I recently celebrated my fourth anniversary of blogging here at The Renegade Press. As with the three anniversaries prior to this one, the moment was a bitter-sweet affair of pride and introspection. Blogging has become a passion, and a source of endless pleasure that I approach with great reverence as I attempt to pour my heart and soul into everything that I create. But it hasn’t always been this way. This website was born out of a need to find myself, and to overcome my own internal torment. Four years ago I was emotionally shattered, creatively stunted, and questioning the validity of my own existence as I battled my own private demons. I was lost inside my head, desperately searching for a purpose amongst an endless torrent of fractured, self-depreciating thoughts.
Thankfully I found that purpose; and I found myself through my writing. With each new post that I create I learn more about myself and the world than I ever thought possible. Writing is continuously helping me to become a man of tolerance, compassion, loyalty and fierce determination. But perhaps the greatest lesson that I have learned in the past four years is that the conversations that seem the hardest to have are oftentimes the ones that are most important.
In November 2015 I lost a friend to suicide. This month I lost another. For a man as petrified of death as I am, it can be incredibly confronting to lose a friend or family member. To have to accept the fragility of their morality, as well as my own scares me. To lose them to mental illness, the very affliction that pushed me into blogging in the first place, opens a chasm of sadness inside of my soul that will forever haunt me.
Recent studies compiled by the World Health Organisation suggest that global suicide rates have risen by sixty percent over the past forty-five years. This violent spike means that suicide is now one of the three leading causes of death for males and females aged 15-44. This statistic alone is staggering. When you then take a moment to consider that ninety percent of suicides worldwide can be attributed, or associated to mental health, a picture of sadness and vulnerability begins to take shape. There is a flaw in the manner in which we approach mental health and suicide. We are losing so many friends and family members prematurely.
That flaw is startlingly simple: we as a society are not communicating effectively enough about mental health and illness. Sure, people are more open to talking about suicide and depression than ever before. There is an abundance of mental health initiatives across the globe providing people with the support to overcome their own turmoil. But as a society we’re still not communicating. If we were, those organisations that are desperately trying to help strangers find beauty and meaning in their lives, or fighting valiantly to empower the vulnerable to face one more day, wouldn’t be struggling to prevent global suicide rates from reaching epidemic proportions.
OK. I want to stop for a moment and double back over that last comment and try and break it down a little. There was a linguistic sleight of hand in the preceding paragraph that may, or may not have found its mark. But it has to. I need you to understand where this flaw in our approach to mental health and suicide stems from. People are talking; or at least they are more willing to do so. And yet no one is communicating. What we are hearing when we talk to one another is the fake sound of progress. God, I hope that makes sense.
Talking and communication are two very different things. Talking is typically defined as the oral projection of one’s voice. Whereas communication is imparting, exchanging, and receiving information through a variety of means. Communication is listening, watching, comforting, and talking when needed. Organisations can talk to sufferers of mental illness and try to create and stimulate change. But we as individuals can communicate with them. We can hold their hand when they need a friend, or lend an ear when they want to talk. We can tear apart the idea that mental illness is something to be ashamed of and instead create a culture of support and understanding that praises someone for having the courage to seek help.
As someone who has suffered from depression and anxiety, I know how difficult it can be to admit that you are struggling. I know the crushing feeling of despair that settles into the back of your mind and pushes down on your chest until you feel as though you are drowning underneath a sea of hopelessness. But thanks to blogging, I also know the feeling of release that comes with being able to open your heart and mind and communicate with your peers. There is no shame in admitting that you are vulnerable, depressed, or alone.
Mental illness is claiming far too many lives, and for me personally, it has taken too many wonderful people away from me far too soon. While I adore and admire the hardworking organisations that fight valiantly to save lives, I believe that we as individuals can have a far greater impact. We can start having conversations that might seem uncomfortable, or difficult to broach at first. We can stop turning a blind eye when we see a friend, or stranger struggling. We can give those in need an ear to talk to, or a hand to hold, instead of a cold shoulder and a diverted glance. And maybe in doing so we can stop people from feeling so fucking alone, or depressed, or broken that suicide becomes their only answer.
In my lowest moments it was the kindness of strangers who stopped by a shitty little blog originally called Chris Nicholas Writes that became the catalyst I needed to confront my sadness and find myself once again. To know that my friends were not so fortunate as to find the inner peace that I did brings me to tears. If my only accomplishment as a writer is to inspire someone, somewhere to communicate; to speak and to listen about mental health, anxiety and depression, I’ll die a happy man.
168 thoughts on “Introspection & Loss”
Love your post! It’s just amazing!
My brother and I corresponded through life, and now reading back over it all, I see everything. I see everything that I had already blindly viewed. There are always clues and there will always be regrets. Always. S
Reading this make me realise everyone will go through the depression period. The surrounding support system is very important and the mental state of a person need to be strong to keep on fighting and moving forward. One of the way is to think there is always some one in the world that is in worst condition then us. Trust me there will always be.
