In 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.