Why is Everything so Heavy?

Chester Bennington died by suicide yesterday, July 20. It was the birthday of his friend Chris Cornell who died by suicide two months ago.

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?
Holding on
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
Holding on

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.




If You Can’t Fly, Then Run

If you can't fly...

Battling mental illness is exhausting, but that doesn’t mean you have to give up completely. Moving forward no matter how insignificant is a win.

I recently joined a gym with the goal of working out five times a week. Right now this feels impossible. In my current state of mind I doubt I’ll get there at all this week. I’m not being pessimistic, that is the reality of my energy level and my will. Days like this mean I wake up tired, I’m not interested in doing anything and my outlook on life is dismal.

If you can’t fly, then run

I have dysthymia so I don’t think I’ve ever been able to fly. But a really good day is a running day, and nothing holds me back. On those days life feels lighter and easier. It’s a day to make the most of my energy and my emotional high. Anything is possible.

If you can’t run, then walk

On the days when you have a wish to get something done, but everything is overwhelming, it’s time to break the mountain down into mole hills.

The days you can only walk, prioritize your tasks and do the bare necessities. Put on one load of laundry, the rest can be done tomorrow. Clean the sink, the tub or the toilet and leave the rest for another day. Break down your chores into manageable bits.

Today I decided to mow my lawn before I slept the afternoon away. I knew I couldn’t finish the entire yard, but I was determined to pick an area and get it done. When I finished I felt like I was productive, and the feeling of accomplishment was good for my self-esteem.

If you can’t walk, then crawl

Then there are days when everything feels impossible, and all you want to do is hide under a rock and die, be kind to yourself. This is not the day to worry about getting chores done or going to the gym.

When all I can do is crawl, I will walk to the end of my driveway to bring in the garbage and recycling containers or pick up the newspaper. That is all the exercise I’ll do today.

It will be a day of sleeping, cups of tea, and lots of television and the internet. I’ll strive to pick up after myself, but if I don’t then tomorrow is fine. Today I’m just trying to survive. Giving yourself permission to do nothing is a wonderful gift.

If you can’t stand being in your own skin, call a friend, a therapist, a help line, anything to get through the day without feeling you’re alone in the world.

Mental illness takes a lot from us already, but if we strive to move forward, it doesn’t have to destroy us.