There aren’t many days when I forget something that I should write about, but it does happen. Yesterday was like that; I’d gotten my post written and set up all over the place, when I realized–oh, damn, I should have mentioned that.
So I’m a day behind. Sorry.
One of my favorite writers is Hunter S. Thomson. I loved the tales, loved the wildness, loved the apparent recklessness that Hunter appeared to live. He was one of those people whose work, no matter how insane it appeared, I read.
On 20 February, 2005, he wrote his last piece. It was short, and to the point:
No More Games. No More Bombs. No More Walking. No More Fun. No More Swimming. 67. That is 17 years past 50. 17 more than I needed or wanted. Boring. I am always bitchy. No Fun – for anybody. 67. You are getting Greedy. Act your old age. Relax – This won’t hurt.
He’d had a hip replacement that never seemed to work correctly. He’d suffered a broken leg. His addiction to alcohol was acute. Since Hunter saw no other way out, he shot himself, and brought an end to his life.
Yesterday, 10 September, was World Suicide Prevention Day, an international event that’s held every year the same day. Suicide’s one of those things that’s around us all the time, but most people never give it a thought. Fewer of us know anyone who’s tried or committed suicide, even though it’s the 13th cause of death world wide, and the leading cause of death for people 15 to 24.
I had a distant relative who killed herself and her two children. It happened in the mid-60’s, and actually made the local Chicago TV news. I was told later that she was “manic-depressive”, and had been in and out of treatment for years. At the time it didn’t make much of an impact on me, because I hadn’t begun suffering from my own “manic-depressive” issues–but I would understand it later. Oh, yes, I would.
Ten years ago I worked with a person who took his life. There wasn’t any warning; there were no tells. One night he went home and, just has Hunter had done, shot himself. Another person who took himself out, because the demons were too big to fight.
But I know these things first hand, because I’ve suffered through my own darkness. I’ve been bi-polar most of my life. I’ve suffered incredible moments of depression I thought I’d never leave. I’ve checked into a “facility” for forty-eight hours because I thought I would be a threat to myself, and almost did it again over the summer, when I seriously thought I was losing my sanity.
Worst of all, I’ve attempted that final trip twice: once as a teenager, and once in my early twenties, when my life felt like it going nowhere. Needless to say, I didn’t succeed either time, but I took those steps–
I’ve also taken steps to help myself. I’ve seen therapists: in fact, I’m seeing one now. I’ve called help lines so I could connect with a voice that would listen, and offer help. I watch my own tells, and understand when I’m getting ready to lose it–like over the summer.
You treat mental illness like any other illness: with treatment and observation. We aren’t lepers to be kept isolated, with people fearful we’re going to pass our illness to others through casual contact. We need to be seen and heard.
Sometimes we also need help.
World wide there are a million people a year who die by their own hand. How to stem this tide? Through help and understanding. Through dialog. Through reaching out and offering a hand where it’s needed.
Sometimes just a little human touch is all that’s required to break the silence.