Caution: this post contains thoughts and words on suicide and depression. Please read with care, and if you do need to talk to a professional, contact the appropriate mental health service in your country. If I know you personally, please do not hesitate to give me a nudge if you need to talk.Interning for the Brisbane Writers Festival last year was one of the things that very much turned my life around, and I promised myself I would do everything in my power to help out in years to come. And so that is how I ended up at the Powerhouse yesterday, fingers over my keyboard, ready to live-tweet the first session of Inspire Festival – Inspire Talk. Very honestly, I wouldn’t have ordinarily gone to something like this of my own volition. Of the three speakers on stage (Trent Dalton, Kelly Higgins-Devine, and Robin Bailey), I only knew of Kelly – and she was the moderator.
Surprisingly (or perhaps not really), I loved every single moment of it. Inspire Talk was true to its name, a pure discussion around the art of conversation. I’m sure everyone who was there learned just that little bit more about themselves, how to *really* have a conversation, how to engage with others in a truly meaningful way. Trent Dalton was amazing in so many different ways. Hearing him talk about his personal experiences regarding his family, the people he’s met through his career (Les Murray, Clive James, the Dalai Lama!?) was inspirational, and made me want to work just that bit harder to cultivate an equally stunning career for myself. A girl can wish, hey?
Kelly provided an excellent segue, and then it was onto Robin. I don’t listen to the shows on FM radio (I’m more of a 612 girl), so I didn’t know much about Robin Bailey. I didn’t know her husband of 15 years had committed suicide nearly two years ago, I didn’t know she had three children to look after – I really didn’t know anything about her story at all. But I have no doubt her words and emotions will stay with me for a very long time to come. Robin talked about what happened that awful day, how her friends rallied around her, how she managed to tell her children the truth, instead of a lie that would have inevitably spiralled out of control. She cried, I cried, and I’m sure other members of the audience cried too. It is a situation no one ever wants to find themselves in, and it was exacerbated by the fact that she occupied a relatively prominent position in the public eye. She talked about the power of *talking* – real conversation, as opposed to the facile commentary that now passes for discussion, thanks to the power of social media.
I’m sure everyone took away different lessons from those ninety minutes, but I was continually reminded of a quote I heard through the ABC’s MentalAs week last year. A doctor on Changing Minds, told the camera, and the whole of Australia, that “the world is not better without you”. This one little sentence was something I needed to hear about ten years ago, and it was affirmed yesterday, when I was witness to Robin’s story. I know what it’s like to have depression, to have serious suicidal ideations – but I had never sat in front of another person who had lost someone in this way. I had never seen the cracks in their voice, never heard the tears in their eyes. I had truly never listened to someone talk about how devastating it is for the people that are left behind.
I have gone through periods – some long, some short – where I have felt useless, where I have truly felt like the world would be better without me. I have had hours, days, weeks, where I’d thought that if I died, everyone would eventually forget about me, and that I’d stop being a burden on all the people around me. Then everyone would move on with their lives, and it would all be all right. I also knew I would never, ever put those thoughts into action (mainly because of my sister), and that it was just one of the many symptoms of my depression, but it’s still a wholly terrifying process.
These periods came upon me at different stages of my life, so I dealt with them differently each time. Thankfully, I got through them all in one piece, and I am now trying to live my life the best way I possibly can, with all its ups and downs. I know I will probably have similar periods in years to come, and they will probably be just as awful, every single time. But from now on, I will have that quote, “the world is not better without you”, in my head, as well as Robin’s story. Yesterday’s talk was not just inspiring, it was something more. For me – for me now, and me in the future, it was nothing short of life saving.