As a survivor of several bouts of depression throughout my life I have learnt to be entirely open about my visits from the “Black dog” and I talk about it regularly, with hope and a sense of normality. This is important too and the more of us who are able to be shame less about our mental health issues the better for society and future acceptance.
I believe that part of the problem is that as a society we move too fast,. The world is so complicated with new inventions every week to pull us into a more and more electronic world with change upon change upon change. As human beings I don’t believe we are mentally equipped for the pace of change and this impacts upon our collective mental health.
I wrote this back in January and some of your readers might find some of the links helpful https://hellenjc.wordpress.com/2016/01/24/depression-on-the-inside-looking-out/ I hope so.
Thank you for what you wrote. It’s important for us to be able to be open about what we feel. I have thought about this a lot, about how we often feel like we just don’t fit into this world. I think that’s where a lot of the despair comes from.I have often felt that way, which is one reason I write and make it public. We live in a world that is very alienating, where people are off in their own worlds, not connecting in a real personal way. As a result people feel alone – not part of a community. This is partly due to technology. We need to change this. We need to make a point of reaching out, having more face to face connections. Sometimes I think the mental illness we experience is a normal reaction to the way things are. It’s because we are sensitive and feel things strongly. And that’s a good thing. But it can also be shattering when we feel alone, not understood. Building community is very important. So, I wanted to say something and be part of yours for a moment.
The natural human instincts towards community and fellow compassion are institutionally thwarted, especially in the USA where financial considerations are presented as far more dominating than expenditures for the remedying of the individual problems and lacks of resporces for even the most minimum existences. That this ultra wealthy nation should permit thousands and perhaps millions of children to suffer hunger and completely inadequate education facilities and a medical system which is far below the standards of many other less wealthy countries is not even at a level of minimum criticism, it is in the area of some kind of black humor where an extraterrestrial observer would find it laughable. The much proclaimed “exceptional” nation is at a level that could only be considered moronic in its wild expenditures to create vast quantities of suicidal instruments of lethal destruction rather than provide sensible living standards for its citizens. And this obvious mental pathology generates even more efforts to enable the population to mindlessly spread mass murder. not only throughout the rest of the world but within itself wherein it is a regular occurrence for pathological and desperate individuals to indiscriminately cut down any innocents convenient for their automatic weaponry. The police themselves seem deeply infected with this madness to butcher the population with little if any discouragement by official sources. The political system has no evidential interest in sensible remedies and the most prominent leadership is not only unmotivated in acting decently but most blatant in advocating even more cruelty and misery on the most helpless of the citizenry. It is a nightmare and there is no doubt as to where the roots of mental depression reside.
I read your comment to Chris’s blog, giving your observations on the United States of America…and they are spot on. In order for us to understand the error of our ways, and to do right by our citizens and other citizens of the world…we must experience the undoing of our nation, as other nations and empires have self-destructed as the consequence of their greed, debauchery, self-indulgence, prejudices, short-sightedness, and inexcusable lack of unconditional love. We are hypocrites at best…which overshadows the best of who we are…and those who demonstrate that goodness, when challenged by the worst of us. It will be most unfortunate if we indeed self-destruct…so much good will be lost…unless we can harness the best of us from around the world, to stand with us here, who are standing up, challenging and resisting those who seek to gut our people’s democracy, for their own dark devices. People everywhere, who practice and exercise the best of humanity, are humanity and our planet’s only chance for survival…Never give up, wherever you are…always resist that which seeks to divide and destroy what holds us together…Love.
Apt post for my day. This morning, feeling particularly melancholic and a bit lonely, I opened my mail, my whatsapp and my twitter, looking forward to a word or three from friends and family. All I see are mindless forwards sent to all and sundry. If there are personal messages, they are mostly monologues, with no attention paid to what is being said to them. The age of hyper-connectivity has, ironically, heralded the age of super isolation.
Well said! I too struggle with mental illness, which I address at my blog ribbonrx.com. It’s amazing how opening up on my blog has helped so much. I’m glad it’s helped you too!
Firstly congrats on your continhed blogging success.
Secondly sorry fornyour losses.
You raise pertinent points about mental health in general.
Even in the 21st century, the mind, the engine we all need to thrive or at least live, needs to be kept in working order, and still there is a huge stigma around it.
I think high profile people being more open helps, but the resources are woefully lacking if you consider the psychologists per X of the population.
