On Monday night a man walked out into the night with the family dogs. He was carrying a few things with him that night. He was carrying hopelessness and he was carrying despair. He left the dogs at the edge of the yard and he kept on walking.
These weren’t your garden variety variations on sadness. They were a heavier kind, a lengthier kind, a more pervasive sinister kind. They had wrapped themselves around him so tightly; they so fervently blocked his eyes and his mind that when he wrestled with them they only grew stronger.
In the past they had become different yokes for him to wear: addiction, anger, depression, alcoholism but in truth those were all just the faces of that same hopelessness and despair. And no matter what he tried he couldn’t shake them off. They surrounded him like an endless fog, heavy but with no substance, distorting the voices and the faces around him until they had him alone.
In a moment of rage he shattered them. With the last of his will he took his life away from them. With no anchor the despair and hopelessness splintered into a million little pieces, flying up and away from him. They rain down now, on us, those who knew him and we each hold our little piece in our hands.
I turn mine over in my hands at 4am. It is a dirty reminder. And if I’m not careful, it will grow. Already it’s looking for a new place to take hold.
And so I take the small piece that I hold and I craft it into this. My intention is to send it out, a variation on itself, a small bit of poison that serves as a warning, a vaccination of sorts.
Mental illness has no poster child, it has no three day walk and yet it preys like any other disease. Its cure isn’t simple. A blue pill from a bottle once a day, twelve steps, a couch, someone to talk with, someone to pray to, all weapons in the fight. Each weapon with its own inadequacies, sometimes they work better in combination but sometimes they don’t work at all.
We shun mental illness, our medical insurance doesn’t cover it, our disability policies are limited within it, and our life insurance policies are worthless against it. We speak of it in whispered tones even though it resides in the best families. Shame, humiliation, and fear walk in lockstep with its hopelessness and despair.
If it is growing in your house please take care, find your helps and don’t underestimate its strength and tenacity because suicide is the eighth leading cause of death for males and the sixteenth leading cause of death for females in the United States.