depression

Counterbalanced 

They say that everything takes time. Trauma takes time. You just need time. It wasn’t something that I could’ve believed then, though. Hell, I still don’t. Some things there just isn’t enough time for. 

In the Aftermath, friends who’d suffered trauma said I just needed time and I didn’t believe them. And I want to ask them, when is enough time enough? How does the soul repair itself when it’s been through hell? And not just a one off moment of trauma but a lifetime of heavy, soul weary, trauma? When does the breath of ones being finally free itself from the binds of hell?

No one has an answer. Those well meaning friends don’t have an answer. The psychiatrist I was sent to could only tell me to read books but the answer I wanted, the answer I still seek, cannot be found any text – it never heals. 

We enter into this world with a soul, one we believe is all shiny and new, freshly polished. Depending on what religion you follow, however, that soul is as old as time or new as the days sunrise. 
What baggage has each soul carried with it from previous lives? What do we do to ourselves? What do we continue to put ourselves through? No soul is untarnished and with each passing day, with every little bruise, our souls become stained. With love? Trauma? Pain? Is it weary? Is it hopeful for a new life? A new day? 

I have been thinking of you a lot lately. I don’t know if it’s because this is 5 years, if this is date and day, or if I just feel your strong presence because our world is in turmoil and I seek something comfortable that I know. But I feel you and think of you daily. Repeatedly. And then, when I’m alone in a room and doing something, I see something moving out of the corner of my eye and I look and there’s nothing there. Is it you? Someone else I’ve picked up? I spent a childhood with dead people. I had dreams of people before they died. Am I a conduit? If only that were the case. I’d speak with my grandparents again. 

I don’t understand your pain but I understand my own. The anger. The absolute rage that I have because I was molested and people would deny that truth. For their own protection? Self preservation? I don’t know. I only know that I see you, your face. I see your pain, your death. I see your rage turned inward and onto yourself. 

You beautiful girl. How I wish I could ease your pain. 

You are with me every day. We are bound together. The girl who lived and the girl who died. 

I sometimes wonder if I don’t purposely hold on to you, your death, the gore. Like a security blanket, it’s something I can cling to for safety. A bit of an oxy moron to those who’ve never suffered but it’s a safe pain. Something you know and understand. 

I worry that I’m keeping you with me on purpose. And then for five minutes I’ll forget about you. And for five minutes I’m free. I can breathe. I don’t feel a weight tugging at me, a niggling reminder of my own impending death, my own expiry date. I am a helium balloon and you are a weight. We are counterbalanced. 

I used to worry that talking about you and what happened, that people would see it as attention seeking. I would go out of my way to not talk about what happened, to not even mention it. Again, how terrible that I worried more about the comfort and opinions of others instead of myself.  

First Nations believe that as long as someone tells the story, nothing is ever dead. And so I will tell my story. Maybe I won’t shout it from the rooftops (an unlikely pun) but a quiet whisper from my heart instead. 

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Let’s Talk

Edited to include a picture taken of me, a week after the suicide. I’d ot slept more than 28 hours the whole week. 
I don’t support the Bell Let’s Talk day because Bell doesn’t give two stuffs about the mental health of their employees. So they can shove this day up their rears. They’re hypocritical jerk muffins who are only in this for the PR. 

Having said that, I do think everyone should take the opportunity to discuss mental health, be it a personal story of their own, or a story about someone they know/love. 

I have had my own struggle with mental health. The causes have been varied but the one everyone knows because I’ve been somewhat vocal about it is – I witnessed a suicide. 
The woman who took her life was 30, beautiful, a successful lawyer at one of the best law firms in the country (basing this on how often their lawyers are nominated as top lawyer of something or other). She grew up in an affluent family, travelled, went to the best schools. On the surface she had everything going for her. Beneath the surface, however, she was living a personal hell that she probably kept secret from everyone she knew. 

Like many women, myself included, she was molested as a child. For many, there is a disconnect and you brush it under the carpet and hope you get over it. You know what’s happened and just hope to slough it off like dead skin, but you have not acknowledged it. The pain exists in a sort of limbo. It slowly poisons you and you make subconscious decisions based on that poison, without even realizing it. 

When you do wake up, when you do fully and consciously face the abuse you suffered, it makes or breaks you mentally. You either become stronger or the pain wears you down. 

Sadly, the young, intelligent, beautiful woman could no longer cope. And so she attempted to take her life. Unsuccessful, she checked herself out of the hospital, came to her workplace on the 27th floor, got to the roof through an access window, and jumped. 

Her pain ended with her life, yes, but that only started the pain for other people. Her family. Her friends. Her coworkers, one of whom ended up taking three years off work because of her own breakdown. And then me. The unfortunate witness to her death. 

