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This blog celebrates the beauty of Asian men by illustrating the depth and variety that is so often missed by those who make foolish statements like "All Asians look the same." It is primarily a photo blog, but I will also occasionally write comments related to Asian men and gay life as it relates to them.

Friday, October 13, 2006

A Day of Special Memories



Today I am going to take a day off from posting pictures of hot Asian guys, though this post contains the photo of one of the beautiful ones who has impacted my life. One year ago today, on October 13, 2005, my boyfriend Alfred, one of the most loving and gentle people I have ever known, took his own life in a moment of deep despair. I wrote about his passing a while back on my other blog, and you can read that post by clicking on his picture above.

The year that has passed since last October 13 seems like a lifetime...or perhaps a few days. As one of my blogging friends expressed recently, sometimes loss can make you feel that something as frivolous as pictures of hot guys is silly or even inappropriate, and it's true I have days when I just don't feel like doing anything except feel bad (though thankfully those are becoming less and less frequent).

But I am learning to look at loss from a different angle. Of course I miss Alfred, and of course today is a melancholy day for me. But it is a day in which I remember his amazingly full adventuresome life. I focus on his wonderful 36 years in which he infused his enthusiasm and love into the lives of so many he touched, rather than focusing on the few days surrounding his untimely death.

When someone passes, it is traditional to give gifts to those closest to him. But when we lose someone in death, we receive gifts that last far longer than the flowers and cards of sympathy. I have received the gift of appreciating the amazing network of love and support of family and friends that was always surrounding me but which I had never noticed until tragedy struck. I have been given the gift of gaining a new perspective on the importance of grabbing life for all it is worth and never looking back with regret. And I have been blessed with an experience that, although the pain has been unimaginable at times, has changed me at my very core so that now, as I am emerging from the darkest depths and find that I am still able to breathe, I will be able to help others in a way I never could have before. When I say to someone who has experienced deep loss, "I understand," it will carry new weight. And I trust that I will be able to share hope when I find someone who is in that dark place where Alfred was and perhaps even help someone to see that suicide is always a permanent answer to a temporary problem.

Suicide affects millions of people every year. In America, every 18 minutes someone dies by suicide. And it affects the gay community at a higher rate than the rest of the population. This is something each of us should think about. For those in America, a great place to educate yourself concerning this problem is the website for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. For those friends in other parts of the world, many countries have similar organizations that I'm sure you can find by doing a Google search. It's a worthwhile investment of your time and thought, I promise.

So, thanks to everyone for bearing with me as I share a personal moment. I hope it will not be a downer to you but rather perhaps it will encourage you to hug your loved ones a little tighter, to write that letter to diffuse the anger in a tense friendship, or to call the person you know who needs a simple word of kindness. Don't live today in a way that will produce regret tomorrow!

15 comments:

Mark said...

I am SO sorry for your loss. Your story of Alfred's death and your reactions is devastating. I've suffered from depression, and it's a black black place. Thank you for sharing your pain and loss so that others might be alerted to potential disaster.
Mark

Arthur said...

hey... i'm a regular reader of ur blog, and i am very sorry for your loss. facing up to the challenges that life gives us is never easy, and i'm glad to see that u're able to look back and come to terms with your loss, instead of being overcome by it. all the best for you! =]

Arthur

Anonymous said...

Heartbreaking, and I feel for you. You are brave to write about this.

I believe in your linked story and in your post you take too much responsibility for his problems. Even though depression is a medical problem, suicide is a choice, in fact a rather selfish and destructive choice. It leaves those behind feeling scarred because they believe there should have been "something" they could do.

The tragedy is that he lacked the strength to hold on or seek help, not that you were somehow unable to read his mind and heal his wounded psyche. It wasn't your fault at all, and when he died he didn't only lose his life but also you.

Many consolations to you during this time of remembrance.

TK said...

