Personal: This tree hit me.
This morning we woke up to snow. Packed slowly and moved slowly over the peaks we had to conquer for the day. We came across this tree around 11am:
It’s the Max Norrell Memorial Tree. A tree decorated in honor of Max, who committed suicide at age 22. He was born in 1994. His obituary says that he loved animals, reading, and music. It also commended his sense of humor, as obituaries of depressed people often do. I don’t know much about Max or his family. But I can tell that his family loved him dearly and they miss him a lot. The tree was decorated with photos, notes, and crafts from Max's childhood as well as ornaments. Max's father often posts to his memorial Facebook page, "Hug someone and tell them you love them." He's right, we should do that more often.
The tree really hit me this morning. I choked up a bit and I’m certain if I was alone I would have stood there and cried for a good while. Memorials like these remind me of how much my depression can affect the people around me and how much I might not see those effects. It renews my hope for the world that maybe we as a society and as communities can learn to talk about these things. Show people that they’re not alone and that people care about them no matter what mental struggle they may be going through.
I’ve been listening a lot to the podcast The Hilarious World of Depression. I really like comedy and stand-up and I appreciate when people speak openly about their struggles with mental illness. John Moe hosts this podcast and on it he interviews people of note in the comedy and entertainment world about their depression: how it started, how they’re coping, and the other mental illnesses that accompany their depression. The first episode was with Peter Sagal, the host of Wait! Wait! Don’t tell me! (WWDTM) on NPR. I grew up listening to WWDTM. I always looked up to Peter and his guests like Paula Poundstone, Roxanne Roberts, and Peter Grosz. It was incredible to hear that he had also struggled with depression and that he had succeeded so well in his industry. The podcast has accompanied my hike and really helped me feel less alone while also showing me that there is a future for my depression and that it can get better.
Hilarious World of Depression also introduced me to Make It OK, an organization that aims to reduce the stigma surrounding mental illness. It helps people talk about their illness, helps families learn how to talk to about it, and how to take action to get help.
I try my best to be open and honest on this blog. The hike has really enforced my belief that this is the best way to be in life and the best way to mitigate stigma, loneliness, and isolation. I hope that if any of you readers ever are struggling with your mental health you feel comfortable reaching out to me or the suicide prevention hotline or using the tools provided by organizations like Make It OK to talk about it. You’re truly not alone. If you come across the tree, Max’s father has set up a Facebook page in his honor on which you can post photos.