National Mental Health Awareness Week is this week. Sometimes, I've been wondering exactly what to write, since this is supposed to be the premise of this whole blog -- making people aware of what it's like to have a mental illness, trying to eras some of the stigma, giving people some of the ins and outs of treatment, meds, day to day life -- the insider trading, if you will.
Tonight, I came across this article about the suicide of Lee Thompson Young, an actor who was most recently on Rizzoli and Isles. And I thought that it might be a good thing to talk about.
The article talks about the fact that after an autopsy, Lithium and Seroquel were found in his system, but there were no traces of opiates or alcohol or any other illicit drugs. You see, alcohol/drug addiction are often found concurrent with a serious mental illness. But it's not always the way it goes down. Sometimes, it's not present, or sometimes that's been addressed, and you're left to just deal with the mental illness itself.
Lithium and Seroquel are often prescribed for manic-depression (bipolar, as they like to call it these days). And the article says that there was no suicide note left, that "the specific motive remains a mystery." Yes, that's the thing. The specific motive is mental illness. The despair and hopelessness that a fucked up brain chemistry spirals you into leaves no real motive. What would the motive ever be other than to end the pain?
Here's the secret -- even if there were romantic troubles or financial destitution or family issues or a crime committed -- there are lots of other people in the world that are in similar or identical situations -- WORSE situations -- that never kill themselves. And conversely, there are people who outsiders remark that they "seemed fine" or "had everything going" that kill themselves in spite of outward appearances.
It doesn't make sense, because it doesn't make sense. Untreated mental illness is unpredictable and chaotic and unreliable. And it makes the people whose minds it inhabits the same. Nature abhors a suicide; we're absolutely wired to live and carry on despite insurmountable odds. There are countless stories that confirm that. So when someone is led by their brain to go against the prime directive, it is truly an aberration, and something that is hard to get our minds around.
And so we're left scrambling to try and make sense of that which we can't possibly understand. Was it drugs? Was it something so terribly wrong? Was it trouble? What was "the motive?" I haven't come very close to that edge, but I have at least been in the same building, and I know that it's just a building that exists in a place where nothing really can be understood and nothing makes sense and you're not sure how you got there, where the front door is, or how to get out. I think what happens is that some people think that the only way out is through the window rather than back through the front. And things can get so confusing that they might even forget there is a front door or forget they know people outside the building or they start to believe that there is no way that there will ever be anything good ever again.
Depression. Despair. Hopelessness. A final surrender to something bleak in the hopes that it will end the current suffering. This is what I think suicide is about. Again, I haven't been anywhere close, but I also have the ability for mad empathy. So, know that this is what it can look like, and we owe it to those who have left us to try and understand just a little bit more for those we can potentially save.
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