I knew nothing about either of these men but like them, I and many others struggle with mental illness. This news weighs heavy on my heart. It reminds me that my mental health is a precarious balance between health and madness.
While taking part in a mental health outpatient program at the Oakville-Trafalgar Hospital I was assigned a counsellor to whom I reported at least once a week. Early on my counsellor mentioned something that has stayed with me over the years.
Mental illness is the only disease where your mind will try to kill you.
Betrayal usually comes from outside ourselves not from the core of our being. Not from our brain that we trust and rely on to warn us of danger, make logical decisions, and to protect our interests.
When despair and hopelessness settle in it’s our minds that whisper,
“What’s the point?”
And in a moment of unbearable pain, our mind is easy to believe.
I’m holding on
Why is everything so heavy?
So much more than I can carry
I keep dragging around what’s bringing me down
If I just let go, I’d be set free
Heavy by Linkin Park
After someone dies by suicide, people observe how normal the victim appeared. They seemed okay, their life was moving in a positive direction. They had plans. They were optimistic about the future.
All it takes is one low moment of desperation. A weary moment when the victim becomes tired of the burden, tired of trying so hard to hold on with no end in sight. No one can save you. It’s nobody’s fault.
Dying by suicide is not a choice. It’s a side-effect of mental illness. No one wants to die, but our minds deceive us into believing it’s the only way out. There is comfort in thinking the torment will end. There will be rest. The fight is over.
In talking to my family doctor many years ago about suicide, she said,
“Suicide is a long-term solution for a short-term problem.”
That was 18 years ago, and while she is right, my mental illness is hardly a short-term problem. It will be with me for the rest of my life.
Heavy was the last song written by Linkin Park. It speaks to Chester’s state of mind and the heaviness weighing on him. He was swimming in despair. His illness pulling him under the water. And in the end, he lost the fight and was swept away.