Mental illness, suicide and living for the life in the light

When I was a kid and my mother would do something stupid, my dad would put on one of Robin Williams’ films to make me laugh or to give me a sense of comfort.  Like so much of the world, he was like the father I always wanted and somehow my dad knew he wasn’t capable of being that at the same time.  It’s a strange thing.  It’s been over a week and I’m still coping with this, which somehow feels wrong, but I know it’s not.  I don’t think I’ve been affected by a celebrity death in this way before, honestly. 

The loss of Robin Williams has the whole world shaken up.  However, in loss it has created a much needed dialogue on mental illness, suicide and addiction.  A dialogue that should have been a lot more prominent long ago, but alas here we are now.  It took me a little over a week to articulate my thoughts, but I have some things to say and will hopefully bring in some light as well.

When we lost Robin Williams, social media was immediately flooded with helpline numbers for suicide and depression — words on the screen screaming GET HELP at anyone who scrolled down their feeds.  Here’s the thing, there’s an unspoken truth to suffering with a mental illness or addiction — the sufferer has to WANT to get help.  We know the help is there, but we need to be in a place where we feel safe enough to accept the help.  The other unspoken truth is, it’s an internal battle.  When you’re on that precipice in that dark place, no amount of screaming GET HELP at someone is going to save them.  We get to that place because life is so lonely we feel like we have nothing and no one to live for, and living for ourselves has become too exhausting.  So when that voice tells us to just give up, the end looks inviting.  As human beings, we all go through some sort of mental illness in our lifetime.  We are fragile.  Be careful how you push someone who is struggling.  The effect the struggle has on each person is different, so what has helped you will most likely NOT be the same thing that helps someone else.  Always keep that in mind.

I have severe depression, anxiety and PTSD.  My life has been one trauma after another since I was a child.  Often I feel like I’ve never had a break.  I can feel everything around me and I am easily triggered.  I’m so sensitive I cant even watch or read the news anymore, it sends me into a downward spiral. I’ve been in that dark suicidal place several times in my life.  A weird thing that happens when I’m in that place is, I flashback to this one specific time it happened when I was in eighth grade.  My brother’s best friend went through our house and removed every sharp or harmful object he could find. He just gathered it all up and walked out the front door. Someone who didn’t even really know me, did everything he could to save me.  I think of that day and somehow my unconditional belief in something bigger than you and me pulls me back.  My faith is the reason I could never end my life.  I was not given life to give up on it, no matter how hard it gets.  I’m not in charge of my time to say goodbye and I know that.  Basically what I’ve learned is, if you are still breathing, there is a reason for it.  That doesn’t mean that sometimes I don’t want to call out a day on life because the struggle is too much.  There have been many times my illness has made me want to cancel plans and tell someone I just can’t give them my time because the struggle is overpowering me that day.  I try not to do that.

In 2006 when I was given my family, it was like there was a crack in the sky, the light came in and the whole universe opened up.  I could breathe.  It was made clear to me almost instantly, that my illness is most significantly triggered by my surroundings.  When I’m stuck at home for weeks or months at a time, it’s bad,  but if I have a reason to be out, I’m just fine.  I’ve had people want me to promise them I’ll get help, or promise them I’ll go get medication, but the thing is I don’t want the medication.  I know that once I’m physically in a different place I’ll be fine.  And that’s why I’m doing everything I can to work on that.  The bad days are already starting to become few and far between.  I’m blessed.  I’m blessed because I’ve seen the life outside of the darkness and I’m going after it.  I’m blessed because even if I have a bad day, I know I have someone I could call to spend time with me away or at the very least someone to get on Skype or FaceTime to keep me company.  If you ask me, Skype and FaceTime in a world of long distance interaction is one of the only blessings of technology. Those moments of companionship, no matter how they come about are why I am here.  A quote I like, from The Hours, is:

“That is what people do; they stay alive for each other.”

So, I thought I’d end this post by balancing it out with just a small list of the things I live for.  If you are struggling, I encourage you to give this a try.

In no particular order, I live for:

  • Happiness.
  • Laughter.
  • Love
  • Knowing I can feel.
  • Knowing I’ve come this far and that’s not for nothing.
  • Music.
  • Art.
  • My heart family.
  • Watching my nieces and nephews grow up.
  • The strong women in my life who empower me.
  • Loving all the people I’ve had the opportunity to love in my life, even if they’ve left me.
  • Growing in strength, faith and spirit.
  • Opportunities to learn new things.
  • Seeing the world through different perspectives.
  • Traveling.
  • Being able to help other people.
  • My Disneyland adventures.
  • Getting creative and crafty.
  • Forming a connection with someone else.
  • The way that I feel when seeing live theatre and concerts.
  • Peace and relaxation.
  • Genuine understanding.
  • Being able to use my imagination.
  • Having the ability to express myself.
  • Sunshine.

The list is longer, but I’ll stop there.  Have you ever really thought about what you live for? Do it. Make a list. Put it up somewhere where you can see it.  When you feel like there’s no way out and no reason to be here, read it repeatedly.  This conversation is so much bigger than me, but I am here.  I can’t fix it, but I can make the best of it.

Rest in peace, Robin Williams.  Grateful you made me laugh — in darkness you were always a part of all the good for as long as I can remember.  Thank you for that.

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