In the End, it Doesn’t Even Matter

If you know someone with some form of mental illness, just check up on them. But do so honestly. Don’t let them tell you that everything is “fine”. Really and truly see how they are doing, because you just don’t know when we’re having a bad day, and we’ve gotten pretty good at hiding behind a mask.

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Yesterday was an incredibly emotional day as it were, and then it was made more so following the unexpected passing of Chester Bennington. In a time when it seems as if mental illness is on a warpath with major entertainers, it was a surprise that had stopped me cold.

I always assume that the first time I hear of a celebrity death off of Facebook that surely it must be a hoax. After all, for at least five years now I’ve been seeing the same RIP WILLIE NELSON meme, which I’m pretty sure that he’s going to outlive us all by now.

But after seeing another report, and another, and finally tabloid-with-eventual-news source TMZ had the story. And by then, I knew it was true.

At first, it seemed to be a random event; but as more details came in, it seemingly was planned for a while. Chester chose the day of Chris Cornell’s birthday, and he chose the same method that he had used.

This freaked me out for a few different reasons. But the one fear that always comes back is the realization that if it can happen to someone internationally beloved, someone who has used their talent to create a successful entertainment career, someone who is both a household name and has a family of their own, would it really be a surprise if someone, say, like me wound up doing it?

It’s been a really long time since I have considered it, and I don’t feel that I am in any way, shape, or form at risk. I really don’t; I feel like, at least at this point, it is not a potential cause for concern. But what they don’t tell you about suicide is that it doesn’t just become a good idea one time.

All it really takes is one bad day, and before you know it, you have a thought creep in out of nowhere. It doesn’t mean that you’re going to pursue it, it doesn’t mean that you’re choosing now to make your exit. It just means that somewhere, deep down, that contingency plan never went away. Whether you want it there or not, it is always going to be on the table.

And that is what people who don’t have the urge fail to understand. It’s rarely an impulse, at least, not from what I’ve seen. I’m also not an expert, so I could be totally off base there. I think to a degree everyone has it planned out; how it’s going to happen, when, how, even why.

People think that it’s enough to have a career or a family to hold you back. They become a consideration. In short, it becomes a tradeoff; do I follow through knowing that it is going to completely ruin the rest of their lives, or are they important enough that I continue on?

Luckily for me, it was enough. It was a hard battle, one that took up an entire month. But at the end of it, weighing the pros and the cons, I just couldn’t stick them with it. The idea of my mom or my sister finding me, knowing the unexpected expenses, the lasting emotional impact; I couldn’t do it.

Hurting myself was okay, but it stopped there for me. You find that when you become that desperate to relieve the pain, your body ceases to exist. It’s no longer your body so much as the thing that houses your pain. By that logic, in that current state of mind, the only way to stop hurting is to get beyond your body.

Although suicide is physical, it’s a mental battle. It’s all about your brain kind of reversing course. The self-preservation part shuts down, and in a way, it doesn’t. It’s almost as if your mind sees death as being the best course of action; when you get to that point, it stops holding you back. Your thoughts start becoming more akin to “Well, you know what? If you honestly think this is best, then sure, why the heck not?”

I don’t think we’re going to know too much more about what was going on with Chester. Obviously, Cornell‘s death was a large factor. My friend Allie and I discussed the past album his band, Linkin Park, put out; it was slammed by even long-term fans as being too different. Bennington, in an odd twist, starting fighting back.

Bennington was from that scrappy era of more emo-sided music. Bands that dug down and kept pushing until they had finally made it. They were not record label darlings, they didn’t come from famous musicians discovering them; they fought long and hard until they eventually got the recognition that they deserved. Many other bands from that era had similar tribulations, and almost always the frontman praised their fans regularly.

So to see him turn, that was a huge red flag that I don’t think anyone saw. When an average person speaks their mind combatively, it’s usually in the comment section of  a YouTube. When a celebrity does it, however, they’re just being “jerks” and “out of touch”.

The situation also shows why it’s important to reconsider going through with it, because you never know who it’s going to push to follow you. Suicide is a selfish action, but what people don’t get is in that moment, no one else matters. You’re hurting to the point that you can’t look past yourself. The world doesn’t exist; just the pain.

I’m hoping that, like most tragedies, some good comes of this. I’m hoping it finally opens up the floor for real suicide prevention and discussion. Not “this celebrity did it so here’s a hotline number”. Not social media posts of “lol just talk to me!”. That’s not going to happen; those who are at this point already feel alone. They are not going to reach out. They feel that there is no one to reach out to, and by seeing an offer like that, it honestly has the opposite effect.

So what can you do? If you know someone with some form of mental illness, just check up on them. But do so honestly. Don’t let them tell you that everything is “fine”. Really and truly see how they are doing, because you just don’t know when we’re having a bad day, and we’ve gotten pretty good at hiding behind a mask.

No “Fun” in “Funeral”

First, comes being unable to distinguish whether or not this is merely part of my own personal grieving process, or if it’s depression. I’m finding myself unable to function; luckily, work is slow because of the holidays, but the few assignments I do still have, I can’t seem to find the energy to take care of. I’m staying tired and lethargic, and I just can’t find a way to care about anything. I’ve had a shirt on the table that I need to return, and that was days ago. It’s still there.

Here I am, almost a week later, and I’m still struggling to come back. In my three decades on this rock, I just attended my first funeral. And while I (for the most part) was able to keep my head in the game while in the area, being back at home has been a daily struggle.

First, comes being unable to distinguish whether or not this is merely part of my own personal grieving process, or if it’s depression. I’m finding myself unable to function; luckily, work is slow because of the holidays, but the few assignments I do still have, I can’t seem to find the energy to take care of. I’m staying tired and lethargic, and I just can’t find a way to care about anything. I’ve had a shirt on the table that I need to return, and that was days ago. It’s still there.

