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.
Isolation by Karen S Thompson
Last fall I noticed several articles about how living an isolated life can affect a person’s mental acuity. I was concerned because I started to notice that my mind seemed addled and at times confused. Reading these articles I realized that I have been isolating myself from the world. I rarely left the house and tended to spend most of my time along in my room. The internet was my source of the outside world.
I lived an isolated life for many years, but about 5 years ago I returned to college and just being with other people added so much sunshine to my life. I enjoyed the intellectual discussions with my instructors and classmates. I felt so confident. I started communicating with old friends on Facebook and life was good.
Towards the end of my schooling, I had reoccurring health problems that really made the last year very difficult. I struggled but finished a year later than I had planned. I found myself closing ranks, battening down the hatches, unfriending all my old friends, and I stopped writing in my blog because I was afraid my “crazy” was going to come out in my writing.
I was utterly humiliated that I had returned to a life of isolation and depression. I didn’t want anyone to know that I spent most of my time sleeping and reading the news online. I had my degree (finally!) and no more excuses. Why didn’t I have a job? Why am I still living with my parents? Deep inside I believe I am a person who could be doing great things, but I feel like I’m wearing a fat suit. I can’t breathe and I can’t get the heaviness off me.
So I’m hunkered down, going out once a week to see my counselor. She gives me tasks to do each week and tells me that I shouldn’t care what other people think of me. It has been difficult. For years I hid the fact that my life was mired in depression, anxiety and extreme fatigue. My hair was done and my makeup perfect. My family and friends had no idea until I moved in with my parents after my divorce. All I could think was “Everybody Knows!”
I am working on getting past this and know that I can turn things around. It’s all up to me.
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?
I created a page today for my first short fiction, The Long-Reaching Arms of Circumstance. (there is also a link in the header)
I wrote this story in 2008 for a Creative Writing class. The premise is real, but I filled it with fiction to try to understand what might have happened in the past. I created a persona for the main character, John, to enhance the story and make it logical. This story deals with suicide and it’s effects on people, even generations later.
This is the only story I have written, but I have spent many hours dreaming up stories in my head. I plotted this story out in my head first, so I knew where I was going, which made it much easier to write. I haven’t read it in several years and have worried about it’s historical accurateness. Please leave comments if you wish. I would love to read them.