Sunday, September 21, 2014

Coming Out of the Darkness to Save Lives

            Photo taken out my car's back window, the morning of last year's Out of the Darkness Chico

I love to laugh and make people laugh. This wasn't always the case. I was terribly depressed as a child, due to heredity (depression runs in my family) and circumstances (neglectful parents, family traumas...). I've shared with you over the years about my mother's death by cancer when she was 49 and I was 18.

Two years ago, I wrote a semi-mysterious blogpost about the death of my ex-husband. I kept the circumstances dubious because...he died by suicide. There's so much shame, guilt, and stigma related to suicide, I didn't want to go that dark here. Losing my ex-husband, though, doesn't compare to a loss I experienced more than 25 years ago. It's one I've mostly kept in the dark all these years.  It's been wrapped up in layers of shame and guilt. Siblings are like our other-selves. This heavy dark truth is that my brother, Glenn-David (my parents couldn't decide between Glenn or David, so they used both names), was diagnosed with schizophrenia in 1988. He died by suicide shortly thereafter. We'd had a tense relationship, fraught with animosity, and that's been the most painful aspect to grapple with.

I'm sharing this with you now because I'm coming out of the darkness in a big way these days -- in hopes of helping others. For the past several months, I've been organizing Chico's annual Out of the Darkness Community Walk for suicide prevention. I'm Event Chair, and it all happens this coming Saturday, 9/27. I've recently participated in local radio show interviews and worked on a newspaper segment on suicide. I'll be giving a speech on Saturday, during which I tell my story.

Here's the last paragraph of my speech, which summarizes my main points:
There's no singular way to respond to this tremendously complicated crisis of suicide. What we need to do, though, is exactly what we've gathered here to do today - to connect with compassion; to talk openly about our pains and losses related to mental illness, depression, and suicide; to chip away at the monstrous levels of stigma that poison our cause; to take care of ourselves and each other - which means not harboring the often suffocating force of guilt- so that we can continue this all-important mission of creating a world without suicide, one step at a time.

So I won't have much time or energy to devote to blogland this week, and you may've already noticed my scaling back a bit. Sorry. Thank you for understanding. Thanks, Alex, for your support and forgiveness of my dropping out of the Blogfest...This event is a biggie. We've already raised more money than we did in past years, and we hope to have 500 people join the fight. It's pretty exciting.

Sometimes along the edge of trauma, we find beauty. This event is truly beautiful and uplifting.

Life is worth living -- for the chocolate, for the laughter, 
and to help pull each other out of the darkness.

Have a great week.

51 comments:

  1. Sending good wishes for a successful outcome.

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  2. All the luck in the world with your worthy cause.

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  3. Thank you for sharing your story and helping to shed light on the cause. Congrats on the money raised so far, and I am hoping even more can be raised. Good luck!

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  4. My heart is with you. I hope it is a HUGE success. And that you connect and walk with like minded souls.

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  5. That's fantastic, I'm really glad this event is coming along. Is there a website where I can donate?

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  6. Thank you, dear readers.

    Michael, how sweet of you. The main website is afsp.org/walk
    Our city's Walk is here:
    http://afsp.donordrive.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=donorDrive.event&eventID=2682

    Love and blessings,
    xoRobyn

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  7. Your work on this issues is way, way more important than blogging. Good luck to you!!! As one who has been on the brink of that, and as recently as this past summer, it's a very important issue. What kept me from going through with it was that I couldn't do it to Russell or my dogs.

    One of my FB friends just lost her 22 year old son to suicide. He left behind 2 little kids too. The pain and anguish in her statuses every day is heart wrenching because she'll never find out 'why'.

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  8. Thank you for sharing all this with us, Robyn. It takes courage, and I admire you for it. I completely understand what you are writing. I lost a loved one to suicide, and experienced first hand the shame and guilt and stigma surrounding this, and mental illness, too. It is truly heartbreaking. Good luck with your wonderful cause! The world needs more people like you.

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  9. I'm glad the world has changed so the topic can be discussed openly. Be a better day when there is no stigma at all about depression.

    BTW...love that photo...very intriguing.

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  10. Oh, Robyn... I'm in love with you. My feeling is that the truly deeply funny people are usually also the ones who've experienced the most sadness in their lives. I admire you so much for speaking openly and also for doing this great good deed. (That's a mitzvah, isn't it? Although Jerry thinks mitzvahs are like Green Stamps; a good deed earns 10 mitzvahs; a REALLY good deed earns you 20; You've just earned 1,000)

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  11. Seems to be the ability to talk about it more, but there still is a stigma. I've seem suicide first hand as well. Awesome about the cause indeed, good luck telling your story.

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  12. It takes courage what you are doing and facing. You may not feel it in that way but it is. Suicide and brain illness (I like that better than mental illness) is very prevalent and yet, it is kept hidden combining shame and guilt. It is a huge part of many peoples' lives. I believe every person has suffered through some sort of depression in their lives either due to the environment or part of genetics (think Hemingway or Garland or Schumann). You should stand tall and be proud of what you are accomplishing and letting your ex and your brother be heard and known more as people than as a statistic to be hidden. The people left behind need to feel that they have the right to talk openly and discuss the loss. I will look forward to hear how the event went. All the best

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  13. You're all wonderful. Thank you for your compassion and insights.

    Martha, thank you for sharing. It means a lot to me to get these types of interactions going.

    Mitchell, I'll take 1,000 points. Thank you. Yes, I'd say it's a big mizvah, and tzedakah, though I'm doing it during the High Holidays (instead of doing anything for the High Holidays). It's more important than going to services, which is boring anyway. But I didn't say that. Did I just lose all my points?

