Pink & Blue Mummyland

Pink and blue parenting through pink and blue moods….

News Of The Day

I got a text this morning. It was from a friend who had clicked on her Facebook icon before me, only to find that the legend, Robin Williams, had taken his own life. Like a true friend, she warned me that it might be a good idea to stay away from social media for a bit. She was right.

I’m someone who is consciously and decisively protective of my mental health – especially at the moment. I avoid any sites that might risk bringing me down, and despite following numerous bipolar, depression, and general mental health groups on Facebook, I am careful what I choose to click on and what I choose to avoid. I’ve given up Twitter altogether for the moment, because – as famously said by another of my favourite actors – “you never know what you’re going to get.” I am not willing to let my iPad dictate my emotions.

But today has got the better of me. I find myself clicking on every link and watching endless YouTube videos. I have heard again “O captain my captain,” “it’s not your fault” and “goooooood mooorniiiing Vietnaaaam!” I’ve even watched him singing with a gorilla. It’s hard to believe such a powerhouse is suddenly not there any more. It’s harder still to believe that someone who had such power over an audience, such an ability to draw out emotion, such humour as to draw people in, eventually lost the fight.

A poet who lived round the corner from where I grew up describes it perfectly: “I was much further out than you thought, and not waving but drowning.” Robin Williams always did a very good job of waving. He waved hard and fast, with innumerable affected voices, hilarious mannerisms, and what has now shown to be bittersweet slapstick. When life knocked him down he got back up again – and again and again and again it would now seem.

One of my best memories of seeing Robin Williams is probably different from everyone else’s. I saw him on a TV documentary, in a studio recording the Beatles song “Come Together.” Beatles producer George Martin, on retiring, chose his favourite songs, his favourite (not necessarily singing) celebrities, and gifted us with one of the best mash-up albums ever. Robin (I feel strangely comfortable referring to him by his first name now) was mesmerising, although I’m now unsure how universal a response that would have been. But I remember thinking, “how does he come up with so many voices, so many faces, so many ideas, so quickly? How does he keep up?” Of course, with my recently acquired, enforced knowledge of bipolar disorder, I can understand. I’ve felt that quickness of mind, rush of thought, challenge to get everything out. I don’t know whether his coherence in that slightly manic state was due to practise or plain giftedness. I’m fairly certain it was the latter, but thinking it was the former gives me at least a glimmer of hope that one day I might find an edge whereby I can harness what hypomania gives me rather than losing it all in a rush of words. (By the way, the documentary is here, and you can find Robin at 9.27)

I wonder how many more people will give up their fight to live today, after having had the news of Robin Williams’ suicide spread unexpectedly before their eyes as they opened their Twitter and Facebook apps this morning? I wonder just how many of us will have seen his face scrolling over and over and had the thought, “if he can’t carry on, how can I?”

I also wonder, how many people will make more effort to understand mental illness? How many people will take the step from believing that suicide is selfish and weak, toward finally seeing it as the final symptom of an invisible, life threatening disease?

I can only hope that the first number will shrink and the second will grow. That somewhere, from the fate of this funny, clever, troubled man will come a new understanding and a softness of heart towards those of us who struggle every day to keep going.

Nobody heard him, the dead man,
But still he lay moaning:
I was much further out than you thought
And not waving but drowning.

Poor chap, he always loved larking
And now he’s dead
It must have been too cold for him his heart gave way,
They said.

Oh, no no no, it was too cold always
(Still the dead one lay moaning)
I was much too far out all my life
And not waving but drowning.

(Stevie Smith, 1972)

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This is an oscillating internal dialogue between suicide and hope. You’ll be glad to know, it ends with hope. But if it’s a subject likely to trigger you in any way, please open another tab and find something – anything – supportive and uplifting.

There are times when I feel like I can’t carry on. Depression is so wearing, and the side effects of the drugs supposed to control it make me wonder why I bother with them. MiniMe and MicroBob – those two amazing little people I gave life to and would give my life for – hardly raise a smile, and grate on my nerves, driving me to distraction and causing undeserved shouting in their direction. My darling Cable guy stands alongside, knowing and worrying without really understanding, and wonderful friends do chores and provide tissues, hoping this is a phase that will pass soon. I hope too, but the world is just too painful and life is just too hard. Sometimes life feels like death, and death seems like peace, and all I want to do is quietly slip away.

Of course, there is no quietly slipping away – however you go, a huge tidal wave follows in your wake. It’s not like a party where you can sneak out the back door and nobody notices. Making an active decision to ends one’s own life has repercussions that go far beyond the black suits and eulogies. As much as you try to persuade people that there was nothing they could have done, and that you love them and don’t want to leave them, at the end of the day they are left with nothing but guilt and a tear stained note. Suicide is messy.

But the idea of death runs amok in my head. I sometimes wish that I could die in some completely blameless way, so that everyone around me can grieve and move on. And there are times when I feel angry at my wonderful little family, because they are the reason I can’t end it all now. I have to tell myself constantly that it will get better, that it’s worth fighting through the dark days.

But although there is one aspect of all this which seems like pointless semantics, it is actually more important than it is possible to state: There is a difference between wanting to die and being suicidal.

