"Thank you for every kindness. Thank you for our children. For the first time, I saw them. Thank you for being someone I was always proud to be with. For your guts, for your sweetness. For how you always looked, for how I always wanted to touch you. God, you were my life. I apologize for every time I ever failed you. Especially this one..." - Chris Nielsen "What Dreams May Come"
Like most children of the 70s/80s, I first met Robin Williams on "Happy Days" and then "Mork and Mindy." I remember watching his standup comedy and realizing he was one of the few standup comedians that I really enjoyed. And then there were films like "Dead Poets Society," "Awakenings" and "Good Will Hunting." One of my all time favourite movies was "What Dreams May Come." It is completely overwrought, I know this but it has been one of those movies that has always given hope that great love is possible. That love can conquer the seen and unseen forces in our universe.
Depression is awful. And I can say that with entirely too much experience. In reading people's reactions to the passing of Robin Williams, there are 2 themes that I have seen - sadness that such a great talent is gone and anger that someone would take their own life. I can't speak to the great talent. I'm pretty great, but a comedic genius, I am not. But toying with taking your own life is something I have experienced, a few times. The first time I truly pondered suicide was in the 6th grade. I was abused daily throughout that year. I believe that 6th-grade girls are among the cruelest of creatures and unfortunately the queen bee in my class decided that I was to be the outcast that year. I tried to take my life 2 times that year. In retrospect, they were relatively half-hearted attempts and thankfully they were not successful. What I do remember most clearly about that time, however, was how sincerely I believed that the world would be a better place without me. Somehow I managed to white knuckle my way through that year, and things eventually got better. I wonder now though how much easier that time would have been had I gotten treatment for the depression that I was suffering. It didn’t even seem like an option to ask for help back then – this was the mid-80s and I was a kid who believed that no one cared about her.
Moving forward to college, I again found myself in that pit of depression. I pretended somewhat ok that I wasn’t in as much pain as I was but looking back at that time it is clear to me that drastic measures would not have been unfounded. I sometimes wonder what path my life would have taken if I had been able to get the help I needed then. Again, I held on by a thread but there were days when I would spend hours upon hours planning the best way to end my life. Again, I believed the world would have been better off without me. People say suicide is a selfish act but when you are in the midst of it – it feels like the most-selfless thing one can do. The times that I imagined ending my own life felt like I was doing the world a favor. I felt like such a drag on the world that I was being kind by removing myself from that situation. I can see how outside of those moments that I was completely and totally wrong but in those moments? I truly believed the world would be better off without me.
Eventually, the web of depression lifted for me in my mid-20s. Until recently, I would say the last time I really pondered killing myself was when I was 24 years old. I remember vividly imagining driving off of a bridge on 202. But I spent that day telling myself that if I needed to do it tomorrow, I could but for today, I wouldn’t. Eventually, the need lifted and life moved on.
Until last year. I would say that last year I was quasi-suicidal. I spent hours upon hours imagining how I would do it without the intention to actually do it. It felt like a relief, in a way, to spend my energy thinking of how to take my own life. I was deep in depression, and I felt completely powerless and hopeless to fix anything. Pondering my own death felt like one of the few things that I could control. Luckily, I actually sought treatment for that depression. I spent about 8 months on medication that helped clear away some of the cobwebs of despair and with time and a lot of work; I moved through it to where I am today. Happier than I have been in a very, very long time. More comfortable with who I am than I have likely ever been and hopeful for what the future may hold. And part of that comfort means that I can share my stories with others. I believe that the more people share their stories of struggle, of messy and of hope, the more that people won’t feel so alone and isolated. And the less isolated…the more interconnected we understand that we all are, the more help we can be to others when they need it. And lord knows sometimes we all need help….and kindness. Always kindness.