Tuesday, 12 August 2014

Carpe Diem

Years ago, I decided I wanted to volunteer. Give something back - try to be there for others when they needed a friend the most. So I went to an open day, did all kinds of role plays, met some fantastic people, and then had the obligatory interview. The girl who interviewed me reeled off all kinds of questions, to suss out if I had any prejudices (we all do, unwittingly or not) and whether or not these would float to the surface and obstruct my ability to be a Samaritan. Then she asked me, 'Have you ever tried to commit suicide?' It was somewhat of a shock. Mainly because I had anticipated practically every question - but not that one. The most obvious one of all.

I looked at her, blinked back tears and replied quietly, 'yes.'

It is perhaps the greatest of all the taboos - suicide - to discard one's life, seemingly without regard for your loved ones - all those you leave behind. Some call it 'selfish.' But they have no idea what they are talking about - as in the throes of depression, one feels that taking their life will in fact bring a calmness, a resolution - the only one they believe will work - and in doing so they will stop being a burden to all those who are trying to help them.

As a Samaritan we were taught to explore suicide - not to hide away from the topic. Most people don't kill themselves the very day they decide to do it. Most put a plan in place, get their things in order, or try and resolve situations, before they actually do the deed. The warning signs are usually those who have been incredibly down, who suddenly are very up: you would assume they are better, or 'cured' when in reality they have a plan in place and it has brought them comfort and a resolution - the light at the end of their very dark tunnel.

People assume that most suicides happen on days of celebration - like Xmas day. But that is also not true. Often when depressed folk have hoped that something - a holiday, a new job, Xmas - will work out, and then it does not, do they realise that hope is futile and there is only one way out.

If you have never been depressed - you'll never understand it. It isn't the same for everyone - but my bouts of depression (there have only really been 3 in my adult life, 2 post natal) make me unusually quiet. I don't want to interact, don't want to eat, don't want to tap into the joys of life. At those times I felt utterly numb. Like I was being dragged down to the abyss, unable to get air, unable to see anything further than the apparent tragic waste of me living. I wanted to curl up and hibernate and never wake up. Sleep was the only pleasure I enjoyed - a temporary respite from an otherwise anxious state. Depression clouds all judgement. It stops rationality, the ability to accept sympathy, the ability to empathise. It sucks the very life blood from your soul leaving you a hollow husk of sadness - a blank canvas with no colour.

It is time we talked more openly about being depressed, about all kinds of mental health - without fear of judgement, without pity, without shame. Often the loudest, happiest sunniest people are the ones with the darkest thoughts, the demons in their heads. They fool us all, whilst they can never escape, or fool themselves.

Today I awoke to the news that the incredible comedian, actor, father and husband, Robin Williams, had killed himself after a bout of depression; the outpouring of grief and tributes all state one thing - what a lovely kind man he was. He clearly had a devoted family and many friends, a genius talent and an enormous body of wonderful work. And yet, he is gone. May he rest in peace.

"I used to think that the worst thing in life was to end up all alone. It’s not. The worst thing in life is ending up with people who make you feel all alone.”

Robin Williams (as Lance Clayton in World’s Greatest Dad - 2009).


Dresden said...

This was so perfectly and beautifully said. Thank you

Anonymous said...

So true, and so very sad, that this man who clearly was not only a genius but a thoroughly nice individual (and those two things quite often don't follow!) couldn't find lasting contentment and get out of the dark pit of depression he was in. It is a tragedy that we have lost, well before his time, a real one-off. His poor family must be bereft.