I’m sure you’re all aware of the recent death of Robin Williams; sadly, he’s one of many comedy heroes of mine who was depressed during his life, and one of two who may very well have ended it by his own actions. Kenny Everett I’m sure you remember me bigging up in the early days of this blog, and Frankie Howerd amused me back in 1991 when they repeated Up Pompeii! on TV (it was just right for a sniggering, innuendo-obsessed teenager like me); but do you recall Kenneth Williams? Like Everett and Howerd, he was gay at the “wrong” time in human history, and like his American namesake, his end seems to have been self-inflicted (though reading his diaries, I’m surprised he made it to 1988).
You never can tell who’s depressed — and I don’t mean fed up because it’s Monday, I mean truly suffering as black despair grips their heart, and wondering if they can continue. I’ve gone on about my own depression in this blog (what with it being created for that exact purpose and all), and even hinted at my own suicidal thoughts, not once, but twice in 2011-2012, and although I’m more or less over that part of my life now, I don’t feel contempt or triumph towards those who are still going through the “long dark night of the soul”, or who didn’t complete the journey.
(I should point out that I’m also not holding that Fox News anchor in contempt, as I don’t think he really meant to call suicidal people like Robin Williams “cowards” — it’s easy to jump on the “boo, right wing meeja” bandwagon, and I’m gonna rise above it… this time!)
What stopped me from ending it all in those dark days? I suppose it might be useful for anyone else out there who is suffering to know how I made it through, so here goes. Well, firstly I would think it was simple inertia — it’s easier to go on breathing than it is to figure out a means of killing oneself, and I have no idea even how to make a noose, let alone… well, I’ll stop there. That’s another thing which jerked me back from the edge of the abyss: the very thought of such an act of self-violence (it really hit me back in late 2012, when I was talking on the phone to a guy at a counselling service and he mentioned that particular means).
But the real reason I made it through is also the reason for this blog entry’s M*A*S*H-defying title: if I ended my life, I may well be beyond pain forever, but those I care about in this world, particularly my mother and grandmother, most certainly wouldn’t be — they’d suffer in my stead. I’ve also thought about one of my close friends (I won’t say who for obvious reasons), who lost someone to the S-word some years ago, and I know I could never put them through such a thing all again.
As I’ve continued to survive during these recent years, and even felt ready to start living again, I’ve made more friends who I wouldn’t want to hurt by “leaving” them and rendering all their help and support futile — “best mate” for one, and my personal torturer for another. Mind you, they’re also reasons I don’t want to leave London, a prospect which isn’t beyond the realms of possibility due to my financial situation…
I actually had a moment of darkness this evening, when I looked at my bank accounts and realised I have only just over £1,000 left: though I’ve got nearly £5,000 redundancy money coming on Friday, I won’t be comfortable until it’s in my main account — and this reality check today really brought home to me how my life is changing, and how tight money is going to be for a while, even once I start my IT career for real (so no more holidays for a while). It’s looking increasingly likely I’ll have to move fairly soon, and I really, really don’t want to go through January 2012 again, so I hope the situation becomes clear during the autumn, or that I can hold on here until spring 2015!
However, no matter what happens, I’m not going to allow myself to consider the S-word again — even if I have to return to Worthing to live with my folks, at least I’ll be alive. I’m sorry Robin Williams wasn’t able to overcome his demons, but I hope his fate will at least serve to raise awareness that there really is a problem, and that there are people out there who really need help and support. It’s not just lonely recluses who gaze into the abyss; funny, outgoing people do it too (perhaps even more so).
As I’ve said before, don’t just tell your depressed friend to “cheer up” as though you’re somehow annoyed with them: tell them it’s going to be all right and that you’ll be there to support them through the bad times. Hell, give them a hug if that’s your thing, just don’t let them think there’s no point carrying on, or that no-one cares — there is a point in carrying on, because things will get better, but they certainly won’t if you stop now. Churchill once (perhaps apocryphally) said: if you’re going through hell, keep going — but be aware that not everyone can make the journey alone.
Phew, I feel a little churned up emotionally after writing this, but don’t worry — as my mother often says: “this too shall pass”…