24 September 2007
One year ago today my friend Ryan Taylor took a bus from Toronto to Niagara Falls and ended his life. His body was not identified for several days, on the New York side of the river. Missing person reports caused intense distress and confusion. Ryan would never have intended to add such extra anguish to family and friends. In solitary preparation, he had tied up a number of professional loose ends. He had completed and returned the updates for his courses at the National Institute for Genealogical Studies. He spent time to sort his papers for sending to an local archive. He timed his leave when the first television season of Ancestors in the Attic was wrapped. For all I know, he may have done the same tidying up in his job as a librarian. Ryan liked things tidy.
Suspicions of alternate scenarios die hard when people are shocked. Those are the people who knew him as the bigger than life, commanding but charming presence ... the speaker who could captivate an audience, patiently explain family history to a library patron, share tea and cake or cocktails and appetizers with friends of all ages. So many friends. So much talent. He never failed to amuse with his encyclopaedic knowledge and humour. Then it was easy to induce and share his irresistible laughter. Those were the good times. He needed and loved them. In lonely times, which he couldn’t share, he was diminished and finally defeated.
Endogenous depression is very, very difficult for the afflicted person to admit, express, describe or share ... close to impossible. This is not the same as exogenous depression which results from a drastic “life event,” usually a one-time happening. Endogenous means recurring or chronic bouts of debilitating mental suffering that has physical as well as mental effects. Chronic depressives are almost helpless to fight the unpredictable biochemical change that plunges them into a bottomless black pool of deep anxiety, self-recrimination, self-loathing, panic attacks, agoraphobia and/or suicidal thoughts, not to mention shame at their inability to control it. Medication works for the fortunate few. Medication often means years of monitored experimentation to find something that works. And often a hard, discouraging journey in itself.
My dear friend. How we wish we could have eliminated your pain. You would have loved the last joke we never got to share. Your everlovin’ buddy, Brenda Harriman.