Tuesday, 12 August 2014

O Captain! My Captain!

Tomorrow (13th August) will mark the second anniversary of Simon's death and if I'm honest I've been going through a bit of a rough patch recently. I've not been depressed, I wouldn't dishonour those who actually suffer depression by suggesting that, but if life is a roller coaster then I've been in a dip.
My cousin died of a heart attack which was obviously a terrible shock and recently I've been feeling pretty socially inept. I went on an annual camping weekend with forum friends but spent much of the time feeling awkward and out of place. I think knowing the anniversary is looming is really what's at the root of everything though, I've not been sleeping well and have been having flashbacks again.
So I've been planning to write something for a few days -  in the past it's helped me to clear my head, it's as if writing out the words releases the jumble of thoughts. Then last night I heard the devastating news that Robin Williams had died, most likely by suicide. Like many people I took to Twitter and among the many tributes I was touched to read several tweets that acknowledged depression as an illness and others that linked to helplines for the depressed and suicidal. I didn't spot any suggestions of cowardice or selfishness, although I've little doubt they're out there. I will never believe that Simon was selfish or a coward. I read an analogy last night comparing feeling suicidal to being on fire, if you're burning then you'd do anything to put out the flames; Simon, Robin Williams and all those who end their lives by suicide couldn't stand that pain any longer. It's a pain most of us won't know but I hope we can feel compassion and empathy for those who are suicidal. I did read a couple of tweets last night mentioning the thousands of suicide victims who won't be in the news today and while that's true, we won't hear their names, I don't think that means Robin Williams' sad death shouldn't be reported and grieved over. He was a man known to millions, his films have been enjoyed for decades. Dead Poets Society is one of my favourite films of all time. Before children I rarely cried at films (afterwards anything can set me off) but the "O Captain! My Captain!" scene was guaranteed to move me to tears, no matter how many times I watched it. It will be even more poignant and heartbreaking next time I watch it. Robin's death being headline news does not make the countless other deaths by suicide any less tragic or less important. Williams' death should be reported, I don't feel any bitterness that Simon's death didn't receive any media coverage. If anything I'm grateful that we were able to grieve privately and away from the world's cameras. I hope his family and friends will be given the space they need right now, I can't imagine feeling torn apart while being under the watchful gaze of the media. They are beginning their new lives as those left behind and my thoughts are with them and all those who have heard that most devastating news recently. Two years on and I'm mostly in a much better place than they will be right now. I've slowly put myself back together, it's an imperfect repair and the seams come apart at times but the patched up me will be ok, as I hope they will in time. Right now is not a time for criticising the cult of celebrity, instead perhaps Robin Williams' death can be a catalyst for open, frank and compassionate discussion of depression, addiction and suicide. Perhaps just one person will pick up the phone and ask for help today because they've see a helpline on Twitter or Facebook.
With that in mind here is a link to a list of international suicide prevention helplines. It's a US site and has a separate link at the top of the page for US helplines by state.
Depression lies but it is not a weakness. Picking up the phone and asking for help is not an admission of anything, you don't admit to cancer or heart disease, neither should you feel you should admit you have depression. Don't let shame stop you for you have nothing to be ashamed about. This might be the first step to putting out those flames.