Kukla's Korner

The Malik Report

In which a hockey blogger talks about a celebrity’s suicide

This isn't about hockey, but I possess the luxury of writing about something other than hockey every once in a while, and I'm going to do just that.

This isn't Red Wings-related, so if you're not interested, scroll on, dear friend.

So today, aside from the torrential flood downriver (holy crap!), Lambert engaged in his anti-Wings fetishizing (brilliant writer + pertinent points =/= excusing someone for being a weirdo and a dick) and I stayed quiet, shrugging my shoulders as I heard that the Hockey News's yearbook is also making what I'm sure will be a "trendy pick" in suggesting that the Wings will fall short of the playoffs. It's just gonna be the theme of the year, and the Wings will have to prove the "experts" wrong.

I'm still stiff and sore from doing the packing, the driving and then the unpacking on the way home from vacation (mom needed to not drive a mile, so she didn't), so I figured, "Well, if the boss says I'm allowed to take it slow, I'm gonna take advantage of it; he needs a vacation sooner than later, too," and Lambert? He's like Cartman licking tears when it comes to jerking off on making Wings fans angry. *#$%@& that shit.

I saw the Instagram video of Darren Helm carrying Jen Tootoo on his shoulders water-skiing, and it didn't bug me. Good for him. Have some fun and don't fall over!

I read the first of three media availabilities from the Wings' summer youth camp (Riley Sheahan and Danny DeKeyser will speak to the media tomorrow and Wednesday), and I just nodded along with Luke Glendening's words and video interview with Michigan Hockey.

I read Ken Holland say that he'd seriously consider re-signing Daniel Alfredsson, and I thought, "Good, at least he's willing to earn his spot by doing a lot of skating and making sure that he's healthy so that he can earn a spot in training camp, unlike some people..." and I smiled at the comment Holland made to Fox Sports Detroit's Dana Wakiji:

As far as some of the other players who dealt with injuries last season, Holland said he's hearing good things.

"Now, it's summer time, you always hear positive," Holland said. "Let's get to September. I'm anticipating all those guys that were injured last year, I've been told they're all healthy, they're all feeling great, they're all excited. I got my fingers crossed."

Holland also said he would be speaking to the agent for restricted free agent Danny DeKeyser this week.

The Wings will hold training camp at Centre ICE Arena in Traverse City from Sept. 19 until Sept. 23.

(see also: "There's not exactly a huge impetus for the Wings to surrender assets for a right-shooting defenseman until they see what they've got during training camp and the exhibition season); every team is feeling like that this time of year")

All of that didn't peel me out of my comfy bed ahead of the Great Grand Marais Sand Deposit Via Laundromat Trip on Tuesday.

But I woke up to find out about Robin Williams' passing due to suicide, and I felt it was necessary to speak, and eventually, to write a blog entry--a hockey blog entry--about Williams' suicide.

And the first damn thing I have to say is that, "This isn't about me," though I'm going to share my personal experiences here.

 

I've been battling "major depression" and a severe anxiety disorder for my entire life. I'm "out" about my status, and that's yielded some incredibly positive things and some incredibly negative reactions.

I've tried to be up-front about the fact that there are times I need to step away from the blog due to my depression, and that I deal with a significant amount of illness-related pain on a daily basis.

Generally and specifically speaking, I've learned that there are hundreds and hundreds of fellow Wings fans, Twitter and Facebook pals, general hockey pals and accidental online friends with whom I have nothing in common but my mental illnesses, and that we are all trying to battle our various chemical imbalances together. We take inspiration from and comfort in our fellow travelers' battles, and we feel a little better knowing that we're not alone.

And yet I witness my family members and closest friends battle with the stigma of mental illness, I get jittery about dealing with friends I've had for over half my life because I fear that they'll judge me for "being crazy" as opposed to being someone who deals with a chronic physical illness and neurochemical imbalance, and I watch society's revulsion to the open discussion of mental illness as an illness as opposed to a personal fault that must be closeted and hidden from view and I feel like we're treating a potentially fatal disease like we do gun control--something we're terrified of truly addressing in an open and adult manner, despite the fact that there is no Mental Illness Must Be Treated Like It's Your Right To Hurt Yourself And Others one-issue advocacy/bullying group.

Every time a celebrity or young person OD's or kills themself, we hear, "Oh, this is such a tragedy, we need to do things differently, we must truly advocate for fair and equitable medical treatment and social support for the mentally ill."

Within a week, things quiet down, and things go back to normal. People who have health insurance talk about how incredibly difficult it is to find treatment and how their insurance companies are still capping their benefits despite the ACA's explicit stating that no one can be denied treatment for mental illness any more, you find that people are giving up the fight for treatment because they're not insured and that the public safety net's now drastically under-funded, and you continue to read stories about how the minuscule minority of mentally ill people who are desperate enough to break the law to seek treatment are tossed from corrections system to prison system and how incredibly overwhelmed our police departments are due to a very evident public health crisis, and you get angry.

