Wednesday, August 13, 2014

thank you letter

Thank you.

First, thank you, Robin Williams. Because the things you made, made my life better.

Since I don't know what your life was like to live, and can't offer you assurance that your specific life could have been made tolerable for you, I can only say that I hope so much that you're at peace. With God, or just -- if God isn't a Thing one goes to be with, after all -- at peace. I do feel reasonably sure that what you're experiencing-or-not right now is better than what you were experiencing in the moments leading up to your death.

And also thank you, Mike, who I sat across the room from in freshman social studies and eventually came to harbor a truly mind-blowing crush on. You made me lists of things I liked, to cheer me up, when I stopped compulsively braiding my hair in social studies and instead just sat, wracked with anxiety and despair and a growing sense that I should just die already. I still don't understand in more than a clinical sense why I felt so certain that I was terrible and things were hopeless then, when I mostly don't wake up feeling that way now. But I do remember how I would look forward to seeing you, how it became easier to breathe when I'd read a note from you or we'd do whatever it is high school freshman do with their after-school time. I remember you being a light spot when things got pointlessly, inexplicably dark.

And thank you to the incomparable Hilary, who flat out did as much as one person can do to rescue another -- short of literally drive that person and her collection of empty Tylenol bottles to the emergency room (thanks, mom!) -- and who continues to be one of the inevitable first things on my grown-up lists of Reasons To.

I started out thanking God for the fact that once I was super depressed and wanted to die, and now I can mostly see my life worth living and can find less permanent ways of resolving the Big Problem of my being a worthless drain on the world (which does not, as far as I can see, ever entirely go away; I spend a lot of time explaining that I can't even imagine a world in which I truly believe I am good, that I am worthwhile and deserving, so I just try not to think about it.) I used to believe it was God who made me better.

But it was mostly those two people, Mike and Hilary. And also my parents, seeking out help for me, suspending the irritation one must feel when one's child, whose happiness and well-being has been the object of All This Everyday Shit for the past decade(s), seems so intractably bent on being unhappy -- or on not being at all. And it was several clever therapists, and a number of life-altering teachers and professors -- my husband often wonders why I view teaching as the best thing one could do with one's life; I have no way of communicating to him how entirely literally I mean it when I say that Ms. Bryant and Dean Stewart and Dr. West saved my fucking life -- and, once, a random college freshman down the hall from me who overheard me crying and brought me a sheet of smily stickers.

I still talk about God healing me from the depression I had (have? will, in all likelihood, have again?) It's just that God looks mostly like the several dozen people who have kept me here, with therapy and meals I couldn't have obtained for myself and distractions and interruptions and resets.

I don't understand why this happened for me and not for Robin Williams, and I can no longer understand it as, there is this guy, God, who thought it'd be cool for me to live with my disease and Robin Williams to die from his.

I can only say to the people who helped save me -- to the people currently playing a role in saving others, in healing others with this kind of problem, whether you know it or not -- thank you. You are doing what I believe we are here to do, and when I use sketch phrases like God or His Kingdom or His Work, I am talking about you. Understand that this, and not an intervention or a well-meaning blog post or a ostensibly-well-meaning-but-actually-kind-of-questionable truism, like, Suicide is selfish! You can't do that! or You have so much to be grateful for, how can you not see that! or You have everything going for you -- this is what saves people, when they are saved. This, coupled with effective treatment for the psychological illness they are experiencing. You need both, in my experience.

I don't know that it gets better for everyone. I know it got better for me. And that the God I'm thanking, when I thank God for that, looks mostly like the kids I taught and the man I married and the  various awesome ladies who've analyzed urban life with me this week over too much vodka. Like Ram Dass says, and my girl Anne Lamott obsessively reminds me, we're all just walking each other home.

So, you know, thanks for doing that, people. If we can't do anything to "make" anyone "see" that "they have so much to live for", we can do that. And in the face of this devastating instance of all of that not working how any of us would have wanted, all I've really got to offer, to tell myself, is: sometimes it does. So keep doing it.