Dear readers, As a writer, I use the exercise of writing as way to process what I am thinking and feeling. Often, I don't even know what I feel or think until I can see it on the screen or page. When I sat down to write my reaction to Robin Williams' death on my blog Tuesday morning of this week, I was not only processing his suicide, but all of my experiences with mental illness--as both a person who lives with it and as a friend and family member of those who are living with it. I just felt so strongly that I did not want to wake up one day and find out a loved one in my own family had committed suicide because they couldn't talk to me, because they didn't think I'd understand. I needed to come clean. I needed to tell the truth.
When I wrote it I honestly thought only a handful of people--mostly relatives--would read it. I had no idea the impact it would have or that it would be shared with so many people and that it would touch so many people's lives. I wrote it hastily. (And, as a novelist who spends hours writing and rewriting my books, and then has months to go over every word choice with an editor's help and careful eye, I have to admit the blog was raw, unedited. In my own rereading of it, I can think of a hundred different ways I would have recast sentences, chosen different words, and thought more carefully about what I said.) But, every word of it was true. Every word is how I felt in that moment. Many astute readers reached out to tell me how I might have done it better. I am grateful for you, because I know it means you are keeping this important conversation alive. You are getting others to talk about it. And you are sharing your own insights as well.
I am just one person with only my own experiences to base my feelings and thoughts. I want to assure you that whatever your own experience is with suicide and depression, it is just as valid and it is just as true. Like I said, I am just one person, who, I know, is one of millions who are living with this disease. Every person's experience is different. Every pain their own. I have always struggled with being liked. With feeling worthy. It resulted in perfectionism and in never feeling good enough. Doing enough. It is constant and daily struggle for me to say to myself: "I am enough. I am good enough. Today is enough. I don't need anything. I have all that I need right in front of me." For others, I know, it is just about getting up in the morning. And for others, it manifests in addiction. Every person's experiences are different and every person's reaction equally valid and true. Please know that my experience was not a judgment on you. The last thing I want is anyone to feel judged. I want people to feel safe, worthy, and loved. I want people to feel they have a safe space to talk--here on my blog and on my Facebook page as well. Please keep talking. Keep sharing. You're helping. More than you'll ever know.
If you had told me that when I pushed publish on Tuesday morning that it would go viral and that I would end up on the NBC Nightly News talking to Kate Snow about depression and my own suicide attempts on Wednesday, to be honest, I am not sure I would have had the courage to do it. In fact, as soon as I discovered I was going to be on television, I realized I had not told my own daughter about what I done and what I had gone through a teenager, college student, and adult. In the fast-moving hours of Wednesday morning between the phone call with the NBC producer and the camera man's arriving, I had to sit down with my teen daughter and admit to her that not only had a written a blog about depression, but I had told the world about my suicide attempts. My daughter had no idea I tried to kill myself in college, let alone graduate school. And this to her, of course, was surprising. Recently, during a routine doctor's visit with her, when her doctor was going over an intake questionnaire and getting a family history report, we were asked about our family's mental health history with depression. I hate to admit this, but I lied. I looked at her doctor and denied it, and of course, I didn't mention my suicide attempts and my several instances of severe depression throughout my adult life. I glossed over it, and said, "I had a rough time after a break-up. Normal stuff. I took Zoloft for a while and it helped." In an article on NBCnews.com that appeared later in the day, it quotes me talking about my second attempt while in graduate school in Nebraska, alone and pregnant, and dealing with so many demons. It was there in Nebraska I was once again hospitalized and helped back to health with the help of close friends. My daughter still does not know about that. And I am trying to find the courage and the right time to explain it all. But, in truth, my story is her story. It affects her, too. So I have to be careful.
To say it was a monumental day would be an understatement. But, the truth does set you free. On Wednesday, my daughter and I connected in a way we had never done before. She said she was proud of me and she loved me. In that moment, I knew that it was okay to talk about it. It was okay to tell my story. And, in addition, your love and support has been more than I could have ever hoped for or imagined. I am so humbled by your outpouring of support and so grateful for all of your care, concern, compassion, and willingness to share your own stories and your willingness to come forward and help others who are hurting.
In fact there have been so many, I regret that I can't respond to every single one. Please know that if you're currently hurting and thinking of suicide, please, please, please, tell someone. If you are a family member of someone living with and battling mental illness, my heart goes out to you. Your journey is equally harrowing. Please tell your friends and family. Don't be afraid to ask for help. And please know I am not prescribing anything here--or suggesting any one way to recover or get help. I am not a counselor, a doctor, or an expert, and what worked for me, may not work for you. All I can say is reach out to someone, anyone and let them know what you're feeling. If you don't have anyone, please go to a hospital or call someone. There is help. And there is hope.
You're all brave. You're all courageous. You're all the proof of angels and heaven and light and love that I will ever need.
With so much gratitude, love, and hope, I thank you for all of your support and kindness,
From NBC's website: For help, contact the National Suicide Prevention Center Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or see this list of resources.