Thursday, September 20, 2018

Wabe: Parts unknown

CAGAYAN DE ORO. Life is not always easy, but it is always beautiful. (Hannah Victoria Wabe)

MY FACEBOOK newsfeed was beset with a maelstrom of emotions this week. Designer, Kate Spade, was followed in death by celebrity chef, Anthony Bourdain. Both passed away due to suicide.

Many expressed disbelief at how these rich and successful icons could “commit” something like this. Sadly, that verb commit alone reinforces the stigma that suicide is some sort of crime a person commits which carries shame.

When I was younger, I used to think that anyone who attempted to end their own life was taking the cowardly way out. Oh how totally ignorant I was! That was before the realization that occasional depression due to life’s ups and downs is vastly different from clinical depression.

Suicide is triggered by clinical depression and mental illness. And note how the word “mental” is loaded with meaning, especially in our culture. Usually, we associate mental with someone baliw (crazy). The lack of empathy and understanding just makes it worse.

When tragedy of this proportion strikes, everyone is quick to offer consoling words. But wouldn’t it be better if we don’t have to offer them at all for deaths due to suicide? Suicidal thoughts, depression, and mental illness are all silent battles. Perhaps, if we learn to talk about things and see the signs (withdrawal, extreme anxiety, increase substance abuse, etc.), it would no longer be this silent killer that will surprise us, leaving us to ask why.

Let’s face it—most of us are embarrassed and afraid to show our vulnerable side to the world because others are quick to judge.

Especially in this day and age, where everyone’s social media posts are filtered and staged-to-perfection, the pressure and burden to live-up to certain expectations make everything feel even more toxic. Frustration levels are at an all-time high!

These deaths of Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain, two people I admire, reinforce to me who and what I should prioritize. The people they left behind will forever bear the burden of picking up the pieces. They prove to me that all the money in the world cannot buy happiness, and indeed, fame is not everything. Even if they are both successful and well-respected in their fields, there are clearly still major parts of themselves that they have not shown to the world.

All of us have darkest “parts unknown” (the title of Bourdain’s show)! We all have our own crosses to bear. We all fight our inner demons, and it’s just terribly tragic that theirs drove them to a point where they felt that death was the only answer.

I’m pretty certain that both celebrities loved their family, but deep turmoil left them with no control to think logically. Mental illness is a tragic disease. So don’t make hasty judgments about anyone because we don’t know what a person is going through inside!

Remember: not all wounds are visible so BE KIND. The number of deaths will only continue to rack-up if we don’t acknowledge the importance of mental health. Sadly, when someone is suicidal, talking may be the very last thing that person wants to do. Someone depressed closes off and tunes out the world.

Thus, it is vital for everyone to educate ourselves on the signs so we can catch the behavioral changes of the people we love before it is too late. Be that actual friend who reaches out because this can make a world of difference to someone feeling so low!

I am a strong advocate of sharing your feelings. You don’t have to keep it all in...alone. Don’t be embarrassed to talk to your family and friends. There’s no need to pretend that everything is fine, when in reality you’re dying a little bit each day inside.

“Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around.” (Leo Buscaglia).

There may be silent demons but we all have each other. We have the power to change the trajectory of someone’s life with one little act of kindness and support.

Personally, I also believe that having faith and the power of prayer sustains me through the hard times. In so many countries today, the Lord has taken a back seat. Churches are empty and people believe more in horoscopes, feng shui, and the power of crystals. Without faith, it is so much easier to take your own life. And in the end, it's really your own choice. I just pray that may GOD work through YOU, even if you don’t believe, so that you can be a beacon of light in someone’s darkness.

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