I am so sorry. He was a beautiful man on the outside, as I am sure he was on the inside. I too have been diagnosed with clinical depression (and had years of therapy and tried several drugs) and been to that dark place more than once (my grandmother took her own life and my sister has tried). Ironically when I hear about somone else who has taken their own life, I think what a horrible loss and tragedy. But when you are there yourself, all you feel is that pain and hopelessness, and you don't know any reason.

I disagree with anonymous in that it is a selfish choice, because he does not understand the mental state of a suicidal person. There is no desire to harm others, only a desperate need to end the pain. If you have not been there, you don't understand the desperation, the (however unreasonable-seeming) loneliness and hopelessness. It is a terrible symptom of an illness.

However, you should certainly not blame yourself in any way. I think depression is mostly a genetic condition, though the fact that gay people continue to be socially victimized can't help. Gay people are statistically far more likely to commit suicide.

Thank you for sharing, and please continue with this fun and joyful site. You have made me smile more than once, and that's an accomplisment! :-)

Anonymous said...

Thank you for sharing that part of your life amidst all the hot Asian guys.

I disagree that depression is only a medical issue. Depression is a social issue: it is something that exists in a society that doesn't care enough for people. Gay culture can be the worst at this, by focusing too much on parties and sex.

Being gay is hard and often truly f*cked up. Not just because of homophobia from straights, but much more because so many gay people never come out of their shells enough to give a damn about others like them. Insecurity breeds the worst cruelty, and gay guys are harsher than any homophone on those who are not as beautiful, young, or trendy as they'd like to be.

Michael said...

Mark, Arthur....
Thanks so much for your kind words! It means a lot!

Michael said...

Anonymous, TK....
Thank you for the kind and good thoughts both of you shared. Anonymous, I agree with you that I was taking on a lot of guilt at the time I wrote the post back in February. Fortunately, through the help of a wonderful suicide survivor group and professional therapy, I have learned to have a more balanced view of things. What you saw in that February post was when I was still pretty 'raw' in my emotions. I think that twinges of guilt will likely surface at points through the rest of my life, but I have learned to remind myself that I can't judge my actions back then on the basis of what I know now. I have to remember that I gave myself completely to Alfred and did everything I knew to do with the knowledge I had at the time.

Concerning whether depression is medical or social, and if suicide is selfish or desperation, the more I learn and think on these things, the more I am convinced that the answer is 'all of the above'. A lot of things have to converge for someone as gentle and kind as Alfred to get to a point of doing something so violent. Yes, he struggled with clinical depression. Yes, he was dealing with addiction withdrawal, financial struggles, fear of coming out to his family, starting a new job, ups and downs in our relationship, loss of close friendships, and other things not appropriate for me to share here. Taken individually, any of these would have been bearable. He could have dealt with the social ostracization he felt better if his emotional state was stronger. He could have faced his 'blue' days better if he wasn't dealing with financial problems. It's just that, added all together, it was just too much to bear.

Is suicide selfish? I have come to the conclusion that, yes, it certainly is selfish, but without the negative connotation we generally attach to selfishness. It is not selfishness in the sense of defiance and lack of concern for others. But it is a completely self-focused act, where someone is so overwhelmed with feelings of pain, guilt, and sorrow that they feel they are drowning and can't think of anything else.

Would we say that a passenger on the Titanic, struggling for air in the icy water, was selfish because he grabbed on to another passenger in the water in an effort to stay above the surface? No, we would understand that the human mind, in such moments of extreme desperation, cannot process anything other than basic survival. Holding on to another passenger may have been selfish in the technical sense, but it is a faultless selfishness.

That is what happens with someone like Alfred. The water was going over his head, and he felt he could no longer breathe. Sadly, because he was going under so quickly, he didn't see that there was someone right there with a life preserver, trying to reach out for him. Instead, he just finally stopped struggling, let go, and went under. There was no thought of pain that would be caused to others, for if there was, he would have kept struggling I am certain. But he was suffocating, and the pain overhwelmed his mind's ability to think of anything but escape.

