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Take a Step

I was not planning to start off the year with a post like this, but I felt compelled to after reading something that broke my heart. I should warn you: some of this post might be pretty depressing. I hope that somehow, some small encouragement is found in it, though.

Bill Zeller was a 27-year-old computer programmer and doctoral candidate at Princeton. He attempted to take his life on January 2nd. He was removed from life support on January 5th and died.

I did not know Bill, though I probably had heard his name here and there. What struck me is the 4,000 word suicide note that he left behind. In it, he explains:

My first memories as a child are of being raped, repeatedly. This has affected every aspect of my life. This darkness, which is the only way I can describe it, has followed me like a fog, but at times intensified and overwhelmed me, usually triggered by a distinct situation.

He went on to explain how this darkness affected his whole life, how he was never able to escape it, and was never able to tell anyone, not even the lady that he loved. He could not even talk to a professional about it because he felt convinced that it wouldn't help, and he had no confidence that it would remain secret. He could not bear living in a world “where people know how fucked up I am.”

It is difficult to read, but I encourage you to, if you can.

I cannot begin to fathom living with sexual abuse like that, but I think I can understand a bit the feeling of the darkness that he describes. I have written before about my own feelings of depression and darkness. That's why it broke my heart that he never felt he could tell anyone.

I know what it's like to feel that you'll just be a burden; that people will look down on you; that people should look down on you. As I have talked to people over the years, though, I have found that's not the case. I have found hope, love, encouragement. Sure, these things do not always sink in right away. It's an uphill battle. I wish Bill had the chance for people to show him the difference between how the darkness made him feel and how they felt about him.

I guess that's my encouragement to anyone experiencing darkness. Take a step. Talk to someone. Try to see yourself as others see you.

To everyone, “Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.” (variant of a quote by Ian Maclaren)


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