When Robin Williams took his life last month, social media erupted with followers urging others to be sensitive toward people who suffer from mental illnesses and who may battle suicidal thoughts. All of a sudden, everyone was an authority on depression.
The "true heroes" of the world came out in full-force, as they demanded everyone take action for those hanging by a thread. For the next handful of days, people posted touching memes, statuses and videos dedicated to an actor they never met.
They claimed they should have been there and that mental illness and depression shouldn't be taken lightly.
Well, that's all well and good, except no one actually wants to be there. And, I can tell you that as a fact I learned firsthand.
I'm bipolar mixed with Borderline Personality Disorder, and the combination of the two is downright lethal. I have been battling highs and lows, depression and suicidal thoughts for my entire life.
Each time is worse than the next; it can bring me to points of feeling unable to get out of bed, as I feel like I'm drowning in loneliness.
And, the worst part is that since I've been suffering my entire life, people sometimes think I'm doing it for attention. People think I'm CRYING WOLF when I disclose that I want to die.
As Robin Williams took his life and my entire Facebook News Feed subsequently lectured the world about depression and demanded every person take mental illness and suicidal threats seriously, they all pushed me away.
My "friends," who were quick to hop on the social media trend, said I was desperate for attention... while they simultaneously told the world to not deny someone in need of... attention.
Another popular sentiment about people who claim to be suicidal is that they are crying wolf. I've heard this my entire life. They wonder why I haven't just done it already because if I truly wanted to kill myself, I would have done it. (As if that might make them happy or something! Is this a dare?)
But, here's something people forget about the story of the boy who cried wolf: He died. The first few times, yeah, he threatened. And then, no one in town believed him, and the big, bad wolf came and ate him and he died. Dead. No more boy.
This is a scared little boy, who is so terrified of something that he keeps talking about the threatening thing, even when it doesn't afflict him.
Those around him find it so annoying that they learn to just ignore him. And soon enough, he winds up dead. Instead of building a fence tall enough so the boy could have nothing left to fear, the town lets him get eaten and die.
And then, I'm sure they took to social media and cried their eyes out and talked about how much more they could have done.
Alternatively, when I'm up on a manic high, everyone is my friend. I throw lavish parties and everyone comes and uses me for whatever I can offer. There isn't a person alive who doesn't want to be around me. In those moments, I'm "the most important person" to everyone. But, the minute I crash? I don't have a friend in the world.
This article does not aim to disparage the late and great Robin Williams. He deserves the mourning the world gave him. I read an article highlighting Matt Damon's comments on Williams' death, and what he had to say spoke to me very deeply.
Damon seems like one of the few people who actually got it right and wasn't just horrendously cashing in on a major death for some altruistic press. He said;
I think everyone who wasn't there with him at the end feels bad that they didn't see it coming. I hope I become better at checking in with my friends, and I hope that we as a country get better at checking in with each other, to prevent this kind of thing.
More than anything, I hope that if I ever met a similar fate, my friends and loved ones would reflect and realize that they were not part of the solution and that they could have been. A lot of people very selfishly take the easy way out and say things like, "This person had a lot of problems; I did all I could do." No. That's simply not true. While this person was reaching out to you, you were posting about an actor's suicide.
We, as a nation, are extremely self-absorbed, and we want to talk about standing up against mental illness stigmas. But, when it comes down to doing the right thing, we come up dry. We call the person "crazy," and we shy away more than ever.
The minute I start saying I want to kill myself is when people run away the fastest, which is why it's important to me to work to end these stigmas. I've opened myself up to being honest about my struggles in the most brutal way possible in hopes that people can relate and potentially heal from what I have to say.
However, I unfortunately took another devastating blow a week ago when I had learned that someone I knew also took his life. We met when he reached out to me to do the audio books for my book series, "The Peter Pandrew Trilogy."
He told me my series helped him, and he felt connected to my writing. This made me feel like I actually did something right in the world. I wasn't into the idea of him doing the audio books, though, as I figured it was my story, and it should come from my voice, but we did stay in contact.
He was an amazing guy, consistently there for me when I needed him. There were been times when I was up all night, wishing to die, and he was there to talk me through it. He saved my life, time and time again. Unfortunately, I couldn't do the same for him.
Do I have regrets? Absolutely. Like Damon, I wish I would have checked in more, and I wish I would have said or done something. But, I can say I will try harder next time, should a similar situation arise.
It shouldn't have to get to that point, though. It doesn't take much to talk about depression and suicide, or say how you should be a better person. It takes a lot to actually do it. It's time to put up or shut up.
So, for anyone who ever felt alone and tried reaching out, only to hear that he or she was "looking for attention" or "crying wolf," this is for you. You are heard. Maybe it is too late for you guys, but as long as I'm still here, I will keep trying to help whomever I can.
Hopefully, I will eventually find people who can support me and stand by my side when I fall, rather than disappear when I need them. Hopefully, people will learn what it truly means to be a friend.
Hopefully, I can continue to save myself by thinking happy thoughts.
Photo Courtesy: We Heart It