Suicide

Happy Birthday

Thirty nine years ago, a boy and a girl were born half a world apart – today, only one of them gets to celebrate.

The boy – me – I’m still here.

The girl – Mindy McCready – lived to be 37.
I cannot really begin to describe what she came to mean to me over the years, so I won’t even try. ‘Quite a lot’ doesn’t really cut it, but it will have to suffice. I only really got to know her a bit and sadly we never had the chance to meet, but even so the loss of her hit me hard.

So, Dear Reader, I celebrate this day in her memory.

Happy Birthday…

Mindy McCready

To say that Mindy led a stormy, troubled life is a bit of an understatement. She moved to Nashville at the age of 18, having promised her mother that if she didn’t make it within a year she would go to college. Exactly 51 weeks later she signed her first record deal. Her debut album Ten Thousand Angels came out in 1996 and went gold in six months, and as the video of the title song reached CMT Europe she appeared on my radar. Over the next few years she released two more albums, but dwindling sales led to Mindy being dropped by her label. It took three years for her to sign with a new company and release her fourth album, Mindy McCready, again to poor sales. Once again she found herself without a label.

Her life took a sharp turn for the worse, and she didn’t release any new material for six years. The song I’m Still Here was released as a download on Mindy’s official website, signaling a return to strength and the upcoming album of the same title. It would be her last.

Her career was back on track, the album sold well, and her life seemed to be turning around for the better again. She was busy being a mother and working on a new record with her boyfriend David Wilson. But on January 13th 2013 Mindy found her soul mate on the porch of their Arkansas home, dying from a self-inflicted gunshot wound.

Five weeks to the day after his death, she followed him.


– Listen –
I’ll See You Yesterday; Mindy McCready


( photo by unknown )

Semicolon;

“Your mind is a dangerous neighbourhood and you shouldn’t go in there at night.”
—Christiane Northrup

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Dear Reader, today is World Suicide Prevention Day.

Every 40 seconds, someone dies from suicide. Many more attempt it and survive. It is the second leading cause of death for people in the ages 15-29. I know all too many people who have been affected by the tragedy of suicide in some way: those who are left behind, those who have tried and survived, those who deal with the scene afterward, and even those who have been used as a means to that end. Like myself.

In my day job as a train driver, suicide is a constant unwelcome companion. Many of my friends and colleagues have had the misfortune of being involved in someone’s attempt on their own life, and I have been there myself – the involuntary instrument of a suicide. You learn to live with it; you learn to cope. It changes you. There are several reasons why there’s been so many posts on this topic here on my blog, but that is one. I live with it’s shadow hanging over me, in one form or another. I speak about it and joke about it and think about it. When I was young and depressed, I even entertained the thought of doing it myself. I probably never will, so no need to worry – that was in the past.

In my life as an artist and creative person, suicide is also present, but in another way. Artists have a higher risk of mental illnesses and with it, a higher risk of suicide – be they musicians, painters, writers, actors or whatever. I have many friends, acquaintances and role models who are artists and who struggle with depression or other difficulties. Some have tried to kill themselves in the past, some succeeded. Some will likely try in the future. You learn to cope with that as well. It, too, changes you.

We speak too little of depression and mental illness in our society. People who succumb to those kinds of problems are deemed weak or not taken seriously. They get told to shape up, that it’s all in their head, that it’s just a slump. They feel alone, outcast and not taken seriously. There’s a man in the public eye that I admire, Joe Pantoliano – you may know him from The Sopranos, The Matrix, and a whole slew of other movies and TV shows. He has struggled with depression for years, and to try and ease up on the stigma and taboo associated with mental illness he started No Kidding? Me too! – an organization aiming to open a dialogue about mental illness and remove the stigma surrounding it.

nkm2.org

Another organization I admire is To Write Love On Her Arms – they are a non-profit organization trying to spread hope to those suffering from depression, drug abuse, mental illness and suicidal thoughts, as well as invest in treatment and recovery. They’ve been around for 8 years now, and have grown to   This year, they are doing a big campaign for suicide prevention: ‘No One Else Can Play Your Part’. Their influence and renown is spreading, in part thanks to artists and others wearing their t-shirts and spreading knowledge about them.

twloha.com

Both of those groups are local, but spreading out internationally.

The title of this post comes from The Semicolon Project – a group that lies even closer to my heart. They have taken the semicolon  ;  as their symbol, signifying that a semicolon marks the place where an author chose to continue when he could have ended the sentence. Think what you will about the use and misuse of semicolons, but I think that this is a beautiful thought. This has created a growing practice of tattooing – or drawing – a semicolon on one’s body as a symbol of suicide awareness and prevention.

thesemicolonproject.com

If I could, I would have loved to show you my own semicolon tattoo, but I haven’t got one yet. If things go according to plan I will incorporate one into the design I’m currently working on.

I know it can be difficult being friends with someone who suffers from mental illness. If you are a friend, though, make that effort. You don’t have to solve their problems or feel you are responsible for saving their lives – just be a friend. Often, just knowing that there’s someone there who won’t judge is enough. Someone who won’t abandon you, even when you feel you are worthless and only in the way. One person truly can make a difference, so if you know someone who is struggling, say something – talk to them; offer help and support to them; be there when they need you.

