observations and opinion
In the early hours yesterday came a simple, sad message that Christopher Peloso was dead.
Most likely you didn’t know Chris Peloso. I didn’t know him. His life and now, his tragic death, have been made public property by virtue of his marriage to a politician – the former Deputy Premier of Ontario, George Smitherman.
Chris Peloso was a father, husband, businessman, friend and no doubt, all the things we all try to be. He was also afflicted with depression, a condition which rained misery upon him, those who loved him, and which took his life. Depression has been defined a thousand ways. As an absence of feeling. As the “black dog” which followed Churchill his whole life. It haunted Lincoln too, from early on:
“As to the condition of Lincoln’s Mind after the death of Miss R.,” Henry McHenry, a farmer in the area, recalled, “after that Event he seemed quite changed, he seemed Retired, & loved Solitude, he seemed wraped in profound thought, indifferent, to transpiring Events, had but Little to say, but would take his gun and wander off in the woods by him self, away from the association of even those he most esteemed, this gloom seemed to deepen for some time, so as to give anxiety to his friends in regard to his Mind.”
Reading that now, one wonders how many of us today are as compassionate and aware as that farmer was 180 years ago. 21st Century society seems almost designed to strain a person beyond the point they can bear, but offers very little by way of wisdom or practical help, to those afflicted. Or to those who live with them.
In my youth, I was unable to help those around me, when they needed it. Their illness swallowed them. Their indifference to life outside their own minds, made them impossible to reach. Theirs was a burden more heavy than I could bear. As the ship goes down it swallows everything around it. All you can do is swim with a fury to keep yourself afloat. To let them sink. And that is what it means, oftentimes, to live with someone who is depressed. And with it comes grief, and guilt, and rage.
How many children are tied to a parent or elder who is mentally ill? How many won’t be able to make it to shore, but instead, will be drowned? We hear the words “mental health” a lot nowadays, but I’m not sure we know what it is, or what can break it, or how to mend it. We are afraid to know. We are afraid to recognize that we are all, each of us, fragile. That we can all bend, sometimes beyond the breaking point.
It seems to me the only cure is love. For those afflicted, to remember who they love, and who loves them: to be aware of the world outside their own darkness. For their loved ones, to demand that they get up, step out, breathe deeply, open their eyes, feel the sun and the wind on their skin. Not to let go of life.
But until we can be unafraid of our own fragility, we will fear and shun those who are broken. We will not learn how to recognize the signs of depression, in ourselves or in others; we will not learn where to find help. We will not invest enough, as a society, in treating the condition. Until we are brave enough to see that the light- and the dark – exist inside each of us, we will remain enthralled to our terror of the dark. We will believe it is something apart from us, outside of us. And we will leave the innocents there to drown.
Rest in peace, Christopher Peloso.