Wednesday, January 13, 2021

Dave Lepard


Dave Lepard (born David Roberto Hellman) was the lead singer and guitarist in the Swedish Glam metal band, Crashdïet.
He formed the band Crashdïet in 2000. In 2002 the band members split up. Dave Lepard continued with a new lineup. Their music was based on 1980s 'hair metal' bands, such as Mötley Crüe and Twisted Sister. Crashdïet gained a cult following, especially in Sweden.
Lepard's family said he may have been suffering from depression, but they still felt his death was unexpected.
Dave Lepard died by suicide on January 13, 2006. He was twenty five years old.


Dave Lepard
May 28, 1980 - January 13, 2006

Friday, January 8, 2021

Love, Honor, and Compassion. A Suicide Loss Announcement Done Right


Tommy Bloom Raskin
12/30/1995 - 12/31/2020

'[Tommy] opposed all malicious gossip, 
stopping all such gossipers with a trademark Tommy line:
forgive me, but it’s hard to be a human.'

With suicide loss, making public announcements is often complicated by the stigma attached to suicide. As a suicide loss survivor and as a suicide attempt survivor, I have experienced my own shame around losses and survival. For a long time, I avoided and sidestepped questions. I didn't speak up about needing comfort, and I often pushed it away when it was offered.

Today, I see speaking up as an imperative part of healing. And more so, I refuse to let shame dictate my behavior.

A few days ago, Maryland Congressman Jamie Raskin (and his wife Sarah) publicly announced the death of their beloved son, Tommy Bloom Raskin. I am sharing their announcement now. I feel the announcement was done right. It focuses on what is important: Tommy's amazing life, his accomplishments, their compassion for Tommy's struggles with mental illness, and finally - their great love for their son.

With the exception of adjusting sizing of text and removal of a few photos (for spacing reasons) the announcement below is unchanged from that which was posted on Congressman Raskin's website. I hope that in reading the announcement, you might grow in your compassion for survivors of loss, as well as those who have lost their life to suicide.

To Senator Raskin and the rest of Tommy's friends and loved ones, I extend my heartfelt empathy and condolences. I know I speak not just myself, but for so many of our fellow survivors of suicide loss, when I say that we share your grief. We are deeply saddened that you have now joined our heartbroken club. Your son's life mattered. We know.

Statement of Congressman Jamie Raskin and Sarah Bloom Raskin on the Remarkable Life of Tommy Raskin

TAKOMA PARK, M.D. — Congressman Jamie Raskin and Sarah Bloom Raskin today released the following statement about their son Thomas (Tommy) Bloom Raskin:

“On January 30, 1995, Thomas Bloom Raskin was born to ecstatic parents who saw him enter the world like a blue-eyed cherub, a little angel. Tommy grew up as a strikingly beautiful curly-haired madcap boy beaming with laughter and charm, making mischief, kicking the soccer ball in the goal, acting out scenes from To Kill A Mockingbird with his little sister in his father’s constitutional law class, teaching other children the names of all the Justices on the Supreme Court, hugging strangers on the street, teaching our dogs foreign languages, running up and down the aisle on airplanes giving people high fives, playing jazz piano like a blues great from Bourbon Street, and at 12 writing a detailed brief to his mother explaining why he should not have to do a Bar Mitzvah and citing Due Process liberty interests (appeal rejected).


“Over the years he was enveloped in the love not only of his bedazzled and starstruck parents but of his remarkable and adoring sisters, Hannah the older and Tabitha the younger, a huge pack of cousins, including Jedd, Emily, Maggie, Zacky, Mariah, Phoebe and Lily, Boman and Daisy, and Emmet and spoiled rotten with hugs and kisses and philosophical nourishment from his grandparents Herb and Arlene Bloom, Marcus Raskin, Barbara Raskin, and later Lynn Raskin, the best aunts and uncles a mischievous ragamuffin could ask for, including Erika and Keith, Kenneth and Abby, Mina, Noah and Heather, Eden and Brandon, and Tammy and Gary, and a cast of secondary parents who wrapped him in adoration and wildly precocious conversation like Michael and Donene, Ann and Jimmy, Kate and Hal, Kathleen and Tom, Katharine and David, Judy, Reed and Julia, Dar and Michael, David and Melinda, Angela and Howard, Helen, Sheila, Mitchell, Will and Camille, Phyllis, Shammy,Khalid and Zina.