You get depressed, because the more things change, the more they stay the same. And the more people who battle mental illnesses continue to turn to drugs, alcohol, self-harm and suicide because they aren't in the incredibly lucky situation of having family members and friends who support them no matter what and actually listen when they ask for help.

It gets to the point that when you issue an, "If you feel like hurting yourself, please, please, please ask for help, call someone, speak with someone, email, Tweet, call a suicide hotline, call 1-800-273-TALK, call Covenant House if you're a teen, go to the ER, call the cops on yourself, please..." comment, people remind you that it's incredibly easy to say "ask for help," and that it is in fact incredibly, incredibly hard for the vast majority of those in severe distress to actually do so, whether it's due to a lack of family or friend support, fear of losing their job, their marriage, their kids, their home, believing that they're simply not worth the help...You name it, the reality of the situation is indeed that it's *#$%@& hard to ask for help, and it's even harder to find and pay for effective treatment.

It you deal with a mental illness, it feels like you're less likely to be judged harshly if you're a life-long smoker asking for a lung or an alcoholic asking for a liver--and that you're more likely to wreck your life by "asking for help" than you are to improve a situation that you know medication alone can't "cure," or an illness that you may have to learn to deal with for the rest of your life.

Here is what I have to say about all of that:

I understand, believe me, I understand all of it. I come from a family where mental illness is "normal," and I come from a family where I've received an incredible amount of support, as well as access to counseling and psychiatry throughout the time that I had insurance, and a hard kick in the ass to get myself enrolled in the community mental health system to get my "cocktail" fixed and to seek care when I didn't have insurance.

I've still had to deal with the family members, bosses and even physicians who tell you to "suck it up" or prescribe a pill and tell you to call them in a month, the shrinks who prescribe medications that send you to the ER, I've visited family members and friends in the psych ward and I had to go there myself in 2006. It was one of the most traumatic experiences of my life, but it was better than the alternative.

I've lost months of my life to feeling the nothingness that is depression, too, and I still struggle with it every day, and I struggle with the fact that most people who've had suicidal thoughts will tell you--once that genie is out of the bottle, that option is never "off the table."

You have to learn to deal with that and to live with that. It's very, very hard.

But again, it is better than the alternative. Suicide is perhaps the most self-and-other-damaging act one can possibly commit. It absolutely lays waste to families and friends and even acquaintances.

It's the last damn thing you should consider, but if and when you do consider it--and most of us do at some point--you should know that the suggestion is the biggest red flag in the world.

That kind of thinking means that you need to ask for help and ask for help right booking now.

From family, friends, coworkers, doctors, social workers, bosses, priests, acquaintances, people on Twitter, Facebook, random strangers, the National Suicide Prevention Hotline online or at 1-800-275-TALK, NAMI, Covenant House, 411 (the United Way), or yes, even 911. That's what 911 is there for, dammit.

MASH had it wrong. Suicide is not painless. Suicide is as painful as it *#$%@& gets. And it is never, ever the answer.

Regardless of whether you believe in a higher power or not, science suggests that this one life may be the only shot we get, the only ride on this roller coaster that is life, and YOU ARE WORTH FAR MORE TO MORE PEOPLE THAN YOU COULD EVER IMAGINE.

 

In a larger sense, people who battle depression and other mental illnesses have lost one of their most outspoken advocates and most outspoken, "Yes, I've been through this, I know it sucks, it still sucks, but it's okay to not be okay in reality" friends due to the kind of thing he readily admitted he'd considered, just like the rest of us.

He engaged in the same kind of self-medication self-abuse that so many of us do in alcohol and drugs.

He told us to remember that we're not alone and that we should never give up.

He struggled. He battled. Sometimes he won the battle against that fire-breathing dragon in the basement that is mental illness, sometimes he lost it, and sometimes he told us all about his battle. At a time that being "bipolar" was a pseudonym for, "That's just a cracker-ass nutcase," he debunked that myth and then some.

He lost the war. The brilliant Detroit Country Day graduate and Metro Detroiter who could make us laugh equally as Mork and as a teacher bringing the poetry of so many poets made "dead" by mental illness alive, the everyman comedian who insisted that he was just like us still took the worst possible way out.

Living with any chronic illness is hard. Living with depression (bipolar or "regular") can be devastatingly brutal, and not everybody makes it. That's just the truth.

If we need help, we owe it to ourselves and those we love to find it. If we need support, we owe it to fight to find it. If we need medical treatment, we have to fight to get it.

