Yesterday, in the early afternoon, I got a Facebook update from one of my friends that falls withing what I can best describe as a Mental Health support group in which many struggle with depression that has its roots in many diverse areas such as childhood abuse, sexual abuse, isolation, drugs, alcohol – the list of “reasons” go on and on though in the end I don’t know if it matters what the reason may or may not be, it is simply enough that we managed to find each other and build bonds across the airwaves. The update was a message that Robin Williams had died – suicide. Without thinking of appropriateness, all I could write in response to this update was “Fuck, fuck, fuck.” That was it.
Lost in early morning thought. Photo by Maureen Longpré.
The response was visceral, a gut response that told me after the initial shock wore off that a “trigger” had been touched. I waited some more and finally I was able to put up my own “status” message:
“Robin Williams’ suicide has shaken me more than I care to admit. Depression and denied darkness claim too many. He was two years younger than me. Perhaps it is the writing through my own denied darkness that has left me too sensitive. Thinking of My brother, Lawrence (Larry) who also lost his battle with depression.”
It was simple and direct, and it left out more than needed to be said. However, it wasn’t long before others began to post their reactions to both my status update and the news of Robin William’s suicide. There was one (well more than one, but I need to control this post or it will get to convoluted and perhaps become too much for you to read) response by Brent Alan Erwin, also known as the “Chief” whose words stuck with me even as I walked with my wife through the prairie countryside for a few hours. Along the walk we were both quiet, lost in our own moments of walking meditation with my thoughts turned towards the Chief’s words and my thoughts that grew out of them. Before I get to my response, here are the Chief’s words:
What is DEPRESSION?? I’ll tell you what it is for me. It’s like waking up in a prison, a prison with no walls, no doors, no cells, no bars, no windows, so therefore there is nothing physical to escape. It’s solitary confinement. We didn’t ask for it, it comes without warning, it turns the light into darkness, the quiet becomes deafening. Alone becomes Lonely. Your faith becomes another failure, your hope is hopeless. You feel guilt & shame because you have it. You want to be understood not stood down. Jim Morrison said it best ” Like an actor all alone, A dog without a bone, a Rider on the Storm, Crying won’t help, praying won’t do us no good. I will not bore anyone anymore with my rants,my raves, my pains, But keep in mind, when it chooses you, do not say you never knew* – CHIEF
A tunnel of light through darkness.
Failure, hopelessness, a prison, darkness, guilt and shame – To be a father and find yourself sucked once again into the darkness, knowing that your children and spouse stand by helplessly while you spiral deeper into a dark hole, leaves you with a bitter taste that is wrapped in guilt and shame. It seems that there is no way to put on the brakes. Brakes happen only when one hits the bottom. Even then, it takes a while for the mind to register that it exists, that others exist. And with the return to awareness, begins the slow process of crawling back into the world of the living hoping that somehow in spite of the crash that bridges haven’t been burnt.
Guilt and shame. Those are two broad paintbrushes that add to the detritus that needs to be navigated in the return to some sort of mental balance and participation in the real world. Thankfully, for me, my children and my wife, as well as extended family and so many others are there for me when I make this return voyage. I cherish these moments with those who care for me, who love me in their own ways in the face-to-face world and the distant world reached through the air waves. I learn to relax and trust again and belief again and hope again. Yet, I keep an eye open, glancing just outside the peripheral edges of sight for the approach of the next dark hole.
Robin, thank you for your presence in my life from the days of Mork to last night’s viewing of the World’s Greatest Dad where you took on the challenge of bringing your voice to the issue of suicide.