Could the suicide of a loved one suffering from mental illness have been prevented? Should families and friends be able to see the signs and intervene, before it’s too late? These are some of the questions posed by Chad Stopler and his daughters in their book, Too Difficult to Explain – a Bipolar Conundrum.
In the book Chad identifies missed opportunities in trying to understand his son David’s Bipolar Disorder, following David’s death. In 2009, David jumped from his father’s seventh floor flat while the latter watched, absolutely helpless. His family believe this was not a suicide, saying David didn’t know what he was doing at the time.
The latter had been an activist for those with mental health disabilities, but at the age of 40, his own burden became too heavy to bear. This true story is about trying to understand the events, make sense of them, and for the family deal with their grief.
It is a harrowing story. An extract from a creative writing exercise David did, addressing his late mother, highlights his pain, and anguish about how his disease was affecting those around him:
“Mum, I’m sorry for all the pain I’ve given you. I hope I will be forgiven for treating you like I did. I did love you even though it may not have showed. I love you and will never be able to forgive myself for any pain I put you through. I never got the chance or gave myself the chance to tell you how much I really loved you.
Meeting my dead mother would be like meeting a ghost. I feel if she is going to walk into the room at any given time, I’ll be able to hug her like never before.”
The publication of this book coincides with World Bipolar day on 30 March, also the birthday of Vincent van Gogh, who it’s believed suffered from the disease.
Watching my son David climb over my 7th floor balcony and falling to his death was the most horrific event of my life. My attempt to grab him was fruitless and all I could do was scream “Oh No!”
The daytime hours of the next few weeks were a numbed confusion as my daughters Brianne, Lalitte and I grappled with the reality that Diddy was no longer with us. There were two dominating thoughts for me. Firstly, I could not understand why I felt no guilt about his death, because he and I had quarrelled incessantly about the way his bipolar disorder should be handled, and I felt that I may have been wrong and therefore I should feel guilty. Secondly, I had the overwhelming feeling that his life had been completely wasted because he had not fulfilled his wish to have helped his fellow sufferers in a meaningful way.
The nights were not really different, except that my sleep was rather fitful and every few nights I re-experienced the sight of David’s tumble to death. One night was, different, however. I woke from the recurring nightmare and it then hit me that I could possibly help him achieve in death what he was unable to accomplish in life. I would write a book which would show how the system had failed him and, if only a few others would benefit, David’s life would have had meaning.
Too Difficult to Explain – a Bipolar Conundrum is published by Reach Publishers.