August 13, 2014

The unfathomable aftermath of suicide

I'm sitting here at my dining room table, staring at the LA Times, the one with Robin Williams on the front page. I can't bring myself to read the article about the loss of this great man. It's just too depressing.

Suicide is something you can never ever ever take back. To those left behind in the unfathomable aftermath it's surreal and confusing. To the one who does it, it makes the most sense in the world. The only way out. Freedom from the demons.

No, I can't read the article or any other articles about Robin Williams' suicide because it's too close to home. I've been there too many times. The plotting of how to do it, the begging for courage to do it, the wailing and tortured sobs asking God to take my life so I don't have to, and the utter desolate loneliness. It's gross. All of it. Just horrible.

Addiction and depression go hand in hand. We know this. It's nothing new. It's not rocket science. But this is the way our society deals with inexplicable things: cover it up, look the other way, eat a hamburger, go shopping, pop a pill, get another prescription, drink some wine, smoke some pot -- but whatever you do, don't look at the real problem.

I've suffered from suicidal depression since I was a teenager. I drank and used drugs for over twenty years until I finally got help. And nine years later, I still suffer from suicidal ideations -- only much less frequently because I've made a full-time commitment to my mental, emotional, physical and spiritual health. But even with all of this, I still get those soul-wrenching thoughts. I don't know why. I don't know why death seems like the most rational solution to pain. I can't explain any of it because it makes zero sense.

There was a time when I joked that the Suicide Hotline knew my phone number by heart. Those wonderful humans saved my ass on several occasions. Strangers. Just regular people on the other end of phone who didn't know me from a hole in the wall. They took my calls and listened to me cry incoherently. They gave me suggestions; small practical steps I could take in that moment to calm down and find a dust mote of hope. I'd come to realize whatever insanity I was feeling in that despicable moment would eventually pass, but killing myself would be permanent.

It doesn't matter how much you're loved, or how well you're doing in life, or how much you work out, eat right, go to support groups, or work on yourself, when the overwhelming darkness seeps into the soul it's almost impossible to see your way out. Especially without a light source. These days, I cling to my faith in God. A lot of people don't want to hear that. They want to keep trying to figure it out on their own. I've never been able to figure my way out of depression. I've always had to ask for help and it has always come in one form or another.

I'm praying for Robin's family and the millions of fans he left behind. Most of us are walking around with a pit in our gut and a lingering sadness. It doesn't matter how much we read about it, we'll never understand why -- because it makes zero sense.

There is help out there. In many forms. Here are a few places you can start:

Suicide Hotline: 800-273-8255
Pastor Melissa Scott:

My friend Paul Gilmartin, of the Mental Illness Happy Hour Podcast, wrote an article on the subject you can find by clicking here. Also, his podcast is exceptional and listening to it has helped me tremendously. Check it out here: Mental Illness Happy Hour.

Keep writing. It saves lives.