Tuesday, 12 August 2014

tearing through the smiles

viking funeral

This is going to be my first blog post in a long time. That’s what I’m telling myself. This time I’m really going to finish writing it and I’m going to post it. It'll be a ramble, so bear with me.

The reasons I feel this urge and the motivation to follow through, are, in chronological order (though not necessarily in order of importance):
1) the death of Robin Williams and the overall assumption he took his own life;
2) the way in which my social media friends responded to this news;
3) the many people who shared stories of their own struggles;
4) the way in which others responded to those stories;
5) the way in which people have shared details to helplines and other information;
6) it’s a bit of a ‘perfect storm’.

Last one first: I was already feeling a bit delicate after a rush of grief over Kevin at the Pet Shop Boys concert last Sunday. For the first three or four songs my eyes were filled with tears, thinking how the last time I saw them, the last time I saw any live concert, was with him. It was one of our things, although we didn’t get to do it often enough. We even met at a concert, we chatted, he pointed at me and said “We should be friends”.

There was a smile as well, don’t be deceived, I cried and smiled at the same time and it wasn’t a negative experience. Every time I miss Kevin, I also remember the good times, it’s not something I do, it’s something that happens to me. Someone told me recently how impressed he was with my attitude to the loss of my best friend and as usual I found it very hard to accept the compliment. But I’m working on it and, if you read this, I really appreciated it.

The thing you need to know about me above all, is that I have always pushed my emotions away - the negative ones first and foremost, but all of them to a certain extent - and in a weird and twisted sort of way Kevin’s death helped me. I couldn’t shut them out, I had to grieve. And the world didn’t end because of those feelings, even though they overwhelmed me at first; so if I survived that, perhaps I could start to let others in a bit more?

In five days it will be nineteen months since he died and I’m still taking baby steps.

By the way, perhaps you should know I was already in therapy when this happened. Almost exactly a year before, I had hit rock bottom. After months of shutting myself off from the world (except for work, I’ll get back to that later) and a day of lying in bed, crying continuously, listing in my head all the ways in which I could kill myself, I decided I was going to take the plunge or get help in that instant. Which, for some reason, I did. I’ve called it a spark before, the tiniest possible measurement of hope, perhaps?

So what were some of the examples of things that have crossed my timelines - okay, I know that sounds like a sci-fi reference, but I was serious and I didn’t think about it until I saw it written down. And as one friend said: “Wait, there's a way to do this shit that isn't silly jokes?” (I’ll withhold his name and anyone else’s, though of course except when I’m linking to stuff that has their name in it.) - in the less than twenty-four hours that have passed since the news of Robin Williams’ death hit the internet?

Let’s start with an article about Why Funny People Kill Themselves. It’s a thoughtful and thorough piece, although I would like to add some comments to it. Please read the article first.

reading break

Now, having read that, think how many people appear funny when they’re sad inside – and then remember that it’s not just the funny ones: it’s the ones that seem competent whilst they feel they’re losing their grip, it’s the ones that look calm though all they feel churning inside is chaos, the ones that seem full of life but feel dead and empty, the ones that you think arrogant, who are actually cowering inside.

And many more.

All of the descriptions above have been, or are, true for me. I continued to work before and after my deepest point. As organised as I was in the office, my house was filling with clutter (and trash, I’m ashamed to admit), my finances were a mess (I work for a bank, foor goodness sakes!), my boiler was broken, so I lived under a duvet for some months and I heated water on the stove to wash myself (not unlike the method described in this article I read recently about bucket baths. I’ve been thinking about going back to a slightly modified version of them. For the environment, or to make myself feel better about not doing enough for the environment, I’m not sure.)

Without exception every reaction to Robin Williams' death, every comment about the possibility that he ended it, every post about mental illness that my friends posted was thoughtful, kind and considerate.

I understand that there is a great deal of self-selection going on there, I wouldn't be friends with people for very long (if at all) if they didn't fit a few criteria. But on the other hand, I do have rather broad interests and especially on Twitter there are many people on my cricket lists (yes, I know, plural) whom I do not know all that well outside to that shared interest.

The last mention is for someone who I only recently struck up a few conversations with on Twitter, and who later posted this blog, I stole the idea for the picture at the top of this post from him.


P.S. I completely forgot to mention that Kevin was also depressed and in the months leading up to his death and had been quite vociferous about wanting to die. One of the things I did that helped me, was that when I informed them about his death, many of his friends asked the question: “Was it...?”

Hearing (or seeing) them think the thought, ask the question – and then seeing/hearing the relief when I explained that, although we weren’t sure (at the time) exactly what happened, it was natural causes – did steel my conviction never to go back there myself.

Stuart Broad

P.P.S. I’m not quite sure how, but since so many of my Twitter family came to me through cricket, it seems slightly ironic that this quotation is now doing the rounds. Does anyone know the context in which it was said?

Cricket is basically baseball on Valium. - Robin Williams.

Pictured: cricketer Stuart Broad, last week after receiving a ball to the face. This was after his helmet cushioned most of the blow...

1 comment:

Willym said...

Thank you for this. I was once in that dark place myself and only one person realized it. I was that "funny guy" at work except my boss saw beyond that. Thanks to him I am writing this today.

I'm glad we have both come back from the edge of that pit - hopefully stronger and more convinced that life, for all its problems, is worth it. Hugs