I posted this on my Facebook page last week and decided to share it.
I haven’t written about Robin Williams, but I saw an article and thought about how clueless people are about suicidal ideation. RW admitted to having bipolar depression. It is very likely, given his history, that he started having symptoms in this late teens or 20’s. He was 63 years old, so he has been plagued with this cruel disease for 40+ years. Alcohol and cocaine didn’t cause his depression; they were coping mechanisms for the depression and anxiety.
In major depressives, suicidal thoughts are not something you get when you had a bad day. They just linger in your brain for days, weeks, and sometimes years. Fighting these thoughts everyday slowly strips layers off of you, so that even if you seek treatment and the thoughts stop, you are a shell of your former self. It’s like you’re holding up something heavy, then someone comes along to take over the load. You are no longer holding it up, but your arms still ache.
A few years ago, I watched his interview with James Lipton on Inside the Actors Studio. He would talk seriously for just a minute and then launch into his one-of-a-kind improv. I felt like I could see something in him that day—a deep sadness. I was concerned about him, knowing of his issues with depression. When I read that he had died, I was shocked. I just kept seeing that interview in my head and remembering him.
Depressed people are very good at wearing masks.
If you have a troubled friend, ask them privately if they are having suicidal thoughts. They will likely say “no” many times before saying “yes,” but you have to keep asking. It gets easier when you admit it aloud and can speak frankly about it. After a while you can have the conversation without tears. That’s how you help someone. Talking about suicide is beyond difficult, but it’s so important.
Who would have thought that such a simple question would have sent me into a tail spin? Just that one question has me looking at my entire life in a totally different way. I spend a lot of time contemplating things in my life, trying to understand why something happened the way it did and how I contributed to the outcome. This one question made me realize that after high school, I waited for life to come to me. I was not driving the train, but a mere passenger.
How do I see myself in 5 years? I have no idea. I’m a girl without a plan.
I actually wrote a post a year or so ago about how I had no idea where my life was headed and that I didn’t worry about it—I would take it as it came. Looking back, I realize that this is a terrible way to live life. When I was in high school, I was moving forward: preparing for college; participating in extracurricular activities; joined groups to learn leadership skills. I had a plan.
Sometime along the way, I stopped moving forward and started living day-to-day. If I am honest with myself, I know that the stress of everyday life ramped up my tightly controlled anxiety to the point where I could no longer hold it all together anymore. I just needed to get through each day. That is what you tell yourself to keep going. Unfortunately I got stuck in that mentality and didn’t even realize that I wasn’t moving forward. How can you see the future when you are focused on the sun setting and the end of the day?
This one question has helped me understand so much more than just my lack of direction. Last fall, I realized that I needed help and I am seeing a counselor who never lets me wander to far from getting the plan in place. I realized that I’m a real pro at evasion. Is it any wonder that I have been stuck on a sandbar for so many years?
Comfort in the Familiar (2009)
The tips of her fingers brushed the spines of her books
standing guard upon sturdy shelving encircling the room.
The iron bed was spread with Battenberg lace
and the requisite matching dust ruffle.
Hearing rumbling outside her door,
she took a peek down the long hallway.
Surely something exciting must be happening,
as there was brightness where once darkness.
With hurried steps, she went to the shelf
opened the lid to the oak box holding the key.
Growing impatient, she clumsily unlocked
the shackle attached to her ankle.
Ignoring the disapproving stares of her people,
she tip-toed into the hallway.
Her fingers calmed her trembling lips as
gilded frames gave way to ebony and glass.
Her pounding heart deafened her ears,
she reached the end, or maybe the beginning.
She found her room decked out in modern design–
it was both shocking and intriguing.
Image By Anthony Zierhut
Shielding her eyes,
she raced back,
slammed the door shut,
clamped on the shackle,
returned the key,
before collapsing into the overstuffed chair.
© Liza Bennett
All Rights Reserved