Throughout the course of a person’s life, one could experience the simple pleasures of each day; a casual walk in a nearby park, window shopping on a lazy Sunday afternoon, coffee and a paperback book in hand at a local café, live sporting events and outdoor concerts with friends or a long distance phone call from a loving family member. However, one could remove themselves from these enjoyable everyday gifts in a heartbeat. It can creep up like a ferocious predator in the night without any warning. For most people, this debilitating condition can easily cover anyone like a dark blanket and suffocate them in a sea of never-ending despair. Unfortunately, I was a victim of depression and this is a true story of my personal battle and my ultimate recovery.
We always prepare a first aid kit for our physical injuries when we go on a camping trip. What if those of us who have experienced symptoms of mental illness had a way to prepare a first aid kit or safety plan to meet those needs?
There are many different types of safety plans but one for my depression and anxiety was the one I never imagined I would need and I wish was explained to me. The plan I probably put the most thought into was the birth plan for my first child. Specifics such as what music to have on, what to have as a focus object, not to have drugs if possible were thought about and discussed with both my husband and my doctor. I will say, the plan was mostly followed although, I did take a little something for the pain.
The other type of plan that comes to mind is a fire safety plan for your house and family members. What do you do if the fire comes near you? What are the alternate ways out of the house: windows, doors? And where to meet up once you are out?
Shortly after “coming out of the closet” about my mental illness, I was contacted by another male friend. “You’ve been there, one way or another. I appreciate your courage,” he said. I told him we are all in this together. He responded, “Yeah, our family motto is you admit no faults, hide your feelings and emotions, don’t talk about problems. Makes you weak… Have spent some time on the edge: bottle in one hand and a gun in the other.” As we continued the conversation, he told me he was getting help and on medication. I told him to stay in touch with me. He was very appreciative.
A few months later, my friend contacted me, “I am struggling today.” I told him he was not alone, he is uniquely wonderful and deeply loved by his family. He appreciated my words but was still struggling. His “inner demons” were winning that day, but he wasn’t giving in. By the end of our conversation, he felt better. I will always remember the “you are a life saver” message I got from my friend a few days later. “This time I was there to help,” I thought.
The first time suicide impacted me directly was when a male friend committed suicide. He was a boy I saw cracking jokes and doing pranks, and who I watched grow into a wonderful, dedicated man. I can still see myself at work, wearing my green suit, when I learned he had committed suicide. A twin bomb of shock and guilt exploded in my heart. All I could think was, “If I had only known.” I was shaken for days. In fact, I wasn’t able to go to the funeral, but I wish I had. I wrote his family a long, heartfelt letter saying everything I wish I could have said to him. No one can ever fill the special place he had in my life.
A hilarious genius, Robin Williams would verbally shower us with his brilliance as we laughed until our bellies ached. We marveled at his boundless energy and his ability to be extemporaneously funny. Robin Williams’ mind improvised stand-up comedy routines which he delivered flawlessly. He was a comedic tour de force. The USC film school has established a Robin Williams Comedy Chair. “Robin was a comedy genius with a boundless talent,” Lucas said. “He was singular in every way, yet had great respect for the genre and for the dedication it took to succeed. His talent was only matched by his work ethic. That’s why he made it to the pinnacle of comedy success, and why his legacy will be to motivate and inspire young storytellers.” 
I grew up in poverty, with a mother with untreated and undiagnosed bipolar illness, 5 siblings, my grandparents, and a tenant who lived in the attic. The tenant paid rent which helped our food bill. There were 11 of us, no shower, no heat upstairs, and we had to draw a straw to line up for the bathroom. At age 19, I took legal action and forced my mother to enter a mental hospital against her free will. She never forgave me for violating her rights. On her deathbed, I could sense her lack of trust with me. My action of institutionalizing my mother in her manic, violent, psychotic state created serious disruption in our relationship until her dying day. I can’t help but wonder if mental illness is contagious.