As most of you know, I consider all people with mental illness part of my Tribe. Suffering from a major depressive disorder and anxiety–I know the pain of the darkness. With love, support, therapy and psychiatric assistance–I have been able to move past those dark days. But some in my Tribe cant. And while its not always the case, most people in our Tribe have suicidal ideations….We think about the “S” word—often–but doesn’t mean we would do it….Some people have no idea what that’s like. During my last bout in the dark, when my meds stopped working, I was thinking about what it would feel like to just not wake up. I am open about my illness. I don’t pretend and I refuse to hide it. I am open to everyone about my battle. I am not ashamed. Now I am new meds and starting that fun roller coaster ride again……..
Sadly, while the majority *think* about suicide in our veil of darkness–some in our Tribe find it the only way out of the shadows. When a member of our Tribe dies—whether it be by their own hand, natural causes or whatever else–it hurts us all. When a member of our Tribe, whether we knew them personally, whether they were famous or our neighbor, departs this realm, all of us in the Tribe feel it differently than those who don’t suffer. We get it. We really get it. We have been there.
I will say this though, I do not believe suicide is a selfish act. I believe its an act of desperation. When you cant see beyond the veil. Nothing forward. Nothing back. Just a wall. I never blame the person who commits suicide.
In 2011 a coworker, who seemed so happy, left work early, went home, and shot himself. I remember the grief counselor coming in to talk to us. My coworkers all sat around the conference table and everyone had to talk about how his suicide made them feel. I was the only person who said I was angry. While everyone said how selfish he was, how he did not matter anymore. I was angry–I said it was because it did not need to happen if people were not so afraid to talk about mental illness to begin with. If my coworker didn’t feel ashamed–if when you asked him, “how are you” — and he gave a real answer–not just one to end the conversation–he may never have made that choice. My other coworkers didn’t quite get that. When I said that I had tried to kill myself when I was 14, they all gave me that judgmental “she’s a crazy” look.
I am going to state these statements–and they are based purely on my own feelings and thoughts towards suicide and mental illness:
1. Suicide is not selfish: Nor can it be ignored. People who take their own lives do so because they see no other option. Suicide is part of a much larger picture. Suicide isn’t something somebody does because “so and so” needed attention. Actually suicide doesn’t need to even occur. If the stigma about talking about your feelings wasn’t so blatantly destroyed in this society, less people would feel the only way out was taking their own life.
2. Suicidal talk is not just talk: If someone says, “I am thinking about ending my life,” the WRONG response is “well don’t talk about it, just do it.” When I told friends when I was in high school that I wanted to end it all–that was the response I got. Looking back-they were not my friends. The CORRECT response would be, “lets go and talk.”
3. Don’t blame the person: Blame the society we live in. Back in the 1800’s, people in my tribe were locked up in asylums and never spoken about. Why? Simple. Self preservation. How horrible would it be if Mrs. Smith divulged that her daughter was locked away in a “looney bin”? What a shame it would bring about on the family! So in the act of self preservation, our Tribe has to be made to feel like outcasts. Keep our feelings in less be judged. If a person decides to take their own life—its because they felt there was no one or no place to turn to. Imagine what that loneliness feels like.
4. No one dies in vain: I truly and honestly believe that death–any death–happens for a reason. Whether a still born baby–an elderly person from natural causes–a murder victim–and a suicide victim. The Universe does not take away without giving back--even if that giving back is hard lesson. And with suicide, most times, the lesson is about the stigma surrounding mental illness.
5. Don’t scurry around the issue: Nothing pisses me off more than when I hear: “X was going through a divorce so X was feeling really depressed,” “X had a severe drinking problem and went to rehab because X was depressed,” “X’s friend is in therapy so X just wants attention,” “X just moved to a new school so X didn’t feel like they fit in.” Lets not skip around the issue. All of those “things” X was going through—-the key word is X was DEPRESSED. It has nothing to do with mommy and daddy issues, the wife bailing and taking the dog, the asshole boss. Depression, believe it or not, typically has NOTHING to do with what is outside the person. Being put in a new situation, life stress, drinking, divorce–those can exacerbate the depression–but major depression, just like most mental illnesses are biological. People in my tribe cant help what they feel. Its like your happy as hell–your life is amazing–but your brain is telling you the opposite. Imagine a constant tug of war between your brain and your heart. Rationalism and non-rationalism. All the time. Non-stop. We cant rationalize what our brain is telling us otherwise because somewhere–our brain chemistry is on overdrive.
6. (I am going to take heat for this) There is no cure for mental illness: We can have studies up the wall. We can make members of our tribe human lab rats. But the truth is, Big Pharma knows it racking in the dollars–hell I am participating in their gas guzzling pill creating industry every time I pick up my Celexa, Valium, Ativan and Wellbutrin. Just like AIDS and cancer–if there is a cure—we will never know. Big Pharma likes the money they can make from our tribe. Whether we want to admit it or not. And Big Pharma’s know, that every drug they make–if it works–at some point people will be desperate enough to drop thousands of dollars on a medicine their insurance will not cover because its “experimental” ~ so what is the CURE. TALK. OPENNESS. When someone asks “how are you feeling”—REALLY give them an answer. Not just “I am fine.” No. Say, “I am depressed and I need to talk.” And if they really care, and if they really want to help break the stigma…….then they will listen.
No one needs to be the next Freud or Jung. All they need to do is LISTEN. Break the stigma by learning how to ACTIVELY LISTEN to how someone is feeling–don’t jump in and tell them “get over it, its ok,” or “your life is perfect.” No.
I am writing this post obviously, because of the passing of Robin Williams…a member of my Tribe. May he open the roads for the spirits to pass over……
Time for change is NOW.