At some point during the car trips of my childhood, my sister (the one who’s closest to me in age), would invariably stop to point out the creepiest, oldest, abandoned house on the side of the road and say,
There’s your dream house.
I’d wrinkle my nose. We’d laugh. Then resume singing, You’re a Grand Old Flag or the oh so monotonous, Five Hundred Miles, until inevitably I’d poke her in the ribs and say,
Look! It’s your future home.
It was a funny dig. A kinda two steps forward, two steps back exchange. The sisterly cha cha that we danced many times over the years we lived together.
Today, I still look for those houses. Still smile.
Sometimes I think it’s strange to smile at something so dilapidated.
This week, after hearing how Robin Williams died, I found myself flipping through old journals, looking for the poem I wrote when I was 18. The one where I tried to understand why my sister had attempted suicide (the first time).
It’s an angry poem.
Why did you try to steal the time when we were little?
Now I’m almost embarrassed at my anger. Did I have any compassion? I hug you anyway.
I’m nervous talking/blogging about this subject. I feel it’s not my story to tell. My sister and I haven’t talked about this. Not now, not ever, that I remember. We (as a family) just didn’t. Even though all of us struggled with our own darkness.
On the other hand, I’ve made it a point to talk about depression and suicide with my children. I’ve even probably gone a bit overboard at times, carting my thirteen year old daughter off to a therapist when she dramatically screamed, I hate you, I want to die.
Hey she was my first teenager…and I didn’t want to take any chances.
Depression can be dangerous. It’s dark, often hidden. Oh and how it thrives in those secluded corners.
Depression I understand. That’s part of my story too. But it’s hard to talk about.
It’s a disease. There shouldn’t be shame attached to something that happens with our brain chemistry. Hey, did anyone shun me when I blew up the sulfur in chem lab my junior year? No, it was a mistake. Even the intimidating Sister Dolores didn’t yell at me.
It sucks to feel your lightness abandoning you. And it feels even worse when you think that because it’s in your thoughts, you ought to be responsible for pushing that darkness out.
Ask for help.
My sister and I may have joked about those dilapidated, abandoned houses. But maybe now I smile because I see them as hope. There’s a strength that lies beneath.
And they’re still standing.
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline