Depression in the open

For many people waging war against their own brain, the struggle with depression is often a struggle with loneliness. It’s what leads many people to suicide — the notion that not only is there no hope, but that there is a “failure” involved because few other people seem to be facing similar battles. That’s one of the side effects of the societal “norms” that if you’ve got a mental illness, you best keep it to yourself.

Occasionally, we get a rare glimpse of how many people are facing a similar struggle. Today is one of those days.

todd_tweedy.jpg Todd Tweedy of St. Paul, left a disturbing message on his Facebook page, and then disappeared yesterday.

One illness I’ve never been able to defeat is my own depression. I have to say goodbye now. I wish each of you a wonderful New Year!

His friends are trying to find him, and others are trying to reach him in a different way — by revealing their own struggles.

Like this:

I am praying for your safe return. We don’t know each other, but I can relate, as I have battled depression for some time, especially after losing my husband to cancer. So many people love and care about you, and they need you. They all want to help you. I pray that the Lord wraps his arms around you and keeps you safe, and that help is on the way.

and this…

Todd, I saw this post on a friend’s wall and in the off chance you might be reading this, please know that you are NOT alone, no matter how much it might feel that way. I have lived a life with Bipolar and well know the feeling of total and utter defeat. The gut-wrenching agony to the point where you just cant take one more second of it. I know the torment of not being able to get out of bed yet not being able to sleep. Let me tell you no matter how bad it seems at any given moment, it DOES and WILL get better. I swear it.

On top of Bipolar, my childhood was one that no one should ever have to experience and by God’s grace (and 1 very amazing friend) I made it through the darkness. Let me tell you the light on the other side, not the tunnel of light many talk about after death, but the life of LIFE when you do break through…is simply, indescribably wonderful. You owe it to yourself and your family to fight through and find you light in this world!

I am now and will continue to pray for you and for your family with all of my heart. Even though you don’t know me, I am up late, usually all night and I will leave FB open. If you want to talk, about anything at all, to someone who knows exactly what you are feeling, I am here. No questions asked, no need to reveal your location, just talk. Also if it isn’t too much to ask, could you please let someone, anyone, know that you are safe?

May God bless you in a very real and tangible way RIGHT NOW to show you just how much you ARE LOVED! May you feel the love of your brothers and sisters (we are ALL God’s children) at home and all around the world. Here is a big *hug* from someone way out in California who doesn’t know you from Adam in reality but cares for you none the less!

It’s an extraordinary outpouring that puts depression where it belongs — in the open, and shared honestly.

Let’s hope it works.

Mr. Tweedy drives a red Volkswagen Passat with Minnesota plate 545 BLM. He’s 47, 6’3″, 190 pounds and probably doesn’t know how many people want him to come home.

Update 6:41 a.m. 1/5 – He’s been found OK in western Wisconsin.

  • Kat S.

    Bob, I am often grateful for your posts on mental illness and how we deal with it as a society and I don’t say so often enough. Please keep posting these.

    Of the many friends and family members I’ve had who’ve struggled with mental illness, it’s always seemed to me that overcoming the social stigma– internally or externally– was a significant part of their battle to manage the illness. Thank you for trying to make the battle easier.

  • Jim Shapiro

    Bob – Thanks and kudos for transforming your compassion into a public service.

    Todd Tweety has (had?) 592 facebook “friends”:

    “Here is a big *hug* from someone way out in California who doesn’t know you from Adam in reality but cares for you none the less!”

    One of the challenges with digital social networking is that for some, a “hug” is replacing actual human contact.

    The pain of depression can’t be healed by 0000s and 1111s.

    (Yes, this is an indictment of the dehumanizing potential and tendencies of technology. But thanks again for working to use technology for a greater good.)

  • Todd – I hope you’ve thought about all of the good things you do have and the people who want you around for as long as you possibly can be and you come home.

    Bob – I hope you don’t mind me cross-posting, but I also wrote my first blog in a few months after seeing this story. It is just so sad to see people feel so helpless. I hope what we all write, say, and do is helping.

    Reaching Out To Those With Depression

  • Caitlin

    Spread it on Twitter so people keep looking for his license plate #findtodd

  • Kris Roegiers

    Thank you for sharing this Bob! I too appreciate the focus on mental illness of all forms – especially depression as I and many others contend with that illness.

    My sincerest hopes that Todd is found alive and well and is able to persevere with the support of friends, family and other resources!

  • Mary

    There is hope. The “norms” are changing. My daughter (26) battles clinical depression. She was taught in school that it is a physical medical condition that can be treated. Her friends have stood by her and visited her often when she has been in the hospital. Her boss has stood by her when she has had to take disability time off of work and time off for ECT treatments. To her generation it’s not taboo to talk about it, and it would be unthinkable to not support a friend with this type of illness. Society moves forward slowly, but it does tend to move forward.

  • Darren B.