As a society, we can't let this keep happening to teenagers, to veterans (dear God, what a tragedy there), to our coworkers, friends and family members. If mental illness can rob us of Robin Williams, someone who told us all along the way that he was battling his demons and that sometimes they got the better of him, but that the struggle and the journey were more important than giving up...

We need to stop treating mental illness as a personal weakness, as a second-class illness, and we need to stop treating the mentally ill like they are anything other than human beings battling chronic illnesses.

Most importantly, if you are reading this and you are in pain, or if you're reading this and you've ever considered hurting yourself, know that you are not alone, that there is at least one person out there who does not judge you poorly for thinking those thoughts, and know that there are those who can tell you from experience that there are a thousand better ways to get help and to keep living.

We're only above the ground for so long. We only blink and breathe for so long. It's better not to struggle and fight, as hard as it is to do so.

Let the Red Wings drive you nuts instead, for starters. There are a thousand ways to cope. There's one truly terrible way to give up, and while some of you--and me--may have to deal with it being "an option on the table" for the rest of our lives, it is the nuclear one, the "Mutually-Assured Destruction" that lays waste to everyone and everything.

And that's a button that isn't right, fair or justifiably utilized. Ever. Because we are are here for the only a little while, and it is better to admit we're struggling, ask for help and fight for ourselves than...than anything else.

All I can tell you is that I fight the battle every day. Sometimes I win it, sometimes I lose it, and most days I emerge with a hard-fought tie. My mental illnesses severely limit my functioning, at least for now, but I try to function as best I can, and when I can't, I still fight the fight. It is far better than the alternative.

Robin Williams knew that, too. The world is a sadder place without him, but he reminds us that we can do so much more to help each other as a society and each other as human beings. It's about *#$%@& time that we start acting--and that we keep talking openly and honestly about living withand coping and treating and surviving mental illnesses.

Because this is indeed a fight for survival, a very real and honest-to-Gord fight to survive ourselves.

Filed in: | The Malik Report | Permalink
 

Comments

Avatar

I want to personally thank you for writing this. Mental illness (anxiety and depression) is something I have struggled with for over half my life. I was genuinely moved to tears because of your words. My family knows I have difficulties, but I don’t think they really “get” it. I think it’s one of those things that they’d rather not think about because they don’t know how to help me, so they choose to ignore it. My husband has witnessed firsthand, on many occasions, the days that I lose the battle. He too does not know how to help and I fear that my illness may drive him away, I keep my son in the dark for most of it, no child needs to see their mother struggling with something like this. I’m definitely not one of those attention seeking people. I have self-medicated and self-harmed in the past, fortunately I have found better coping mechanisms, but like you said, that option is never “off the table”. Mental illness affects everyone, but most people try to hide their problems, like I do. Again, I want to extend my thanks and gratitude for writing this piece, it honestly did make me feel better to know I am not alone and someone out there really understands.

Posted by bkrigner1313 on 08/12/14 at 01:11 AM ET

Avatar

RW is one of those actors that we all felt close to – like we were friends.  Guy clearly cared deeply about human beings and that came through in all his work.  Had something around his eyes that spoke volumes.  This one hurts.

To Lambert, the guy wouldn’t postulate something so silly if he was more familiar with the youngster and the prospects.  A person cannot be pessimistic about Detroit if they focus their attention appropriately.  Wings’ future is BRIGHT, maybe radiant. 

Mental illness is still difficult for optimists, traditionalists, and the ignorant to accept, and even harder for the afflicted to cope with.  Thankfully, RW harnessed his long enough to create beloved characters with inspiring messages.

Posted by ianfdunham on 08/12/14 at 01:42 AM ET

George Malik's avatar

This is about the hockey community and standing up to let them know they’re not alone—and that there is help available from people who won’t judge us, regardless of whether we’re dealing with a mental or physical illness, a financial crisis, a broken relationship, whatever, if we are in mental distress, we have options for help and we are not alone in our fight.

It is a fight, and I know how hard it is to deal with people who don’t “get it.” There are those who do, and there are those who just don’t think that mental illnesses are anything other than an illness. I’m one of ‘em and I’m on here, on Twitter, email at georgemalik at kuklaskorner dot com…If you need to talk, there are always people who will listen, including this dunderhead.

Posted by George Malik from South Lyon, MI on 08/12/14 at 01:43 AM ET

SYF's avatar

Devastated that Williams has passed on.  RIP, Robin.

Wasn’t Rick Rypien battling similar demons as well?

Posted by SYF from the team that re-signed KFQ and DFC by KFH on 08/12/14 at 02:20 AM ET

Avatar

This was a great thing to write, George. I applaud, salute, and hug you.

