Hello my dears! I know it’s been a while, but life happens and I needed some time to live it. But here I am: alive, exhausted, excited, and a bit saddened by the recent news. In case you live under a rock or were nowhere near some form of technology today, the great comic Robin Williams passed away today in what seems like a suicide. I’m still having a hard time wrapping my head around this, it just seems unreal.
July 21, 1951 – August 11, 2014
Any suicide, whether of a famous person or a “normal” person like you and I, is extremely heart wrenching. During my life at CAL, midterms and finals were known as suicide watch. We would get emails from the counselors on campus letting us know of their existence and of their extended hours during these periods. We even had RRR week (Reading, Review, and Recitation), before Finals week. Here’s the Office of the Registrar’s official definition for RRR week:
“Reading, Review, and Recitation (RRR) Week is the week following the end of formal class instruction and preceding the tart of final exams and is intended for students to have free time to prepare for exams, to work on final papers and projects, and to participate in optional review sessions and meetings with instructors. RRR week is baed on the pedagogical principle that students benefit from the time devoted to synthesizing the course material learned over the course of the semester.”
We the students new this as: time to catch-up on reading, finish assignments, review, review, review. It was a godsend, as it alleviated some of the stress; nonetheless, it was still rough. During RRR week and finals week, I would sometimes only run on 20 mins of sleep a day, or a combined 10 hours of sleep between the two weeks. It was hell, but RRR week helped. However, even with this extra week and extended hours for the counselor’s on campus, there was always a suicide. I don’t recall many during midterms, but in the 2.5 years I was at CAL there was always a suicide during finals. Kids throwing themselves out of dorm windows, overdosing, or finding some other way to alleviate the pain. It was sad. What was worse, is that the mourning of the student was felt by many (he/she was one of us), but only for a short term of time. Unless we directly knew the person, we would discuss it and state how horrible it was, but then go back to our studies.
I know. Horrible. We didn’t mean to be this way, but we too were going through our own level of pressure.
The one thing that always goes through my mind when I hear of a suicide is “Damn. It was that bad? What could be this bad to make her/him believe this was the only way they could alleviate the pain?” Situations like these take me back, to when I too thought that would be the only way to make the pain go away. Yes, I’ve had thoughts and considered it the best and only solution for everyone. I thought about it at early age, was ready to do it, but something pulled me back. I had to go to therapy for a while after that, it helped. As a teen, went through it again, I was tired, I couldn’t handle the pressure of people wanting me to be someone else. The pressure of not being good enough for my sisters (who at the time were my legal guardians), of not fitting in, of just being sad. Again, something pulled me back.
However, this action was followed by another that lead me to the doctor’s visit with alcohol poisoning. I remember gagging because of how horrible the alcohol tasted; however, I knew if I drank enough of it I would forget, or if I’m lucky I might feel good. Nope. Worst feeling ever. Worse sensation ever. Worse pain ever. Most embarrassing and traumatizing experience ever. After this I was taken to therapy again, this time it helped, I was finally diagnosed. Luckily this time around, I didn’t have to get on meds, I just needed to be back with my family in the US.
However, 4-5 years later I was put on medication. Many people around me didn’t know I was on medication, they didn’t know that my doctor kept changing the dosage on me because I couldn’t sleep and nothing was working. The cure this time around, quitting my job. After two years of little to no sleep, the night I turned in my two weeks notice I slept like a baby. I immediately got off of my medications.
After that I realized that working out helped a lot, but I mean a lot. It kept me from going “dark”. That was my “I”m never going on meds” cure-working out. I promised myself I would never take medication ever-again. I was so committed to this promise that even 3 years after this, when I had a very bad health scare and was slowly falling back into depression I fought my doctors on it. I remember they kept saying: “This is a lot for you right now, we just want to make sure you don’t harm yourself” my response through the sobbing “I’m not going to kill myself, that’s the last thing on my mind, I want you to find out what the hell is wrong with me because I want to live.” I was in the doctor’s office every week, sometimes twice a week, depending on how bad my physical symptoms got and each time they would try to give me those damn pills. Every time, I would fight with them and I would win.
