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.
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.” 
Today, I enjoy relaxing in my reclining leather loveseat next to my ten-month-old black lab puppy, Lulu. She rests her warm head on my leg. I am excited about the impending birth of my first grandchild who is expected later this month. It is now spring and my moods have lifted. On a day like this, with the sun shining and a slight breeze coming in, you would never guess that I am in recovery. On a day like this, it seems impossible that a bit more than 2629 days ago, this day wasn’t going to happen. I thought January 8, 2010, was to be my last day.
My “last” day
Charles wasn’t the first person to speak up when entering a room, but often times he was the last to leave ensuring everyone had a listening ear. One of the things, I love about being a NAMI presenter, is that you get to hear the other presenters’ stories. When Charles and I presented together, I learned he had struggled with suicidal thoughts since his teens. It wasn’t until he was married with two children that his mental illness first brought him to his knees. For even a warrior like Charles, it took homelessness to get him to admit he needed help.(more…)