My Leap List

Friday, August 15, 2014

The Path to Hell and No Good Intentions: Suicide, Robin Williams, and Me

        I have not been well lately.  Truth be told, I have been in a dark place.  I haven't been here for so long I naively thought I wouldn't have to face these demons again.  I could list the reasons why, but really, they are no worse than usual.  In a way that makes it worse because I don't have a reason to be here.  Maybe I needed a reminder of the darkness.  When Robin Williams died this week, it physically hurt.  I thought, "If he could let go, what hope is there for the rest of us?"  The past few days have tarnished the joy he brought us by harsh judgments to him and his family.  That stigma weighs heavy on my soul from the many people I love that have faced the same abyss.  
     I have written about this before, but as a part of my past, or as my family's current fight.  All week I have thought about writing but worried about the impact it would have on my family, my friends, my students, my career.  I had convinced myself to write a post and not publish it so I could talk about it without the judgment, but after all the judgments being shared in the media, I can't add my voice to theirs by remaining silent.  
     The darkness hit hard and fast.  I didn't even realize how hard until I was standing alone waiting for the train.  When it approached, I had to keep myself from jumping in front of it.  I didn't even know I was in the darkness.  On the return trip, I had the same thought.  The next day I caught myself thinking random thoughts of suicide.  I thought about how it would affect my kids.  I was in such a dark place, I found myself thinking if they died too, I could still take care of them on the other side.  When I hear about parents doing this, I have never understood how someone could be so selfish to take their children.  I would never do this to my kids, but now I know the depths of the pain that drives someone to that decision. 
     Yesterday some people I love reached out to help me with part of the problem without even realizing I was in such a dark spot.  It involved travel across the state, a late night phone call from a friend after his twelve-hour-work-day, e-mails, and texts.  It ended with me humbled by the offering of grace in the darkness.  The difference we can make for each other without even knowing.  We are here to truly see each other and support each other.  Their kindness and love unknowingly brought me back to the light.
     It makes me sad that we continue judging each other.  When will we learn that we are all connected to one another?  Everything we do ripples into each other’s lives.  What I do affects you and what you do affects me.  Rather than judge each other, we should reach out in compassion and love.  
     It's a sad world if we let our egos rule.  When egos rule, we judge the perceived weaknesses in each other so we can feel superior.  It is only a worldly emotion that gives a false sense of superiority rather than the true feelings of accomplishment that come from helping others.  
     It is also a sad world if we let fear rule.  If we fear that mental illness or depression is contagious, we let people suffer needlessly.  
     When we judge, for whatever well-intentioned or misunderstood reasons, we make it more likely they will turn to permanent solutions.  When you are lost and alone in the darkness, you literally can't feel the love of everyone around you.  You think everyone is better off without you in their lives.  It is a visceral emotion screaming from pain and fear.  It is not logical in any way.  You may have felt this way if you have ever had intense physical pain and you stop thinking logically and just react emotionally to the pain because it is so bad.  Once the pain subsides a bit, you can return to thinking logically and realize that you weren't in your right mind before.  Depression is the same way.  If by chance you do have a moment of clarity and reach out for help, hearing and seeing the harsh judgments of being "weak", "selfish", and "unforgivable" add to the feelings of despair.  When you already feel alone, hopeless, and like a burden to everyone; hearing people confirm your worst thoughts about yourself makes it is easy to decide the world is better off without you.  
      If you feel people with mental illness or depression are "weak" or "selfish," I am so very glad that you have never been in the darkest pits of hell.  I hope there isn't a time when you have to be there yourself or follow someone you love into the abyss.  I have been there myself a few times, and I have worn a path there continually leading out the people I love.  Rather than spend my time judging the ones who have gone before and the ones who struggle now, I will climb out of the darkness and then go back for the ones left behind.