Posted by Dont Toews Me Bro on 08/12/14 at 02:27 AM ET

gowings's avatar

Thank you for writing this. You never know, this piece might change the life of at least one person out there..and that life is worth saving

Posted by gowings from MTL on 08/12/14 at 08:52 AM ET

DocF's avatar

Thank you, George.  You have done a great service to the readers of your blog and to the public in general if they will read this.  It is important and I know you mean every word of your writing from the depths of your heart.

Doc

Posted by DocF from Now: Lynn Haven, FL; was Reidsville, NC on 08/12/14 at 09:58 AM ET

Avatar

great post.  this is a good time to bring our attention to someone who desperately needs it.

i’m very afraid that Ken Holland may be mentally ill, based on his actions this offseason.

please get the help you need, Ken.  :(

Posted by incompetent GM on 08/12/14 at 10:13 AM ET

Avatar

Don’t call the police for a mental health emergency unless you want them to do the “suiciding” for you.

Posted by Bay Area Wings fan on 08/12/14 at 11:41 AM ET

Kate from Pa.-made in Detroit's avatar

Posted by incompetent GM on 08/12/14 at 10:13 AM ET

Seriously? 

Lets Go Red Wings!!!!!

Posted by Kate from Pa.-made in Detroit on 08/12/14 at 01:36 PM ET

shazam88's avatar

Wonderful post.

Posted by shazam88 from SoCal on 08/12/14 at 04:22 PM ET

Avatar

Williams’ death was an absolute shock to me. Brilliant actor and from everything I read about him, great person. I do not remember a single interview when he was not laughing or smiling.

Posted by VPalmer on 08/12/14 at 04:40 PM ET

Avatar

Nice work George!

Posted by Fresnowingnut on 08/12/14 at 05:01 PM ET

cowboycoffee's avatar

Thanks for writing about this, George. This has hit me really hard. Being both someone who got to meet Robin Williams several times over the years and someone who only by the luckiest of circumstances is able to write these words right now, I sincerely hope this finally sends the message to people that this is a lifelong struggle that anyone in society can have. And that help is always close.

Posted by cowboycoffee from San Francisco, CA on 08/12/14 at 07:42 PM ET

OlderThanChelios's avatar

My family knows I have difficulties, but I don’t think they really “get” it…

Mental illness is still difficult for optimists, traditionalists, and the ignorant to accept…

Those two statements (from different individuals) sort of sum up my view of depression. In general, I’ve had what I would describe as a “tough” life. At times, it’s been incredibly painful and downright rotten. But I’ve never seriously fallen into what I would call “depression.” I’ve always had an “it is what it is” sort of philosophy and moved on.

That’s why I’ve never understood why others can’t do the same thing, especially when they’re as talanted and privileged as Robin Williams was. But, thanks in part to the info that you’ve shared about your life in the past year or so, George, I’m getting closer to “getting” it – although I doubt that anyone who hasn’t suffered from depression can ever fully “get” it.

You’ve done your part on a rather local level with your honesty, George, and hopefully Robin’s story will do something similar on a wider lever. At the very least, all of this has made me not only more aware of these kinds of issues but more open to accepting the fact that not everyone deals with hardship (or success) in the same way.

And I thank you for that.

Posted by OlderThanChelios from Grand Rapids, MI on 08/12/14 at 07:53 PM ET

Avatar

Well said George.

Posted by Moose Moss on 08/12/14 at 10:27 PM ET

Tracy from T-Town Hockey 's avatar

I remember reading something about depression once that said it was like “crawling through hell.”  Having had battles with it myself I thought the description pretty accurate.  Suicide is not a solution.  As Winston Churchill once said “If you’re going through hell, keep going.”  Here’s to everyone who keeps on going.  Thank you George for your post.

Posted by Tracy from T-Town Hockey on 08/13/14 at 01:11 AM ET

stonehands-78's avatar

Thanks, GJM.

Posted by stonehands-78 from the beginning ... a WingsFan, on 08/13/14 at 01:50 PM ET

Add a Comment

Please limit embedded image or media size to 575 pixels wide.

Add your own avatar by joining Kukla's Korner, or logging in and uploading one in your member control panel.

Captchas bug you? Join KK or log in and you won't have to bother.

Smileys

Notify me of follow-up comments?

Feed

Most Recent Blog Posts

About The Malik Report

The Malik Report is a destination for all things Red Wings-related. I offer biased, perhaps unprofessional-at-times and verbose coverage of my favorite team, their prospects and developmental affiliates. I've joined the Kukla's Korner family with five years of blogging under my belt, and I hope you'll find almost everything you need to follow your Red Wings at a place where all opinions are created equal and we're all friends, talking about hockey and the team we love to follow.