Suicide is ultimately a failure of many factors. Parents are rarely mentioned but are invariably major causes, circumstance plays a role, and a number of variables of course. The suicide stats speak volumes. Is life tougher? Or are peoplw less prepared? Are parents less caring? Etc
I’m so sorry for your losses. My heart hurts for all those who feel their only way out of the mental anguish they are feeling is suicide. I have been on the brink of this a few times and struggle with depression, anxiety, and severe panic attacks. It is hard to talk about sometimes and there is still a stigma attached to mental illness in our society. I wrote about my driving anxiety in You & Me magazine this year and was blown away by the number of people who messaged me saying they experience it too but don’t talk about it. Please keep writing and sharing your stories — you never know who’s reading and who you are silently helping behind the screen! ❤
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I thought that this post was very well-written and definitely needs to be shared. Mental health is extremely important and we must begin the conversation somewhere. Great post, Chris Nicholas!
I just had to reblog this! There’s so much valuable information to gain from what you’ve written. Thank you for writing this.
Hi Chris! I can relate to a lot of what you wrote here. And you inspire me to keep writing my blog! And thanks for stopping by Keys to Joy! Blessings, Karen
I’m glad you ‘found yourself through your writing’. It’s a certain route to self-knowledge.Glad you liked my own efforts.
With anxiety and panic disorder, and 38 years ago thinking about committing suicide, writing for the past 24 years has really helped me.
communication is so important. how can we be surrounded by humans every single day and still feel like we cannot speak at times. love your work. keep writing
Beautifully expressed. Communication in it’s purest form is getting people to think in new ways. You’ve done that here. Thanks for sharing.
Thanks for your article. Yes depressions is a killer too. This is exactly why I am doing my blog as I want to show that depression can be overcome or kept under control to lead a better quality of life. I am a survivor of 15 years long term depression and my bipolar is under control. I have never tried to take my life as I firmly believe that human life is very precious and its according to my religion and upbringing too. Since coming to Australia I have worked as a tutor in English, and now studying for a Diploma in Psychology. Its not to work exactly as its more to gain knowledge and also to know more about how to help others more on becoming well. Above all it’s to prove that someone can study and achieve anything just like any other person. I wish you all the best with writing and overcoming your issues. Love and Light from me 🙂 ❤
Thank you for speaking so openly about what many struggle with silently…I wish I could say more right now, but there are so many emotions stirred up by your post. Thank you. May we write until all is written!
You’re doing great, I really like your blog. I’ve only just discovered it and read this post so far, but will carry on reading. Yes you inspired me.
I’ve learned to change my mindset (and with a little bit of help from aloe vera and bee pollen), I have worked through my problems and managed to get my worst moments down to only half a day at a time. I’m still working on it, but improving each day.
Thank you so much
Chris, I’m sorry for your losses. That particular type of heartbreak has touched my family as well. You make some great points about communicating and what can help, as well as what some see as progress. To borrow a phrase, peace be with you.
thoughtful, thank you. I too write to connect with my soul and hope it touches others. I’ve lost friends and family in ways I never expected, tragic and painful. I also lost a child. There is a fear of connecting in society, the invisible emotional bond with rules. It is easier to look the other way, make excuses, send a gift and walk away. Holding a hand and embracing the soul takes humanity and understanding, and something we have forgotten in this life. Thank you again for the thoughts.
I’m so sorry for your recent loss. If we truly communicate, we connect, we shift perspective, we take perspective, we build empathy, we breed good judgement, we say that is me, we create positive change in our actions. On a personal level and on a large scale systemic level.
Thank you for liking my post. I will be checking out your book.
Thank you for communicating your feelings and experience with us. My husband has been blind sided by suicide twice–his father and more recently a friend. As you indicated, talking is easier than communicating. Getting down deep with another human being is hard–it can get messy, even frightening. We don’t know what to say or how to help. Men especially struggle because they always feel they need to DO something about what’s being said when the person speaking often just needs to express themselves and feel safe and loved. Listening and empathizing are often a form of validation in and of themselves.
I am deeply sorry for the loss of your friends. If nothing else, you have honored their lives with this very important post. Regards.
I am old enough to have lost almost all of my friends and relatives and much of those that made up the world in my younger days and the current world leaves little to console me but I have remained on a relatively even keel by accepting that the beginnings and ends of all things is the way a life operates. Each one of us has a certain height and breadth and depth and length of existence. It takes me years to accommodate myself to friends and family becoming memories but those memories remain and still live on as active parts of my living self and there is always something in life to sustain.
Thank you for stopping by my post and the like! This post of yours titled “Introspection and Loss” was intriguing, to say the least. As someone just entering this platform of blogging/writing, it is inspiring to see what it can do for me as an individual attempting to find myself. Appreciate your sincerity and look forward to more.
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It’s important for those of us who’ve taken the journey of depression or anxiety and found light on the path to tell others where it is. Thanks for striving to do so, Chris!