My mother suffers from depression, towards the end of her life my grandmother did too. So, it’s no surprise that I suffer from it too. However, I have learned to be in tune with my body and mind. I can tell when the haze wants to try to roll in, this usually happens when I’m under stress, not exercising and not eating healthy. Thus, I go out for a run and stop eating junk. This usually helps, in those occasions when it doesn’t. I allow myself a “mental health day”, I don’t go to work or school, or anywhere. I just sit at home, relax, and do some soul searching. This usually involves, prayer, meditation, or sometimes a movie that will guarantee to make me cry. Sometimes all I need is a good cry. The next morning after my “mental health day” I typically feel better, refreshed and ready to make the changes necessary as to avoid going through that again.
I’ve had a few little meltdowns, but nothing that would ever make me want to hurt myself again, or nothing that couldn’t be handled by a run, chocolate, or a good old dance party with a friend (think Meredith and Christina). Yes, real people do that, it helps honey!
I know some people close to me, are finding out about this for the very first time. Others might think I’m completely nuts for posting something like this, but why? We all go through it in some shape or form. We need to stop making it so taboo, when we lift the negative connotation from it I strongly believe more people will be getting help. As it is, I read an article where it states that more people are seeking help, some use life coach’s, wellness coaches, psychologist, or even spiritual guidance through a practitioner. Whatever helps right? But this increase is stil a lot lower than the extremely high number of suicides per year, approximately 30,000 a year.
However, I think with Robin Williams, the case was different. He was a comedian, so everyone expected him to be happy, everyone expected him to be “on” if you must. I’m no professional, but as someone that has battled with depression, I believe this is what made it harder for him to try to seek help. How is it that the one that makes us happy, is unhappy? No way. That is just not possible; unfortunately, it happens a lot. When people tend to be the happy one, the strong one, the dependable one, it’s a lot harder to ask for help. We have titles to live up to, we can’t show signs of weakness.
This my friends is when I say to you: you need to learn to read those signs of weakness. All over social media, everyone is posting how sad they are about Williams’ death, how depression sucks, and how “hey if you feel sad, down, or alone, call me I’m here for you!” Ummmmm, I’m no Einstein but I think you might be missing the point. I know that the good intention is there and these folks might actually mean it; however, it’s not that simple. When someone is feeling depressed, alone or sad, they don’t always feel comfortable reaching out. In some cases they might not even know how, in others they just don’t see the point. This is were we, the friends, the support system, need to start paying attention. You might need to be the one to approach that person, its a tough situation and uncomfortable for both parties, but so damn worth it.
A real conversation always contains an invitation. You are inviting another person to reveal himself or herself to you, to tell you who they are or what they want.” – David Whyte
So; although, I believe all of you out there posting “hey if you’re depressed text me, call me, or IM me” are sweethearts, I think you might be a bit gullible. We need to start looking up from our smartphones every once in a while to make sure those around us are okay. Stop texting, emailing, or posting on your friend’s wall, instead call or visit them, hang out with them.
Awww, the good old days when we use to have real direct conversations with people versus text conversations (btw, lol, smh, and whatever other shenanigan is out there), through our phone or computer screen.
Oh and start saying “I love you” more often, you have no idea how much clout those three little words carry. Don’t just assume people know you care, tell them you do. I for one say this to my friends and family members every chance I get, this way if I die tomorrow there will be no doubt in their hearts that they were loved by me.
Show more gratitude to one another, praise one another, uplift, care for one another and the simplest of them all: smile to one another.
PS: Dear reader, please note that I’m in no way watering down the terrible illness that is depression. Not only am I well aware that what works for me may not work for someone else, I’m also aware that what works for me today may not work for me tomorrow.