O Captain My Captain

In response to the death of Robin Williams, this post talks about my personal struggles with depression, suicide, and self injury. Please read at your own discretion. 

I was 14. I had just taken and found out I failed all but one of my midterms. The very first midterms I’d ever taken! The one I didn’t fail (English) I only pulled a C on. My friends were slowly drifting away, getting deeper involved into their cliquey Christianity. Apparently my atheism and inability to sing along with Point of Grace songs made me an unsuitable mall companion.

This, apparently, was high school and I was going to put an end to it before it had time to get rolling even further.

Fortunately or unfortunately the household of my teenage self was ill-equipped for someone looking to commit suicide. Rather than a well thought up plan, I had about 2 hours to successfully pull it off before my mom got home from work. It was then I discovered no sharp knives, no knife sharpener, no pain medication stronger than Advil. Jumping from our second story balcony looked, even to my frantic, desperate brain, like a better way to break my legs than kill myself. I didn’t trust myself to fashion a successful noose out of what? A bed sheet? I was one broken glass- etched with a scene of deer in a field- from an assortment of shot guns and hunting rifles. It probably means that my parents were successful in their gun education that those didn’t seem like viable options. I could appropriate household items (we didn’t even have bleach!) but a gun? No, couldn’t deviate that from it’s specific purpose of killing deer! 

My time was up. Frustrated and angry and ashamed I folded. I would live. What followed were four long, miserable years of high school, where the light at the end of the tunnel was too far away to matter, where the hits kept coming, and where I wondered if maybe some people just aren’t meant to be happy ever. I turned to self-injury, a coping mechanism so ingrained in me now that I still struggle to control it.

I don’t know if I’m funny, per se. While I am certainly snarky and irreverent, while I am sarcastic and thrive on black humor (sometimes used a coping mechanism for my own situations), I would not describe myself as the tortured comedian type. My penchant for being a literary, creative, writerly type has been used to dismiss my issues with depression because I just “feel deeper.” Whenever someone says that though, it honestly just feels like a cop-out, like they are saying I’m just stuck being this way. It’s never been said in a way that also encourages getting help.

Perhaps ironically, at the worst of my depression, when I was laying in a bed in Korea, my unwashed dishes taking over my counter but irrelevant because I was no longer eating, my nights a blur of soju and cab rides home I don’t remember making, as I swung between insomnia and hypersomnia, at this lowest of lows suicide was not an option. Because suicide required an incredible amount of energy and since I couldn’t just will myself dead I couldn’t even attempt because damnit I didn’t have the energy or fucks to give that I could feed myself, suicide was far too proactive a decision for me to handle.

I’m not suicidal I just can’t get out of bed/I drift into a deep fog

I am not the biggest advocate of life. I have not felt suicidal in relation to depression in several years. I question sometimes though, am I doing anything worthwhile enough with my time on this earth that I can justify taking up space and resources? Since there are people out there who generally care about being alive and enjoy it, should I just take my ambivalence off this planet? There is a pragmatism to these thoughts though, a strange level of calculation. It is as related to my teenage desperation to stop living as a hyena is to a cat, which is to say: scientifically they’re in the same tree but in terms of looks and behaviors, not at all. I will say that having this job, this job I really like, has lessened those feelings. And there are still enough things that I want to see and experience and eat (helllllllloooooooo jamon iberico!) that I’m probably just going to stick around and feel guilty about breathing everyone’s air and drinking your water.

It can be the little things that keep you going.

It is an unspoken truth that when my cat dies I will probably need to be supervised 24/7 for awhile to keep me on this earth. Fortunately my cat has promised to never die.

You see, like many kids growing up in the 90s, Aladdin was my everything. the Princess had the best hair and the best outfit and the second best necklace and the best pet. Aladdin himself was kinda sexy for a cartoon character. And Genie was hilarious.

Batty is the best part of Fern Gully.

Oh my god, and Mrs. Doubtfire?

Hook might be the best classic story  “update” ever made.

Martha Graham, Martha Graham, Martha Graham!”

What Dreams May Come is better than the book, and I say that as a raging Matheson fangirl.

And I would never say that a person who commits suicide is selfish, not just because it’s tacky and rude and false. And I’d encourage anyone who feels like ending it to seek help. And I am sad not just because an amazing piece of my childhood was lost in such a tragic way, but because he leaves behind so many people who love him the person and not just the actor. Everyone who is sad has every right to be just as sad as they want and it is completely legitimate but I don’t think I’m being disrespectful when I say: That sadness is different when you’ve been there.

I’ve stared down that hallway many times since I was fourteen years old, sobbing in the bathroom holding test results unable to see any other solution to the fact that I was clearly an embarrassing fucking idiot as one of my friends stood there repeating “just tell me I’ll see you tomorrow. Just be on that bus tomorrow and I will see you then.”

But I have promises to keep, and miles to go before I sleep.

Tell them you’ll see them tomorrow. Tell them you’ll be waiting for them. Let’s raise a glass: to those we lost, and to those who made it.


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