The last post that I wrote here on this blog was about Riding Full Circle Through Depression with my sister, a post about how I felt, in a way, like I had conquered my own battle with depression just a little bit because of a success I had in accomplishing a posse end goal of wanting to go horseback riding on the beach.
Shortly after I wrote that, I came online to discover that a good Internet friend of mine, someone who also battled severe depression and whose journey was not so dissimilar from my own, succumbed to suicide this week. My initial reaction to the news was a mixture of shock, sadness and fear (which I wrote about here).
As the days have gone on, I’ve continued to have a wide range of emotions. Life feels filled withe extreme news right now, in both good and bad directions, and there are moments where I feel like I’m in the middle of that achieving balance but most of the time it’s swelling clearly one way or the other.
This difficult news came during a week or so of other difficult news from other places around my life. I want to keep the details private because the stories are not my own to share; they are hard experiences of death, illness, sickness and life changes that are affecting some of the people closest to me in my life. Good friends, my beaux, people I love are being impacted by really tough things in life. It seems like it’s happening all around me right now.
All of those things are affecting me, as I pull to the center and hold the stillness for some of these people. But Wink’s suicide affected me, personally, in a strangely more direct way. I say strangely because I didn’t know Wink “in real life” but had communicated with her periodically over the past several years online after interviewing her about her experience with Asperger’s, loneliness and severe depression for my book, Crochet Saved My Life. Even when we weren’t communicating directly, I was abreast of many things happening with her through social media and blogging. She felt, in a way, like a close friend, and in another way like someone I didn’t know at all and that’s brought up a lot of strange feelings in and of itself. Those feelings are complicated by the fact that we specifically met and connected over the topic of depression, a journey that we’ve both been taking for many years.
I wrote on my crochet blog about these feelings (linked above) and received so many responses this week from people who are also feeling similar things. Many, many people are saying that they are experiencing grief over losing Wink and they don’t quite know how to place it since they “only” knew her online. Our society doesn’t have a good way of understanding or handling the impact of this type of loss yet. Many have said that they don’t feel like their families understand why they are crying and devastated over losing an Internet friend. There’s a sense of isolation.
So, so many of these people have shared their own stories with me (on my blog, in my Ravelry group, through other social media channels and in private emails) about how depression has affected them. Many have said that they were suicidal in the past, some that they are struggling with suicidal ideation now (note, please seek the support that you need if you are feeling this way – reach out to friends, family, crisis hotlines or even the ER). Others have shared their stories about people in their own lives who have caved to suicide.
It’s been hard, in a way, to read about all of this struggle and sadness. And in another way, it’s been so incredibly uplifting to see the crochet/ craft/ online community come together to give each other support in this time. So many people have reached out to me, left comments on the blog post by Wink’s sister and connected to each other to encourage one another and express their feelings about this loss. I had known immediately that I wanted to do something to honor Wink and channel my many complex feelings while helping the community so I created the #MandalasForMarinke project and it’s gotten tons of amazing support already. I hope it’s helping people as an outlet to craft through their feelings and I hope it will achieve my aim of raising awareness about the difficulty of depression.
This is just one of several amazing things on the positive side of the spectrum of emotions. Another is that I just got accepted to be a Text Crisis Counselor (like a hotline but via text; see video below for more info on how this helps people).
Apparently only one third of the applications this round got accepted so that’s an honor and I’ve started my intensive training for that this week. It’s a great next step for me in terms of giving back to the community, helping others experiencing mental health and other crisis issues and figuring out what I want to do with my own graduate degree as I move forward. In addition to these things, there’s been other great news in the lives around me, touching the people I love.
So there are these extremes – of loss and sadness and of growth and connection. In the big spectrum of life, this creates balance and I get glimpses of this balance in moments during the day. But in such quick back-to-back succession, these extremes are in deep contrast to each other and can feel overwhelming in some moments. I’m grateful to have the community support that I have and the internal resources for self-care that I’ve developed over time.