From a Suicide Survivor Who Never Attemped...

by Kenneth Rayman on July 23, 2017

I wrote this back in March of 2016, published March 30, 2016, shortly after Robin Williams’ suicide that year but I cannot help but the same way that I did for Robin for Chester Bennington (Linkin Park). I wish I could have been there for them to help in some way and wrote this to try to help people understand. I hope you enjoy this or it helps someone find a resource for themselves or someone else through myself or another source. Thank you.

I was listening to my Pandora Monday, while shaving, and I tuned into the melody of this song thinking that the melody was powerful and the singer’s voice and rhythm spoke of pain and anguish. I told myself to look up the song after, wishing that Pandora would let me put a song on repeat. It was then that I tuned into the lyrics. This was a song about depression and someone engaging in self-mutilation. I was floored. I finished shaving, looked it up on Youtube and watched the video over and over.

The most powerful line in the song hit me like a truck at 60mph, “I may seem crazy or painfully shy, And these scars wouldn’t be so hidden if you would just look me in the eye.” I started to remember things I’ve seen, how I reacted personally, and the societal views of the individual… all reflected in that one lyric. While I struggled with depression and visions (not desires) of hurting myself, I never engaged in cutting or self-harm, but knew people who did. My first experience was in high school, seeing a girl I knew who had marks on her arm looking like she had taken her keys, put one between each finger and starting scratching wildly from her elbow to her wrist. It was then I noticed that she realized her arm was exposed and re-angled it to hide the marks. I realized then I had seen someone who was cutting. I then realized that she turned her arm when she noticed I saw the scars. I thought at the time, “What does she have to be sad about?” Then I took an inward look at myself and decided not to judge because I struggled with the same thing, only I didn’t act on it.

As the years passed, I struggled more and more, my visions of self-harm increased, tormenting me because I knew that it wasn’t the answer. I was sure nothing would help and I would continue to live life day to day waiting for life to pass but my doctor finally got me to try an anti-depressant medication since I told him that therapy never worked for me (personally). For me, therapy in high school gave me a place to cry for an hour and not solve anything, in college, it worked in the controlled environment of the appointment but not very long after I left and my fears and anxieties came back which made me hesitant to try other forms of help.

Now that I’ve had several years to look back on those experiences, and still struggle from time to time, I think of things in a new manner, one that might not be shared by others. The song talks of pain and fear mostly. All someone wants in that situation is to not be afraid anymore, afraid of themselves, their thoughts/sadness, and other’s prying eyes and judgments. They fear the label of “mental illness” that’s given to them because all it does, because of society’s interpretation, is affirm their fear that something IS wrong with them and proves what they believe the problem is, is correct, and that it is often themselves. I can’t begin to understand the “relief” that a person feels when they cut because I never did. To me, it’s exchanging one pain for another and adding physical pain to emotional pain that is harder to hide so I don’t personally understand the “relief” felt. But I refuse to judge because I’ve been there.

When someone gives up and takes their own life, it’s incredibly sad and I don’t understand (personally) how one could actually do it, but I do not judge. I look at it as a personal tragedy for them and their loved ones left behind, but I also look at them as someone who was strong for too long and then, when they thought their strength was gone, they made an irreversible decision. It was not a weak decision or a decision of weakness, it was a matter of being strong for too long and believing that all options to maintain strength were gone.

I’ve listened to people deride the individual for taking their life for being weak. I’ve listened to them be cast aside and discarded. I’ve listened to them get relegated to further torment with tales of how they are in hell for what they did and what a book says happens to them for the rest of time. This is inhumane and does not honor them in any way. While we are the ones left with the pain of their decision, it is up to us to celebrate who they were when they were happy and not focus on their issue; only focusing on the issues to learn how to help others in similar situations, once again not to tell them that they’re wrong but to help them see the pinpoint of light at the end of the tunnel that they can set a goal to reach for.

What I personally believe is that person is no longer in pain but returned to a time when they were most happy. I think back to the movie “What Dreams May Come” starring Robin Williams and while the movie’s depiction of the afterlife of a suicide is not what I believe, being lost and confused and mired in the chaos of their decision and torment. I believe that they are in a place like Robin created for himself, a place that made him happy in life, or in his case a dream world in his wife’s painting brought to life; a place where they are free from judgment and can live in their happiest time. When Robin took his own life, I thought it ironic that he made such a beautiful movie dealing with the loss of his loved one to suicide only to succumb to the same loss of strength himself but as the details emerged of his depression, the pain he was hiding, and ultimately his diagnosis of Lewy Body Dementia and Parkinson’s Disease, once again I did not judge. His strength ran out and his only thought was to end the pain. I cannot judge him for that, I can only wish that someone, like myself, was there to help him see past the societal pressures and stigmas , scorns and debasements by someone who has no idea what the person is going through and sit and have a cup of coffee with him and be “there.”

Cutting, suicide, and self-harm are not the answer but please look at the individual as the song says instead, and not the action.