A Son of Suicide

December 1, 2007 9:02:17 AM PST
Kevin Roy's most treasured possessions are pictures of the way his family used to be. My mother's smile lights up portraits. My father called her the glue that held us together.

"She was the center of our lives, that's the type of person she was," said Robert Roy, Kevin's father.

But behind that bright smile, Diane Marcus Roy hid a lifelong battle with bipolar disorder, manic-depression, which proved to be fatal. Growing up in River Forest, there were few clues when my family lived here. At her 50th birthday party, no one could have imagined my mother would be dead a year-and-a-half later.

Her life started to unravel in 1993. After 29 years of marriage, she announced she wanted a divorce. She left my father, sold the house, quit her law practice and moved from Chicago to Sedona, Arizona -- all within a year. She also had a new found interest in anything that was of a 'spiritual' nature.

"She was seeing spiritualists, card readers, psychics..."said Robert Roy.

There were so many changes in so little time. They are classic signs, I would later learn, of a manic phase. And so it was for the next six months. Her family wanting to believe these changes were all for the better. But then, suddenly, she crashed.

On a summer night in 1995 I came home to a message on my answering machine -- my father telling me my mother was threatening suicide. We flew her back to Chicago. She met with a suicide counselor and came up with a plan to leave Arizona and move back home. My mother even promised my sister and me that suicide was not an option. So in late August of 95, she flew back to Sedona, supposedly to sell her condo. Four days later we got a call from the Sedona police. She was dead.

"She put herself in a bathtub, she lit candles, she had gone to the store and bought vodka, she never drank, and she ingested this vodka as fast as she could," said Robert Roy. "I think I should have gotten on that airplane with her, I should have been smart enough to say no to going on that airplane...but I was none of that."

My mother did leave a note written nearly a month before she died. She signed it -- 'Forgive me if you can... Love, Diane.'

"I feel like she damaged me...she hurt me in such a horrible, horrible way," said Pamela Roy, Kevin's sister.

Forgiveness has been difficult -- especially forgiving ourselves for missing or overlooking some of the warning signs.

Experts say a person might be suicidal if he or she

  • talks about committing suicide
  • experiences drastic changes in behavior
  • withdraws from friends
  • loses interest in work, school, hobbies.
  • or gives away prized possessions.
  • My mom gave away her dog weeks before she took her life. Now, it all seems so obvious.

    She was mentally ill. Poor decisions and radical life changes sank her into a terrible depression. But tragically, my mother never was diagnosed as manic-depressive.

    She did take anti-depressants, on occasion...but she was never hospitalized nor got the kind of help she really needed, because she was an expert at concealing her true feelings.

    "The psychologist who saw her at the suicide prevention center said to me, and I saw her later, that she was the best they had ever seen at hiding what she felt."

    "The thinking is so fevered that one does false credit to think that your mom was logical and thoughtful at the time that she killed herself...it was her illness speaking and not her," said Dr. David Clark, Rush University Suicidologist.

    Her illness may have had the final word. But as my photo albums show, she spoke to us with love and caring during her 51 years. It is those words I now hear. It is those words that I still miss.


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