June 21, 2008,
Written by – Matthew Good
The most difficult aspect of my job is not to be found in the writing, production, or performance of music. It’s to be found in the stories that reach me, either after shows by individuals themselves or by email. I do not mention this to say that I think it an unfair burden, nor one that I wish I did not have to shoulder. I mention this because, in the end, we are all human and it is only right that we be remembered, even if only on the website of a musician.
This morning I received an email from Andrea Lystang of Edmonton, whose daughter Jennifer overdosed three weeks ago on medication prescribed to combat her fight against mental illness. Jennifer was 22 years old and leaves behind a 2-year-old daughter of her own, Abbey.
Despite being a single mother combating mental illness, Jennifer was, according to her mother, an impassioned and loving parent who loved Abbey with everything in her. But, as is often the case for those who cannot find a way out of the darkness no matter their attempts to do so, Jennifer was simply unable to overcome it. I realize that, to some of you, her suicide might seem deplorable given that she was a parent and had the welfare of her daughter to consider, but it is impossible for me to convey to those who have no understanding of the inner turmoil faced by those that have no sense of hope within themselves what it feels like when the cause of that blackness is something altogether overpowering.
I do not have the right to judge Jennifer, nor would I ever presume to ever possess that right. Equally, I do not believe that others, no matter their beliefs, have the right to judge her either. If there is a power greater than us, then I believe that power to be just and forgiving and overwhelmingly compassionate. Therefore, I believe that Jennifer will be welcomed by them with open arms and provided the relief that she could not find in this life.
My heart goes out to the Lystang family, and to Jennifer’s daughter Abbey, who will, I hope, in the years ahead, come to understand and be at peace with what ultimately took her mother’s life. Because while Jennifer was the instrument of her demise, she was not the cause, and that should never be overlooked nor forgotten. Like any other disease, mental illness takes lives. And while the majority of the people in this world may fail to view such deaths as the result of an illness because of their fashion, they are nonetheless the results of illness, not self-pity nor self-absorption. Any living thing trapped within a prison that endures its torture will instinctively attempt to escape. Ultimately, given that reality as it pertains to mental illness, Jennifer is free.
In the email that Jennifer’s mother sent me she said the following…
“Although Jennifer’s life was often a struggle, she found solace in your music. She attended many of your concerts. In fact, while cleaning her room, I found tickets to your upcoming Victoria show. She felt a connection with you through your music and your blog. She was relieved that you were sharing your struggle with bipolar disorder publicly, grateful that you were able to “normalize” mental illness.”
For my part, I am sorry that what little I have created and publicly said and advocated was not enough. Some might say that I have no reason to say such a thing, but the truth is that either we are all in this thing called life together or we aren’t. And if we are, then it must be.