You may not watch soap operas. You might think they are silly and over dramatic but for most of the past 29 years, The Young & The Restless has been a part of my life. I started watching like most people did, because of an older relative. Before I started going to school I would watch the show daily with my grandpa. After I started school it became a staple of the summer. So much so that I started recording it on VHS each day. Yes, I just aged myself. Then it became a hit or miss once I started college but once I got a DVR, forget about it. It was on like donkey kong.
That’s my fun way of saying I still watch every episode of the show.
As a lifer not only do I watch the show but I keep up with the cast on social media. You can imagine my shock when I woke up hungover Monday after the Superbowl to learn that Kristoff St. John had been found dead. Kristoff St. John has played Neil Winters on Young and The Restless for 27 years. A talented actor and a fan favorite. The last few months his presence has been sporadic at best. So much so that on the last episode he was on I remember squalling “Neil! My man!” when he appeared on the screen. “My man,” was kind of Neil’s catchphrase/greeting and from what I can tell may have also been Kristoff’s.
Dia, why are you going on about a soap opera star? Like sure death is sad but how much does this affect you?
The truth, more than you think. While the exact cause of his death is still up in the air most of the people familiar with his story are assuming 1 of 2 things, suicide or a broken heart. A few years ago his son killed himself while in a mental health facility and he never truly recovered from the loss. So even if he didn’t kill himself his son’s death probably played some role in him dying at 52.
I feel like mental health is this big shameful thing. No one wants to talk about. People don’t get it. They say “Cheer up buttercup.” or “Can’t you just be happy,” like you’re choosing to be anxious or depressed. They say these things and all you hear is “I don’t want to deal with your pain. Can you pretend everything is fine so I’m comfortable? You’re such a burden.”
If you’re never excused yourself from a meeting to sob uncontrollably in the bathroom because everything felt like too much….
If you’ve never doubted if you could live another day this way….
If you’ve never felt guilty for being so sad when things look so good to the outside world and you know things could be worse….
If you’ve never written a suicide note…
Looked too long and too hard at a bottle of pills…
Didn’t want to die but weren’t sure how you could live….
I’m not writing this to ruin your mood. I’m writing this for a few reasons.
- To explain why I do what I do. I know a podcast where I talk to some of the best minds in the business might seem like just a fun hobby but it’s stories like this. Anxiety and depression are very real and if hearing that you’re not alone or that it’s totally normal to feel like giving up or to cry in the shower…car…supermarket. As much as I love talking to these women, messages telling me how much someone related to a story or how grateful they are for the podcast it lights me up.
- To beg you not to say insensitive statements to people who seem sad all the time. Sometimes an “It’s not that big of a deal.” “Be positive,” may be well intended but can only alienate someone dealing with depression even more. You don’t have to let their feelings “bring you down” but just be supportive. Sometimes if you just listen it can be a huge help. Just say “I’m here for you.” Don’t try to fix it. When they push you away, and they might know that they appreciate the love and support even if they can’t deal with it at the moment.
- To ask you to educate yourself on mental health. While some of the stigmas have decreased around mental health unless you deal with it, either personally or through a loved one, it can be hard to understand. If you subscribe to the “just be happy,” mindset consider doing some research on the medical aspects of it, that might be easier to comprehend than the feelings part of it. Don’t stigmatize them if they feel like medication is what they need to do. It’s a personal choice and not an easy one.
- To remind you to check in with your loved ones. Even the happy ones. Because more often than you’d think the biggest smiles hide the most pain-filled hearts. Again, you don’t have to push or even ask “how are you,” but maybe just a “I love you, or a “I’d love to see you,” can mean the world when you feel alone.
There has been such an outpouring of love for Kristoff since his passing Sunday and I don’t doubt he had people who loved and supported him in life. Even as someone who suffers from anxiety and depression I can’t even imagine what the loss of his son in such a tragic way did to him.
Finally, #5 if you ever need to talk please feel free to email me. I may not be able to respond right away but I will respond. I’m not a therapist or mental health professional but I know sometimes talking to someone who gets it is a great start.
I love you, I love you, I love you,