The Scarred and The Sacred: Finding Spirituality Through Suicide

Posted: August 12, 2014 in Inner Journey, Pagan Perspectives, Thoughts on Life
Tags: , , , , , , , ,

helping-handMy heart goes out to the loved ones of Robin Williams, and to all those touched by his life and death. His suicide has opened a wave of discussion about the impact of depression and what it means to live, and love, and be within the shadow of sadness. This has hit me hard, not least because I know what it is like to smile through sadness, to live with depression and to face suicide. Mr. Williams brought laughter to so many, lifted the hearts of others so often, and yet he lived with a shadow that many of us endure and never speak about. Now people are talking. Everywhere I go I hear people talking about it. The internet is full of people talking about it. Talk is great, we need an open discussion about mental health and its impact, yes we do. But talk is also a trigger, and these last couple of days have forced me to poke old wounds, bringing memories to the surface.

For those who know me well, or perhaps who have read my recent book, you would be aware that I have lived with depression and anxiety for most of my life. Even as a young child my family referred to me as having ‘black moods’ which could last for weeks at a time. The onslaught of puberty brought this awareness to the forefront, and certain situations would trigger deep dark bouts of depression that could last for months. I experienced blinding headaches and earaches so bad I would put my hands to the sides of my head, fully expecting to feel my head split from the pressure. I would rock myself into numbness, and then physically hurt myself just to see if I could still feel. I became unpredictable, one moment laughing and singing, the next shutting everyone out. I would flip between a red ball of high energy and anger, and a black hole of self loathing, despair and emptiness. I fell into the world of books, becoming so absorbed in another world that my own life ceased to exist. I listened to people talk about me as if I weren’t there. Family whispered about me behind closed doors, and in a form of self harm I would listen to them discuss my ‘wrongness’. My pain was psychosomatic, as if that made it hurt less. I was experiencing PTSD from my sisters death, I was manic depressive, I was dissociative, I had a personality disorder. I was given labels that meant nothing by people who meant nothing to me, and yet I took each word in as a confirmation of my wrongness. What I was, was deeply unhappy. At the tender age of fourteen I attempted suicide. I failed. Obviously. And my failure added to my shame. I burned my suicide notes and wondered what it meant to be so unsuccessful at both living and dying.

ForgiveSo began my journey of self-discovery. It was slow progress. I started studying death and dying in cultures all around the world, which opened me up to so many different spiritual systems. I discovered that there were a lot of people like me who could sense the energies of spirits and the emotions of other people. Many of them also experienced depression, and from them I learned how absorbing external energies could spark a bout of depression, anxiety, fear or even physical illness. I studied shielding techniques and self care methods that would never appear in psychology books. I started replacing my forms of self harm with meditation, mantras, and walks in nature. I learned about sacred symbols and manipulating energy. I learned about the power of language and I very consciously stopped saying “I suffer with depression and anxiety” because I no longer wanted to be a victim of an external force. I did not want to suffer, I discovered that I wanted to live. I learned to live with my cycles, to pay attention to what triggers me, to how often I would naturally spiral down into the abyss. I discovered patterns in my behaviour, and I learned that creative expressions were a method of alleviating the darkness. I wrote, I painted, I turned numbness into anger and punched pillows. I had conversations with myself about mental health and what it meant to heal. I look back now and wonder how I once found myself at the corner of Madness and Loss. I wonder more often how I found the footpath to Life. But I did, I am here, and now I am listening to stories of suicide and survival, goodness and grief, love and selfishness, laughter and loss.

Did I somehow completely rid myself of depression through spiritual techniques? Nope. My cycles of wax and wane are a part of me. My shadow is not the whole of me, but it is a part of me. I have learned more about myself by staring at my own reflection than I care to admit, but my journey into spirituality was the mirror with which to see myself more clearly. So what is the point of this post? What does moving from scarred to sacred have to do with the current climate of suicide talk in the blogosphere?

This:

Broken or whole, we are sacred. Smiling or sad, we are sacred. In sunshine and shadow, we are sacred.

Despite knowing what it is like to face the abyss and feel it is the only sensible solution to a life of pain, I cannot and will not ever truly know what another person facing their own abyss feels. Even if you have experienced depression in your life, as I have, we cannot ever truly know what lies beneath the surface of anothers life. Have compassion. We all have our own journey and it does no kindness to tar the memory of a loved one because of our own ignorance of their pain. Have compassion. It does no kindness to criticize those who step into their own shadow, and it does no kindness to their friends and family when you claim their actions are selfish. You may as well say that they did not love enough to stay, or were not loved enough to stay. Please don’t say that. Have compassion. Be aware that what ‘works’ for you and what was beneficial for me, is not something that will work for everyone. Have compassion. Depression is not just ‘feeling down’, and there is so simple solution to ‘get over it’. Have compassion, for that which you think you understand or do not understand at all. Have compassion for others and for yourself.

And if you, dear reader, are facing your own personal abyss know that I have compassion for you. If you can find a way to inch away from the edge, please do. Reach out in the darkness and find even the slimmest of threads to pull yourself back. I cannot promise that tomorrow or the day after will be better, but I can promise you this: In ways you may not be able to see yet, you are more than scarred – you are sacred.

 

If you need help, please follow this link for a list of international hotline and helpline numbers:

http://www.suicide.org/international-suicide-hotlines.html

 

Rest in Peace Robin Williams

Mork & Mindy: In Mork We Trust (#1.21) (1979)

“Orson: The report, Mork.

Mork: This week I discovered a terrible disease called loneliness.

Orson: Do many people on Earth suffer from this disease?

Mork: Oh yes sir, and how they suffer. One man I know suffers so much he has to take a medication called bourbon, even that doesn’t help very much because then he can hear paint dry.

Orson: Does bed rest help?

Mork: No because I’ve heard that sleeping alone is part of the problem. You see, Orson, loneliness is a disease of the spirit. People who have it think that no one cares about them.

Orson: Do you have any idea why?

Mork: Yes sir you can count on me. You see, when children are young, they’re told not to talk to strangers. When they go to school, they’re told not to talk to the person next to them. Finally when they’re very old, they’re told not to talk to themselves, who’s left?

Orson: Are you saying Earthlings make each other lonely?

Mork: No sir I’m saying just the opposite. They make themselves lonely, they’re so busy looking out for number one that there’s not enough room for two.

Orson: It’s too bad everybody down there can’t get together and find a cure.

Mork: Here’s the paradox sir because if they did get together, they wouldn’t need one.”

 

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