Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Two-Sided Coin

I am humbled by the amount of readership "Loving David" has received. As I've written, I want this space to be one of celebration for our gift of David. I want to remember the happy memories and all of his greatness. While it would be very easy, and feel very good, to only focus on these comfortable stories, I feel equally called to shed light into the disease and experience which ultimately took him from us.

The caveat is that I don't want these less comfortable details to obscure David's healthy goodness. I want to create an understanding among those who loved David, and those who didn't have the privilege to meet him. The way I have processed these two sides of the coin, is by seeing them as just that. David was healthy, happy, loving, active, funny, bright, and dedicated. That is who my brother was. He very tragically was also ill and his depression contorted his thinking. The depression filled him with self-doubt and hopelessness. The depression is what ended his life.

One year ago, while living in Colombia, David got a physical illness and it lingered for over a month. David, a person who went to the gym nearly every day, played every sport he could learn, and who placed an insurmountable value on physical health felt trapped in his own body. For weeks he was not able to run, play sports, or get a good night's sleep. Not surprisingly, it did not take long for David to become pretty down-in-the-dumps.

His curious nature and quest for understanding led David to where most of us would be led to learn more: the internet. David began researching everything he find about his illness. His anxiety built about the worst-case scenarios and David began to lose a little hope. Much like mental illness, physical illness can take captive one's spirit. This line between physical and mental health began to blur as David's anxiety began to worsen his physical symptoms. Sleep became even harder to come by, due to his ever-cycling mind. David's anxiety began to be a bit of a self-fulfilling prophecy and soon he realized that his fixation on his illness was not healthy.

David sought out help in Colombia and began to see a psychologist. David was never given a diagnosis but was told he possessed certain "tendencies." Many of the traits which made him so successful and high-achieving: perfectionism, curiosity, etc. are the same traits which were able to become unhealthy. With the right triggers, these could unveil an obsessive nature which could be detrimental.

David resisted going on medication for quite some time. The research of the medication they wanted him to take revealed very scary side effects: Anxiety, Nausea, Insomnia, Restlessness, Dizziness, Weight Gain, Headaches, Constipation; the worst of all, Suicide. David did not feel comfortable taking this medication with the possibility of perpetuating his symptoms, especially while so far from home. Eventually, with the support and encouragement of his immediate family, and a few close friends who were in Colombia, David decided to give the medication a chance.

Within a few weeks, David was feeling more like his old self again. His physical illness was almost entirely gone by this time, and David was able to become active again. The medication helped lift the emotional cloud which had overtaken him, and I can remember the difference in his voice, the life had returned. David shared that he was feeling much better and so relieved to feel enjoyment in the simple things again.

This story will be continued...


  1. Anna, I have so appreciated the way you have expressed your sentiments and emotions since this tragedy of losing David. I never knew him and i've only known you for a brief amount of time, but just know that you, your stories, and your brother have brought me a lot of peace and hope. I've thought about you a lot since it happened, and I know grieving can be a life-long process, but I love how you have celebrated who he was while also being real about what he went through. Thanks for your honesty and love you bring to every post.
    Continuing to have you in my thoughts and prayers,
    Mary McDonough

    1. Mary, Thank you very much. Thank you for reading and thank you for sharing. David was a very incredible person and I know he would be happy that his story can now help others. Much love to you.

  2. Someone asked about David's illness and he had a very difficult-to-treat bacterial infection.