[Warning: Mentions of suicide and depression.]
I’ve been struggling to write this for several days now, and it’s kept me from my regular postings that I’d planned for last week. The truth is this topic has been on my mind ever since I was shocked by a text from my sister telling me about Robin Williams’ death. His was one of the no, you can’t be serious exclamations and that despite my MSNBC hiatus at the time, I immediately turned on cable news to find out the latest.
I wouldn’t say that I was a true fan of Kate Spade or Anthony Bourdain, although I knew at some point I’d introduce them to my children. My daughter loves designing her own outfits, has made pocketbooks out of t-shirts, and has her own wonderful style. My son, while not keen on cooking as a chore, he does love to try new foods, and made a chicken stir-fry with ramen as well as helping his sister with her vision of chicken alfredo.
For myself, I didn’t pay close attention to their careers, even though Anthony Bourdain gave me the knowledge to avoid restaurants on a Monday night, and when not to order certain foods. That stood out in my mind, no time more so than when I was eating out on a Monday night, whispering to my husband, we really shouldn’t be here today. It was less admonishment, and more asserting my knowledge as Jeopardy contestant.
As someone with clinical depression who continues to take medication and see a therapist, I am always struck with the equivalent of an emotional lightning bolt when someone loses their battle with depression. There but for the grace of G-d, and all that.
The first thing that people who have no understanding of depression say is Kate and Anthony have children. How could they do that to their children? Why didn’t they think of their children? When I was deep in suicidal thoughts, I thought deeply of my children. I thought about what they could do with my life insurance money. I thought that they’d be happier without my mood swings and lethargy. Even today, I try to make up for the moments lost with my daughter as a very young child because of the interference of the depression. At the time, the only thing that kept me here was the thought that they wouldn’t have the money to replace the one car we had.
But it was still a struggle.
For anyone who reads me here, I liken my depression to a recovery process. Kind of like twelve steps, but twelve steps in different orders, and directions, and each series of twelve steps is interrupted by other steps that no one tells you about until you trip over them, and then one day you wake up, and get to start again, but you don’t realize it until you’ve already completed two steps that didn’t need to be completed or that needed to wait until after this new step, oh, and by the way, have I showered today?
There were dozens of news reports and articles detailing what not to say to someone with depression as well as an equal number of what to say to someone with depression. Be ready when they reach out. Reach out if they don’t. Don’t be too pushy, but don’t be too complacent. Don’t talk about how their death will affect you, but tell them how much they mean to you. Don’t tell them to feel better, don’t give them advice, don’t ask what you can do to help, but do all of these things. You’ll know what to do.
Well, guess what?
You won’t know what to do.
I live with depression, and I don’t know what to do for others.
Like many of you, I posted the Suicide Prevention Hotline number and a variety of websites and chat lines, and I hope that whoever needs them will use them. As pollyannaish as those memes and graphics saying how much you are loved, and if you’re looking for a sign not to kill yourself, this is it, sound, they actually worked for me in that moment when I saw them. They were a sign, that I needed, and heeded, and appreciated. So I continue to post them as well.
It’s easy to think if this celebrity or that celebrity that has seemingly everything going their way can’t handle it, how can I? Well, you can because your low moments are different from theirs. They may have looked at you and thought what a great life that person has. Perspective is something that we all need, but we all see different things from our side of the fence.
I have my religion and my writing. I have my mantra – it will be okay. I have Julian of Norwich and Mary Magdalene, LIn-Manuel Miranda, Misha Collins, and others that reach out in their own public ways and isnpire me, mostly to simply take a deep breath, and then take another, and try again. Take one step and then another.
You have yours.
Share them here in the comments. You never know when someone is looking for another coping tool, and yours may be the one they need.
Before I go, I will leave you with something that writer/actor Wil Wheaton says about depression: Depression lies. Whatever it’s telling you is a lie. Don’t listen.
So, come into the light, just for a moment, and see things differently. Talk to a friend. Talk to a chat line. Talk to a professional. They are here to help.
I’m here to help as well.