By Gordon Woodworth, Chronicle News Editor
Four years after attempting suicide, WCKM radio personality Dan Miner sat down with The Chronicle to talk about his 35-year struggle with depression, and how getting professional help turned his life around.
“I never thought I’d see 50,” he said, sitting in the press box at the Glens Falls Civic Center before an Adirondack Flames hockey game.
The long-time hockey public address announcer and Whitehall native is station manager at WCKM-FM 98.5, and hosts the morning show with Pete Cloutier.
He said he has struggled quietly with depression since the age of 14. “I was sad all the time, even when things were going well.”
Even when his Whitehall Railroaders football team was beating Mechanicville to win the Section II, Class D Super Bowl — Dan was a standout lineman and linebacker — he had persistent dark thoughts.
“Did I love it? Yeah. But I never fully grabbed hold of it and experienced absolute joy.”
‘Planning my death for 30 years’
“Depression is more than just being sad,” Dan said. “You have no self-worth. You feel like you are someone not worthy of actually being happy. It was a common theme for me. I had been planning my own death for more than 30 years.”
When the Adirondack Frostbite UHL team was playing here, Miner got to know Coach Marc Potvin, a former NHL player climbing the coaching ladder. Potvin had a wife and young children.
“We had numerous conversations about our struggles,” Dan said.
In January 2006, in the midst of a Frostbite road trip, Potvin killed himself.
“When Marc’s end came, it hit me very hard,” Dan said. “I knew the things he was doing. I had done them — things like saying goodbye to friends without saying goodbye. Praising the work of co-workers…I had done that.
“It hit me hard, but his demise kept me alive. I saw the devastation that it caused.”
Still, Dan suffered, mostly in silence. He yucked it up with Cloutier on the radio, at the station which calls itself the “Home of the Good Guys.”
“One of the first things they teach you when you become a radio personality is when the microphone opens, make sure you’re smiling, because people can hear you smile,” Miner said. “I still put on a happy face, but…”
He still thought he could tough it out.
“Rub some dirt on it and get back in there” he said. “Be a man. Everyone wants to think they are tough, right?”
So, he put on a happy face.
Like running in quicksand
“Operation Santa Claus kept me going,” he said, mentioning the local Christmas charity that WCKM raises money for.
“My grandkids kept me going. My wife Lisa encouraged me to get help.”
But he says he refused, and pushed Lisa and others away.
“It’s like running in quicksand,” he said. “The more you try to get out of it without help, the farther you sink.”
On Nov. 7, 2010, Dan says, he tried to end his life. “I’m not proud of it,” he said. “I’m embarrassed. People were disappointed and angry and shocked at what I did. But where I am today is a direct result of that. Without that, I’m still struggling.”
He spent a week in the Behavioral Health Unit at Glens Falls Hospital, and then was an outpatient at Four Winds for two months.
“I was diagnosed with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and severe depression,” he said. “My father was abusive, and the PTSD was manufactured by my depression.”
Miner gets emotional when he talks about his suicide attempt and the effect it had on those closest to him.
“It was the worst thing I’ve ever done to my wife,” he said. “She is one of the few people who have always had my back, and I do this. I don’t deserve her, and she deserves a lot better than me.
“We just celebrated our 20th anniversary. She encouraged me to get help many, many times, but I told her I could tough it out. But toughing it out never works.”
On his second day in Glens Falls Hospital, he said his step-son Sean called him.
“He was mad. He said things to me that made me realize it was time to turn my crap around. He hit me in a great spot.
“…I had to finally admit to myself that I had a serious problem. Sean found the right words, and I had to do it. I had no choice.”
‘Had a broken brain for 30+ years’
Dan says his counseling at Four Winds “helped me put names and words to things I knew I was feeling but didn’t understand — like anxiety. I started to understand my feelings. And when you find out you’re not broken, it’s such a relief.
“I don’t understand what the stigma is about mental illness. If you break your leg, you go to the doctor and get it set. But we don’t think about the brain the same way.
“I had a broken brain for 30-plus years, and I tried to treat it with Band-Aids.”
He took some time off from his Civic Center PA duties and his radio job.
“I was working for me for the first time in my life,” Dan says. “I focused on one thing — being a better me. I never worked as hard in my life as I did at Four Winds.”
He made progress in counseling, and like many who deal with depression, was prescribed Zoloft. “I got very lucky, because they found the right dosage right away.”
He also started seeing Jenny Rovetto-Dean, a psychotherapist, who worked with him for two years. “She’s awesome,” Dan said. “When you talk to someone who doesn’t have a horse in the race, it’s different.” Slowly, he re-emerged.
‘Truly happy for first time in life’
“I am truly happy for the first time in my life,” Dan said. “I take great joy in everything now. One thing I learned was to stay in the moment. What happened yesterday is history. Today is where it’s at.”
He said WCKM owner Clay Ashworth was the first person other than family to visit him in the Behavioral Health Unit. His longtime radio friends — Cloutier, Kenny Lecesse, John Pratt, Brian Delaney, Lee Pecue, Mike DuBray and others — along with what he calls his hockey family “have my back, but more importantly they have helped me have my own back.
“And Lisa, she didn’t give up even though I pushed her away. When you are planning your own death, you don’t want an audience. I’ve lived most of my life with an audience, I didn’t want to die with one.
“The fact that I still have a family is unbelievable. It’s inexcusable what I did. But today is today.”
He and Lisa have five grandchildren and three children: Sarah and her husband Sean, Sean and his fiancée Lindsey, and Steve and his wife Avery.
Dan said they help him keep things in perspective. “I won three New York State Broadcaster of the Year awards prior to 2010,” he said. “The one I won after meant so much more.
“And last year, I was invited to play in the old-timers softball game at Derby Park for the Lewis Super team. I never thought I would ever step foot on that field again. It was very emotional.”
He was named MVP. “I got three hits and made a bunch of spectacular plays at the plate,” he said.
He played catcher. “I’m too fat to move,” he said. “I have put on some weight since being on the medication, but I figure I can be fat and happy or less fat and not as happy. I’ll be fat and happy.”
On the fourth anniversary of his suicide attempt, he wrote about his experiences in a Facebook post: “Four years ago today, I came face to face with my biggest foe. Me…I didn’t give up. I just couldn’t take it anymore. Fortunately, I chose life. I am the happiest I have ever been.”
His advice for those who might be where he once was? “You owe it to yourself to treat yourself better,” he said. “Seek the help you may or may not need.
“I knew I would talk about this eventually, and if one person seeks help because of me, I’ve done my job.”
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