Across my social media this week the story of the passing of Michael Stone, a yoga instructor and Buddhist practitioner dominated much conversation. The official statement on his death from the family is located here https://www.lionsroar.com/official-statement-on-passing-of-michael-stone-released/
Yoga has connected me with many wonderful people over the past few years and a few of those people reached out to me and asked what I thought of the statement the family released. I am not a mental health practitioner, I do not represent any sort of professional advice, but I can tell you what I felt when I read the statement.
Simply put Michael was suffering from a mental illness and in looking for relief overdosed with fatal results. I was devastated reading the statement from his partner, I was saddened but I could also feel the hurt and the anguish in the words.
Reading those words, reading about Michael’s final day I related in a small way. I have been in the situation where I have felt so desperate, so alone, so sad and so scared that I was willing to do and say anything to feel connected to someone in some way. I have pretended to be ok, gone grocery shopping, washed my car, walked my dog all the while inside of me was a churning ball of hurt, anxiety and fear. In those moments, and there were many of them, my relief came in betraying those I cared about most. I would lie, created grandiose stories to extract sympathy, construct fantasy worlds, fake images, fake emails, fake people and fake life just to get away from the fear and loneliness inside of me.
Some people turn to alcohol, drugs, gambling, hoarding etc, my tool was deceit and betrayal. I understand it, because in that deceit and betrayal for a moment I would get what I wanted, I would feel connected, I would get relief from the pain and have a window of relief. I lived for those windows, I would, and I did, anything to feel ok for a moment. It’s a horrible thing to do and I am in a much better place now but that part of me that sees the world in black and white, the part of me that expects a catastrophe at any moment, the part that doesn’t allow for anything except perfection and the part of me that expects rejections feeds off and is willing to do whatever it takes.
I know, in my heart, that I never intended to hurt anyone but I did hurt a lot of people in very painful ways. I believe that Michael never intended to hurt anyone and many of the people who fall victim to mental illness don’t. For me, the scariest part of battling depression, anxiety and borderline personality disorder is the unhealthy version of relief from the symptoms comes in the form of hurting those we care about the most. The healthy version, therapy, medication and self-reflection, is painful. The stigma, the shame, the self loathing kept me isolated and the small windows of getting what I want by lying kept me in that cycle.
Mental illness is powerful. For me it has been painful, it almost killed me, and it will continue to take people away. The solution is not simple. I do not offer advice on my blog but I can say this: for me therapy and healing happened when I was uncomfortable, when I was facing the most shameful, angry, sad parts of me. The ugliness. Putting on the masks, faking it, trying to be a hero all made things worse. Being who I am, accepting who I am is the path that I am trying to travel.
I wish healing, patience, and love to all those affected.