Parts Unknown

Sometimes I avoid news. Not that I can avoid it entirely, but the general predilection of today’s news to be inflammatory – because that’s what sells – is exhausting. It’s issues, issues and even more issues, some of it real, a lot of it manufactured by people who seem to have made it their business to go through life with a gigantic chip on their shoulder.  Still, this past week or so, with that kiss (why does he make it so hard?) and she-who-shall-not-be-named invoking the memory of her dead parents yet again, it’s easy to see why people contemplate offing themselves.

Melodrama aside, suicide is no laughing matter. And it’s trending again. A couple of months ago, it was Avicii. Just recently, Kate Spade – she of the eponymous line of bags, shoes and accessories – and now Anthony Bourdain, celebrity chef, globe-trotter and highly esteemed food writer. All were highly successful and wealthy, all were living the kind of accomplished, jet-set lives the rest of us can only dream of having. None of it was enough to make them want to go on living. You know it’s serious when you wake up one day at the top of your game, and decide you can’t be bothered to keep breathing. Is it really that empty up there in the atmosphere of the one percent? Is it really that bleak? If having all that isn’t enough, then what is?

Although the stigma of depression is slowly being chipped away, no one ever talks about it very much. It’s a mysterious illness, easily dismissed, something only understood by those going through it and those who’ve gone through it and made it to the other side. My mother used to tell me stories of what it was like for her, after she had my brothers. She said it was a very scary, very weird headspace to be in. I was a child back then, so the only things that stood out were these strange roots suspended in jars of orange liquid, infusions of ginger root and tree bark she used to take, and the word bughat, something that, to a nine year old, was both riddle and an answer, all at once.

It takes a lot of strength to get through something like that, a lot of fortitude and a very strong will. My mother was one of the fortunate ones, able to emerge from the darkness of post-partum depression. I do remember one thing she always made an effort to do whenever she felt particularly low: she talked about it. Doing so helped in many ways – it helped me understand a little bit of what she was going through, even if I was only nine. And I think it helped her to know that we may not have fully understood, but that we were going to be there for her all the same. Talking about it helps. It’s particularly hard on us Filipinos, who for the most part, either think psychotherapy and the drugs that can come with it are for the weak, or believe in it but can’t afford it. Talking is cheap and effective, and there’s no shame in struggling. Depression doesn’t discriminate.

If we’re to go by the examples of successful people who’ve killed themselves (Ernest Hemingway, Virginia Woolf, Robin Williams, Alexander McQueen, etc), all the money, success, fame and glamour in the world aren’t enough.  But does that  make life not worth living? I refuse to believe that. I still want to know  what it’s like to be so rich, I can use dollar bills to wipe my behind.  I’m not convinced that life isn’t worth it, just yet. I think breathing is sweet, and I still want to win the lottery. If it’s all downhill from there, then that’s as it may be, but at least I’d have gotten to try being on top of the world.

2 thoughts on “Parts Unknown

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