High Functioning Depression
I have been an avid fan of The Young and The Restless since I was a teenager. I even remember listening to the theme song as a child when my mom was watching it as I played with my Barbie's. It was a tremendous shock to read that one of the long term actors had taken his life over the weekend.
Kristoff St John, had played Neil Winters since 1991. 28 years of fans getting to know his character, who was kind, gentle, smart, dependable and of course handsome. I thought of Neil as a character of comfort. His character was a father and grandfather and in those roles he was so nurturing and easy to love.
His son had struggled with mental health issues and ultimately suicided two years ago, to which it sounds like Kristoff never fully healed. Last year Kristoff was hospitalized for a suicide threat/ideation. And now a year later he completed what he had set off to do. It's a mind twist to think about this lovable, happy character struggling in real life so much.
We all wear masks. We mask our pain, our financial problems, our marital concerns, our worries and fears. What I've learned as a therapist who also wears a mask, is that it doesn't benefit us more than just fulfilling our daily functioning obligations; showing up in our life as "expected". Many people are walking around with high functioning depression and thoughts of not wanting to be here, wanting to die. You wouldn't know it walking around the mall or airport, or even in your workplace, we all look the same.
So what do we do? We start with connection. Talking to those we care about, those whom are close to use in our daily life. Going beyond a, "How are you?". Talking about the hard stuff. Asking the uncomfortable questions that maybe we don't feel like we have any answers to. Guess what, we don't need to have any answers. We just need to listen. To hear the pain, to hear the struggle. We can listen and be present with the pain, not needing to know how to get rid of it. This is wildly uncomfortable or most. I know even as a therapist it's uncomfortable. Some pain just needs to be felt until it can be released. We can be that hand that's available to hold. We can be that text message that says, "I'm thinking about you". We can be available.
I don't know what supports Kristoff had, I don't know if people around him knew he was struggling. I do know that when death feels like the only option, it's a dark place. And again wildly uncomfortable for others. My thoughts and prayers go to his family, friends and fellow castmates. If you are struggling with thoughts of suicide, help is available. https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/ 1-800-273-8255