In the movies it is portrayed as a slow moving and beautiful fall. The wind whipping her hair. Her fingers floating on the wind as you would out the window of a moving car. Perhaps a tear falling down her cheek. Some flighty dramatization of what we wish suicide by jumping looked like.  
The movies are bullshit. Death is ugly and suicide is painful, for everyone. 

For the briefest of seconds there is silence, then the most deafening noise, and then the quietest silence again as your brain, soul, eyes, and ears try to put together all that you have just witnessed and heard:
A body hitting the earth. 
That someone chose to place themselves there is beyond comprehension and yet, you saw it happen. You know what you’ve just seen is true yet your mind is lagging, unable to compute. 

Death by suicide is ugly. It is gut wrenching but not vomit inducing. There is an immediate pain inside you, location unknown, that exists, still to this day. That pain would be PTSD. 
In total I took five and a half days off work, what amounted to two weeks. I forced myself back to work because I was afraid of what people would say about me. I was afraid that people would think I was scamming or milking the time off. 
I was dying inside, trying to piece together the broken pieces of my soul. But I worried about them and what they would say about me. How insulting. That I spent even an iota of time on their opinions instead of my own health is insulting. But indicative of where we are as a people when it comes to illness, time off, mental health, and trauma. 

We take for granted how fragile our minds are. In one split second I went from a confident, take no shit person to someone who was afraid of the dark and tall buildings. 

The anniversary of her death is this Saturday. We have come full circle and on the 5th anniversary, the date of her death coincides with the day of the week on which she died. This is not lost on me. At the minute of her death I will be where I was then. I will try not to think of the pain I suffered, an impossibility, clearly, but I will try to think of her family instead. Because while I witnessed it as a bystander, some poor shmuck in the wrong place and time, they must live with the guilt they place on themselves – of not seeking treatment, not helping her, not calling her enough. They live with self induced torment. 

We tell ourselves and our friends, I’m here for you. I love you. Whenever you need me, just call. The fact is, though, we get busy and those who suffer with mental health issues, they suffer alone because they don’t want to burden anyone. 

We need to be a better society and take better care of our people. An illness of the heart is just as worthy of medical attention as an illness of the mind. People still look at mental health as either a joke or something to be feared. A man or woman living with schizophrenia cannot divulge their mental illness to a potential employer, are in fact terrified of them finding out, for fear of not being hired. Meanwhile, a heart patient thinks little of it. 

We need to talk. We need to normalize. Accept. Understand. We need to open our damn hearts and love. 

Don’t isolate someone who is suffering because you don’t know what to say, think it’s an awkward conversation, or it would make you uncomfortable. The best thing that you can do is shake their hand or hug them and offer them support with a mere few words. Because for their entire lives they have felt alone and isolation will only make that worse. 

Unresolved 

When you witness a suicide, you’re changed forever. You’re altered. It’s almost as if your DNA has been changed because things are no longer the same. The way you think, the way you feel, the way you approach life. The things people say. What once meant nothing to you now has more meaning than breath itself. Because sometimes you are left breathless by the tiniest of happenstances. 

I navigate around tall buildings and size them up. Where is the roof? Where would a body land should someone decide to kill themselves? I approach my own and plod forward, pushing myself to walk where she died. At times I am sleep deprived, still afraid of silence, still waking up to non-existent people standing over my bed. I still feel her around me, no longer a pest but a guide. It is not actually her that I feel but the shadow of her, burned into my soul. She is with me, always. 

Tonight, so close to her anniversary, a contractor needed access to the very roof she used to end her pain. I asked one of her (former) coworkers where the roof access was and advised there’d be contractors accessing the roof. 

I don’t know if they’re as hyper aware of people being on the roof since she died but I know I would be were I them. 

But then the contractor jokingly said to the coworker that when they were done they’d jump off the side of the building. 

Something changes inside you when someone you know kills themselves. You are forever altered. And the look on her coworkers face was evidence of that. He is forever altered. I bit my tongue and didn’t tell the contractor off because how was he to know? How could he? You don’t know what another person has seen or felt and we cannot traipse around the world, for all our given years, on egg shells. Life is meant to be lived, enjoyed, loved. A simple comment that has such intense meaning for us but none to him. It shouldn’t be held against him. 
And yet, it affected me still. More than I wish it could. And so I cried, losing my appetite as my tears fell into my pasta, I cried because I so wish his comment and her death could wash over and away from me. There is no 12 step program to death and grief. There’s no timetable of expectancy when it comes to loss and suicide. It just exists within you. Your DNA. Your fibers. It’s as much a part of you as your freckles and scars. 

Tonight, after I took that first step in overcoming my fear of heights, I sat down for my lunch break and cried. When I could breathe again, when I let it wash over me, I checked my email. There was a message from a complete stranger who had read my writing – not even the good writing that has been hidden from view – saying that my writing was a gift. How could you have picked today, of all days, to contact me?, when I chose today, of all days, to take that step out there?

