For folks who don’t know, Ilya Zhitomirskiy, one of the founders of Diaspora, committed suicide recently. He was 22 years old.
Ilya hung out at Noisebridge, and also led workshops and hackathons for Diaspora at our space. Most people who met him were quickly taken in by his enthusiasm and do-ocratic charisma. I became instant friends with him the first day he showed up at Noisebridge shortly after he moved to San Francisco last year.
Hardly anyone had even a clue that Ilya was depressed, let alone suicidal. He was bubbly, cheerful, excited about all the way cool projects he was implementing, as well as the ones he had thought, and would think of.
Last night was his memorial in San Francisco, followed a party in his backyard in the Mission. This party was typical of the epic parties Ilya threw in his backyard over the past many months, bringing together so many wonderful people — incredible opportunities to have fun meeting and connecting with each other. The only thing atypical last night was that Ilya was not there.
Both the memorial and the party were full of people who knew and loved Ilya, and who Ilya knew and loved. Ilya could have reached out to any one of us — any time of day or night. He could have reached out. But he didn’t.
For Ilya to have held in and hid his pain so well that all of these people, including myself, had no clue — Ilya must have felt *so* alone, *so* isolated, exacerbating his pain too greatly. If he had reached out, maybe — maybe — he could have lived another day. But he didn’t.
I lived the first half of my life in total and utter depression. No joy, just shame, just self-loathing, dread and anxiety and fear of other people — total depression. I know what it is like to be depressed. I know what it is like to live for one’s whole life knowing and believing that the best life might have to offer is the ability for me to endure the pain till I eventually died. That was the best possibility. As with Ilya, I hid all of this from the world as best as I could. And most people had no clue I was depressed.
Yet, I learned, through making choices for myself, and learning from the consequences of my choices, and with help and support of others, over a period of many years, making more choices, learning, growing, crashing, burning, making more choices, more support. . . — I eventually learned to live a life I love. I love the life I live! If I could learn to live a life I love, then, certainly, it is possible for anyone to do this!
It is more than possible — it is way worthwhile, way rewarding, way wonderful to go through the experiences of our life — through the ups and the downs, through the all-arounds, and all the pain and suffering and joy and love and excitement — and come to a place where you know that the pain, regardless of its intensity, is yet another (perhaps seemingly unendurable) experience, which gives way to more of what makes life even more worthwhile.
Depression is an important part of life. Everyone experiences it to some extent. But to those of us who know chronic depression, it is our own unique hell.
Unique as it is to each of us, we all share a lot.
And we all have a lot to share with each other. Through the ups, and the downs, the all-arounds.
For someone who has no experience reaching out, it can seem to be the scariest thing possible. But it is possible.
It is very possible. Ilya is dead. But you — you are still alive. If you are contemplating suicide, please know that you are not alone. You are part of a community of others, many of whom know what it is like to be hopelessly depressed. Many of whom are more than open for you to reach out to (if you only knew!).
You *can* choose to kill yourself. But it will be your last choice. If you are ready to kill yourself, why not try out one choice first? What do you have to lose? I know it is scary, and perhaps way shameful, and maybe too awful, and extremely difficult — but, really, what do you have to lose? Please know that you *can* choose to reach out to someone. Please, know that you can. Please, pick someone and reach out.
Why wait till your pain is so unendurable? You can reach out now. (Really, you can.)