Then comes wanting to cry while cooking breakfast. And maybe that’s because I only teared up a little last week and my body needs that outlet, and maybe it’s just me. And when you couple this with my lack of Christmas cheer, I feel all the more like a downer.

I find myself just wanting to sleep all day, which is classic textbook depression symptoms. But I don’t necessarily *feel* depressed, which is odd for me; usually, I can pick up that I’m having a tough day almost immediately. I’ll go “man what’s your damage today? Ohhhhh.”

The week was harder than I thought, and even more than I let on. I try explaining it, but even my own family merely brushes it off as me just being tired from almost a week of traveling. And I’m sure that is part of it, but there’s more at work here.

The people attending the wake and the funeral are Georgia native types, strong, tough, survivalists. And after seeing each and everyone break down, after seeing my mother, one of the strongest people I know completely crumble, it’s hard remaining strong.

I’ve never seen a body in person before. And being that I’m this age and wasn’t properly prepared for the services, I had the additional stress and panic of not acting correctly. For instance, I had no idea how long being at the casket was “appropriate”. I didn’t want to just Clark Griswold it; I wanted to be respectful. This man is, after all, the closest thing my mother had to a father.

The funeral especially was tough. The backwoods southern Baptist pastor decided that rather than give his dearly departed friend a personalized message that the same tried-and-true one that he’s used for decades, one that was a recruitment tool for the church, would suffice. It didn’t.

It was an especially cold, gloomy day. We all became chilled to the bone, and there was no official ending. They never lowered it into the grave like they do in the movies, and we were all left to simply look from it to each other and shrug.

A week of keeping it together, of impatient family members wanting to just skate through as fast as possible, avoiding the ensuing drama. It was hard. And it still is, and I’m left wondering how much longer do I feel like this? Does it get better, and what am I going to do when it’s someone closer to me that passes?

 

The Quicksand of the Holidays

Good lord what a crazy week. Good and bad crazy. We are in full holiday season mode now that Thanksgiving is now treated as Christmas’ conjoined twin. And it is absolutely burying me in things I am not doing. This pretty much sums up how this week has me feeling.

I am starting a new part-time job. I went to visit…family? People? We’re related? But not by blood? I don’t know. …super extended family on Thanksgiving, so Thursday was out. The day prior was chores and food prep and helping out anyway I could in preparation for Thursday. Wednesday was also spent doing all the homework. Tuesday I was on a trial basis for said new job and the entire evening was spent helping shop for Thursday. Monday was school work and the gym and dinner and chores and the typical struggling for leads for freelancing. Friday and Saturday was family time. So here we are; better late than never I suppose.

So pretty much no writing has been done this week. None. And that just cripples me. The joy of having depression caused by anxiety is being able to very easily tailspin into a downward spiral and beating yourself up for the smallest things. And the anxiety side makes sure to let you know that everyone hates you for it.

The single most important thing I can say right now, and for you as well if you are going through this, is simple; it is simply difficult for someone like me to believe it. Ready?

It is all going to be fine.

Wait. No, that can’t be right. How can it be fine? I’ve only rewritten a third of my book and it needs at least one more revision. Things are very much not fine.

It is all going to be fine.

I wanted this done by the end of the year and now the end of the year is here and I’m spending more time with family and I have no money to hire an editor so I took a job but now I don’t have time to write in this O. Henry hellhole nightmare scenario and now all my friends and family will be disappointed and I’m never going to finish and and and and….

The second most important thing: breathe.

I am writing this for me first and foremost. I am not guaranteed a dime of profit from this story. I am doing this because it is important to me. No one has said “Hey Chris do me a favor and write me a book”. I am doing this because this is my sweet precious fictional boy and I love him and he’s going to grow up big and strong. Whether or not he’s able to put me in a nursing home later in life depends on how much people enjoy it. But the deal with having anxiety is the constantly needing to remind yourself that there is no angry mob of people behind you. And that’s what it feels like; before I started taking medication, the closest thing I could compare anxiety to was having an invisible angry man behind you just outside the corner of your eye constantly yelling. That is what it feels like: the constant walking on egg shells, the constant anger and being on edge; it is exactly like having someone constantly shouting. It is exhausting.

I’m not a real boy writer yet, just a for pretend writer. I have no hard deadline. This gets done when it gets done. It is not paying the bills, therefore as much as I’d love to just have an IV of coffee coursing through my veins for the next 72 hours with my wrists and ankles chained to my chair until it is knocked out, I have other obligations. December is a crazy month; my birthday, my sister’s birthday, Christmas, and New Year’s. I am always working, this year is no different. I take courses online, leaving me at home where there is always dishes and laundry and grocery shopping and cooking to do. My parents are my roommates, and I am their son with son-based obligations. My sister comes home about every other weekend, and I go play good guy big brother. I am still trying to lose 10 more pounds, which means more time at the gym, especially as I gorge myself on turkey and stuffing and pie and seasonal booze and God knows what else.

This is important to me. This is the single most important thing I have ever pushed myself to do. It is crucial to me on so many different levels, least of which is simply challenging myself and proving that I am capable of doing this. This is me putting my foot down and no longer saying “Oh I have no earthly idea of what I want to do with my life” simply because this job is a creative one and I was afraid of people saying it was not a “real” job. I was born to write. I love it. I enjoy it. And I never do it. So I will, I will write the living Hell out of this book. But if it doesn’t happen until I take care of me and my family first, that is okay. And why is that?

BECAUSE IT IS ALL GOING TO BE FINE.