Picking My Outrage Battle: Depression & Suicide
I stepped away (okay, clicked away) from working on my latest class and spotted a news story from over the weekend. Apparently a "YouTube Star" - Logan Paul who makes a ton of money touring the world, setting up stunts, one-upping himself with the cray-zay, and basically "OMG!" reacting! to! stuff! with his face! in front of a camera! in a! crazy! hat! and posting it for millions to see, visited the "Suicide Forest" Aokigahara near Mt. Fuji in Japan, - which is known for being a place where many Japanese people go to end their lives, and actually found the body of someone who had very recently died from suicide.
Granted, his lil' circus posse did call the authorities. But then rather than turning off the camera or leaving the immediate area out of respect for the deceased and their devastated family (who might not have even KNOWN yet), they zoomed in close. And just blurred out the person's face. And then talked about how CRAZY it was in the Whole! History! of Crazyness! That Nobody! Could! Top! This! talked about how crazy it was and his hands and how recently this happend, whatnot, and then proceeded on to a parking lot and drank sake, and asked your kids and mine (his regular audience) to subscribe to his channel.
Thankfully the vid was taken down, and I didn't see it. Good thing, because instead of suffocating outrage I probably would be in my car on my way to kick someone's ass. But I have read several second-by-second descriptions of it, and it sickens me. It sickens me that the one and only serious statement he made was something like, "dude, mental illness isn't a joke." But then proceeded to make a joke out of it, by zooming up close to the tragic and preventable death of someone who was a person with a family and a future and people who loved them whether they could see that or not, and made fun.
ZOOMED IN CLOSE. AND MADE FUN.
I know there's a lot to get worked up over as the year 2017 moves off (tyvm) and a brand new bright shiny year with lots of hope and possibility and sparkles rolls in (ah just in time), with politics and the economy and the NFL and puppies and the housing market and suffering and starvation and war and injustice all over the world. If I got worked up over everything I probably SHOULD, I would not be able to get out of bed. So we have to pick our outrage battles.
Joking about suicide or making light of depression is one of my outrage battles. I know too many people, love too many people whose lives have been destroyed by mental illness, by uncontrolled depression, by suicide, for me to EVER think that this would be okay.
Depression is a lifelong struggle for many people. It's an invisible killer, and comes with a truly staggering level of pain that's impossible to describe, but must be built over, moved around, carried on with day by day, hour by hour. It's a monster that always lurks.
I've talked before about how things for me are up and down, and that sometimes down comes without any warning at all. When it comes to depression, I am firmly on the side of "keeping it real", and so REAL is what you are going to get.
Truth: I was feeling off-ish all morning on Sunday (Dec 31), and by the time we got to church, I asked everyone to go inside and I'd be in there in a minute. And then I just sat in the car and fell apart. Everything crashed at once and I just couldn't breathe, couldn't stop crying. Couldn't stop feeling desolate and desperate and filled with pain. Here is the text I sent to my bestie, as tears were running down my face:
12:23 p.m Sunday
I am sitting in the car outside my church building, and I need to write to someone. I choose you because you get it. The air is getting cold around me, but I can't bring myself to get out and go inside and smile. At a time and place in life and circumstance that I should be happy and peaceful I can see the gap with my reality most clearly, and maybe that is why it hurts more. I feel sad, so sad and desperate, with a hollow longing for SOMETHING, for a nap, or for rest, or an OK you can put down your burden for a bit. I'm tired, mama. So tired.
I then did what I know I HAD to do: go somewhere safe and sleep. I texted my people who were already inside, and the people who were planning on me being at church (all of whom know about the struggle and have given me extra-generous compassion), and went home. Cried. Slept. Felt better.
So that was me 3 days ago. Right back there again. Not to the darkest of the dark places, but enough that I was debilitated by it for a whole day and night. You probably know I've been on meds and in therapy for 14 years, and on and off for years before that. Nobody should be fooled by now into thinking that it's something that a) will ever be completely under control, or b) will ever just go away. And yet, that misunderstanding keeps coming up.
For me, I've definitely lost any shred of concern I ever had that someone would judge me or think less of me, or that I'd be disadvantaged because of my mental illness, but I'm lucky. I have a whole bunch of people in my life who, even if they can't fully understand, can at least give me compassion. Can give me their generosity while I sometimes stumble and sometimes simply can't. Just can't.
I'm lucky because I don't work for a boss who might use that information - even if it's illegal to do so - to my disadvantage. I don't belong to a family who sees depression and medication as a weakness, or parents who think mental illness is just a phase, or would be embarrassed if anyone found out their kid goes to therapy, or that it will go away if only I just ... (ate better, read scriptures, prayed, etc)...
I know so many people aren't as lucky as me. Who feel like they can't be honest. Who can't find some way to find solace or safety or hope. It hurts as badly for them as for me, but they can't say, or won't, and so they just suffer on. It's excruciating. All-consuming. And I'm offended by ANYONE who makes light of or jokes about that kind of pain. It is no less appalling than dumping someone out of a wheelchair they need, or grabbing someone's crutches and throwing them in the street and then saying they're "raising awareness." Wheelchairs are real, y'all. And crutches.
So, when someone, whose life is full of hope and promise even though they can't see it right now, who might have benefited from meds and therapy or a hospital stay, or even just a friend to stick by them, finds themselves in the woods (literally or figuratively), and sees no other way out of the pain, and takes their own life my heart is broken, because I get it. Oh I get it. It kicks in this visceral mama-bear instinct in me that screams to PROTECT those who can't protect themselves. To FIGHT for the people who are already knocked down. To RECOGNIZE the pain someone else is in and do my best to shield them from extra hurt until they can get themselves looked after. Because I've been the one knocked down. I've been the one who needs protecting. And so for me, there is not enough outrage in the world.
Final word: The world is full of awesome, generous, compassionate, good people. It also has a lot of A-holes. So I suppose if the appalling behavior of some high-profile A-holes can help keep a discussion going that improves the care and discussion and attitude toward depression and suicide, it'll be ok. It certainly has me raising MY voice again.
If this is YOU and you read this, call the hotline 1800-273-TALK and talk, just talk - there will ALWAYS be a kind supporter on the other end, someone rooting for you. Text the crisis text line. Gather your circle around you. Get somewhere safe and text someone. Go to the ER (for real, you can, just go). You will be ok. I promise you won't regret staying alive.