Out of the Ashes

out of the ashesIt’s Tuesday, again.  And yesterday, Robin Williams died, suspected suicide.

Today, I’m thinking about perspective; about the light and the dark in all things. About how sad it is that Robin Williams lost the battle; about how sad it is that so many (less famous, and therefore) unknown lose the battle; about how sad it is that so many have to fight the battle…

…and about how beautiful it is that Robin’s death has brought so much attention to this, to all the known and unknown beings struggling. How beautiful it is that this beloved celebrity’s death is starting conversations about depression and suicide that seem less stigmatized than they were just days or weeks ago. And how moving it is to see so many, many beings moved by the death of this man, who brought so much joy and laughter to the world, even as he lost his own joy and laughter in the end.

It’s raining where I am today, and there seems to be a kind of sweet sadness hanging in the air; I’m reminded of what Michael Lennox said about today’s astrology  – “The deep feelings that get stirred up today are far more likely to be emanating from the collective experience than from anything personal.”  It feels true.

Beautiful. Sad. Connected. And, from within the emotion of it, there’s something profound about how one human can have such an impact on the whole.  It’s as if the death of this man, while tragic, has created a new container for the conversation around suicide and depression.  A much more loving container than the one we had before.  Because Robin Williams was loved, by the masses.  And that love doesn’t change because of how he died; rather, our understanding of how he died changes because we hold the perspective of love. He moved us.  He made us cry. He made us laugh.  He made us think.  And now, in his death, he’s opened up new compassion in us for those who struggle with depression and suicide.

I am so sorry that he lost his fight.  But at the same time, I am so grateful for the waves I see rippling out from his death.  I know from my own experience that in the depths of depression, there is very little that helps.  But there are a few things that we can grab onto to stay afloat, and one of those things is being accepted compassionately.

There’s a tidal wave of awareness about depression and suicide, and compassion for the struggle, surging through our collective consciousness right now.  It’s a beautiful thing, in response to a tragic thing.  I find that life is like that.

My last dive into the abyss was in the fall of 2012.  A small trigger that seemed huge – my bank account was overdrawn – sent me into a 4-day long spiral that ended with tequila and a bottle of pills.  Thankfully, I was unsuccessful in my attempt to die, as I had been before.  The day that I finally reached out for help, a building on my corner had a gas explosion and burnt down, which, among other things, restored my sense of perspective.

It was a significant moment in my life – the moment that I realized I had come too far towards life to choose to die.  The moment that I shut the door marked “suicide”, locked it, and threw the key away.  It is also the moment that I look back on as the breakthrough in my writing, because writing about my struggles with depression and suicide (immediately following that experience) was the first time I was able to be authentic and vulnerable on the page; it was the beginning of writing my memoir in a way that was raw and honest.

These days, every time I pass by the remains of that burnt down building on the corner, I am reminded – that after the explosion, after the tragedy, out of the ashes…new life is born.  There are ferns growing out of the old foundation, now…they look like magic.  And I believe that the beauty that is already springing from the tragic death of Robin Williams, will indeed be something magical, something that inspires us every bit as much as his life did.

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