Hippie Loves…Hook & Awareness

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Like any Robin Williams fan, some of my favorite movies were his 90s hits like Jack, Mrs. Doubtfire and Hook. He was a brilliant actor and he left this world too soon. My family has suffered similar loss and I’ve debated on whether or not to share this post, but if it can give just one person perspective then I would deem it a success. So here goes:

On March 7, 2001, my small town, simple, high school freshman world was rocked. My cousin Matt hanged himself. We had a special bond in the sense that I saw him more of a big brother than a cousin. He picked me up every morning and took me to school and we would sing and joke the whole way. He was a beautiful person who’s light was diminished. IMG_2861.JPG
Matt suffered extreme depression as a result of his best friend Jeff committing suicide just 6 months earlier. Through a misunderstanding at school, Matt was expelled, removed from the baseball team, abandoned by many “friends” and was subsequently placed in a mental health facility. For a 17 year old, he was feeling lost, misunderstood, forgotten and overwhelmed. I nearly lost it on one of his best friends, and fellow youth group member, that tried to tell me, “Brooke, he’s crazy.” Mental illness is not a joke, insignificant or a defining factor.

While Matt was in treatment, my daddy gave him a bible and slowly you could see the light come back to his eyes. He was more present and his sparkle was coming back. I don’t remember how long it was between Matt getting out of treatment and him taking his own life. I know it was a devastating day and I’ll never forget It. My daddy answered the phone and said he had to go to my aunt’s house. I could tell something was wrong and in my gut I knew Matt was gone. As I type this, Sublime’s “Wrong Way” just came on my iPod…Matt LOVED listening to this song on blast in his truck with the windows down on the way to school. Since he left us, he’s had a remarkable way of connecting to us through music. It sounds weird, but there are certain songs that he loved that happen to come on the radio when I’m reminiscing about our fun times together. Matt suffered from mental illness and was never formally diagnosed. Some of the people he surrounded himself with were ignorant about what mental illness entailed. Matt wasn’t crazy. Matt was kind, a fantastic friend, fun, mischievous, a great hugger, considerate, a great fisherman, an awesome baseball player, a brother, a son, a cousin, a confidant and a beautiful soul.

I tell you this story so that I can tell you my story. The day Matt left this world, an unbelievable sadness settled within me. I spiraled into a very dark depression. You see, depression runs in my family (read more here). We don’t all have it, but many of us do. I believe Matt’s loss triggered my depression. I saw a counselor and have used anti-depressants on-and-off since 2001. When I feel like I have my depression controlled I lay off meds and then it creeps up again. Because that’s the thing with depression, it can’t be controlled without treatment. It’s chemical and has a life of its own. A lot of people misconstrue things they don’t understand and if you or someone you know hasn’t battled with mental illness then you don’t quite understand it. I think as humans we are afraid to openly admit we suffer from mental illness because society makes us feel like, if we do, then we are less than, crazy or undesirable. I’m not embarrassed to publicly say, I battle depression now. On most days I’m not affected. On most days I’m the best version of myself. On most days I am full if life and laughter. But some days are dark. Some days it’s hard to get out of bed and even brush my teeth. I’m fortunate that I don’t battle depression more severely. Some of us, like Matt and Robin Williams aren’t strong enough, in their mind, to fight the battle. What’s important is to enlighten yourself, be supportive and love them fiercely.

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6 thoughts on “Hippie Loves…Hook & Awareness

  1. Matt wasn’t formally diagnosed because mental health care providers hesitate to label adolescents, in large part because of society’s misunderstanding of mental health issues.

    I had a conversation with a coworker today who couldn’t understanding not being able to “just get through it”….and I asked her if she thought people just got through cancer, or diabetes, or any other illness. She hadn’t thought of it that way.

    Stigma is truly in the silence. The silence breeds lack of understanding and fosters fear for those things we don’t understand. Thank you for speaking up!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Oh Brookee, I love you. For those of you that don’t know me, I’m Brooke’s Aunt Shelia, Matt’s mother.

    The death of Robin Williams has certainly hit home in more ways than one. Robin Williams was an icon, a versatile actor who had a way of making his viewers smile even when it would have been easier to frown. Matt was very similar to that as well. Even during his darkest moments he lit up, not just my heart, but so many around him. Brooke described him perfectly. Basically, he just loved life. I know that sounds strange that someone who can love life so much yet in the end, choose to end the very life they loved so much. When depression takes hold, it’s hard to loosen the grip. And in Matt’s case, though he was being treated, he was surrounded by so much ignorance. An ignorance that was crippling his battle to find light in such a dark situation. Much of the ignorance was found in the very people whom we placed a trust in each and every day. The high school he attended. I didn’t realize it back then, but today, I can honestly share that the faculty and staff most likely thought they were acting in his best interest. But it was their ignorance with regards to mental health that did him the biggest injustice of all. I wish I could say their ignorance on the subject of mental health has somehow subsided with knowledge. The calls through the years from other parents going through, though not as extreme, but similar problems with the school have slowly subsided, most likely due to time. But I try to be optimistic and pray a certain knowledge along with change in administration may actually be helping.

    I could go on and on with my words, but I find it unnecessary as Brooke has so elegantly spoke not just the words from her heart, but mine as well. My sister Sherri (Brooke’s mother) an instrumental part of Matt’s life also shared words that seemed to come directly from my heart.

    Mental illness is real, and Robin Williams was real to this world. Hopefully his death will not be in vain, and will somehow be an instrument in educating the ignorance that surrounds mental health.

    I love you Brookee.
    Aunt Shelia

    Like

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