    Just passing along some Suicide Prevention information.

  • I hope and pray this man didn’t commit suicide.

  • John P II

    This is really pretty bizarre given the nature of Mr. Tweedy’s business (using social media to create viral marketing campaigns, i.e. artificially driving “word-of-mouth” messaging and creating digital audiences.) I hope this ends well, and I’m sure many of the FB commenters, Tweeters, and bloggers are well intentioned, but this is more a story about social media than mental illness.

  • Bob Collins

    // but this is more a story about social media than mental illness.

    No, it’s not. There is a PR firm out there trying to sell it as such, which I find obscene because it suggests that the only way to get the media to pay attention to the issue is to bring in the “social media” angle.

    I will not do that. It’s about mental illness, it’s about people opening up, it’s about a missing man with a lifetime struggle.

    Nothing more. Nothing less.

  • Caitlin

    Here’s a very relevant, very inspiring recent post on this topic from one of my favorite bloggers.

    Worth a read.

  • Bose in St. Peter MN

    …the struggle with depression is often a struggle with loneliness…

    …probably doesn’t know how many people want him to come home…

    Those thoughts don’t fit with my experience when my partner died by suicide a decade back. His challenges were known and accepted by a broad circle of loved ones. Two prior suicide attempts and hospitalizations led to friends and colleagues affirming how much they valued him.

    I get frustrated with suicide awareness and prevention efforts which infer that it is the result of a somewhat rational cost/benefit analysis, in which the person just doesn’t “get” the benefits of living, or the depth of others’ love and concern for them. Evidence tells us that suicide is generally preceded by multiple, complex, contributing factors, leaving the person in great pain, with limited internal resources to do basic problem-solving.

    In my partner’s case, a couple decades of treatment had left him resistant to drug therapies that had previously been effective, and he was riding extreme roller coasters as his docs used trial and error in the search for something that would work again. He was also making his way through some jarring mid-life transitions that had cost him cherished friends and activities.

    The big picture ends up being messy, complex, multi-dimensional.

    So, it’s possible that Todd Tweedy’s journey with depression was not closeted, and that it felt like a burden knowing how many people want him to come home safely.

  • Tom Brady

    Todd, sure we all fell alone, or rejected at some point in our lives. When we feel down, just remember tomorrow will be another day and more importantly, your family loves you. The whole Midwest is looking for you and we are hoping you will finish your next book, cook up more of your fantastic salsa and …. raise your kids. Hopefully, you had a chance to go to a quiet place and reflect. We need you to come home soon. We are all praying you your safe return.

  • Christin

    It is odd how an event can take a person back to a moment in the past and cause one to relive feelings once thought to be over. This story hit me like a ton of bricks last night when I first read about it via Twitter. The desparation and urgency to find this man felt in my heart and the pit of my stomach exactly the same as a moment years ago when I found myself making out of state calls to find my dad, with the gut feeling that he had committed suicide. All of this shook me just enough to wake me from feeling a bit disillusioned with work, day to day life, etc. I am reminded that although I lost my dad, I also have quite a bit to be grateful for.

    There is much progress to be made in our communities in the fight to destigmatize mental illness. Thank you Bob. I hope Todd is found alive and gets the medical care and support he needs. I am thinking of his family and hope that they to are getting the support they need.

  • Megan

    Everyone should read Bose’s comment (above). I know when I was suicidal, I knew that I had lots to live for and that lots of people cared about me deeply. I just also felt that I couldn’t face one more minute with the pressure of depression crushing me from every angle and suffocating my ability to function, despite being well-medicated. Depression and suicidality are, as Bose notes, extremely complex and messy.

    Bob, thank you for writing about mental illness from a place of compassion and nonjudgement.

    Bose, thank you for writing from experience.

    And Todd, I hope that wherever you are you have found some peace. May your family come to experience it, as well.

  • KTFoley

    This evening’s update is that Todd has been found and is receiving care at Regions Hospital. Glad to know it.

  • “Thank you, Ive recently been seeking for information about this topic issue for ages and yours is the best Ive located so far.”

  • FLO

    Todd: hang in there: I have lost three family members to depression. I also suffer from it, my son has bi-polar and my other child has depression as well. I hang on to “God”, he is the love of my life…. come to Calvary Lutheran Church in Golden Valley…. you will be able to cope with your depression. it is so uplifting and you will be filled with the spirit….. Flo

  • Lisa Johnson

    The Facebook link has been taken down – I hope because of an outpouring of good wishes and support.

    The despair and loneliness are overwhelming – along with the isolation caused not so much by stigma as by so few people “getting it.” They hit you with a list of your responsibilities – “You can’t die; all this depends on you!” – and don’t understand it’s the verbal and emotional equivalent of a boat anchor tossed to a drowning person. God bless, Todd, and good luck. I hope you find some people with whom you can connect in a way that gives you hope and light.