On The Crook of Suicide

32200_1483682895135_1745734_nIn the wake of the apparent suicide of Robin Williams, I have been appalled by the vitriolic commentary aimed at him, and virtually anyone who lives with mental illness. There has also, blessedly, been many who have written with immeasurable grace about the darkness of depression, mental illness and suicide. This is not a post about what to do if you or someone you know is suicidal. There is plenty of information out there about that (although I will provide a few links at the end). No, this is personal. This is my story. This is about how my path has sometimes diverged into incredibly, dark–and nearly lethal–places.

Suicidal thoughts, depression, and anxiety have plagued me off and on since my childhood. I attempted suicide when I was 14. At 19, I was so close to ending my life that I voluntarily walked into a facility where I stayed for five days. After intense therapy and prescription medication, I stabilized and did well for many years. Depression was still a constant companion but for a long time I wasn’t wishing I was dead. Then 2001 hit. My inner world seemed to match the outside world at the time. I was rediscovering many hard things that happened to me as a kid, my relationships were in shambles and so was my soul. Not only did I consider killing myself, I begged God to take me out.

I remember at a young age believing the world would be a better place without me in it. That I was a mistake, an accidental blip on the human timeline. There are a myriad of reasons people attempt to or succeed in taking their lives but this was my reason. I wanted to correct a wrong. I was trusting the voice that said I couldn’t do anything right, that I was a hopeless case, far too broken to be fixed. The longer I listened to that voice, the louder it became and the more “logical” the option of suicide seemed. I believed that I would be doing my loved ones a favor. In the midst of the sickness, I believed I loved them so much that if I ended my life they would be able to be happy. I don’t remember it ever being about ending the pain. I was sure, in my hurting mind, that I deserved the suffering, but they didn’t.

And even, as recently as, early this year I fought back the beginnings of those whispers. Thankfully, I recognized them early, sought therapy, and tweaked my medicine. Most importantly, I have an incredible community who have loved me in and through the darkness.

Obviously, as evidenced by the sad passing of Robin, no one is ever totally out of the woods with mental illness. There is no magic formula that works for everyone. Not only do we have to be on guard with a storehouse of helping tools, we need the people in our lives to speak up when they see us sinking. We need the stigma of mental illness vanquished. We need to accept that some of us need medication and that’s okay!

If you or someone you love is struggling with suicide, please hear me.

You are not alone.
You are not too broken to fix.
You are needed.
You are loved.

Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 (TALK) or visit the website here.

This is a great Ted Talk on the stigma of depression.

Sui generis?

photo by pitter painter

(My lack of posts since the last one are not because I’ve had nothing to say. I’ve actually had so much on my mind that I’m not so sure how to consolidate the firing of my synapses into readable material. I have started several drafts which I’ve then hastily abandoned for one reason or another…So…Hi again!)

I have been thinking a lot about uniqueness. It’s possible this is a result of the obsessive way my husband and I have been consuming Battlestar Galactica on Netflix. A few late night marathons observing the Cylon clones interact with the human race can mess with your mind.

So, I wonder are we really unique?

For me this is dangerous territory because I have spent the last decade or more believing and preaching that we are all different. That every person has a special “calling” or purpose they are meant to fulfill. We are each “one of a kind”, right? This idea, however, seems to unravel as I encounter more people along my journey. I meet these new people and I’m reminded of someone I’ve known before. I see personality doppelgangers everywhere. So and so reacts to conflict the same way so and so does…she is passionate about _____ just like ______…he treats women the same way ______ does…and so on and so on.

I don’t like this train of thought at all. I want to be different. To stand out from the crowd. Perhaps out of some false belief that this somehow means that I matter. Most of us feel this way. I know A LOT of people who freak out if someone tries to label them (i.e. “Call me a hipster, hippie, feminist, or–insert much hated stereotype here–and I will break your face!”). Seems a bit extreme but things can get heated when it comes to our identity.

I had to find my way out of this maze of deconstruction and I think I discovered it in the wee hours of the morning (rather than sleeping). Maybe there are a numerous amount of women and men on this tiny planet who see things as I do, who get lost in their own head, avoid conflict like it’s the swine flu and interact with the world in the same way as me. And maybe that’s okay.

While our personalities may be near copies of one another, I think what really makes us unique is our stories. I may be built like you in many ways, but we are not made up of the exact same memories and experiences (good and tragic). At the same time, I believe the pages of our lives connect us to each other in ways that we really don’t understand. Try it sometime. Tell someone your tale. Listen to theirs and you will find intimacy.*

*I would warn that one danger here is when we find ourselves comparing our scars to someone else’s. Measuring our pain against the tragedies that others have experienced and concluding that our wounds are worse can only leave us stuck in victim mode. But I think this subject is fodder for an entirely different post. I’m sure I will have more to say later. 😉