Behind the mask

Over the last few weeks I have been writing, revising and practicing my speech for the Out of the Darkness walk on Oahu. (call me shameless, the OOTD link will take you to my donation page)

A portion of it speaks of how I felt I spent years wearing a mask, putting on a brave face, if you will.  I never felt I alone in that, I think most people do wear a mask some aspect of their lives.  It can be a way to survive or deal with a circumstance that we find unfavorable.

 In the years before that night, one of my most difficult tasks was putting on a brave face, but I felt I had to. My sister had bravely fought throughout her ordeal with esophageal cancer, and my husband had deployed five times to a combat zone. I was too stubborn to show weakness. They say hindsight is 20/20 and if I knew then what I know now, I would have spoken up and been honest about how depressed and dark I was feeling.

After hearing about the death of Robin Williams on Monday, people took to the social media sites with their personal opinion, and then some. I fully believe we are entitled to our opinions, it is what allows us to be individuals. I read so many comments, many positive, but some negative, but I would just scroll through what I was reading, until I continued to see the word SELFISH!  I was outraged. I am not one to create a scene in person or on Facebook, but this one I couldn’t keep quiet on. That post follows:

As as attempt survivor, hearing words like selfish is cruel and hurtful. Period. You don’t know what anyone goes through…
I help with the AFSP and Out of the Darkness walks and raise money, awareness and end the social stigma… If your words will be cruel and hurtful, DO NOT COMMENT! If you do say anything rude about me, choices I made,etc you will be promptly deleted and blocked. I don’t care if you’re a friend or family member.
by KevinCarusoSuicide is a desperate act by someone who is in intense pain and wants their pain to stop. That is a HUMAN response to extreme pain, not a selfish one. And over 90 percent of the people who die by suicide have a mental illness at the time of their death, so they are not thinking clearly.Saying that a person who had severe clinical depression, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, PTSD, or a similar illness was engaging in an act of selfishness when they died by suicide – even though their thought process, mood, and judgment were greatly affected by their mental illness – is not only inaccurate, but downright cruel, to both the suicide angel and the suicide survivors.

And those who use the word “selfish” are merely helping perpetuate the STIGMA associated with suicide.

A suicidal action that manifests from intense, excruciating, unbearable pain associated with a serious mental illness has nothing to do with selfishness. Period.

The post has 35 likes and 57 comments to date, might be a record for me, like I said I don’t put a lot out of Facebook.  
The following day as I read through and replied to the comments on the above post, the majority of which were supportive and favorable, I continued to think about the life of Robin Williams. Yea, he was the funny guy from my childhood; Mork from Ork, I mean who didn’t like that show? I know I did!  He has made many films that I am a fan of;  Mrs Doubtfire, Birdcage, Jumangi; but my all time favorite of his has always been Dead Poets Society. Carpe Diem! If you’ve never seen this movie I would highly encourage you to watch it!
In hindsight it’s terribly tragic that Robert Sean Leonard aka, Neil Perry dies by suicide in that movie.  In the movie, Neil appears to have it all together; he’s attractive, outgoing, popular, educated, and comes from a good family with money.  Yet, he is still troubled and struggles deeply with who he is, who he wants to be, and the restraints that his parents put on him for who they want him to be, the pressure became too much.
I imagine for Robin Williams it’s why he was so good at what he did, and did it so well: comedy.  I imagine it brought him joy to see and hear the laughter of others. I don’t imagine every day was a dark one, at least I hope not.  For me, I had good and bad days, and then I had dark and depressed days. I think most people with mental illness put on a brave face on days that they don’t want others to see what is really lurking behind the mask.
What I do know for me, the night I overdosed, and the nights I had thought about taking my own life were full of torment. I knew what I would leave behind, I knew there would be so much hurt and pain for my family. So many unanswered questions. I didn’t go into that without concern for others, not once. I saw myself as less than and that’s why I assumed life would be better if I wasn’t around  making their lives harder. I tried to rationalize… “they will hurt for a while, but certainly they will move on…” 
Becoming involved with the Out of the Darkness (forgive my shamelessness, donations are what make action happen people) walks and the AFSP and meeting other people who have lost someone to suicide, I am fully aware people do not just move on.
I am finally able to speak out about my depression, my suicide attempt, but that doesn’t take all the demons away. Life can be a struggle and for some of us, we struggle a little more.  I am mindful to not just put on a brave face, but to be brave and bold because I hope that my story can touch someone else, ease their pain a little, or encourage them to ask for help.
If you are hurting, please do not suffer in silence, there are many suicide prevention resources to help you cope with your situation. If we all work together we can end the number of suicides in this country, and we can end the social stigma that is associated with suicide, suicide attempts and mental illness.
If you are in crisis, call the national suicide prevention lifeline, please… 1-800-273-TALK (8255)

My husband had the opportunity to meet Robin Williams while he was in Baghdad on a USO tour. Doug said that regardless of everyone telling him, ‘Robin, we have to go” he was adamant he was not leaving until he shook the hand of every service member in line that came out to meet him. What an honor for my husband to have this amazing memory with a true artist. RIP funny man!

 No matter what anybody tells you, words and ideas can change the world. 
John Keating, aka
Robin Williams
Dead Poets Society 1989

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