Today Jeff Romig shares his story… in his own words…
|Jeff, his dad, + Bryan at Furman in 1984|
Our lives and those of the people we love are defined by our choices.
Fifteen years ago today – on Feb. 24, 1996 – my dad’s life ended with his final choice.
Steve Romig was a 47-year-old attorney who loved his family, loved tennis and loved his job.
But he was sick.
Sick with worry over finances.
Sick with regret over not doing the things he’d wanted to do by 47.
Sick with depression, a disease he probably didn’t understand or accept as something that was actually affecting him.
You’d never know it by the smile on his face – which I didn’t see much, but heard about quite a bit in the days following his death. But the depression was there, causing him to get lost in his own rationalization that death was the only way he could take care of his family.
All that was left, after his death, were the letters he must have been writing on his laptop the night before when I spoke to him for the final time.
In an instant, everything I knew was shattered, and I began my journey to understand and deal with grief and mental illness.
The grief part began to subside roughly three years after his death.
The mental illness part is a life-long journey because the anxiety and depression that I believe led to his suicide was bequeathed to me via DNA.
I too suffer from anxiety and depression – a disease I now understand was very present in my life well before my dad’s death.
My dad didn’t share his feelings or talk about his problems, so his death was an absolute shock.
In the days following, I vowed that I would talk about my feelings and do my best to take the thoughts in my head and communicate them. It was the conversations that followed that decision that ultimately led me to realize, accept and then understand the disease I believe he and I share.
Mental illness should not have the stigma attached to it that was present until relatively recently. I see my disease as something to be managed, like diabetes. I’ve worked hard to do the things needed to manage my disease, and I’ve been able to be a very high-functioning member of society.
Suicide is avoidable through honest communication with someone you trust.
While navigating anxiety and depression, it’s easy to lose your bearings. If you don’t let thoughts out of your head via conversation you can end up rationalizing self-destructive actions – including suicide – that seem to make sense, but in reality, are terribly skewed.
I believe my dad did the best that he could, but his unwillingness to open up about his feelings led him to lose his bearings in the most tragic fashion.
My grief still creeps in every now and then.
I hate that we never were able to know each other as adults.
I hate that he never met my wife Kacy, and that they never got to talk about law as their shared career.
I hate that he wasn’t there to bug with house questions when Kacy and I bought our first home.
It still sucks every day that I haven’t talked to my dad for 15 years, and that he doesn’t know the 33-year-old I’ve become.
And when it sucks, my choice is to talk about it.
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