Yesterday, Robin Williams’ spark was extinguished, and his death has impacted me in ways that I cannot begin to enumerate. On a superficial level, I am truly saddened that the world has lost a comedic genius and big-hearted philanthropist, as we need all of the laughs and love that we can get in these tumultuous times. On a much more personal level, his suicide has dredged up some intense memories and feelings that are the impetus for this particular post. I am not, and cannot, speak for Mr. Williams, but I can speak for myself, and so, I shall.
Let me make clear that what is to follow is not intended in any way, shape, or form to be an excuse, justification, or validation of Mr. Williams’ decision to choose death over life. Rather, this is my attempt to share a glimpse into my own personal abyss of depression and anxiety that took me to the brink. I write this to exorcise the demons that his story has resurrected and to possibly provide some insight and understanding into the complex issues of depression and suicide, and most of all, I hope that this helps at least one person, either someone who is struggling with similar mental health issues or someone who loves a person who is fighting for his/her life. If I fail to do so, I apologize.
This blog has chronicled parts of my own journey, which has included my bouts of depression and anxiety and my recovery, but I have never written about the night when I made the decision to live instead of die. It is something that I never planned on sharing, but something about Mr. Williams’ death has inspired me to tell this story. I just hope that I can do it justice, and I hope that I can be brave enough to publish it.
As I have said countless times before, my world imploded three years ago, and I sunk into what can best be described as an emotional quicksand of anxiety and depression. I first sought help for depression when I was 18 years old and thought I had it licked, but I thought wrong. This time, in addition to a reoccurrence of the depression, I also experienced anxiety for the first time in my life. It was a disastrous duo, and I was caught off guard how swiftly it consumed me and wouldn’t let go. Despite an incredible support system and access to mental health resources and treatment, I couldn’t loosen their grips on me. I was going under, and I wasn’t sure I would ever escape.
Everything came to a head in the wee small hours of a summer morning that found me inordinately alone in my own home. I sat in the cover of darkness in the middle of my living room, hugging my knees to my chest so tightly, that I thought I would crush every bone in my body and shutting my eyes so tightly in a desperate attempt to stop the tears from falling, that I thought my head would explode from the pressure. I was not just crying; I was wailing. The sound of my guttural cries filled my home with a visceral pain and hung in the air. It was suffocating and soul shattering.
I am not a particularly religious person, but I found myself praying. I prayed for a miracle to occur and that the pain that swept through my mind, heart, and baby soul would cease, but it didn’t. I prayed that the tears would stop, but they didn’t. I prayed that I would be transformed into someone else, but I wasn’t. I prayed that I would be transported to any place other than where I was at that moment, but I wasn’t. When my prayers seemingly went unanswered, I began to weigh my options, one of them being death. A rational mind would have been able to conjure up countless other options, but I did not possess a rational mind at that time. I was truly insane.
There simply is no way to describe the amount of emotional pain I was in, and all I wanted was relief right then and there, not later. All of the support, therapy, and love that I had received up until that point were lost on me, and I could not quiet my mind enough to allow in any positive thoughts or to be able to practice healthy coping skills. Once death was on the table, it seemed like it may be the best option. In my madness, I believed that it would be the most loving and selfless final act on my part. My friends and family would no longer have to worry about me, and my daughters would not have to live with the stigma of having a crazy mom. I felt like I would be easily replaced, and they would be better off without me. I did not feel worthy of their love and support, and no matter what they said or did, it was like an invisible force field shielded me from feeling the positive impact of their words and actions. I wanted all that they had to offer me, but something made it feel like it always was out of reach. I also felt like I had absolutely nothing to offer anyone in return. I was alone in my pain, while they were helpless bystanders.
As my reasons to die began to outnumber my reasons to live, I felt an eerie calm come over me. I then began to weigh my options of how I could depart this world and find the relief I so desperately sought. It was sheer and utter madness. Call it divine intervention or what have you, what happened next saved my life.
As this unsettling calm set in, my sobs began to subside, my thoughts slowed down, and my body began to relax a bit. I took this tiny respite and ran with it, literally and figuratively. Something deep inside of me urged me to get up off of the floor and get out of my house, if I wanted to live, and even though I wasn’t sure that I really wanted to keep going, I got up and instinctively knew what I needed to do and where I needed to go. I headed to the sacred space that is my beloved River Road.
If this were the movies, as I drove, I would have experienced a profound spiritual awakening or received some kind of a divine sign, but this is reality, and neither happened. What did happen was that the peace and quiet and serene surroundings provided just enough of a break for me to begin to breathe a little easier and to think a little clearer, and while I kept death in my potpourri of options of how to handle the depression and the anxiety, it remained just that, an option, not a final resolution.
I returned from my drive and crawled into bed, and before I drifted off into an uneasy sleep, I made the half-hearted decision to live. I still wasn’t sure how to go about the business of living or even if I could honor my decision, but I decided to hold on nonetheless. I continued in therapy and reached out more to my family and friends, and I fought back with everything I had. It was hands down the toughest thing I ever have done, but slowly and painfully, the darkness began to give way to the light. There were plenty of times along the way when I questioned whether or not I had made the right decision, but I stuck by my decision.
Today, I honestly can say that I am grateful and glad that I made this decision, and while I am far from perfect, I am in a really good place overall. I don’t know why I am one of the people who survived, and whenever I hear of someone committing suicide, I have a sort of survivor’s guilt, at times, but I have no regrets. I no longer struggle daily and have made the transition from survival mode to thriving mode, and when my old demons reappear, I am better able to deal with them directly and send them on their way much more quickly and adeptly than I was three years ago. My struggles and recovery are not unique, and I know that if I can get through this, others certainly can and will. I only wish that Mr. Williams and all others who have gone before him had been able to live in peace. Fare thee well, O Captain, my Captain.
That’s another story . .
Categories: That's Another Story