I want to write about Rick Rypien because of recent events. Even if he and I were two different people, I think we have some common threads. There are no dickjokes or silly chat rooms in this one, and it does get rather personal.
Rypien and I have both had issues with severe depression. I don’t know if he had some specific circumstances or conditions, but I know my conditions and I see that we have some things in common. For example, we both grew up in pretty small towns that were more rural than urban. I know I was a child who was more emotionally sensitive than my siblings and my family had no real use for emotions. They never talked about feelings and any difficulties (even physical ones, like my brother’s diabetes) were never explored outside of the factual account that they happened. There was no reflection or discussion of anything.
There was always a feeling that talking about things that were wrong was complaining and whining. It meant that you couldn’t “just suck it up and deal.” In short, expressing concerns was an admission of weakness—you were marked by others as a difficult, whiny, needy bitch (in every sense of the term.)
In a way, bringing up the kinds of concerns that depression can create was also a mark of being greedy. There was an unspoken rule of “everyone else is fine with whatever they have, so why are you complaining? Why are you so fucking special that you deserve something extra?” In short, you’re not supposed to need more than what you have, and if you do, you are fundamentally flawed.
This “need nothing, admit nothing” culture is hell on someone with depression. Having any condition that sets you apart is not easy, but mental illness is always treated with much more suspicion than others. If you tell someone you have diabetes or cancer, you usually get a sympathetic shoulder. If you tell someone you have depression, you’re called a fake, an “emo fag,” and (if you’re lucky) you’re regarded as someone who is one tiny incident from a full-blown nervous breakdown. You’re not a person—you’re the condition, and nobody wants that condition. In essence, you can’t do anything right in the eyes of others who know you have the condition, so not only do you feel wrecked because of depression, you feel even worse because you rocked the boat and dared to suggest that not everything was ok.
As a result, you swallow any fears or feelings you might have, hoping against hope that one day, you can wake up and be just like anyone else. You put on a mask that everything’s fine, and you’re fine, which works for some time. After a while, that mask gets heavy to bear. The swallowing gets more and more difficult. Eventually maintaining the façade takes all of your mental
I’ve been in that kind of situation. I still am, in a lot of ways. I’ve been so deep into this mindset that I have made two attempts on my life several years ago. At that time, I felt as if I had nobody to turn to (my school as well as my family were useless.) I made those attempts because I felt as though I had already failed so thoroughly that there was no chance for redemption. My “failures” were an ingrained part of my being that would never come out. The mask got too heavy, and my throat was too dry for any more swallowing.
Imagine it—you already feel like shit, but then you feel worse because you have absorbed that you feel like shit because you deserve it. You feel as if crawling out of bed and putting on a brave face takes every ounce of energy you have because you are total and complete garbage. You feel worthless because you are worthless, and the act of feeling worthless makes you worth less. And if you try to get help, you have to be extremely cautious about where you go and who you ask, because you never know if your source of “help” will silently judge you as less of a person for seeking help. You may end up being labeled as someone who couldn’t hack living like “normal people.” Either way, you can’t really win.
Add in the “macho” culture of sports (which I’m sure other writers can explore better than I can) and there is a recipe for disaster. Hell, most hockey players still have trouble admitting they suffer from concussions because of an ideal where one has to “tough it out” and “not be a little bitch about it.”
I’m not saying that what happened with Rick Rypien was inevitable. I think what I’m trying to get at is that there are probably more people who have situations like us, and it’s shame that they are. I think I’m trying to process my own situation and seeing common threads in Rypien’s case served as triggers as to what can happen. I know that I’m in treatment. I know that I can have good days and bad days just like anyone else. I just wish that nobody else has to feel as alone and dark as Rick and I have.