Hi. Let me start off by saying you may know me as the business manager at FOX 34, or possibly I was your sales rep when I was at WTVY. Better yet, you may know me as Zeke’s mom, Nathan’s mom or Garrett’s mom from Heard Elementary, Beverlye Magnet School or Dothan High School.
I know most of the time our acquaintances, friends, gym partners, teachers, bankers, doctors don’t usually go around telling everyone they are having issues. More than likely the people you see on a daily basis are smiling and saying ‘Oh yeah, I’m fine, how about you?’ In fact, I did that twice this morning, and I am not fine!
We see it in the headlines. It seems like every week that goes by, we hear that another celebrity has committed suicide. What? How could a celebrity be depressed? Well, thank goodness that kind of stuff doesn’t happen around here, right?
On July 4, 2017, two Dothan police officers knocked on my door with news that no parent should ever hear. The previous evening—July 3, 2017 at approximately 6 p.m., my 24-year-old son Zeke Handley had taken his own life.
Zeke was a graduate of Dothan High. He played trombone in the DHS band, was the youngest person to be in our local Moonlighter’s orchestra and earned a music scholarship to Wallace. He was also forgetful, could never keep up with his keys or driver’s license and was never on time for anything (ha!). Zeke had some struggles with depression but nothing that was cause for concern, I thought.
Of all people, I thought I would recognize the signs, as I have battled major depression nearly my entire life. I also self-medicated for many years. You know, that glass or five of wine before bed, that Xanax to take the edge off. It finally got the point where I couldn’t function without taking something.
In 2001 I attempted suicide. It was divine intervention that saved me, even though at the time I sure didn’t see it that way. It took lots of meetings, therapy and anti-depressants to get to a point where I wanted to live again. But, I still didn’t talk about it unless I was talking to someone in my inner circle.
I didn’t want my children to know, I thought they would feel like it was their fault. I thought people wouldn’t want to hire me if they knew I suffered from depression. I thought people wouldn’t want to be friends with me if they knew. I thought the PTO president wouldn’t want me to chaperone on the field trip. So, I made light of suffering from depression and I didn’t share this experience with my children.
I’m sure you can see what all of that thinking got me. Maybe if I had talked about it with Zeke he wouldn’t have felt like there was no other way out. Maybe if I had shared my experience he would still be here. Now, there will always be the maybes and what ifs that will never be answered.
I don’t want another parent to know what it feels like to lose your child due to a treatable disease. I make no bones about it — depression is a disease. My youngest son (15) was hit hard with depression at the end of the school year last year and we had to immediately get him into treatment. There are no more secrets in our house, we talk openly now about depression, suicide, self-medicating, etc.
I, along with many other Dothanites will be walking for Suicide Prevention on Sept. 29 at the Northview High School track. The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention is working toward changing our views and beliefs about suicide and depression. We are working with the Alabama Chapter to raise awareness for Suicide Prevention. I participated in the walk last year. Zeke had passed away in July and the walk was in September, so I was in a really raw place. My WDFX co-workers were so supportive. I couldn’t believe the feeling of hope I gained from the experience.
I am asking for donations for AFSP and our team Zeke’s Survivors. This is a non-profit organization, so all donations are tax deductible—the AFSP Tax ID # 13-3393329
If you would like to make a donation please click here:
If you would like to walk with us (WDFX FOX 34) please click here:
I appreciate your time and anything you are willing to donate. I know I wrote a book, and that’s not even the whole story.
My story isn’t over.