WORDS: Nicola Zia
Robin Williams died at 63. When I heard the news that he had taken his own life, I sat in an eclipse of sadness for days. Not because I felt I knew him. We had never met and we had never affected each other lives in any way. In recent years other celebrities had passed away; Michael Jackson, Health Ledger, that bloke from Glee. I read the news and in all honesty didn’t give a fuck. Reading the sensationalised death of a celebrity wasn’t something I did. I didn’t know these people. Yet even now, just over a year since he killed himself, I still choke up thinking about it. About what his face must have looked like tying the noose. If he had to google how the fuck to tie a noose. If he left notes for loved ones with apologies, if the ink was blurred with his tears.
I am only twenty-five. I have suffered from severe episodes of depression since I was around thirteen. Relapsing is becoming more frequent. Every year or so I begin the cycle of depression and therapy. Or panic attacks and therapy. Most courses of therapy work for me because the therapists really are fucking miracle workers and within three months or so I’m back on my feet. With a dim light in the distance to reach for. And everything is going to be okay because I know that things eventually do get better. I leave my therapist with a small fire in my belly to not just exist but to have goals and actually try to achieve them.
August 2013 I had an episode that lasted for an entire year. I got so overwhelmed and felt out of control. I was out of control. I couldn’t breathe under the weight of this darkness, under the foot of this giant I didn’t have the strength to free myself from. I didn’t want it anymore. I still don’t. I’m sick of getting better then getting worse. I’m exhausted by this repetition, this cycle of sadness that is my life. So I went for a drive one day. I drove to the coast and found myself parked at St Mary’s lighthouse. I sat in my car for five hours in silence just staring at it. I cried. But not that type of sobbing where you get really hot and you feel it in your throat and your stomach hurts. It was a silent cry where my tears were endless but my face was the same. My eyes were open and my mouth was a straight line. This was it. I just didn’t care anymore. I didn’t even care enough to cry properly.
For five hours I envisioned my left foot taking the first step off the edge. I imagined my hands letting go of the railings. Actually no, I remember deciding I would fall off backwards. Seeing the starry sky above the world as it swallowed me up. No more meds. No more excuses. No more ringing in sick. No more pity. No more guilt. No more trying. It was an extremely liberating moment. I imagined the aftermath of my death. I thought of my mother; her eyes squinting at my dead body and the wonderful light within her being turned off. Guilt was the only thing that turned my car on and drove me home that night. I went back into therapy a week later and began the cycle again.
About a month later I went back to work. A month after that Robin Williams hanged himself. I cried all day. I cried at work and at home. In my car. I cried a lot. Like I said, I didn’t know him. We weren’t friends. But his suicide gave me a very honest wake up call. It enlightened me of things I didn’t want to accept. People still suffer from depression when they get to retirement age? No. That can’t be right. I always thought by that point I’d have my shit together. I’d have found peace and learnt to silence my demons. I always had this image of myself in the future of being settled and happy and that I had to live because this sad time - right now - was temporary.
He took that naive and comforting idea away from me. His life was a battle that he didn’t win, and that I might lose too. His death is now a constant reminder that no matter how much I achieve, how many people love me, how many people I may love and how much change I can make in the world, nothing will silence this sadness within me. The noose he made was a crushing reality of my incurable disease that will resurface whenever it wants. A life long war. Relapsing at retirement age never crossed my mind.
It is one of the most terrifying issues I’ve had to deal with regarding my depression. That years of therapy and meds might not work. Going from good to bad to good again and asking myself how many episodes will it be before I decide enough is enough? And that it can’t get good again? Will I find myself in my sixties still dealing with this shit?
I wrote a small poem three weeks after sitting at the lighthouse. Three weeks after wanting to die and there was some kind of hope in me. That’s enough for now.
Pushing the knife down on
a hard thigh, a tough limb.
Find the force in my stomach
and let myself drain.
One last thrill before the finale.
Maybe the beat of my body
as I plunge head first
will remind me
how good it is to live.