So yes, it's selfish, but it's not blameworthy.

Ray said...

Michael:

I just ran across your site while surfing the web. First, great site. The pictures are nice, but your commentary is even better. It is well-written and shows your intelligence.

Second, I also knew Alfred. However, I knew him for a period that ended a year or two before his death. We were never great friends, but we hung out a lot for a year or two. He was a great guy - always kind and considerate, always looking out for his many friends. He also had a great sense of humor.

We had mutual friends, and through them I was aware of his troubles toward the end of his life. I was still shocked when I learned of his death, as I am sure everyone was. Seeing you and all of his friends at his funeral was one of the saddest scenes I have witnessed.

Your post about Alfred was wonderful - a great tribute to him and to your relationship. More importantly, it will hopefully serve as a resource for people going through what Alfred did - and what you are going through through. Good work, Michael.

Ray

Terrypopi said...

Hello, I came across you blog today and began reading through and I came across this entry. I've been pondering all day whether I should write anything and I decided to do so especially after I've read some of your readers' comments. I will be 30 years old in November and I am a survivor of clinical depression for about 11 years. I wanted to write to you everything that could have possibly caused your boyfriend to take his life because I too had the same decisions to make day by day, especially when I did not know what the next would bring for me. I don't want to say anything but might place any assumptions that I knew Alfred but it seems like for every victim of depression, we all have shared the same experiences, regardless on what caused the onset. After my diagnosis and prognosis, I've spent most of time paying gratitude to my family and friends who have cost them to suffer trying to save me. At least once or twice every year, I don't throw birthday parties, college graduation or 4th of July parties, I call all of my parties, "Thank You Parties". I feel that I owe everything to them. I will through another party for them when I move to Chicago for doctorate school. I owe my life to them. The odd thing about depression is the contradiction of suicide, you feel that if you just end it now, you can end the hurt and suffering for everyone, not just yourself. As "selfish" as we are being, we tried to help our loved believing that everyone would just move on in time. It really hurt me inside to read your writing because here you are, 1 year later, still hurting. You represent my best friend, my parents, my sisters and everyone else who bore witness to my depression and tried to help me. Even though I don't know Alfred, I pretty sure that he did not want his loved ones to hurt and I believe he did not know that you all would miss him so much. Prayers and blessings with you.

Sincerely,
Terrypopi

Anonymous said...

I just read your original post - from a year ago. I just want to say that I am so sorry for your loss. I hope that you continue to heal.


mark

Wellesley said...

Hi Mike:

Sorry to know that your bf commit suicide last year and hope you do feel much better now. It is quite heartbreaking to read the entry you posted more than a year ago.

And I am glad that you have attended the survivor of suicide group and get some emotional support from that group. It is important that you share your thoughts with people who experience the same loss like you.

Actually, my dissertation topic is related to suicide and I even received grants from AFSP for that research. I also have a few publicaions related to suicide, so I understand how important this issue is.

Anyway, hope everything is well and have a great Halloween!

W

Michael said...

Ray....
Thanks for your kind words. They are very thoughtful. I'm sorry I don't remember you from the wake, but I guess you can imagine I wasn't in the frame of mind to remember everyone I met. I am grateful for the progress I've made since then. I miss Alfred, of course, but I'm determined to live my life to its fullest, as I know he would want me to! As I'm sure you know, Alfred never slowed down for a moment....he had a very full 36 years!

Michael said...

Terrypopi...
Thanks for your note. It's true that I still miss Alfred, and to some extent there will always be an ache in my heart when I think of how he left, but I have learned from this experience how precious life is, and I'm not going to sit around and just feel bad and not go on with my life. I'm not "moving on" in the sense of leaving him behind; rather, he's still coming along with me on my journey.

Michael said...

Mark...
Thank you also!

Michael said...

Wellesley....
I am very glad that you are doing the research for your dissertation. I am always glad to hear of people who are working to find answers to this serious problem!