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Arden Raine is an ex-theatrical making sense of life through many lenses.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Puck's Gone Away

I know that today your feeds are awash in thoughts about the death of Robin Williams.

I know that even now, barely 24 hours since he took his own life, you might be feeling overwhelmed by the presence of depression.  What it is and what it's not are filling thousands of virtual diaries.

Memes about sadness and hot line numbers are everywhere today.

There's an equal sense of sadness and anger. I understand that you might not want to read another tribute.  Or read another me too post about internal demons.

If so by all means stop reading now. No hard feelings.

But that's what I am going to write about today: the Hard feelings.

I am a major depressive. That means that a toxic combination of genetics, nurture, & chemistry have conjoined inside my body to make me prone to uncontrolled depression, too loneliness ocean deep and pain that never fully heals.

I am going to speak frankly about suicide and my opinion on it. And I honestly don't give a fuck if you agree with me or not. I have a unique view of what it is to dance with Death. I am going to be brave enough to share those things.  I understand if that is too unsettling for some of you. No hard feelings,  as long as you keep chiding thoughts to yourselves.

I am devastated by the suicide of Mr. Williams. I've been crying since last evening when the news broke. I didn't sleep last night. I cuddled up around my phone and watched Netflix to try to soothe the raw ache.

I have also been trying to understand why I am so upset. But I think I see clearer today.

I never met Mr. Willams. And ever since my early childhood I felt deeply saddened by his blue eyes. There was such hurt in those bright eyes. I've always equated a set of twinkling eyes with deep and bottomless pain. I always see his eyes when I think of how funny people are the most wounded.

Robin Williams saved my life more times than any other person on this planet.  That is why I am sore from crying today. And it's a lovely day all bright and full of promise. A thumb jab to the heart's eyes that it's a beautiful blue sky day. When by rights the world should be covered in storms. And yet...
The sky is blue like those lovely eyes. 

So how the heck did a man I never met save my life?

Mork & Mindy. This show created a small pocket of peace in my childhood.  A brief moment of silence when my family would stop en mass and not be fighting.  This show stopped a beating once. Because no one wanted to miss the show.  That's the first time Robin saved my life.

I've had at least one suicidal bout a year since I was 8 years old. On at least three separate cases the work of Mr. Williams found a way to blast through the cacophony of pain and make me able to go on when I truly didn't want to live.

"Live at the Met" found me on one of my first almost successful attempts at taking my own life. I had taken a full bottle of pills. I was sitting on the couch and waiting for the warmth of the narcotics to carry my life away when on the special came. In that frenetic explosion of comedy. I found a new way to see how my own mind worked. I saw that I could channel the mania and pain into something else. I forced myself to vomit and watched the full special and cried myself to sleep grateful for the sad clown who gave me a reason to go on.

In High School he saved me again with "Dead Poet's Society". I had been planning for three weeks how to kill myself. I had internalized the lesson from Met. Never let them see how much you hurt. Make them laugh. Seem normal.

Odd I know that of all people Robin taught me to be normal acting. But I still have the journals from my life before high school and living with my Dad. Mr. Williams was there.

So here I was a seemingly happy teen. Not popular but with friends. Finally feeling better after the horrors of my early childhood.  I was the lead in the school musical. I was student of the month. I was by outward appearances a happy kid.

Yet I was desperate to be rid of my life. The pain was becoming unbearable.  Too many secrets.  Too much shame. How couldn't people see in my own blue eyes the rot inside of me. And then on the day before I was going to hang myself, this was the first time hanging seemed the only way I could go, I sat on the couch with my Gram and watched Dead Poet's.
My life shifted. I went out of body during the suicide scene.  I saw how my pain being released in death, mercifully released, would harm others. I was trained since earliest memories to worry more about others pain than my own. That saved my life.

So I watched the film. Then went to my room and stood on my desk and silently screamed for two straight hours. Sobbing and spent I became feverish and wrote a deeply moving and personal piece for my English class.  Surely Mrs. Anderson would see this and set my heart free!!! I didn't have to die- I could write away the demons. And with inhaled breath handed over the piece.  It was dismissed as weird and awful. It was weird and awful. But it was my rawest self on a page. It would be the last time until recent memory, or blog post, that I wrote in that state of feverish honesty.  Truth told the rejection of my captain still stings. But Robin had already saved me so I didn't need her after all.

I've tried to kill myself since early childhood.  Wrists cut wrongly. Tossing myself in front of moving vehicles. Laying in the middle of the street waiting for a semi to squish me (I was 8). Pills taken. Guns dreamt of. But hanging-that was my way. The grotesque visage I'd leave behind had appeal. A final fuck you to those who would have that as a final memory. Sadly ironic that the news yesterday said asphyxiation as probable cause of Mr. Williams' death.

In my late teens the sounds of Mr. Williams filled hours of earworm for me. "The Batty Rap" from Ferngully was on constant rotation in 1992. I still sing it when I feel a bit crazy. Then his turn as Genie from the utterly awful Aladdin.  I have to hum a piece of classical music as I type this to keep the drone of "Prince Ali" out of my head. I spent 3 weeks with the hook stuck in my head.  His voice had that kind of power.

