In my New Year's Day message, I said that we can and should be happy about the coming year. Despite everything that our enemies have tried to do, despite their repeated attempts to silence us, we remain, we are strong, and we are growing in numbers. Yet, as I have also said, we should expect to encounter setbacks and losses along the way.
I ran headfirst into one such loss literally the day I walked back into the office on Monday.
I was the first one in from my team, as is often the case, and was quietly enjoying a chance to get back to work in the silence and calm of the early morning. Gradually, people started to trickle in and take their seats, and eventually another colleague of mine, who I've known for several years, came over to chat. I assumed that he simply wanted to catch up with what I'd been up to, so I prepared for some simple small talk before getting back to work.
Instead, he walked over to drop a bombshell. A former colleague of ours- the guy I'd been hired into the firm to replace, in fact- had committed suicide on New Year's Eve by jumping off a bridge.
The news had spread rapidly on our floor and throughout the institution- the man in question had been there a while and was generally well-liked by most of the people he worked with. We all knew he had problems; he had been forced to take multiple lengthy absences from work in order to deal with severe depression and mental health issues. Several of us had experienced the sharp end of those absences, as he would be in one day and then out for several weeks at a time, causing major disruptions for my team back when I was running it and he was part of it. Despite this, we all knew him to be a decent person who was struggling with difficult and complex problems, and generally tried hard not to hold it against him.
A group of us got together and discussed whether we should go to his funeral service. At first I really didn't want to go- I've had my fill of funerals and tragedy- but eventually sense won out and a group of us went to the beautiful Catholic church in the city where the memorial service was being held.
It was a very moving ceremony; I don't know much of anything about Catholics, but I will say this for them: they know how to do prayers and hymns right. (Even if most churches these days insist on doing things in the vulgate, rather than in Latin.)
In the days since, I have thought often and carefully about what happened. I keep asking myself whether my former colleague could have avoided his fate. I wonder if he could have done anything to save himself.
The only conclusion I can reach is: yes, he could have.
I actually wrote a post that referred to him a few years ago, when I described how even the most convincing arguments and detailed evidence can be insufficient to persuade some men that they have the power to change themselves for the better, that society has lied to them for their entire lives, and that there is in fact a different, far better way to do things. At the time, my colleague simply could not bring himself to accept what I was telling him, even though he could see that I was right.
And therein lies the great tragedy of his suicide. He was a good man, in his own way- fundamentally decent, eager to please, willing to work if only he was given clear direction, and extremely introverted, like me. If he had come through his struggles with depression, I believe that he could have really made something of himself. But now we'll never know.
Following his suicide, it was revealed that he was struggling under the massive combined weight of both severe depression and heavy debt. How and why he got snowed under by both is not something upon which I wish to speculate, out of respect for the dead. I do remember from my interactions with him that he did have serious issues with depression from time to time, but I never really inquired into the root causes or the medications that he was taking- it was not, and is not, my place to do so.
I remember that his mental issues reflected plainly in his physique. When he was at his worst, his weight would balloon and he would clearly have enormous difficulty finding the motivation and drive to lose that weight. During the periods where he appeared to be recovering, he would take to exercise with a vengeance- he trained for a triathlon on his own at one point, and at another he did the swimming leg of a team triathlon made up of fellow colleagues. And during these periods, he would slim down dramatically.
Yet, tellingly, he always relapsed, and always returned to the old, bad ways that caused him so much pain and so many problems. And this indicates to me that there was something fundamentally off about the way he was handling his depression.
Now I have never, to my knowledge at least, suffered from severe or even mild depression, other than maybe a few grumpy periods in my late teens and early working life. I got over those periods. I am categorically unqualified to speak about what my former colleague should have done, or how he should have lived his life. That is to be left to medical professionals.
All I can speak to is how I have been able to avoid such issues myself.
I have been able to avoid getting sucked into periods of blackness by improving my mindset. Mike Cernovich wrote an entire book about this (I haven't read it yet), and about the importance of maintaining and improving one's mindset so that even the most difficult things in life turn into mere obstacles, and so that overcoming those obstacles becomes second nature.
And I wonder what, if anything, my former colleague could have done to improve his own mindset, if he had been able to find the work of Mike and others like him. I wonder what he could have become in the process.
Yes, debt burdens can be crushing. Yes, depression is extraordinarily difficult to shake. But what could he have done if, like me, he had discovered the Manosphere, neomasculinity, and the transformative effects of powerlifting and martial arts? What could he have become if he had ruthlessly excised all sources of negativity from his life and worked single-mindedly on freeing himself from the shackles of excess debt?
We will never know now. All of that human potential is gone. And that, to me, is the single greatest tragedy of all. I look ahead to what he might have been, and compare it to what he was, and I feel great sorrow when I see that gap.
I remember reading somewhere on one of the neomasculine websites I frequent that the best possible definition of Hell has got to be lying on your deathbed and seeing the man you could have been materialising out of the aether next to you. But perhaps the greater tragedy is to see life cut short long before it reaches anything like the fullness of its potential.
As for my former colleague, I pray for his soul. And I understand now why the Judaeo-Christian tradition sees suicide as a terrible waste of human life. He is gone, and those of us left behind will always wonder what we could have done to help him.