Not wanting to face the world tomorrow isn’t the same as actively wanting to end it all permanently. That isn’t to say that things aren’t bad – life feels hopeless at the moment, and I can’t imagine it ever changing. I feel hemmed in and trapped, and feel like a small child wanting to throw myself on the floor and say “I just can’t do it any more!” But while I can keep the difference in my mind, there is hope.

There’s this story I know. It’s about a man who had to do something he didn’t want to do, despite knowing that it was his very purpose. His name is Jesus, and lots of people who talk about him will tell you about a Sunday, when he rose from the dead and made sin a thing that never need stain us again, and provided the gateway to a Heaven unimaginable and a Father infinitely loving. It’s an amazing story.

But how many people hear the story of the Thursday before, when this man threw himself down and wept and sobbed and shouted “I just can’t do it! Please don’t make me! I can’t face it!” Even knowing that his next action would save every single person from death, changing the world beyond recognition, doing away with all that comes between a sinful people and a holy God, this man Jesus said all the things to his father that I am saying every minute of every day.

Jesus didn’t want to carry on with the Father’s plan for his death, but he did it. I don’t want to carry on with my Father’s plan for my life, but each day, hour, minute, second, I do it. Likening my situation to that of Jesus feels like a huge supposition, but I can carry on by telling myself that, if nothing else, He knows how I feel.

And after every Thursday, there always comes a Sunday, however long it takes.



When life hits hard

This past few weeks has been a roller coaster of emotion in my little world, and for once it’s not me who’s at the centre of it. Three weeks ago, out of nowhere, a dear friend was informed that her ex husband had taken his own life by hanging himself from a tree in a public place.

A few things you need to know about the wonderful woman that I call Cake ICE. Most of her awesomeness comes from brokenness. At twenty, she fell in love with a boy whilst at college. When she told her him she was carrying his child, he wanted nothing more to do with her, but she decided she would have her baby anyway, and raised her son at the same time as finishing a degree and becoming a teacher. Fast forward a few years, and she fell head over heels again, with a man who married her and gave her another two beautiful sons, but also bruises she didn’t ask for or deserve. Leaving him and taking her three boys with her was one of the bravest things she has ever done. Bringing up children with special needs on your own is hard, but she carried on regardless – even staying standing through another relationship that resulted in her beautiful baby girl. Eventually, a year or so ago, she came to church and found the one man who would never let her down. Her heart belongs to Jesus now – hallelujah!

So, even before hearing the news of her ex husband’s suicide, her day to day life was pretty hard. She is raising four kids and works as hard as possible to keep her close knit family off benefits and to show them that working hard is always worth it. She runs her own celebration cake company, and is pretty damn good at it. She has spent these weeks making cakes for other people’s celebrations whilst her world is in turmoil.

How do you tell pre-teen boys that the father they don’t remember has killed themselves? What about the seventeen year old who has only known one ‘father’ – the one who hit him and his mum? Praise the Lord for the little girl who makes them smile at least once an hour and can’t remember anything but love in her own short life.

Everybody in his family is quick to blame. They want an answer, a reason, something about which they can say “this is why”. Cake ICE is at fault in their eyes for leaving him and taking the children, as are other partners and ex-partners who have gone their own way and taken children with them. People seem to be spending a lot of energy on blaming people who are alive,because for some reason you can’t blame the dead. No one wants to say that his suicide, whilst possibly triggered by events, was entirely his own decision.

But then, I even use the word ‘decision’ loosely. When our very being is driven by a sense of survival, what does it take to enable us to go against self-preservation and towards self-destruction?

In all honesty, I just don’t know the answer. For the most part, I just can’t make suicide make sense. My inclination is to suggest that some kind of illness of mind is always involved, even if not a specifically diagnosed mental illness, but other people I know would claim that it is the ultimate act of selfishness, considered in a right mind as payback to those left behind. Maybe the fact that I can’t bear not to look for the best in people is the reason that that idea doesn’t sit easily. Or maybe it’s a more personal thing – I have been tempted by suicide’s finality, and thought myself completely logical at the time, but once in my right mind again I can’t believe I considered it. The thought that I could be called selfish hurts, because I don’t think I was my real, normal self when death was such a temptation.

I also can’t quite figure out what God thinks. There are some denominations and/or churches that would claim suicide is not just a sin, but one which can’t be forgiven. I’m fortunate that my church isn’t one of them. I’m not saying that I think suicide can ever be a part of God’s plan for our lives, but I know that we live in a fallen world, and that a loss of hope is a part of that fallenness that we all have to battle every day – some of us harder than others. From what I read in Scripture, Jesus knows more than any of us what it is to be in pain and torment. He was literally separated from God the Father so that we didn’t have to be separated from Him. He experienced true death – complete isolation from Father God – so that we didn’t ever have to be without hope again. So what happens spiritually when someone rejects the hope we have in Christ and takes their own life? I have no idea.

What I do know is that having seen the pain caused by someone so estranged has brought home with sating clarity just how much pain I could cause if I got severely ill again. I’ve put in place within my relationships a truth telling pact, and made sure that people are never too scared to ask me how I am and what I’m thinking. I have to hope and pray that that’s enough.

I’m interested in how other people see suicide as an issue, or what others do to keep themselves safe. Answers on a postcard…..