“With all this love infusing Tommy’s world and soul, girls quickly came to fancy this magical boy who always made time for the loneliest kids in class and frequently made up his own words to describe feelings and parts of toasters — and, to be clear, he took a strong liking to girls too, these omnipresent magical lovely girls he found who always had a profound beauty radiating from within. Tommy was raised on a fine Montgomery County Education, which took him through Takoma Park Elementary School, Pine Crest Elementary School, Eastern Middle School, and Montgomery Blair High School (with a frolicking detour to Ecole Active Bilingue Jeannine Manuel in Paris for one family sabbatical year where he learned French, tried to teach himself Japanese, and insisted on travel adventures through North Africa and the rest of Europe), but his irrepressible love of freedom and strong libertarian impulses made him a skeptic of all institutional bureaucracy and a daring outspoken defender of all outcasts and kids in trouble. Once when third-grade Tommy and his father saw a boy returning to school after a weeklong suspension and his Dad casually remarked, ‘it looks like they let finally let him out of jail,’ Tommy replied, ‘no, you mean they finally let him back into jail.’

“At Blair, Tommy’s adult persona began to take shape: he co-founded Bliss, a life-changing peer-to-peer tutoring program and spent hours tutoring fellow students in Math and English; made wonderful friends he lavished attention on; became Captain of the Forensics Club and a savagely logical and persuasive orator in the Debate and Extemporaneous Speech Club where he had to be constantly reminded by his teammates that the purpose of high school debate tournaments is to score points and not convince people of the truth or change the world. He was active in the Young Dems and recruited dozens to get involved in the 2012 Obama reelection effort. On Prom Night, he threw a dinner party for 24 fellow students, including classmates who had no date that evening, and they all went to prom together as a group. He hated cliques and social snobbery, never had a negative word for anyone but tyrants and despots, and opposed all malicious gossip, stopping all such gossipers with a trademark Tommy line — ‘forgive me, but it’s hard to be a human.’

“Above all, he began to follow his own piercing moral and intellectual insights looking for answers to problems of injustice, poverty and war. A Bar Mitzvah from Temple Sinai, he taught a Sunday School with Heather Levy for two years at Temple Emmanuel, often substituting his social-struggle analysis of the Exodus story for teachings on the Hebrew alphabet. He ordered and devoured books on the Civil War and Maryland’s history in it, World War II and resistance to Nazism, Jewish history, libertarianism, moral philosophy, the history of the Middle East conflict, peace movements, anything by Gar Alperovitz on the decision to drop the atom bomb on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and anything by Peter Singer on animal rights. He began to pen these extraordinary essays and articles that now add up to well over 100 as well as write plays and extremely long polemical poems, which he eagerly performed for audiences astounded by his precocious moral vision, utter authenticity of emotion, and beauty of expression.

“At Amherst College, he majored in history, helped lead the Amherst Political Union, intellectually discredited the egregious Dinesh D’Souza who turned to pathetic insults when Tommy destroyed his argument from the audience with a simple question (even before D’Souza was soon to be convicted of federal campaign finance crimes), won the Kellogg Prize, created and performed one-act plays with his social dorm mates, and wrote a compelling senior thesis on the intellectual history of the animal rights movement. Spending his summers voraciously reading and soaking up all the wisdom to be had at his eclectic self-procured internships at the CATO Institute with Doug Bandow, J Street, the Institute for Policy Studies, ARC of Montgomery, Compassion Over Killing, and for Professor Frank Couvares, Tommy became an anti-war activist, a badass autodidact moral philosopher and progressive humanist libertarian, and a passionate vegan who composed imperishable, knock-your-socks-off poetry linking systematic animal cruelty and exploitation to militarism and war culture. He recruited gently and lovingly — but supremely effectively — dozens and dozens of people, including his parents, to the practice of not eating animals, and it will be hard to find anyone his age who has turned more carnivores into vegans than him. (He also cheerfully opposed sectarian holier-than-thou sanctimoniousness among a handful of vegans he met and would say, ‘I’m working for a vegan world, not a vegan club.’) A prolific and exquisitely gifted writer, he came to publish essays and op-eds in the Nation, the Goodmen Project, Anti-War.Com and other outlets. After his Amherst graduation, Tommy went to the Friends Committee on National Legislation to work on stopping the war in Yemen and on Middle East policy, and spent a year publishing more remarkable essays and articles (soon to be available to you) and launching a book of political philosophy offering a sweeping animal rights critique of Locke, Mill and classical liberal social contract theory.