    Birgit, I agree on it all. I never thought of the term "brain illness". I really like that. I may steal that from you, because it would likely (1) help people to understand that we are talking about brain illness and (2) it's treatable.

    Hugs,
    xoRobyn

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  14. Robyn, this is far more important. I hope you raise double this year. And I hope this helps you to heal.

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  15. Hi, My book was published in April and put on Amazon but there was some problems with my pc. I have been selling them myself.

    My first two books were on Amazon and all was ok but with the third when my pc was repaired Amazon was reluctant to add it to my other two.

    Thanks for the interest.

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  16. Oh, Robyn. My heart goes out to you. I have a mentally ill family member, too. It's so difficult. You want to love them and feel compassion, but their rash behavior alienates you over time, chipping away at the relationship. It's so hard not to just turn your back on them and find peace for yourself. If you endure them and help them and love them, you suffer, but if you pull away, you suffer, too. Suffer guilt.

    I know you don't know me very well, but I'm here for you if you ever need to vent.

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  17. I hope all goes well for you this weekend. Wishing you the best of luck with fundraising and with helping to increase understanding and compassion.

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  18. What an amazing thing to do, Robyn. Especially after all you've been through. I'm sure that makes it more personal.

    I know the feeling of hopelessness. I was there once.

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  19. Thanks! I've bookmarked it and I'll donate when I get my next paycheck in on Monday :)

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  20. I'm so sorry to hear about your brother. Suicide affects more than just the victim, as you know so well. Our son had a good friend in high school go off her meds and kill herself. Our son still grieves for her. Take care.

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  21. Melissa, your words mean so much. Thank you. It's those things that people dare not say, that help most, like "It's damn hard and frustrating and maddening living with someone who has mental illness." Back then, we went to a family support group - not a safe venue for me, sitting with my brother and other patients.

    Thank you, Daisy.

    Diane, I appreciate your words. It feels very personal. My emotions are all over the place.

    Michael, you're a very sweet man.

    Stephen, I'm sorry to learn about your son's friend from high school. The wound never completely heals.

    Love and gratitude to you all,
    xoRobyn

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  22. What a wonderful thing you are doing. I hope that with the help that you will undoubtedly give those that need it...that you will also feeling a healing in your heart~

    Blessings, Joanne

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  23. I had no idea so many awful things happened to you. You're a brave woman to keep on smiling. Hugs.

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  24. I hope your cause is a huge success!

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  25. I think the best we can do is take the hard things that have happened to us and use those things to help/inspire others. You are doing that!!! I hope your event is spectacular (just like you)!

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  26. I am so sorry to hear about your past. You seem to really be a strong person. Thanks for sharing the light.

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  27. You are a good person, trying to help others.

    Love,
    Janie

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  28. Good for you. There is a couple around here. I hope you do well.
    I had a nephew commit suicide a few years ago and a distant cousin. It's a sad thing.

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  29. Hello my friend! What a worthy cause. I hope it's an amazing success.

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  30. That's awesome that you do all of this, I'm sure it's not easy to talk about such a personal subject. But I'm sure the people that you help really appreciate it.

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  31. Best wishes for the event, Robyn. I really admire your community activism.

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  32. Nice to hear you are using the past to benefit the future. I hope it all goes well.

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  33. Wow, that was a moving post.

    I wish you a successful Saturday with your Out of the Darkness Community Walk, a very worthy cause.

    Your speech will be amazing based on what you've shared here.

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  34. Good grief Robyn, you've been through so much darkness yet your smile brightens all those around you. I can tell just from your photos. Bravo for undertaking this oft ignored crisis in our society, so desperately needing everyone's attention. Good luck with your event!

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  35. I'm so sorry about your brother, and your ex husband. I also think it's wonderful how you're putting your all into chairing this worthwhile event. Wishing you much success this weekend! Have a very happy, and healthy New Year, Robyn!

    Julie

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  36. Life...it's more than a breakfast cereal, defunct picture magazine, or family board game.
    It IS worth living.
    Peace to you and Happy Rosh Hashanah!

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  37. This a wonderful cause, something my life has been touched by as well. Best of luck.

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  38. Oh, Robyn! What you've been through, my goodness. Love the speech closing. Whatever you do, Robyn, I know you will rock it. Hugs!!

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  39. How wonderful that you are a part of something so much bigger than all of us. You're a nice gal, you know. :) Good luck to you and those you're working with, I hope it's super dee-duper successful (and then some).

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  40. Thank you all. It was wonderful, very meaningful and appreciated by all who took part.

    I know why I'm tired. I'm not sure why I'm so sore, though. I moved around a lot, but handed over any lifting or difficult physical labor to frat guy volunteers - they were awesome. (I guess it's that aging thing). Otherwise, it's all good.

    Smiles and love,
    xoRobyn

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  41. It is for a great cause. All my very best to you!

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  42. I hope the walk was successful, and that you exceeded your fundraising and attendance goals! This is an important issue, and one that's personal to so many. Thank you for sharing your personal story with us.

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  43. Hi again, Robyn!
    Popping back in to tell you how versatile you are and that I enjoy your posts. Congrats. http://swaggerwriters.blogspot.com/2014/09/by-kim-van-sickler-it-all-started-here.html Let's see how you spread the love! (Don't curse me. It's kinda fun.)

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  44. Hello Robyn. Mr Gorilla Bananas sent me here to read this as I have just lost my Father to suicide. The guilt, shame, confusion and emotions that are swirling around are difficult to deal with. I hope this walk continues every year - such a great cause that we need to understand better.

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