Then came the Thanksgiving where I was so far down the rabbit hole of my major depression that being young and newlywed and almost financially solvent were not enough to hold back the pain.
I had sent my husband to his family and then in cold calculated ritual I followed through with my plan to kill myself. I was so relieved when I took the belt and put it around my neck. I was free. Finally fucking free of the pain of my incest. Finally free of the loss of all family ties. Finally free of the drowning feeling I'd been carrying since I was 4. The moments from the time I placed the belt around my neck to hooking it on the door to the peace I felt when I kicked the chair out from under my bare toes feel even now beautiful and kind. Then I fell. I had stupidly gone on the wrong side of the door and it held me just long enough to dump me on the floor and bend the hinges just a bit. I was so deflated that I had failed I lay there hours until my husband came home. No sense of will to hide my act as I had in the past.
I had been so close to freedom. And failed so stupidly.  I had nothing left. Not even the strength to lift my naked body from the carefully garbage bagged carpet. One doesn't want to leave to much of a mess for others to clean up after all.

The day's after we're a fog of pain and disgust. I couldn't even die right. I was denied the release I needed. I didn't have the courage to do it again. I was constantly being monitored by my terrified husband.

I stayed that way inside our home for a long time.  Outwardly the next day I was at work. Chipper and funny. Engaging the ladies at the call center with dirty jokes and funny stories of college theatre life. I answered calls for gay porn and flirted with the perverts who wanted to know what color underwear I had on. Seriously why call for gay porn then hit on a woman who answers the phone. I wore turtle necks for a month to hide the bruises on my neck.

Then "What Dreams May Come" entered my life. Greg and I went to see it in the theater.  I hadn't realized it was about a man going to hell to save the soul of his wife who committed suicide because she couldn't live without him.

I had only seen the beauty of the scene in which he arrives in the painting in a TV trailer.  And the gorgeous color called to my wounded heart. So we went.

I passed out during the movie my husband didn't realize that I had fainted.  The true horror of the darker parts of my heart were there staring at me 10 feet tall. The emptiness was too much. I didn't lose consciousness as much as I had to flee the truths of my pain.

It was a while later. That I bought the movie and was able to see the whole thing. I wept for a week. But something inside shifted. I found a place to hold still the pain and instead of shove it to the side or yank at it like a brute. That movie, those clear blue eyes helped me hold my pain like the frightened baby bird it was.

That year I spent Christmas eve in a mental hospital.  The toxic combination of broken thyroid and (now understood and diagnosed) polycystic ovaries had created a hormonal soup that forced me to seek help. Do Not self check yourself into observation at Christmas at a Catholic hospital when you are pagan. Some day I'll write about that experience.  But not today.

But there through all my years of trying to identify and control my major depression he was there.  Through the PTSD I watched "The World According to Garp" and "The Bird Cage". I obsessively quoted "Good Morning Vietnam" and sought out his manic presence to sooth my own spirit. All life stops when we see him on Letterman or being interviewed.  I watch for the smiles. I watch to secretly monitor his eyes. Is he okay? Does he have what he needs?

So today I mourn him. I weep for his pain. I carry my own so tightly. And mourn for those left behind.  By all rights he had everything a person needs.  Money, family, love, adoration,  fulfilling career and a generous heart. But all those things sometimes aren't enough to combat depression.  Sometimes only letting go can heal the heart.

But yet, I am happiest for him. His pain is over. I truly believe that. I 100% disagree with What Dreams May Come. There's no hell but life.

As a people we feel compassionate when we put sick animals to sleep. We give our hospice folk morphine so they can control their passing and we feel okay, mostly, about letting those folks control their transition to death. We don't label them cowardly for numbing themselves to pain nor to embracing their demise.

I lost a college acquaintance a few months back. He too took control of his uncontrollable pain. He too decided that he had the need and the right to stop that pain.

I fully believe that we have the right to end our own lives.  Always. My own experiences with suicidal thoughts, when not medicine induced, we're the clearest I have ever been outside of giving birth. As a side note not all suicidal thoughts are self created. Numerous times my medications made me feel like killing myself but it was brain chemistry gone awry. Then again cancer is cell growth gone awry. I feel that folks dismiss suicide as an act of a coward or an act of the deranged unthinking mind. I am sure there are such acts. But there's not been a year since age 8 when I haven't had a suicidal episode.  99% of those I have been able to see as a temporary feeling being driven by other things or thoughts nit of my own making. Something like a warning system. A volunteer fire department siren that screams: hey!!!! Get some help okay.

But that 1% was serious and crystal clear that I had had enough and needed out.

Honestly if I didn't have a child who needed me I might be here now.
My love for friends and family isn't enough to balance the pain in those moments. My understanding of the disease isnt enough. My arsenal of tools to help myself heal are not enough.But the training to take care of some one else kicks in and I persevere.

My life is good. I am okay right now. But I have a relationship with Death.  I know it is a place of peace and renewal. I've been at the gate many times. It isn't my time to leave my life of heaviness. So no worries dear friends.

Robin needed to go. He fought long and hard. He did what he could and he tried his best. And he saved me more times that I can count.  So I am happy he found peace. I am sad he did so by his own hand. But I truly understand and hope that he found the clarity and calm I have felt.

I mourn with those he left behind. I understand their anger. I just can't feel it.

If we shadows have offended, 
Think but this, and all is mended, 
That you have but slumber'd here 
While these visions did appear. 
And this weak and idle theme, 
No more yielding but a dream, 
Gentles, do not reprehend: 
if you pardon, we will mend: 
And, as I am an honest Puck, 
If we have unearned luck 
Now to 'scape the serpent's tongue, 
We will make amends ere long; 
Else the Puck a liar call; 
So, good night unto you all. 
Give me your hands, if we be friends, 
And Robin shall restore amends.

Farewell sad clown.  Farewell trickster. Goodbye sweet man.

All my thanks. All my love.

Fly swift Robin Goodfellow.

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