We Come To Each Other.
We humans are equal parts strong and fragile, resilient and endlessly needy.
We write our stories through a comedy of errors mixed with the great mysteries of being alive, and the luckiest of us remain the master storyteller long into life, until they have to pry the pen from our cold, dead hands.
We can experience such a vast array of emotions — such a long, twisted, fleeting, ever evolving spectrum of right now I am… — that it often feels as though we simply don’t have the capacity to hold it in forever (whatever it may be from moment to moment).
For sustainable health and well-being, it’s gotta eventually come up and out, over, or through.
For me, up-and-over has historically happened in one of four ways: Laugh, Cry, Dance, Write.
Laughter is true medicine that is nearly impossible to overdose on. I’d take an extra hit of the giggles any day, anytime. And, for what it’s worth, crying does not signify bad — crying is just rinsing, and it is often a necessary spiritual cleansing of both happy and sad. Lord knows, for better or worse, I am a crier.
As my friend Kim from Texas says, “You’re just good at self-baptizing, baby.”
Dancing and writing have been there for me over the years, too. Both acting as beautiful, creative outlets to safely let go and flow within. I’m fortunate to have all of these tools rotating at the ready, to be armed with just enough of each to typically, even if temporarily, satiate my needs for release.
The fact is, I know not everyone can say the same.
With the anniversary of Robin Williams’ passing, a man who embodied laughter in motion in a way that Anne Lamott describes so perfectly as carbonated holiness, and all of the truths a death like this brings to the light, my spirit felt urged to say a few words on this particular kind of loss.
My spirit felt it was time to humbly express authentic, but loving, concern for how we handle these times of grief.
You see, sometimes there are babies of this earth who can’t find their up-and-over release. Sometimes these babies have demons who strip their true joy from them, and find false release in something such as one of the many forms of addiction alive within our global community.
Sometimes these babies have mental illness, too, because it was simply a card they were dealt and is one that has shaped them in ways beyond their immediate control.
And sometimes these babies with addiction or mental illness or the crushing, common combination of both feel so convincingly that their up-and-over release will never, ever come for them.
Time and time again they feel the failing of release, to the point that they might even decide to do something so horrifyingly sad and final and painful, to finally force the over for good — to force the burden of life weighing heavily on them to be lifted, and to lift the burden of themselves they often perceive to be weighing on the people they love, as well.
In an effort to grasp some semblance of control, with pen in hand, they sometimes choose to end their story.
We who are left behind may feel betrayed or confused or just outright heartbroken when this happens. It hurts, and it hurts, and it hurts. We who are left can also sometimes find no other way to make sense of our losses than to call those babies selfish, or cowardly.
This is hard for me to hear.
Amid all of the really thoughtful things said about the tragedy in death of this kind, I struggle greatly with folks reacting with how selfish. Maybe we take this route as a way to digest practically indigestible news, to close the window on never-ending what ifs/if onlys/and straight up, fucked up, fears flooding in.
Maybe we process anger and resentment, first — clinging to it like a shield, fending off the agony of an answer-less loss.
Or maybe we hold this view as a way to distance ourselves from the reality that we cannot possibly understand how in the hell this could be a choice someone we care for would actively choose, whether sober or not, whether the signs said otherwise, or were missing altogether.
Please know that I have never personally attempted to end my own life. Not even close. But, though it terrifies me to admit it, I have felt sadness so hopelessly deep in my bones that there have been nights where I resigned myself, face down on my pillow, to saying a prayer that consisted of asking for it to just be enough already.
No more, please. I am exhausted and spent… the release has yet to find me.
Through sheer grace, years of continued therapy, and a hell of a lot of support from beautiful, loyal, unwavering friends, I have always managed to come through to morning. For this, I am a lucky one.
I am a lucky one who sees her life as a never-ending self-study in mental health — my recognition of the permanently impermanent cycle of my brain has been life changing for my overall wellness. I can find the release in this: in knowing I do not have to constantly move the goal post, or strive for a ‘fixed’ version that simply does not exist.
I am, and so it is. There’s peace in this, and in trusting the process.
I have witnessed this kind of sadness in others, as well. I have sat outside a dormitory bathroom stall as a person I loved (and still love) cried out in such immense pain, after a night of a few too many drinks, talking… pleading… with God to give her the strength to end her own life.
You read that correctly — the strength to end her life. I sat on that floor for hours, also pleading with God for strength — to take us into morning, to tell me what to do, to help me help her in whatever way my small and powerless teenaged being could.
Then I followed her to her bedroom where I half-slept on the floor, blocking her path of exit for fear she would wake up, sneak away, and actually do what she begged for help with.
She never did. But many other folks do, and it is my firm belief that there is no room for placing blame on anyone in these scenarios. It is not your fault (I repeat: it is not your fault), and maybe, it is not theirs either.
Here is my truth about we who are left behind: It isn’t our beliefs on this subject that make us a more knowing, better person, but our actions and behaviors that do. This is the same for all of life as I know it — it is not our beliefs, but our behaviors that make us better.
So where do we go from here, we who are left behind?
And where do we go, we whose demons deny us our up-and-over release to the point of silencing the inner madness in harmful ways?
I think, maybe, we come to each other.
We support a cause which aims to destigmatize mental illness, like this one.
We reach out for help — raw, humbling, humiliating help — in any way we know how. I beg you, please, babies, reach out for help.
We try and we fail, forgive and let go. We empathetically embrace, and love judgment-free — both ourselves and our messy worlds, over and over, then over once more, imperfectly leaving the goal post in the dust. We laugh, cry, dance, write and find our sustainable ways of up-and-over releasing when it’s just too much.
And maybe we sit outside bathroom stalls for hours, clammy hands wringing with anxious unknowns, and simply wait. Wait for the morning to come, prayers from the heart frantically muttered to any damn God who will listen, until from the darkness, inevitably, comes the light.
It hurts, and it hurts, and it hurts.
But you are not alone, you are not alone, you are not alone.
Tricia DiGaetano is a Jersey girl, proud Penn State graduate, and lover of California, travel, food, the sea, art, cheese, wine, music, dance and her little sister. She is a writer and Life Coach who enjoys holding space for folks as they learn to trust the process, and access their most authentic and fulfilling lives. You can find her practice here.