“In 2019 Tommy went to Harvard Law School. He lived up in the attic of the home of Michael Anderson and Donene Williams, his Dad’s beloved law school roommates, and made more remarkable friends. He studied constitutional law with Noah Feldman, criminal law with Carole Steiker, and property with Bruce Mann (Elizabeth Warren’s husband); he loved the systematic thought and debate dynamics of law school but reported it to be like half an education because the moral philosophy component was somehow left out. Rather than read endless lists of long cases, why not have students read clear comprehensive statements of what the law is and then talk about what the law should be? So while zealously promoting his newfound favorite game — Boggle — to rescue his classmates and himself from the stress and anxiety of law school, he also pushed them to engage with social problems and found a strong affinity group in the Effective Altruists. He spent last summer working quite brilliantly as a summer associate at Mercy for Animals and found a knack for actual lawyering.

“This fall Tommy not only took a full complement of his second-year law classes, including Disability Law with Michael Stein which he loved, but, at the suggestion of his beloved Professor Steicker, became a Teaching Assistant with Professor Michael Sandel in his ‘Justice’ Course at Harvard. As a teacher, Tommy devoted great time to teaching his section of the class — working on his astonishing lectures and jokes, and meeting endlessly with his dozen students on Zoom, finding what was precious in their work and teasing it out. He loved his students and they loved him back. Not content with giving half of his teaching salary away to save people with malaria by purchasing mosquito nets with global charities, when the semester was over and after his grades were in and the student evaluations were complete, he made individual donations in each of his students’ names to Oxfam, GiveDirectly and other groups targeting global hunger. When I asked him why he did this, he quoted something that he loved which Father Daniel Berrigan said about Dorothy Day: ‘she lived as though the truth were true.’ Tommy said: ‘I wanted them to see that the truth is true.’

“We have barely been able to scratch the surface here, but you have a sense of our son. Tommy Raskin had a perfect heart, a perfect soul, a riotously outrageous and relentless sense of humor, and a dazzling radiant mind. He began to be tortured later in his 20s by a blindingly painful and merciless ‘disease called depression,’ as Tabitha put it on Facebook over the weekend, a kind of relentless torture in the brain for him, and despite very fine doctors and a loving family and friendship network of hundreds who adored him beyond words and whom he adored too, the pain became overwhelming and unyielding and unbearable at last for our dear boy, this young man of surpassing promise to our broken world.

“On the last hellish brutal day of that godawful miserable year of 2020, when hundreds of thousands of Americans and millions of people all over the world died alone in bed in the darkness from an invisible killer disease ravaging their bodies and minds, we also lost our dear, dear, beloved son, Hannah and Tabitha’s beloved irreplaceable brother, a radiant light in this broken world.

“He left us this farewell note on New Year’s Eve day: ‘Please forgive me. My illness won today. Please look after each other, the animals, and the global poor for me. All my love, Tommy.’”

Click here to find the announcement on Senator Raskin's Website.

Click here to find the Tommy Raskin Memorial Fund for People and Animals.

Sunday, January 3, 2021

Allie Brosh Is My Hero


One day I will find the right words, and they will be simple.
- Jack Kerouac

Writers like me, don't look for writers like me. We are everywhere. I am a small potato compared to many of the incredible writers who share their stories via blogs. 

Writers like me look for writers that are far more interesting than ourselves.  I want to read writers who are funny, expository, and forthright. It is a mix that is sometimes hard to accomplish. Often I'll sacrifice one thing in order to achieve the others. But, occasionally I run across someone who puts things into just the right words. 

Enter Allie Brosh. Allie is a New York Times best selling author whose renown arose from the personal essays and illustrations that she shared on her blog, Hyperbole and a Half. She voices a plethora of topics, but particularly poignant are the posts dedicated to depression and her own suicidality. 

Allie began writing for her blog in 2009, but in 2014 she stopped publicly sharing her writing. One reason for the break was that she was struggling with her own depression, and then her sister died by suicide. At the same time that Allie was trying to manage her own challenges with mental illness, she became a survivor of suicide loss. 

The pressure suicide loss survivors feel to 'move on' or to heal within a specific amount of time, is both unreasonable and unfair. But Allie Brosh was willing to set her financial success and fame aside. She waited until she was ready to step into the spotlight once again. 

Two of Allie's older posts, Adventures in Depression, and Depression Part 2, are among my favorites. Below, I will share Depression Part 2, because I particularly enjoyed that post. 

I hope Allie's writing makes you laugh. Even if it doesn't, it's worth the read. Much of what she describes is universal. [A few things stood out to me as particularly important. I highlighted those sentences using red text.] 

Laugh or not, I hope you take something from her post that leaves you understanding depression a little more. Or, if you personally experience depression, I hope this post leaves you feeling more understood.

