Fuck Suicide, seriously

I was avoiding the internets this evening because I didn’t want to be in a bad mood. Monday & Tuesday are the nights I hang out with H. But then Ryan called to tell me the tragic news that Robin Williams had not just died–he’d committed suicide. I knew that he’d taken some questionable movie roles lately, and I heard that he had relapsed. To me, drug addiction is almost synonymous with mental illness–mainly because I don’t know any alcoholics or addicts who aren’t also obviously diagnosable.
This is tremendously sad news.

We like to think of comedians as being happy people. But as I’ve said many times in this blog, good acting and clever humor come from insight. Insight can be terribly exhausting emotionally. Understanding humans can lead to all sorts of unpleasantness, from fear to sadness to frustration and anguish. Even if you just want to help all of humanity, the scope of it all can be crushing.

Depression, when left untreated (or ineffectively treated, which is way common), has a mortality rate of about 15% between suicide and fatal substance abuse. Bi-polar disorder has a lower suicide rate, mainly because it’s offset by a homicide rate of almost 10%. Again, this is for people who are not treated.

The top two reasons people don’t get help when they clearly need it?
1. Access. ie: I can’t afford it / don’t know where to go.
2. I’m “not crazy.”

This idea that you don’t need mental health care unless you’re in a murderous rage, are constantly hallucinating, or have a dual personality? I don’t know where the hell it came from, but it needs to go far, far away. The actual signs that you might need mental help may include:
1. Feeling like everything is too difficult, for days on end.
2. Not seeing the point of anything, for weeks at a time.
3. Feeling angry enough to insult or judge every person you meet–more often than not.
4. Unshakable sadness, anger, hopelessness, or fear regardless of the actual shape your life is in. Even if things aren’t going well, outright hopelessness is a sign that something is wrong.
5. Unable to sleep properly, eat regularly, or focus on something for more than half an hour–for days at a time.
6. Feeling like people only pretend to like you out of obligation.
7. Feeling like you never do anything right, or are a burden to everyone.
8. Buying things you can’t afford, followed by crushing guilt over it.
9. An inability to complete things that you start, often.

Notice that a lot of these have to do with feelings. When people feel some way that’s inconvenient to other people, they’re often told shitty things like “suck it up” or “everyone has problems” leaving the depressed person to feel even shittier. Feelings are serious. They’re why we do most of the things we aren’t absolutely obligated to do. Kids, you’ve GOT to pay attention to how you feel, and if you feel sad, angry, helpless or hopeless for longer than a few days–for fuck’s sake, talk it out with someone. There are hotlines, there are friends. Honestly, if you stopped 3 strangers on the street and said you were so depressed you wanted to die–I bet one of them would do something to help you. That’s how people are. When we can, we love to help others. Really.

As some of you know, I found out a few months ago that an old boyfriend of mine killed himself. He was a messed up guy, which you can tell because I dated him and that was my pattern back then.
Even when this happens to someone you don’t talk to anymore, there’s a tremendous sense of guilt, of helplessness, of wishing you could have said or done something to help. When it comes to depression and suicide, sometimes a few kind words really do make a life or death difference. Sometimes, getting someone through one bad day can keep them from considering suicide ever again. It’s infuriating to hear about a suicide, because it’s so goddamn preventable–if only you’d known, right?

I thought about suicide a lot as a kid and a teenager, a college student, and a few times after that. My attempts were half-hearted, mostly to demonstrate to myself that I did have some small modicum of control over my life–in that I was choosing to stay alive. Not everyone is able to do that. Not everyone has that support structure. Even when they do, sometimes that isn’t enough. Even a few hours alone can be enough time for a severely depressed person to spiral into darkness they can’t escape from.

When I feel particularly helpless, like I do today, I try to remember what I actually do to help people with mental illness. I think that writing honestly about depression and mania, about the impact that abuse has on people, and about how we all influence the behavior and feelings of others is tremendously important. A Stabbing for Sadie, while not an autobiography, certainly discusses things that I’ve dealt with myself. Kiss Me Like You Love Me shows us how vulnerable people can be corrupted by a life that’s devoid of compassion–with horrific results. I really hope that when people read what I have to say, that they’ll learn something about mental illness, and what it’s like for people who live with it. If my words lead even one person to be more compassionate, I’d feel damn proud of that.

Jim Carrey once said that he wished everyone could be rich and famous, so they could see that wasn’t the answer. When I hear about people like Owen Wilson attempting suicide, or Philip Seymour Hoffmann overdosing, or today’s awful tragedy, I have to believe Jim Carrey is right.

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