Fighting the Battle
Together, we can fight back against this epidemic and save lives.
Posted July 20, 2017
It’s been almost three years since Robin Williams died. Robin Williams, although we never met, had a massive impact on my life. His movies play over and over in my mind, and I can hear him yelling “Hello!!!” in Mrs. Doubtfire.
When I was diagnosed with a mental illness, I was 14. I didn’t know anything about mental illnesses, except that they were something that no one talked about. I thought it meant that I would never have a “normal” life, that I would never live out my dreams, and that I was broken. My mom, seeing the impact it had on me, printed out a list of celebrities who have a mental illness. And would you know who was on the list? None other than Robin Williams. Seeing the names of actors I’ve always admired gave me hope; it inspired me to keep trying to chase my dreams just like they did, despite having a mental illness.
When I heard that news that on August 11, 2014, Robin Williams committed suicide, I felt like a piece of me died too. I thought to myself, “His illness won.”
When you live with a mental illness, you fight a lifelong battle. When you’re medicated, staying away from booze and drugs, and doing other things to take care of yourself (sleep, exercise, etc.), you’re winning the battle. The mental illness cannot control you, because you have learned to control it. But when you don’t do those things, and unfortunately sometimes even when you do, the mental illness begins to regain control, and you start to suffer. That’s when the demons come out.
Everyone has demons, mental illness or not, but these types of demons are different; they can convince you to believe their lies. Their lies are different for everyone — mine tell me I’m worthless, and I don’t deserve to be happy. They tell me that life is too hard, and I should stop trying. They bombard me with horrible lies, and sometimes I start to believe them. That’s when I reach for help. I call my doctor or someone I trust, because sometimes it’s just too hard to do it alone. Unfortunately, not everyone knows how to ask for help.
We see people who are suffering from depression or other mental illnesses try to drown out their demons with alcohol or silence them with drugs, but that just gives the demons more power. If you’re medicated, alcohol and drugs cancel out all the good that medication does and actually begin to make everything worse. When the mental illness gains full control, when the demons are overpowering, it feels like there’s only one solution…
People say suicide is selfish, but it isn’t, because suicide is not a choice; it’s the demon’s choice. Suicidal thoughts are terrifying, because they’re not your own. It almost feels like being possessed, and in a way you are. The illness has taken over and strips you of your wants, needs, and feelings. All you feel is pain, or maybe you feel nothing at all. But it doesn’t have to be this way. There is hope.
Suicide is 100-percent preventable, but it won’t be if we keep it in the dark. We need to talk about how we feel, learn when we should reach out for help, and know how to find the help we need. Easier said than done, because there’s a huge, ugly roadblock standing in the way — the stigma. Suicide and mental illness in general are still taboo subjects that don’t receive the acknowledgment and resources they need.
Since the government doesn’t seem like it wants to do anything about it any time soon, it’s up to us to help each other. If you’ve identified with anything I mentioned, TALK ABOUT IT. Tell a therapist or a loved one. Write anonymous posts on mental health blogs or on mine; it would be an honor to share the stories of others. Comment on social media posts by survivors so that others can see the type of support that’s out there. Volunteer at a suicide hotline, or read books about it to educate yourself — just do SOMETHING. We need to normalize mental health, so that people who are suffering feel safe to reach out for the help that they need.
Together, we can fight back against this epidemic and save lives. No more lost battles.