 


Depression Part 2
Allie Brosh

I remember being endlessly entertained by the adventures of my toys. Some days they died repeated, violent deaths, other days they traveled to space or discussed my swim lessons and how I absolutely should be allowed in the deep end of the pool, especially since I was such a talented doggy-paddler.



I didn't understand why it was fun for me, it just was.


But as I grew older, it became harder and harder to access that expansive imaginary space that made my toys fun. I remember looking at them and feeling sort of frustrated and confused that things weren't the same.


I played out all the same story lines that had been fun before, but the meaning had disappeared. Horse's Big Space Adventure transformed into holding a plastic horse in the air, hoping it would somehow be enjoyable for me. Prehistoric Crazy-Bus Death Ride was just smashing a toy bus full of dinosaurs into the wall while feeling sort of bored and unfulfilled.  I could no longer connect to my toys in a way that allowed me to participate in the experience.


Depression feels almost exactly like that, except about everything.

At first, though, the invulnerability that accompanied the detachment was exhilarating. At least as exhilarating as something can be without involving real emotions.


The beginning of my depression had been nothing but feelings, so the emotional deadening that followed was a welcome relief.  I had always wanted to not give a fuck about anything. I viewed feelings as a weakness — annoying obstacles on my quest for total power over myself. And I finally didn't have to feel them anymore.

But my experiences slowly flattened and blended together until it became obvious that there's a huge difference between not giving a fuck and not being able to give a fuck. Cognitively, you might know that different things are happening to you, but they don't feel very different.


Which leads to horrible, soul-decaying boredom.




I tried to get out more, but most fun activities just left me existentially confused or frustrated with my inability to enjoy them.


Months oozed by, and I gradually came to accept that maybe enjoyment was not a thing I got to feel anymore. I didn't want anyone to know, though. I was still sort of uncomfortable about how bored and detached I felt around other people, and I was still holding out hope that the whole thing would spontaneously work itself out. As long as I could manage to not alienate anyone, everything might be okay!

However, I could no longer rely on genuine emotion to generate facial expressions, and when you have to spend every social interaction consciously manipulating your face into shapes that are only approximately the right ones, alienating people is inevitable.


Everyone noticed.


It's weird for people who still have feelings to be around depressed people. They try to help you have feelings again so things can go back to normal, and it's frustrating for them when that doesn't happen. From their perspective, it seems like there has got to be some untapped source of happiness within you that you've simply lost track of, and if you could just see how beautiful things are...


At first, I'd try to explain that it's not really negativity or sadness anymore, it's more just this detached, meaningless fog where you can't feel anything about anything — even the things you love, even fun things — and you're horribly bored and lonely, but since you've lost your ability to connect with any of the things that would normally make you feel less bored and lonely, you're stuck in the boring, lonely, meaningless void without anything to distract you from how boring, lonely, and meaningless it is.


But people want to help. So they try harder to make you feel hopeful and positive about the situation. You explain it again, hoping they'll try a less hope-centric approach, but re-explaining your total inability to experience joy inevitably sounds kind of negative; like maybe you WANT to be depressed. The positivity starts coming out in a spray — a giant, desperate happiness sprinkler pointed directly at your face. And it keeps going like that until you're having this weird argument where you're trying to convince the person that you are far too hopeless for hope just so they'll give up on their optimism crusade and let you go back to feeling bored and lonely by yourself.


And that's the most frustrating thing about depression. It isn't always something you can fight back against with hope. It isn't even something — it's nothing. And you can't combat nothing. You can't fill it up. You can't cover it. It's just there, pulling the meaning out of everything. That being the case, all the hopeful, proactive solutions start to sound completely insane in contrast to the scope of the problem.

It would be like having a bunch of dead fish, but no one around you will acknowledge that the fish are dead. Instead, they offer to help you look for the fish or try to help you figure out why they disappeared.


The problem might not even have a solution. But you aren't necessarily looking for solutions. You're maybe just looking for someone to say "sorry about how dead your fish are" or "wow, those are super dead. I still like you, though."


I started spending more time alone.


Perhaps it was because I lacked the emotional depth necessary to panic, or maybe my predicament didn't feel dramatic enough to make me suspicious, but I somehow managed to convince myself that everything was still under my control right up until I noticed myself wishing that nothing loved me so I wouldn't feel obligated to keep existing.


It's a strange moment when you realize that you don't want to be alive anymore. If I had feelings, I'm sure I would have felt surprised. I have spent the vast majority of my life actively attempting to survive. Ever since my most distant single-celled ancestor squiggled into existence, there has been an unbroken chain of things that wanted to stick around.


