There Is Always a Light

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S was a lovely man. Kind, quiet, considerate and friendly, he lived in the house next door to us. We were good neighbours to each other – we looked after his cat whenever he went on holiday, he would trim the hedges at the front of our house, we’d put each others bins out on rubbish day and we’d always have a nice chat in a morning as we left for work at the same time. I know that he had been having a rough time – he and his wife had separated and she had left, taking their son with her, but in conversations we had with him he seemed to be doing ok – he regularly went out with his friends, he had a new relationship, he went away on holiday for a break, and he seemed to greet us with a smile every morning as he left for work.

About a year after the separation, we received a knock on the front door. It was K, who lived in the house on the other side of S, and she was upset. S had taken his own life. He had been found in his house, hanging from the light fitting in his bedroom by his brother who had become concerned when he failed to show up for lunch. When we learned the time of his death we realised that when he was doing it, we were lying in bed in the room on the other side of the wall. A wall that was so thin that we could hear him cough and sneeze in the night.

I felt helpless. If he had only knocked on the door, or even on the wall, and told us that he was feeling this way. If only he had given some sort of inclination that he was struggling, that he needed help. If only he had told someone, anyone. If only…

I couldn’t sleep last night. I awoke at about 2am after a nightmare, and so I logged onto Twitter to calm my thoughts. Like the rest of the world, I was horrified to hear of the death of Robin Williams, an actor who’s many films have made me both laugh and cry. While many are quoting his performances in Good Morning Vietnam, Good Will Hunting and Mrs Doubtfire, for me it was Bicentennial Man that has always stayed with me as being the absolute example of his ability to simply make us feel. Every death is tragic and a loss to the people around them, but a life taken by their own hands always leaves me with the same feeling that I experienced when S passed away. Helpless. How sad that a man who did so much for so many felt that there was no other option.

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Suicide is not chosen: it happens when pain exceeds resources for coping with pain. It is not a strength or weakness, or a defect. It doesn’t come with any moral wrongs or rights.

I am not a therapist, and I don’t possess any qualifications in counselling or mental health issues, but I know what it is like to feel that there is nothing. I know what it is like to be surrounded by people and feel entirely alone. I know the blackness and despair that depression can bring. I also know that, without help, the Black Dog doesn’t go away – it festers and grows, taking over and destroying every aspect of the mind and body, and the burden of carrying it alone makes it unbearable. I also know that things get better.

Depression doesn’t discriminate. I’m not saying anything different from millions of others this morning. If you’re feeling lost, alone, out of control, I’m imploring you to tell someone – a family member, a friend, a neighbour. Contact the Samaritans, or the National Suicide Prevention line. Or anyone. Just tell someone. You aren’t alone, you aren’t crazy, and remember that no matter how badly you feel, there is always a light out there. There is hope, friendship, love and laughter. There is joy, inspiration, creativity and happiness.

There is life.

RIP Robin Williams, you will be greatly missed. My thoughts and condolences are with his family and friends.

50 thoughts on “There Is Always a Light

  1. I’m so sorry to hear about what happened to your neighbor. It’s so difficult to feel like we could have done something to prevent the tragedy.

    Robin Williams was so wonderful, brilliant, and he had this power to affect the lives of so many. I know his films affected my views on life. Robin Williams, whether he made you laugh or cry, always made an audience FEEL something.

  2. Great post. I too was saddened when I learned of Robin Williams’ death. He has brought laughter and joy to our lives for many years so it is difficult to think of him suffering so much. Depression is just wicked and incredibly difficult to escape. My 15 year old suffers from this and there is literally nothing I can do for her except be there for her and get her the help she needs. It is a lonely, uphill battle for her and for anyone else suffering from depression. I never understood this until I watched her go through this. People ask me why she’s sad and that’s the thing. There’s no reason. It’s depression.

  3. I’m so sorry to hear about your neighbor. It’s so difficult when this type of tragedy touches our lives, especially when we’re blind sided by it.

    Robin Williams was a brilliant and talented man. He shaped many childhoods and lives through his work. I’m still so heartbroken to hear about his death.

  4. As a person that has lost many to suicide, I know that once the decision is made, that’s the end of it. It’s not about us, and so many live with immense guilt for not seeing signs that generally aren’t even there. I woke up this morning with the same horrified reaction.

  5. Prayers and thoughts for your neighbor’s family. Now and when it happened. Robin Williams will truly be missed. Many thoughts and prayers go out to his friends and family as well. He was a great actor and funny. Depression is a terrible thing. Thankfully mine is pretty much in control. Prayers and thoughts for you as you deal with yours. God has helped me greatly. Truly sad to feel alone.

  6. I’m so sorry to hear about your neighbour and your feelings of helplessness. Those feelings never totally fade. Robin William’s passing is incredibly tragic and a huge loss. Fortunately, for us, he has shared so much that will continue to give joy and laughter for many years.

  7. I guess everyone here feels the same way I do. Robin Williams does have a huge impact for all of us, even though he is someone I personally do not know but the wisdom through his movies is something I really would miss.

  8. Thank you for your thoughts. As one who frequently struggles with depression I understand the darkness. And I know how difficult it can be to find the light in those moments. I sincerely hope the conversations and awareness people are having right now continue. I hope people mean what they say and those without mental illness truly do what they can to remove the stigma. I hope those of us with mental illness issues can find the strength to speak up, for ourselves of for others. Because it matters so much.