“If my only accomplishment as a writer is to inspire someone, somewhere to communicate; to speak and to listen about mental health, anxiety and depression, I’ll die a happy man” I’m so thankful you are alive, Survival must share stories, thank you for sharing this 🙂
Read your blog today and feel for you and for so many. I recently lost my husband unexpectedly. He was suffering with depression. He felt no one could help him. I wonder how many others feel that way. Too sad. I will revisit your past blogs.
Thank you for stopping by. And I’m terribly sorry for your loss. Losing a loved one is never an easy experience; but to lose someone who has suffered from depression can be devastating.
But know that you’re not alone and that there’s people all over the world who share similar experiences. Hopefully by talking and by being brave enough to admit when we are struggling, or when we are hurting we can encourage others to do the same.
Thank you for writing about this incredibly important topic. I had a brother who died prematurely from mental illness 25 years ago. I wish I had done more. I wish we, as a society, had done more. Honesty and advocacy, such as this post, are so needed. But I think you might be right that the biggest responsibility rests on each of us to care for those we know who are in distress. Best wishes!
Thank you for this topic. We lost a family member to suicide as he took his own life as he was unable to come off heroin. Here in the UK we have a campaign called CALM, Campaign Against Living Miserably, because in the UK in 2014, they say 76 per cent of suicide victims were males under the age of 45. So it talks about men and mental health and how some are less likely to share that they feel they are struggling and that there’s a problem. I think openness and challenging stereotypes is certainly the way forward^^
I know of two young people recenlty who took their lives way too soon. One was a freshman in high school and the other was a young adult. It is truly sad and a big loss to everyone who knew them and to society. There is a young woman in my neck of the woods who started a blog where people can write anonymously about their struggles and an on-line web series that she produced called The Acceptance Movement where she travels to local cities and universities to open the dialog about depression and anxiety disorders. This can all be found on her blog called Listen Lucy, at ListenLucy.org. So, just like you, there are people getting the dialog started and encouraging people to share their struggles and just talk about it.
Well written and well researched. The number of young people that attempt suicide is horrific. Your assertion that individuals can make the biggest impact on someone suffering from mental illness is spot on. However I have something interesting to share with you.
In the U.S. is a region called the “inner-mountain west” which is comprised mostly of the states adjacent to the continental divide. (Montana, Wyoming, Idaho, Utah and Colorado). The states with the lower populations (Montana, Wyoming, and Idaho) have a different demographic than the rest of (I think) the world when it comes to suicide. In these states the largest number of suicides, both in total and per capita is white males over the age of 45. The current hypothesis is the isolation and the image that “Real” men don’t talk about feelings. I’d be curious to see if similar regions around the world have the same problems.
There is a grass-roots campaign here in the U.S. and I believe in other countries, using the image of a semi-colon. It’s a bit like a secret handshake. Anyone who displays one is stating that they are a survivor of suicide in some way (attempted themselves, family member or friend of a victim) and are willing to listen and help. I happen to have one tattooed on my wrist.
keep up the extraordinary work
Sometimes we just need to go through a little bit of shit before we can grow…
Damn, Chris, but I should be the Jolly Green Giant by now! Loved the guided imagery in this post. Beautiful!
“People are talking; or at least they are more willing to do so. And yet no one is communicating. What we are hearing when we talk to one another is the fake sound of progress.” <<<< For that, I would like to shake your hand and bake you a cake!! This is the absolute truth!
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I needed these words so thank you. Powerful and inspiring words. Keep writing!
As a mental illness survivor, and a member of a family with a long history of mental illness, I totally understand where you are coming from. For me, it is my faith in God that helps me to get through it all.
This is beautiful! I’m re-blogging this on literati2017.wordpress.com.
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A beautifully written text.
You are so right Chris, listening is the first form of healing which I learnt as a Healer and passed on to my students. When I suffered a breakdown termed ‘reactive depression’ by my analyst, on one occasion I sat before him silently and he said the one word ‘Words?’ and out it all came like a waterfall of pent up angst as the damn dam broke.
Thank you for your eloquent essay which I am sure will mean so much to so many. I wonder how many will spot your morality/mortality interchange? Good luck with the novel and thanks for your Like on Hanukah & the Angel. Love, David
“…the fake sound of progress…” makes plenty of sense. Whenever I hear people give what I call, “pat answers”, I growl because I believe they really think progress is being made just by saying what they think people want to hear. It’s really irksome. When it’s time to follow-up with action to make a difference, their schedules are suddenly full and they back away.
If I could click LIKE on this post 1,000 times I would. Keep writing and communicating! You are making a positive difference in a painful world Chris. Someday soon you won’t be able to call yourself The Lone Wolf anymore!! Namaste
Thank you for this!
As I started reading this post, the very first paragraph gave me chills. For there is that time when you realise that someone else’s words are enlightening you with your own thoughts so vividly, even you yourself are unable to.
Thanks for sharing this post. I’m glad to read it.