Yet there I was, casually wishing that I could stop existing in the same way you'd want to leave an empty room or mute an unbearably repetitive noise.


That wasn't the worst part, though. The worst part was deciding to keep going.


When I say that deciding to not kill myself was the worst part, I should clarify that I don't mean it in a retrospective sense. From where I am now, it seems like a solid enough decision. But at the time, it felt like I had been dragging myself through the most miserable, endless wasteland, and — far in the distance — I had seen the promising glimmer of a slightly less miserable wasteland. And for just a moment, I thought maybe I'd be able to stop and rest. But as soon as I arrived at the border of the less miserable wasteland, I found out that I'd have to turn around and walk back the other way.


Soon afterward, I discovered that there's no tactful or comfortable way to inform other people that you might be suicidal. And there's definitely no way to ask for help casually.


I didn't want it to be a big deal. However, it's an alarming subject. Trying to be nonchalant about it just makes it weird for everyone.


I was also extremely ill-prepared for the position of comforting people. The things that seemed reassuring at the time weren't necessarily comforting for others.


I had so very few feelings, and everyone else had so many, and it felt like they were having all of them in front of me at once. I didn't really know what to do, so I agreed to see a doctor so that everyone would stop having all of their feelings at me.


The next few weeks were a haze of talking to relentlessly hopeful people about my feelings that didn't exist so I could be prescribed medication that might help me have them again.


And every direction was bullshit for a really long time, especially up. The absurdity of working so hard to continue doing something you don't like can be overwhelming. And the longer it takes to feel different, the more it starts to seem like everything might actually be hopeless bullshit.


My feelings did start to return eventually. But not all of them came back, and they didn't arrive symmetrically.

I had not been able to care for a very long time, and when I finally started being able to care about things again, I HATED them. But hatred is technically a feeling, and my brain latched onto it like a child learning a new word.


Hating everything made all the positivity and hope feel even more unpalatable. The syrupy, over-simplified optimism started to feel almost offensive.


Thankfully, I rediscovered crying just before I got sick of hating things.  I call this emotion "crying" and not "sadness" because that's all it really was. Just crying for the sake of crying. My brain had partially learned how to be sad again, but it took the feeling out for a joy ride before it had learned how to use the brakes or steer.


At some point during this phase, I was crying on the kitchen floor for no reason. As was common practice during bouts of floor-crying, I was staring straight ahead at nothing in particular and feeling sort of weird about myself. Then, through the film of tears and nothingness, I spotted a tiny, shriveled piece of corn under the refrigerator.


I don't claim to know why this happened, but when I saw the piece of corn, something snapped. And then that thing twisted through a few permutations of logic that I don't understand, and produced the most confusing bout of uncontrollable, debilitating laughter that I have ever experienced.


I had absolutely no idea what was going on.


My brain had apparently been storing every unfelt scrap of happiness from the last nineteen months, and it had impulsively decided to unleash all of it at once in what would appear to be an act of vengeance.


That piece of corn is the funniest thing I have ever seen, and I cannot explain to anyone why it's funny. don't even know why. If someone ever asks me "what was the exact moment where things started to feel slightly less shitty?" instead of telling a nice, heartwarming story about the support of the people who loved and believed in me, I'm going to have to tell them about the piece of corn. And then I'm going to have to try to explain that no, really, it was funny. Because, see, the way the corn was sitting on the floor... it was so alone... and it was just sitting there! And no matter how I explain it, I'll get the same, confused look. So maybe I'll try to show them the piece of corn - to see if they get it. They won't. Things will get even weirder.


Anyway, I wanted to end this on a hopeful, positive note, but, seeing as how my sense of hope and positivity is still shrouded in a thick layer of feeling like hope and positivity are bullshit, I'll just say this: Nobody can guarantee that it's going to be okay, but — and I don't know if this will be comforting to anyone else — the possibility exists that there's a piece of corn on a floor somewhere that will make you just as confused about why you are laughing as you have ever been about why you are depressed. 

And even if everything still seems like hopeless bullshit, maybe it's just pointless bullshit or weird bullshit or possibly not even bullshit.


I don't know. 

But when you're concerned that the miserable, boring wasteland in front of you might stretch all the way into forever, not knowing feels strangely hope-like. 

You can find Allie Bosh's Facebook page here:

You can purchase Allie Brosh's books on Amazon, here. Or, better yet, purchase the from your local bookshop.


*All of the illustrations (and accompanying words) in Depression Part 2 are copyrighted by Allie Brosh. Please don't copy or share without attribution.