Below is an excerpt of a post I wrote shortly after actor and comedian, Robin Williams committed suicide:
Depression is a void. It’s an abyss. It’s a chasm. It’s a violent, invisible storm. It’s suffocation while breathing normally. It’s walking through life as a person and feeling invisible while simultaneously feeling like all eyes are on you, judging you. Depression is smiling and laughing and doing what’s expected of you while counting down until you can crawl back into bed because you were exhausted before you even crawled out of it that morning. Depression is living and, not just feeling but, KNOWING you’re dead already inside and yet still hurting so much you’re blinded by it.
Now for the hard part of writing all of this: I still struggle. I’ve been struggling the last couple of weeks. This past weekend I was at the grocery store. It was a routine trip, and I was in the office supply aisle to pick up Post-Its. Next to the Post-Its were X-Acto knives. If you’ve ever known- or been- a cutter or person who self harms, you know several implements may be used, but there’s always a preferred method and/or tool. My arm holds the scars of hundreds of cuts. It’s safe to say, in the course of the years, I inflicted well over 1,000 cuts, digs, gouges, and burns on my body. So as I stood there, looking at Post-Its, my eyes landed on the thin blades. Normally I avoid the section of a store these knives are kept, but I really did need the Post-Its. There I stood, staring at an art tool that, in my hands, is a means of self destruction, and I froze. Instantly I had a physical reaction. I felt the cold blade across my skin so real, I could taste metal. But there the package hung, a small bit of metal encased in plastic and cardboard. Completely benign yet my insides were turning savagely. Begging my hand to reach out. I didn’t stand there long. I couldn’t. I walked away, my palms sweaty and mouth dry but no blades in my cart. I didn’t feel victorious. I still don’t. Because I wanted that knife so viscerally, I felt shame and the darkness and pull became darker and stronger.
Talking about what goes on in my brain is difficult. When I say out loud what I’m feeling or thinking, it sounds silly. Trying to quantify wanting to be alone AND needing to be connected to someone who cares without sounding completely nutters drives me inward more often than not. No two people experience or cope with depression in the same way. And those who have never dealt with the darkness may never come to terms with not truly understanding what it’s all like. But if you struggle, reach out. If you know someone who is caught in a losing battle, talk to them. Talk about anything. Physically reach out and wrap your arms around someone. We don’t have to understand why or what or how a person is dealing or not dealing, just being present- really present- can save a life. If you’re unsure of what to do, how to help, or where to get help, check out the Suicide Prevention Lifeline for resources. And for heaven’s sake don’t go all holier-than-thou on a person who’s contemplating suicide or self harm. Love them, hold them, talk to them, smile at them, give them a flower or pack of gum or one of those Cokes that has their name on it. Just don’t go all judge-y or preach-y on them. Trust me, they’ve been preaching to and judging themselves harsher and longer than you ever could.
It was a vulnerable moment for me, admitting the struggle and attempting to put words the jumble of everything going on inwardly. Some days are easy. Some days are impossible. Most days I don’t want anyone to know how dark or how often it gets dark in my head- they don’t need that burden and I don’t like being that exposed.
My sister, Sarah (the one in the ponytail), has dealt with her own dark places her whole life. Some of our dark places are from the same events, some aren’t. We’ve fought being close over the years because of the commonness in why we struggle, but we’re finally in a place to see and appreciate who each of us is, and embrace each other- flaws and dark places included. Our fight isn’t identical. How we fight and why we fight are vastly different. But we fight and recognize the spirit in each other to keep going. She’s the one who bought us the matching shirts designed by actor, Jared Padalecki to help raise money for TWLOHA (To Write Love On Her Arms). If you aren’t familiar with the organization, please spend a few minutes checking out their website. I’m grateful for people like Padalecki who are using their fame to help those who, many times not just feel but, are invisible to the world.
The top photograph of Sarah and me was taken when I picked up my shirt from her. Her boyfriend, Doug, was taking our picture and we kept shifting for the best angle. “Strong arms cuz we’re fighting!” I directed. We made our strong arms and then burst into laughter. Doug captured that moment of naked glee. Sarah kept trying (unsuccessfully) to point out a flaw she saw in herself in that moment. I don’t see it; I choose not to. I see two sisters. I see two sisters who love each other. I see survivors of unspeakable horror. I see two vibrant rays of light. I see two scarred, but beautiful women. I see two fighters.
Always keep fighting.