Wednesday, August 13, 2014

"Genie, You're Free"

When I heard of Robin William's death, I was shocked. A man that has graced my generation with his humour and wit has been taken away from us. I can only believe that he is in a better place, a place with no suffering and no pain.

In many ways, the above quote sheds two different rays of light on not only Williams' passing but the stigma of depression and such mental health issues in our society today. On one hand, Williams is freed from his pain and suffering, from his depression, from his demons. On the other hand, his family will forever live with the grief that a husband and father has been lost. In grief, there seems to be no freedom. At the same time, in pain, there seems to be no freedom either.

People hearing of his death are divided on whether or not suicide is the "right" answer. It is a controversial topic, especially among people like myself who believe in the Catholic faith.

My feelings for this event, though I have never personally met Williams, is overwhelming. I think this may have to do with my own suffering, my own demons. Something that I have always tried to hide.

Personally, I would like to admit that yes, I have gone through depression. Yes, I have seen the darker side of my days and no, it was not easy to face. It is something hard to admit, especially to my family, because we believe in facing up to our problems. Toughening up. Finding help if you really need it. Never to give up.

And admittedly yes, I once found myself in my own despair because I did not want to face up to my own problems. I toughened up against people that were willing to help me. When I needed help, I refused it. And time and time again, I gave up.

I can tell you that not everyone's depression "experience" (if you could call it that) is the same. It is dependent on personal experience most of the time - how things affect you, how things hurt you. It is personal and cannot be generalized. The umbrella term of "depression" is actually more complex than it actually is.

For three and a half years, I found myself on the slippery slope of depression. It may have been my already anxious nature colliding with past experiences of bullying that something inside of me occurred.

There is no way to explain how I felt, other than to illustrate it. I would wake up on a sunny day but it seemed like I had my own personal rain cloud. It followed me like a shadow that I could never outrun. There was a hole in my heart that gradually got bigger and bigger. There was a pain that I could never explain, and I constantly tried to push it away. To my peers and teachers and family, I would try to pretend like nothing was wrong. Because in half of my mind, nothing was wrong. I was normal.

The thing with pain is, it demands to be felt. Pretending like nothing was wrong only worked sometimes. This resulted in non stop arguments, pushing people away, and hurting people in the process.

In the months that followed, an already over emotional teenage girl got thrown around even more because of this depression. I was actively pushing away help. At the height of it all, my family lost my grandfather. He had been sick for the longest time with dementia. The last time I saw him in person, he could not remember any of us. He could not remember my dad, his own son.

When my grandfather passed away, my emotions were heightened exponentially. Around the same time I had thought of suicide, to try and escape my own problems. I knew that in a Catholic family, this would not go down very well. Even though I knew it, I never stopped thinking about it. I could not shake the fact that God had given me something so dark to deal with.

To make a long story short, when I thought I had nowhere else to go, there were people following me every step of the way. There were people willing to give me a chance and willing to help me. I am so grateful for them - they listened and helped me. I received counselling for nearly two years. I found that I was good at talking about these things, and talking about it helped me to open up to people. It taught me to trust people again.

The result? I graduated, safe and sound. I have not had a suicidal thought in nearly a year and a half. I still have mood swings and days where I just want to stay at home, but above all, I guess you could say that I conquered the monster within.

 I hope that with this, people never have to think that what they are feeling is wrong. There are people ready to listen. Listen to each other, help each other out. Never belittle what another is feeling. We never know what is really going on in a person's mind - be open and accepting.

And to those going through the storms of life:


Never forget the good things God has planned for you. Rest in peace, Robin Williams. You will be missed.

So carpe diem, my friends. Listen to one another, care for one another, and spill more ink while you do. I hope that we can destroy society's stigma on mental illness and create a society of caring and understanding.

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