And if you are really thinking about committing suicide, talk to someone – to someone close to you, or to a complete stranger on the phone or online. Hell – talk to me, even;

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Suicide Prevention Hotlines

Canada & US; National Suicide Prevention Lifeline – 1-800-273-TALK (8255)
Sweden; Nationella Hjälplinjen (open 13-22) – 020-22 00 60
Sweden; Jourhavande Medmänniska (open 21-06) – 08-702 16 80
UK; HOPELine – 0800-068 41 41


Reblog: Robin’s Last Gift – Peter Coyote

This week’s reblog is a personal reflection on Robin Williams’ passing from actor, writer, director and Zen buddist Peter Coyote:

Radiating Blossom ~ Flowers & Words

“Robin and I were friends. Not intimate, because he was very shy when he was not performing. Still, I spent many birthdays and holidays at his home with Marsha and the children, and he showed up at my 70th birthday to say “Hello” and wound up mesmerizing my relatives with a fifteen-minute set that pulverized the audience.

When I heard that he had died, I put my own sorrow aside for a later time. I’m a Zen Buddhist priest and my vows instruct me to try to help others. So this little letter is meant in that spirit.

Normally when you are gifted with a huge talent of some kind, it’s like having a magnificent bicep. People will say, “Wow, that’s fantastic” and they tell you, truthfully, that it can change your life, take you to unimaginable realms. It can and often does. The Zen perspective is a little different…

View original post 323 more words

Portrait: Robin Williams

“Other people have left the room, but rarely has the room been left so empty. “
―Frank Menser, on the death of Robin Williams

RobinWilliams

Robin Williams Portrait

I never had any plans of creating this portrait – it had never occurred to me that Robin Williams may have been part in shaping who I am. Silly me.

My first memory of him is from the sitcom Mork & Mindy. I must’ve been around 9 when I saw it and it definitely left an impact. To this day I can remember scenes from several episodes, storylines, and a surprising amount of detail from the show even though I haven’t seen it in at least 25 years. Possibly more. After that he appeared in several movies I found entertaining but not remarkable – Popeye, Moscow on the Hudson, Baron Münchausen. It wasn’t until I saw him in Good Morning, Vietnam that I really started to appreciate him, I think. As I grew older, and I saw Dead Poets Society – an amazing film that remains one of my favorite movies – The World According to Garp, The Fisher King, Good Will Hunting, Hamlet, Insomnia, One Hour Photo, etc, etc and I realized that his genius shone brightest in his serious moments.

The news of his death reached me at a time when I was more vulnerable than usual, but it still surprised me how affected I was by it. As the news spread across the internet I was left in awe of how many people felt so strongly about him, and I think nothing sums up the loss as beautifully as the quote at the top of this post – words uttered by a friend of a friend. Without a doubt he was one of our most beloved actors and comedians.

Robin Williams was an expert at portraying haunted, wounded men – no doubt because he was one himself. He was fairly open about his struggle with addiction and depression.  I chose to portray him this way – in contemplation, with the Red Knight behind him – because he urged us to remember both the good and the bad when a person dies, to not mythologize them. He fought against his inner demons all his life, bringing joy and happiness to so many people. In the end he may have lost the fight, but he fought well and he fought hard. That’s the way I want to remember him – as a man who stood up against his dark knight, persevering and rising to greatness in spite of it.

Mr Williams, your table is ready.

Commentary: R.I.P. Robin Williams

O Captain! my Captain!
by Walt Whitman
O Captain! my Captain! our fearful trip is done,
The ship has weather’d every rack, the prize we sought is won,
The port is near, the bells I hear, the people all exulting,
While follow eyes the steady keel, the vessel grim and daring;
                         But O heart! heart! heart!
                            O the bleeding drops of red,
                               Where on the deck my Captain lies,
                                  Fallen cold and dead.
O Captain! my Captain! rise up and hear the bells;
Rise up—for you the flag is flung—for you the bugle trills,
For you bouquets and ribbon’d wreaths—for you the shores a-crowding,
For you they call, the swaying mass, their eager faces turning;
                         Here Captain! dear father!
                            The arm beneath your head!
                               It is some dream that on the deck,
                                 You’ve fallen cold and dead.
My Captain does not answer, his lips are pale and still,
My father does not feel my arm, he has no pulse nor will,
The ship is anchor’d safe and sound, its voyage closed and done,
From fearful trip the victor ship comes in with object won;
                         Exult O shores, and ring O bells!
                            But I with mournful tread,
                               Walk the deck my Captain lies,
                                  Fallen cold and dead.

I cannot bare to write any personal reflection at present, Dear Reader. It is a sad day, and Robin Williams’ untimely death only exasperates the introspection I am dealing with, peeling open old wounds as it does.

Depression is an ugly beast, and hard to fight off once its claws are buried in your soul.

I’ll see you Yesterday

“The trouble is, you think you have time.”
—Buddha

MindyMcCready

Today is a day of sadness.

Mindy McCready took her own life this morning – shot herself on the porch of her home, in the same spot where her boyfriend committed suicide just over a month ago. She was 37 years old.

Mindy was born at approximately the same time as me, on the other side of the world, on November 3oth 1975.

I didn’t know that when I first started listening to her music, at the very beginning of her career when we were both only 20. It was a dark time in my life, and her music helped bring me out of it. Since then I have followed the ups and downs of her life, and over the years I came to feel a special connection to her, though I really only got to know her a little bit, personally. I never explained to her what she’d meant to me – out of fear and embarrassment, I guess – and we never got to meet in person. I thought there’d be time for that, later.

When she passed away, years had gone by since we’d had any contact. I meant to write her following David’s suicide, but…well…you think there will always be time, later. Turns out there isn’t.

She led a tumultuous and troubled life, battling many demons – both internal and external. Hopefully that struggle is over now.

Rest in peace Mindy, you’ve earned it – I’ll miss you, and I’ll see you yesterday…