I hid the knife, Tyler looked up at with me with a smile and said, “Daddy, I love you. You are the bestest daddy ever.” And then she was gone. Dropping the knife I grabbed a bottle out of the freezer and took a big gulp to calm my nerves.
I haven’t tried to kill myself since that day but I would be lying if I said I hadn’t thought about it. Every time I do, I grab my phone and turn it on so that I can see the picture of Tyler smiling at me. It reminds me that I am alive because of that love. I have to stay alive so that I can be a good father. My daughter needs me.
In the past two years my Traveler is still there, always trying to whisper in my ear whenever I doubt myself. In order to numb the pain of my doubts I have done some bad things. I’ve straight-up used women for my own personal and physical gain. It is initially very empowering to know that you can get a woman that you have talked to for an hour to drive two plus hours to see you so that you can have sex with her for 20 minutes and then send them her on her way, especially when they want to come back.
It’s afterwards when I am alone that I feel dirty and ashamed of what I have done. All I was doing was looking for that validation that I could do something successfully. I didn’t care about the woman’s feelings; all I cared about was myself.
My struggles with relationships continue as I haven’t been able to keep one for longer than ten weeks. Now I know that it is because I try to hard to make them happy and it becomes smothering. That’s something that I have to unlearn. For years of marriage, it’s all I knew and it’s what I have believed was expected of me. With each relationship collapse, my feelings of self-worth go back down and the Traveler gets closer. When I feel him getting closer I fall back to the same booty calls from before because it is an easy validation.
Thankfully there is one thing that everyone I have met will say about me, and I agree with it: I am a good dad. My kid is everything to me, my little guardian angel and without Tyler I wouldn’t be sitting here in my apartment relaying this story. I am going to be a good dad until the day I die and that won’t come because of my taking my own life. I know that now.
As for my self-doubt and depression, thanks to an article I read today I have finally decided to seek professional help for my issues. As the saying goes, “You have to identify a problem before you can hope to fix it.” I have finally faced my issues and made the next leap of seeking a way to solve them. I know it won’t go away overnight. All I can do it try. I also know that my Dark Traveler will always be with me. I just don’t have to listen. What I can do is look over my shoulder and remember that day in my kitchen two years ago where I almost let it win.
In Canada and the U.S., the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is 1-800-273-TALK (8255).
Read more on Suicide.
Military man hugs daughter photo courtesy of Shutterstock