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JACOB AND ME: Father's story of young man's suicide prompts a recollection of empathy -- and hope

"I am, however, very blessed...."

Editor, Columbia Heart Beat: 

What a beautiful but so tragic letter from John Meadows about his son, Jacob.  Thank you for sharing it.  I'm not usually a writer, but the story John told really pulled at me.

I can't help but try to comprehend why this young man, who'd only so recently found happiness, would take his own life.   About his Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), which his father John discusses in the letter, I am empathetic. 

I have ADHD and was tormented as a young girl.  I could never understand why other kids didn't like me and would go out of their way to hurt me.  I tried so darn hard, too hard, to be liked.  I often hated my life.

It felt like something about me was just too unbearable for others to tolerate.

It became unbearable for me to understand or tolerate myself and I contemplated suicide many times.  My determined optimism, and not wanting to hurt my family, helped push me on.  I had no idea that I had an attention problem related to me being so "hyper".   ADHD was not a term anyone used or understood then, especially for girls. 

Jacob Meadows probably had a much more active mind than mine.  But his challenges remained, despite our (supposedly) more understanding school system.   I know from experience that too many of our school employees get exasperated with the often thoughtless impulsivity of students (and even other staff members) with ADHD.

I was a junior in high school when I finally began to make good friends and feel like I was somewhat acceptable.  Like the Ashland (Missouri) Band was Jacob's salvation, a job at Six Flags theme park was mine.   No one there knew me from school, and my high energy fit right in with my job expectations.

I felt so happy other people really seemed to like me! 

But still, my self-doubts lingered.  I also felt like I was somehow sneaking by.   When my friends really got to know me -- I thought -- they would see what a mess I really was. 

I worried my awkward words or actions
would inadvertently hurt someone or catapult me into some misunderstanding.   I never knew quite how those misunderstandings happened, but I did know that, in one way or another, they inevitably would. 

Jacob's misguided prank is something I can easily imagine.   When an ADHD person like me gets an idea, and we feel supported in even a small way, we tend to take it and run with it like a crazed rugby player full of intensely focused energy.

I can imagine Jacob having that blindingly-focused energy in pulling his inappropriate prank.

When his intentions were so misunderstood, it became completely mind crippling for him to think everyone he cared about would now believe he actually did such a ridiculous thing as issue a terrorist threat. 

It's all about those nagging self-doubts:   They really don't know you as well as they think , because otherwise they wouldn't love you or be your friend.  

I believe Jacob's suicide was probably the result of a blind focus to try to stop the craziness and ensure that others understood he would not want to hurt anyone.

There is a magazine and website called ADDitude that has been extremely helpful to me in understanding the intricacies of my own issues and challenges with ADHD.  

If you're interested, I recommend that you check it out

Maybe you can also pass on some of the insight they offer.

I have been completely challenged by ADHD, and recognized medication and lifestyle changes too late to salvage the career I'd worked so hard to attain. 

I am, however, very blessed to now better understand myself -- and fully enjoy the wonderful friendships I have. 


-- Barbie Reid


Barbie Reid is an educator and longtime Columbia resident.   In 2008, at the height of the economic downturn, she committed an act of communications kindness that saved one of Columbia's most beloved restaurants.


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