I am forever altered, yes, but on this day my heart is full. 

Notes from my phone (again)

Tears inexplicably fell, as if they weren’t pouring forth due to my emotions but were little prisoners escaping for their lives. 
My sadness was so deep and palpable that a piece of music could, and did, move me to horrific sobbing, regularly. And not the that-time-of-the-month sobbing, but the sobbing that comes from so deep within you that each tear and each sob feels ancient, as old as your own soul. 
I listened to this music, nightly, in an attempt to free my tortured soul from emotions I could not comprehend. At 15 years old I was tired like an old fisherman. I wanted to lay down and sleep and never wake. I never wanted to die – I was far too in love with life and myself for that – but I was exhausted from holding everything in and spending nearly ten years pretending that everything was ok and being strong and resilient. Adults love to use that word when they talk about tragedies, sad things, or trauma that kids deal with. Kids are stronger than we think. They’re resilient. 

Kids are weenies but we say these things in order to ease our own guilt for what they’ve suffered and our inability to truly help them. There’s a process we all must go through to. 

I was living proof that I was not resilient or stronger than anyone thinks. I was dying inside and was too proud and afraid to ask for help. Anytime I thought I had a handle on my life, something else came along and screwed up the progress I thought I’d made. 

There was no progress, by the way. What I thought was progress was me merely building a Berlin-sized wall around my pain, hoping there would never be another 1989. That no one would attempt to free each moment in my life that had scarred, maimed, or bruised me. I had everything under neat, prettily wrapped paper and I appeared to be just fine, thank you very much. At least I thought so. To anyone else, I don’t know how it appeared. I’m sure at first I seemed fine but after a while, things became clearer. 

That I was treading water. 

The truth was that I was coming apart at the seams and I had no one to help sew me back up. A father who was busy with whatever flavour he was cheating with, a mother who was busy immersing her own pain, and a brother who was suffering an equal amount of coming-apart-ness. Our trajectories were not towards each other like normal families are supposed to be. We were going far and fast from each other, as quickly as possible. Each a reminder of the pain we suffered from, caused each other, caused ourselves.  

I hated them all. I hated myself more, but I knew they couldn’t help me, were unable to help me, and for that I hated them. We all had individual and together problems far greater than me. We were hopeless and broken. Not just broken as a family unit but individually, we were each broken. A China set that is cracked and broken, missing half its pieces, scraped and the gold trim is gone. We were ugly broken. And we were each unable to help the other, thus forced to suffer alone. 

The sad part is that it was an epidemic passed down. We learned from our parents how to be broken and that would be passed on to our own children. We were a family of not just heartbreakers but souls, too. We were soul breakers. Crushers. 

I had to hold it all together by myself, for myself, and there were days when I managed. Get up, go to school, go home, go to dance class, go home. But in there I suffered from such anger, fatigue, and pure mental exhaustion from trying to keep it together that making it home at the end of the school day was a feat. I slept on the couch for two hours. Get up, eat, dance class, home, lay in bed and cry for three hours straight. Repeat. 
I have never figured out how to deal with the size of the Berlin Wall that I built. All I’ve been able to do is fill in the cracks and build it higher to cover the ever increasing pain. Never ask a question that could topple it all. My emotional sanity rests atop a weird balancing act of trying to stay calm at all times, trying to be happy, trying to keep everyone else happy, and trying to protect my heart, all while continuously building and repairing this stupid wall. 
It’s become habitual, this self preservation. I wouldn’t even know how to deal with my pain now if I tried. There is so much more pain attached to other pain. I’m afraid if I pulled one out, the rest would follow like some cheap magicians kerchief trick, spilling out onto the floor and I’d be left cleaning up the mess alone while everyone stood there and watched, my pain and sadness, fragility and frailty, a spectacle for all to see, watch, and comment on in hushed whispers. 

Blink

At night, when the lights go out, it is then that the shadows emerge. Reminding me I am merely temporary in a world of forever. A blink in time, my self forgotten, remembered by no one, forever carrying on without me. 

The shadows cause anxiety, panic attacks, cursing humanity for being conscious of their selves. I squeeze my eyes shut to try and silence my brain, my fears, my anxieties, and try not to picture you, choosing to start your forever so early on, but there you are, on the inside of my eyes, and I remember I cannot escape the shadows. They, you, are forever part of me. And I cry. I cry for you, me, us. I cry for you, your soul, your consciousness, wondering where you are, if you feel, think, exist beyond me. I cry for me, the pain I’ve caused, the pain I’ve suffered, the unknown to me. I cry for us and our woven tapestries. I cry and cannot help the tears to stop falling. They exist as I do – blessedly, magically, mysteriously. 

How painfully long our forever is and our here is but a second. 

And I spend these moments with you, as always, wondering where you are. I carry your pain with me and mix it with my own, painting a canvas on my broken soul with our broken hearts and our sadness, intertwined. 

