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.

 

 

 

The Face of Illusion

Sad Clown.jpg

Sometimes life seems like an illusion. We move through life caught up in our own troubles to pay much attention to the world around us. Nobody wants to see your pain. Some people mask their pain so well that only the most observant onlooker can see the truth.

This reminds me of a friend I made in grade 9. I thought she was the funniest person I had ever met. She was a big fan of Saturday Night Live so her jokes usually revolved around the characters on the show. She was a walking stand-up comedian. Hysterical.

The first time she met my family she was subdued but still funny. She had everyone in my family laughing.

After she went home I asked my dad what he thought of her and this was his response.

“I think she’s like a clown. Smiling on the outside and crying on inside.”

I was shocked by my dad’s assessment because I’d never in the time I’d spent with her seen anything to suggest she might be unhappy. The next time I saw her I told her what my dad said. She gave me a thin smile and I could see she was touched by my dad’s comment. She didn’t say anything she just walked away.

It wasn’t her that I knew it was her illusion.

 

The Bleak Hours

Fog
The hours, days, months, and even years of living in despair – the bleak hours.

Despair creeps in like a slow rolling fog. An insidious cloud at the edge of my peripheral vision. There are always signs that the bleak hours are coming; the flu-like symptoms, lack of interest, lack of energy and denial.

So, I sleep more, I do less, and I watch my self-esteem crumble. I can’t stay on top of my life, my simple, uncomplicated life. Most people work full-time, take care of a home, raise kids, hang out with friends and spend time indulging hobbies. I don’t work, live alone with 4 dogs, and can live my life any way I choose, and I still can’t make it happen. I have a pity-party, I feel worthless and I sleep to escape my dark thoughts.

Yesterday, I cried off and on, for no reason. I think the pain wells up deep inside of me and spills out of my eyes. I tell myself that if I don’t get a handle on the crying I will have to go to the hospital. I can feel myself breaking apart inside. I’ve been there before and when I get to the breaking point, I scare the hell out of people.

If I’m going to the hospital, I have a few things to take care of first. As I make a mental note of what I need to do I find the dark thoughts lifting. Preparing for a breakdown is too much work, so I start tidying up to distract myself. It works, and I find my internal drama quiets, allowing me to have a pleasant evening.

After a fitful night’s sleep, I wake exhausted and stumble to let the dogs out. I go back to bed for a couple of hours before I decide to get up and head for the dog park. There are other people there and we chat, but I feel detached and heavy in my body and my spirit. I can’t wait to get home.

I pick up a coffee and muffin on the way home and here I sit, browsing facebook and feeling restless. I’ll have a nap soon and sleep away the afternoon, quieting all the noise in my head. Napping is my favorite escape from mental anguish. When I wake up I will feel refreshed and in a better position to fight the chaos in my mind and body. I’ve been here before and I know this will pass, after all, God is with me and He will carry me to the other side.

The bleak hours are always there, hovering on the outskirts waiting for an opportunity to settle in my spirit. This is my reality. Time spent during the bleak hours serves to make me stronger and more appreciative of the beautiful, joyful moments. Moments that fill me with hope for a better day and a better life without the bleak hours.