Tara Condell hung herself. You probably don’t know her. Or even know of her. She was a beautiful, young, successful woman who at a glance looked like the whole world was spoon-feeding her happiness. She hung herself, because she was not happy.
And then people called her selfish. Suicide doesn’t make a person selfish any more than going to the gym every day. When people check out and take their own lives they are doing what’s best for them. It has nothing to do with you or those they leave behind. You’re just still around to feel it.
People always ask depressed people, “what could you possibly be depressed about?” “Your life is fine.” “I wish I had your life.” But the truth is, nobody’s life is perfect. There’s a reason they say “check on your strong friends.” They are the ones who always say everything is fantastic.
I feel like you never have to worry about your Debbie Downer friends offing themselves. Especially the ones who talk openly about it or cry out for help. The strong ones don’t ask for help. Usually because they are too busy helping everybody else. Making other people feel good. Making other people laugh.
Chester Bennington. Robin Williams. Hunter S. Thompson. Virginia Woolf. Anthony Bourdain. Chris Cornell. Lucy Gordon. Jiah Khan. Tony Scott. Kate Spade.
And we all wished we had their lives. Their fame. Just one minute of their lives would be good enough. Or at least I wished that. The famous always smile. And when they don’t, it’s plastered all over some tabloid for us to judge. I’m not a fan of tabloids. And I’m not a fan of rumors about regular folks either. I think all of our time would be better spent watching what’s going on.
I love being around the happiest person in the room when I’m not it. Because I usually charge myself with having to be that person. The one that makes people laugh. The uplifter. The encourager. So when I find someone else who is in that position, I want to crawl inside their head and find out what tragedy made them perpetually smile. And there usually is one. The death of a parent. The death of a child. The death of a spouse. The death of a dog. Abuse. Rape. Incest. And sometimes, when they are really really lucky, they have just had a blissful life with no tragedy and they only know how to smile. Though that is usually the exception to the rule.
And we get to go online and watch everybody’s highlight reel. We get to see the travels. The toasts. The smiling selfies. There are no albums of the late nights spent at home crying and not knowing why but not being able to stop. There are no pictures of people staring in mirrors asking themselves, “what the fuck are you doing with your life?” There is no proof of how, despite the successes, some manage to still feel like epic failures.
There’s a reason they say, “check on your strong friends.”
The friend that is always calling you to make sure you are ok, is sometimes not ok. The friend that calls and asks if you want to go to brunch out of the blue needs someone to just sit with them. The friend who is making everybody laugh is doing that because they need to laugh so they don’t cry. Nobody can be strong all the time. And a lot of people don’t have friends who get to see the dark side very often. Because they don’t want to admit there is a dark side. That is the equivalent of admitting defeat.
And after they’ve come this far, defeat is not in their vocab. But the dark side will push it’s way through. Maybe in the form of a night of black out drinking. Or maybe their body will just shut down and they will become violently ill because a person can only take so much before the body finally says, “enough!” Or maybe they do what Tara Condell and so many others before her have done. Maybe they tie something around their neck, write a note trying the best they can to explain their “why” even though they know the words will never quite explain it and they step down. Right out of this life because they just wanted one person to “get it.”
I get it.
If you are the strong friend. I’m here for you. My phone line, my inbox, my door is always open. I will let you cry and tell you that you are allowed to be sad even though your life is fine by everybody else’s standards. I will go to brunch with you and sit at the table in silence if that’s all you need. I will let you mourn your loss when everyone says you’re better off without it.
I get it.
People, check on your strong friends. There’s a reason they say that. Love your smiling friends while they are still here. They need it just as much as your overtly depressed friends. Maybe even more.