All of this stuff about Robin Williams. About how sad. How impossible. How one of the funniest people alive could be overtaken with the darkest shadow of despair. The disease. The selfishness. The question that we won’t be able to answer until the other side of time about whether depression is a fatal disease or a mortal sin. It makes me sad. All of it.
I have struggled with depression for years. Even as a young child I remember feeling like whatever Thing was overtaking me was more than I could bear. I remember crying hot tears into my pillow and wishing there was a way out. Thinking I could just stop breathing and holding my breath until I nearly burst. When life got real, as I got older, it got worse. I tried different medications. I went through different highs and lows. I do know, without a doubt that my depression was linked to my hormones. And now that I have begun to tame that Ugly Beast, I haven’t been sinking as low. But I can taste it like it was yesterday. The moments in time when going on seemed like the worst possible idea. When everyone around me could only benefit from my absence. I can feel the pain in my chest of just KNOWING that I didn’t want to take one more breath. I made more than one plan. Succinct and efficient. To have the least dramatic repercussions on my family. Disappear into the woods, an “accidental death” of hypothermia or drowning or maybe even a car wreck. I considered everything. Who I didn’t want to find me dead. The cleanest way to go. What I didn’t want anyone to deal with. I worked it all out. I remember chanting to myself, over and over again: “it’s a lie. It’s a lie. It’s a lie. Wake up one more day. Just one more.” Somehow, every time, I did. Sometimes I fought the fight with myself for days at a time. Sometimes, I reached out for help. Sometimes, I was told to deal with myself. Or that I was crazy. Or to take more drugs. Sometimes, I got a hug. Or a look in the eyes that said “stop it. we need you.” Somehow, I always found my way out of the shadow. I know how powerless I felt to get away from the lies and the weight of the impossibility of moving ahead. The senselessness. The uselessness. The utter hopelessness.
Every day isn’t sunlight and roses now, but every day I find things to be thankful for. I am not in pain. A debilitating pain that ruled my life for more than 2 years is gone. And the shadow is gone. Maybe only for now, but God willing, for the rest of time. I am thankful to be here. For the second and third and sixteenth chances that I get. I am thankful I can tell my kids “stop it. we need you.” If they ever need to hear it. Or hold their hand if the shadow overtakes them. But most of all, to UNDERSTAND. I get it. I know those last thoughts. I know that desperation. And some Grace Unseen has stayed my hand every time. Even against my will..
Maybe it is a disease, or maybe it is a sin, but either way, it is real, and either way, I know how much I needed help. Someone. A rock. Some words in my head. “stop it. we need you.” Christians and atheists and Buddhists and Muslims all commit suicide. No demographic is entirely exempt. No age category or gender. We are all susceptible to this shadow. Wherever it comes from.
There is something as human beings that compels us in life – all different expressions and directions, but it moves us to be something. Looking at the life of my great grandmother, and thinking about the intense desire to Be Important that almost suffocates me, I start wondering if she had that. Really, in the big picture, she wasn’t that important. She didn’t change the course of history or birth the future president. But she is important to me, two generations later. To my cousin. To my kids, she is a legend. I wondered what more she could have done to be “globally important”, and really, who, after all, is “globally important”. I thought about great writers, and the impact they have on generation after generation, but I wonder if some of our greatest pens are big nobodies on the other side of the world? So even great writers have a limited effect. Which is overwhelmingly disappointing for me. I mean, I get pretty stoked when I see that I have readers in Canada and for some reason, China. But to write words that would be repeated around the globe for several generations? There’s a lofty aspiration. It’s a lot for a girl who wasn’t sure three months ago if she could face another day. But planning to write for an Entire World is much more exciting than being dead. It just is. And I would rather be overwhelmed with that objective than by a shadow that I cannot control. And getting words out has worked better for me than any drug I have tried. So I will keep spouting my answerless questions. You can read them or not. But every word that I type takes me a few letters closer to where I am supposed to be. Out of the shadow and into the Bright Sunlight of Hope, off to impact the world, even if it is only my own little one.