For some it’s been a rough week what with the recent deaths of Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain. In all honesty, neither person had much significance to me although I am familiar with their work. I can’t pretend I know what their struggles were or why ending their lives seemed to be the best choice. On the outside looking in we see people that had everything: great jobs, travel, get to do anything they want, lots of money, all kinds of friends and so much more. It becomes incomprehensible and tragic that these people who apparently had “everything” couldn’t overcome their challenges.
These two deaths do dredge up memories, some that I’ve written about and others I have not. These memories perhaps contribute to the empathy and undercurrent of turmoil I feel right now. As usual, the spotlight turns towards mental health for a while and then turns away again. One wish from this is that I wish we’d recognize the prevalence of mental health issues in this world or ours. My feeling is that I have myself experienced such issues but at a much lower level than those who have made the news this year already for what I want to term “all the wrong reasons.”
I recall many years ago a very quick episode. This was in the ’70’s when men were the macho, silent type who didn’t speak about problems. I remember being characterized as a sensitive person, which was not a great thing to be when you’re a teen-aged boy in the early to mid ’70’s. In this brief episode I was being tormented by some of my siblings for reasons I don’t remember. But I do remember lying face down on my bed, crying and thinking about a belt in the back closet and the closet rod. This was but a brief moment in time with its meaning and purpose, really, still unclear. Maybe it increases my empathy but I cannot, in truth, even begin to understand many people’s struggles.
2013 was a relatively dark year for me where I felt so alone even when surrounded by people. The thought of ending my life never entered my mind, at least not seriously. I clearly remember many times, though, thinking that it wouldn’t bother me if something were to happen – not that I became reckless in any way. To this day a verse from the Townes van Zandt song “To Live is to Fly” retain there relevance.
Days, up and down they come
Like rain on a conga drum
Forget most, remember some
But don’t turn none away.
Back then I would have been happy enough to refund my remaining days while not actively seeking it. These days I’m very happy to keep them for myself.
Even this is nothing compared to others’ experiences. I know that. Maybe this, too, increased my empathy. I’m much less willing to withdraw when such things come to light. This is one of the problems. Many people don’t feel comfortable talking about their struggles because they lose friends. People don’t know what to say. Or they just want to fix everything. And maybe this “thing” cannot be fixed but only managed and coped with.
I can’t tell just by looking at somebody the state of their mental health. People are very good about hiding away their true feelings. I’ve done it myself. If we could recognize that each one of us experiences some of this pain sometimes it might remove some of the stigma surrounding admitting when we need help. I don’t need to know the details.
To those I knew who took their lives, I’d say to them today: You are not alone. You matter. Find somebody you can trust to talk to – just talk. Your absence would create such a huge hole.