How did this happen?
It must be instinct.
It must’ve been a survival thing, something deep in our lizard brain that popped up millions of years ago when we were not really us yet, if you get what I mean.
We — humans — are animals as well. It’s easy to forget that.
I’ve admired it in dogs I’ve owned. They hide their pain from us really, really well.
Any open display of weakness, or injury, could be dangerous.
It could lead to abandonment, maybe even an attack and death.
It’s called “survival of the fittest” for a reason.
And this particular instinct seems especially strong in teenage boys and young men, when an admission of weakness, of flaws, of need, seems to strip them of their masculinity.
At least in their minds, in that moment.
We — I — need to look more closely or listen more carefully or be trained somehow, something…
do something I’m not doing.
He is 31, handsome, charismatic, intelligent and well educated, charming, personable.
He had some flaws. Who, reading this, does not?
He was an alcoholic, had been in rehab a few times. I guess we never know if, taking that first drink, we have that gene, that brain chemistry that leads to addiction. It’s a crap shoot, isn’t it?
He’d been sober, though, for quite a while before he weakened recently.
It was the 10th anniversary of the death of his father from a rare cancer.
Sudden. Fast. Unexpected. Disorienting.
Anyone could weaken on an anniversary like that.
Still, he didn’t hide it. He talked about it with his closest friends, who held him, encouraged him, reminded him that most of all, he needed to be gentle with himself.
And he seemed to be, until one week ago, when he answered the question he asked himself that night with utter despair, with not even one tiny sliver of light, of possibility, of hope.
An instant of judgment, a permanent sentence.
He had needed more than he had asked for, more than he could openly admit.
He was hiding the depth of his suffering. He was afraid to show the totality of his pain.
We cannot know what another feels, especially one whose instinct screams over and over to hide the flaw, to protect the injury, to deny weakness and failure and need.
I’ve seen more physical suffering than I ever wanted to.
I’ve watched those I love struggle to die. I’ve prayed to God to be merciful.
So how can I ever say He’s not?
Depression, that black, bottomless hole that causes the beating we give ourselves with our own thoughts, is surely as terrible as any cancer.
If I can understand the mercy that ends physical suffering, I need to create room for the grace that forgives the ending of hopelessness.
Maybe, perversely, it is an act of hope, the hope of something kinder, better, an all-forgiving, all-encompassing love, an end to the pain and loneliness.
I will grieve again tonight, though, because somehow, Tim, who had so many gifts, so much promise, looked inside, at himself, and saw what none of us who knew him saw: A soul too broken to fix.