When I first started this blog, I very distinctly remember sharing my reservations about this project with my friend D.C. On the one hand, I yearned to express myself through this medium, openly and honestly. On the other, I had this nagging feeling that such expression was somehow “wrong” or in poor taste. What if I upset someone? What if I offended someone? What if I over-shared and thus tarnish my reputation?
Honestly, as of today, I no longer care.
This week has been an odd one for news. Other than the ongoing calamity that is now the norm in politics in this country, we saw two celebrity death, both suicides. First, fashion designer Kate Spade and then, earlier today, chef Anthony Bourdain.
As I peruse the social media comments and attain a general sense of the public’s reaction to these events, I see something hopeful. When Robin Williams died of suicide just shy of four years ago, I noticed the conversation circled around questions like “How could he be so selfish?” and “What does he have to be depressed about?”. As if someone funny and successful people can’t have struggles or mental illness. This week, and especially today, I have seen a multitude of questions like “How do we stop this?” and “What is happening?”.
People are starting to wake up, albeit, slowly.
I’ve referenced on here, a few times, the importance of taking time for yourself, self-care and cutting negative people/situations out of your life (i.e. “protecting your energy” as we hippie folk say). This isn’t something I just decided to do one day. This came from a series of very key moments in my life. Moments that left an indelible mark on my soul.
Not so very long ago, I found myself in an incredibly dark place. A place so dark it was kind of scary. I was at this place in my life where on the outside, things probably looked alright, but inside I was slowly disappearing. No area of my life seemed to be going right. I was hitting road blocks. I felt like a failure. Even worse than that, I was starting to feel worthless. I was not okay.
And yet, even in the midst of that, I did the thing they say you’re supposed to do. Reach out to someone. So I did.
I called someone who I thought would be there for me. At the very least to listen. Maybe offer some advice. Something.
Instead, I got an earful about how I was selfish, spoiled, a cry-baby, weak, whining, and ungrateful. I was sobbing over the phone. They didn’t care.
Needless to say, that person is no longer a major player in my life and will be kept at an arm’s length in perpetuity.
What followed was several more months of darkness for me, eventually subsiding as I tackled issues, one by one. It was hard, but I am truly happy and proud to be on the other side.
While I didn’t get the help I needed in that moment, I’m learning that more and more people are willing to be that listening ear.
As suicide continues to skyrocket in our country, and more people battle mental illness, I truly believe the old attitudes (“We don’t speak of such things”, “Mental illness is a sign of weakness”, “What would the neighbors think?”) is being replaced with something that is not only more compassionate but also actionable (“How do I help a friend who is struggling?”, “How do we improve mental health care?”, “What resources are available?”).
As we grapple with these issues, my hope is that more of us lean into the hard conversations. Difficult topics like this bring up all kinds of uncomfortable emotions, but we have to find healthy ways to navigate that if we’re going to start healing each other.
1-800-273-8255 (National Suicide Prevention Lifeline)