(Trigger warning: suicide)
I stopped and started writing this post several times.
While I was not a regular follower of Stephen “tWitch” Boss, I knew him from the Ellen DeGeneres Show and from the videos that he and his wife Allison shared on social media of their fun choreographed dances.
I was always struck by his joy.
He simply radiated happiness.
His smile was infectious.
You couldn’t help but feel a grin on your face while watching him in his element.
He was endlessly loved by so many.
He battled demons many never knew about.
I think this news is hitting me so hard because it demonstrates so clearly that we do not know what other people struggle with. We do not know what is in other people’s minds. We just don’t.
Someone can appear outwardly happy and joyful, and yet die by suicide.
This knowledge feels startling, even though we conceptually understand.
Sometimes the people who struggle the most are the ones we least expect.
Mental illness does not always manifest in becoming withdrawn or “looking” depressed. You cannot always tell if someone is having a difficult time by looking at their outer appearance and actions. And you certainly cannot tell by viewing their curated life on social media.
I’ve struggled with anxiety my entire adult life, and yet many wouldn’t know this about me because I appear very joyful. And I am. But I also have days where anxiety feels all consuming.
Is that what this feeling is? This sort of pit in my gut? I could be tWitch.
Any of us could be tWitch. Any of our loved ones could be tWitch. Any of the people we interact with during the day could be tWitch. Depression does not discriminate.
That’s why it is so vitally important to practice kindness.
Every single day, through every single interaction we have with others, we have the choice to be kind in our words and behavior.
That small interaction you had with the grocery store cashier when you smiled and asked them a genuine question about themselves – that could be the only time someone expressed care towards them that day.
That co-worker who you noticed did a great job and you complimented them for it – you might be the only one who made them feel valued that day.
Your friend who is going through a difficult time may find your daily check-in text to be the only thing keeping them grounded to this life.
We just do not know.
Let’s honor tWitch’s legacy of joy and kindness by being mindful of how we interact with others. Let’s keep talking about mental illness, so we can finally break the stigma. Let’s make sure those who are struggling have access to the support they need. And let’s remember to check-in on our happiest loved ones and not take for granted that they seem to be OK.
If you, or someone you know, is considering suicide, please know that you are not alone. Help is available 24/day by calling 988.