Glue

I am damaged. Of that there is no question. I have been woven back together through sheer will to carry on, but I have not been woven back together properly. There are pieces of me in the wrong spot, out of place, shattered so completely that they are missing altogether. And I feel like I am lost. That there is a map to it all and I could escape if only I had the right page. But there isn’t and I’m still lost in this wasteland of empty space, alone with her, and an electric current that reminds me I’m alive but that that life is oh so fragile. Now more than ever I fear for that fragility. For myself, for my unanswered questions, for those left behind.

It could’ve been anyone up there. It could’ve been her, it could’ve been me. The wind rushing against her face. My face. It sometimes feels like it was me.

My thoughts, every day, are there, with her. I am there, with her and with me. Not a day goes by where I don’t think about it. And every night I am woken, still, from the sound of a body hitting pavement. So loud a sound for something so soft. Falling, weightless, like a feather. And then a door slamming in the dead of night. And it echoes. But it’s not a door and my eyes must be deceiving me. I could not have witnessed what I did and yet she’s there, and I’m here. And there’s a woman screaming outside but I’m not. How is it that I didn’t scream. How did I not lose my mind with grief and horror? I am on the phone and I’m still calm and I’m having to look at her face and now I can’t look away because I know her. I know her and I watched the last moments of her death. I watched.
And in the weeks that followed I became so immersed in her loss and pain, the pain she felt and the pain she caused me, that I was drowning and couldn’t get air. I was choking. I could feel the air, the life, the love leaving my body. I was shattered. It was then that I was woven back together, some pieces in all the wrong places, but I moved on. I pushed myself to exist, not because I wanted to but because I had people relying on me to continue. And it was horrible because there was such emptiness. My drowning had such depth that it took months to claw my way to the surface. And I lay there, unsure of how well put together I was, knowing only I had to accept it and move. Just get up and move. Move.
She was now part of me. She was the glue that put me back together and I hated it. I hated that I used her pain and our loss as the mortar for my soul, that cracked, fragile existence. She is part of me.
I live for them but she is the driving force, she is what pokes me in the back, pushing me, reminding me that it could easily have been me on that ledge. It could’ve been any of us. But it wasn’t. And it never will be.
Damaged though I may be, I will not let the shattering of my soul be for naught. She is my glue but they are my life and I live for them.

Robin Williams

image

I’m trying to wrap my brain around why it’s so shocking that Robin Williams would (apparently) kill himself.

Not that we shouldn’t be surprised when anyone takes their life, we should. It’s VERY shocking and goes against the nature of life. But people are extremely shocked by this news.

I can only guess it’s because Robin is so big. He seems to be this huge man, with this huge presence, and he’s always been honest about his life and his battles, yet so very private at the same time. He’s a movie star and he’s made us laugh, and he’s made us cry deeply. I think, though, it’s because Robin reminds us all of someone in our lives so to have that life taken away, especially by his own hand, is harder to take. 

He’s a huge movie star but you just know that if you saw him in a restaurant and offered to buy him a beer, he’d say no and then spend the next few hours sitting with you and your mates, talking and laughing, telling stories and You would walk away from the night completely blown away by how amazing he was, but wouldn’t have learned a thing about him. He’s like that uncle we all have. The one we’re more close with than anyone else in the world. It feels as if Robin is part of our family because we have welcomed him into our homes and our lives; his beautiful face and his beautiful laugh. That laugh, when he puts his hand to his chest and leans back and his head tilts a little to the side. His eyes crinkle up and he squints just a little bit. His laugh seems so genuine and hearty. He seems real in a world of false idols. He’s imperfect in a world that strives for perfection at all levels. 

I read somewhere, possibly from Williams himself, that comedians are the unhappiest of men and that they use comedy to deflect their own pain. I hate using the word demons but I just can’t help but wonder what demons could take this beautiful soul from this earth.

The most tortured are the clowns. I refuse to call this man, this iconic legend, a clown, though. He’s a beautiful soul and he had what very few people in his profession have: humanity and humanness. He was real. He was funny and sad and he was genuinely real. 

Okay, you remember that scene in Goodfellas when Ray Liotta and Robert DeNiro are over the moon that Joe Pesci is going to be a made man because they can’t be (darn their mixed blood)? And then Joe is killed and they just collapse? That’s Robin Williams. Robin is this every day real man and he makes it to Hollywood, despite everything. He’s our champion. He’s flawd and hilarious and so incredibly real a person that you feel as if you know him. You’ve spent your entire life knowing this man and now he’s gone. As my friend G put it, it’s as if we’ve been punched in the gut and this glorious person, this gifted man, has been taken away from us. Worse, by his own hand.

May his soul find the peace he could not and may those remaining on earth take solace in the legacy he leaves behind.