    Happy Sharefest. Thanks for sharing.

  9. I’m so sorry about your neighbor. It’s sad when someone close to you is lost. Painful when they take their own life. I’ve been so far down that I’ve thought about taking my own life before, so I know the depths of depression and how hard it is to climb out it. There are so many people who still don’t understand it. When news broke about Robin Williams, it brought it all back for me. I had been suffering in silence for weeks myself. The pain can be so deep it’s unimaginable. The more people know and understand, maybe the less those who suffer from depression will feel alone.

  10. I know that post must have been painful to write. It must be so unbearable to live with that type of depression. I hope your post will encourage anyone battling to reach out to someone. Found you on SITS.

  11. I’m sorry to hear about your neighbor. Depression is an ugly cowardly beast and sometimes there isn’t anything anyone can do to stop it. (Not saying the person is cowardly, the disease is.) I wish you and your family peace and hope you can keep his memory & the memory of Mr Robin Williams alive by all of the positive ways they have affected your lives. (Stopping by from SITS GIrls Sharefest)

  12. You have expressed yourself so eloquently and with true transparency and honesty; something this world tends to run short of. Thank you. As one who has wrestled with the darkness, I understand the defeat and desperation that depression brings. I consider myself one of the “lucky ones,” yet I sometimes hold a quiet reservation…what if? What if I one day return to that place? Depression does not discriminate and a person is not a weakling if attacked. I love how you put it: “Suicide is not chosen: it happens when pain exceeds resources for coping with pain.” I pray that saddening news such as the death of Robin Williams will shed light on this quiet killer so that more people will seek the resources needed to cope. Without shame.

  13. For a while I witnessed someone very dear to me struggle with depression. I could not get to him, he knew I loved him but couldn’t feel it. He knew all the right words and all the possible solutions, but he could not bring himself to grab my hand and step back into the sunshine. So even though I was there beside him, I was just an onlooker. Luckily he never did any of the drastic things I believe crossed his mind and is slowly facing “the black dog”.
    As far as Robin Williams goes, let’s hope he has found the peace of mind he was yearning for and that he can feel the love that is pouring out from all corners of the world for him.

  14. I think everyone experiences depression at some point in their life. Sometimes it’s a week of hell, but whatever was bothering them rights itself and the depression goes along to wrap it’s long twisted fingers around someone else’s jugular. You see, it’s easy to say “Talk to someone” but that’s part of depression. Your mind makes you believe that nothing you say will be understood, or that no one will listen. You will be laughed at for feeling so sad about something so insignificant. Depression plays such evil tricks on our minds. It hurts both mentally and physically. It silences us, it secludes us. It leaves us to our own devices. If you’ve struggled with depression for years, sometimes suicide seems to be the only answer. You’re so tired. Tired of feeling alone and in constant pain. I can’t fault Robin Williams or anyone else for taking their own lives. Depression truly does kill. I’ve glimpsed that dark, empty place, and perhaps it’s still there, lying dormant. I will never open the door again. I will keep it locked with numerous locks and never even acknowledge that it existed. Maybe I’m just in denial, but in doing so, I’ve found happiness. I wish he could have done the same, as well as all the other people who resort to suicide. Mental illness needs to be brought to the forefront, raising awareness. It’s sad that it takes the suicide of a celebrity to get the ball rolling, but perhaps some good can come from this. Perhaps his actions can bring attention to the suicide prevention hotlines and hospitals willing to help people who suffer from severe depression.
    ~Kate

  15. A thoughtful and well written post. Most do not understand depression and suicide goes against the grain of human will to live. I also worry about those who choose the slow suicide of alcohol and addictive narcotics. I have lost a sister and will probably lose a brother to these invasive and seductive evils. Peace and Love! Ken

  16. That is an amazing heartfelt piece. It made me look a suicide a different way and I totally agree with you. When you get depressed the only thing you can think of is bad things happening. There is no day off and people need a way of dealing with it. For many, like the comedy legend, this results in suicide but I really really wish it didnt!

    I loved it a lot and thankyou for sharing this personal experience.

  17. I found this ‘I felt helpless. If he had only knocked on the door, or even on the wall, and told us that he was feeling this way. If only he had given some sort of inclination that he was struggling, that he needed help’ – was quite an interesting statement. My own experience with suicide, despite having very little involvement in the persons life, The thought of could I have done something, is something that will always haunt me. Thank you for sharing your experienc

  18. Suzie, what a heartfelt post. The death of Robin Williams really blew me away as well. So your story about your neighbor opens up a floodgate of discussion about depression and suicide that hits home. Well done. And I’m so very sorry for your loss. Sadly, sometimes those who are down in the hole won’t seek out help, no matter how many loved ones – or neighbors surround them. If they want to die, they will find a way to die. Just like Robin. It’s devastating to think of a person who has so much love, can’t find it within. Thanks so much for sharing this.

  19. This was beautifully written. It’s good to see more and more people who aren’t afraid to speak up about this topic, thank you for sharing your touching story!

  20. this piece of writing was really heart touching.i really appreciate that you had the courage to write on such a sensitive topic when others wouldn’t saying that they are strong and they are able to handle this.It takes some real pluck to speak on a sensitive issue..

  21. You made me start to cry. I deal with depression a lot. I finally left my emotionally abusive husband after so many years so I am much better with it. Today he came to pick up my daughter from visitation so the cloud of doom he left has put me on the dark side. Your post was used by God to help me. Thank You.

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