Your Daily Reminder That Everybody Is Hurting

Yesterday morning, Tyler Hilinski, the projected starting quarterback for the Washington State Cougars football team, was found dead in his apartment, the victim of a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head. He was just 21 years old.

This is a kid who was carried off the field on the shoulders of his peers just weeks ago, the hero of a triple-overtime comeback victory. On most college campuses, there is no bigger hero or star than the quarterback of a winning football team. No party is inaccessible, no club off limits. Every girl wants to date you, and every guy wants to be you.  To outsiders, it seems like the perfect life.

But for Tyler Hilinski, it was apparently anything but.

Who can know what demons plagued this young man? Washington State and its coach, Mike Leach, have sent several quarterbacks to the NFL, so his chances of having a multi-million dollar career at the next level were strong. All accounts seem to suggest that he came from a good family—his younger brother is a top quarterback prospect, as well. It feels incredibly inappropriate to even guess at the cause for his pain. For God’s sake, he was a kid. 

But it’s not inappropriate to realize that everybody is feeling something painful. Right now, you’re might be reading this on a computer or mobile device in your workplace. Chances are that somebody in that office is hurting just as much as Tyler Hilinski was. Somebody fears for their job. Somebody there is struggling with a bad marriage, or an abusive spouse. Somebody there is overwhelmed by debt. Somebody there has a secret illness, or a sick child.

In this world where we have self-selected ourselves into tribes, it’s common for us to be insulated from the pain of members of the other tribes, to dehumanize those who don’t share our political and social beliefs. Social media can make it feel sometimes like everybody out there is living a better and more fulfilling life than we are. You look at Facebook or Instagram and everybody else is buying expensive items and living in perfectly decorated homes and taking their 2.2 perfect children on lavish vacations, and you’re sitting there counting coins to buy bread.

I’m personally hurting today. So are you. Maybe your hurt is greater than mine, or maybe mine is. Doesn’t matter. We’re hurting. And it shouldn’t be shameful to admit it, or to get help for it.

Tyler Hilinski’s death is serving as a reminder to me that maybe it isn’t so important to win that Twitter argument, or to post a picture of that new watch. Maybe it’s more important to walk over to the neighboring office, knock on my colleague’s door, and ask him or her how she’s doing today. Maybe it’s more important for me to listen with the intent of understanding his pain, and to let him know that I’m here for him.

Because if a star quarterback with eight-figure career prospects is hurting enough to decide that he needs a permanent solution to a temporary problem, then maybe somebody else around you is, too. Forget your blue, or gray, or red tribe for a minute, and remember that the human tribe is one that we all belong to.

28 Replies to “Your Daily Reminder That Everybody Is Hurting”

  1. totitan

    You and I have our differences but on this I completely agree. I have a 34 year old daughter who lives with us due to severe epilepsy. Fifteen years ago when she realized that she would never be able to live a normal life she tried to commit suicide by taking a whole bottle of her meds at once. We got her to the hospital with just a few minutes to spare so I can relate to what you have written on a very personal level.

    Thank you for writing about a normally taboo subject

  2. Wulfgar

    Thank you for posting this. And you’re absolutely on point – he was likely considered the biggest of the “Big Men on Campus”. Except in his own mind. While not intentional, my social posts probably portray the perfection of a man enjoying the fruits of his labor. But my marriage fell apart four years ago. And with it, most of my satisfaction in life. Three major surgeries and no strong support from a dedicated partner make one question the value of getting up the next day. Check on the people you know and love and hopefully they’re checking on you.

    • silentsod

      People checking in on me at some extremely opportune times in life are the reason I’m still kicking around today. To echo the comment above me I’m sure you have people that love you and who are glad you still get up every day.

  3. stingray65

    Richard Cory by Edwin Arlington Robinson – 1869-1935.

    Whenever Richard Cory went down town,
    We people on the pavement looked at him:
    He was a gentleman from sole to crown,
    Clean favored, and imperially slim.

    And he was always quietly arrayed,
    And he was always human when he talked;
    But still he fluttered pulses when he said,
    ‘Good-morning,’ and he glittered when he walked.

    And he was rich – yes, richer than a king –
    And admirably schooled in every grace:
    In fine, we thought that he was everything
    To make us wish that we were in his place.

    So on we worked, and waited for the light,
    And went without the meat, and cursed the bread;
    And Richard Cory, one calm summer night,
    Went home and put a bullet through his head.

  4. Frank Galvin

    Bark, thanks for this.

    Yesterday I facilitated a Title IX / Healthy Workplace training to a room of graduate students; disinterested and somewhat standoffish. The #metoo campaign is in the backlash phase with many males, and some females fatigued about the outrage de jour, particularly when many of these latter disclosures do not even come remotely close to Weinsten, Spacey et al.

    One of things I always push, whenever I can, is to recognize when a colleague is troubled, show some empathy, and direct them to resources. It helps that I’m the first one to disclose that my mornings start with the help of Big Pharma and regular therapy sessions. Once I start describing the effects of untreated mental illness, its amazing how may faces suddenly get serious and questions start coming in about what an accommodation process looks like. There was a very attractive blond in the back; tall, in great shape, well put together, classic beauty in every sense. Maybe what Jack would describe as an Ohio 10. Anyways, looking at her, one would be forgiven if assuming she would be the last person having an issue. For most of the session, she couldn’t be bothered to put down her phone, except when her face dropped, her voice changed, and she really wanted to know how a mental health accommodation might work.

    Bark – you’re right on about checking in and actively listening. Genuine empathy is what matters. Listening and then helping that person get help through the company EAP, police, clergy, etc. might be what saves that person’s job, their family, and themselves. If you have to walk them down to HR, do it. If you have to cancel meetings for the rest of the day, do it. Once that person begins to share, he or she has put a level of trust in you and your reaction may be determinative of whether they’ll accept help. No one has to, nor should they live with this invisible pain.

  5. Jonathan H.

    My best friend killed himself my junior year of high school back in 1992. He was funny and everyone loved him. Especially the girls which I was always a bit jealous of. He and I and another friend(whose dad had committed suicide a year prior and is still my best friend today.) were inseparable. Nobody saw it coming. He gave no impression that he was in that state of mind. He didn’t leave a note giving any reasons as to why. It’s bizarre to me that people can keep it so well hidden. That makes it damn near impossible to head it off at the pass.

    Now that I think about it, my girlfriend at that time had attempted suicide before I met her but had overcome it and was very positive and forward thinking. We all seemed so normal. None of us were rich by any means but we were comfortable and happy with tons of potential. I can’t imagine what it would be like to be that age in the era of social media and social division. I’m 43 now with no kids and not going to have any. You and jack any anyone these days that choose to have kids are bigger men than me. Raising an emotionally healthy child seems nearly impossible.

    • Disinterested-Observer

      “Raising an emotionally healthy child seems nearly impossible.”

      You just have to beat it into them. Sorry, just trying to lighten the mood with some dark humor.

      • Solo Wing Pixy

        If you tell your son to kill himself then his teenage rebellion will be to survive.

        It’s a lot messier and uglier than just that, but humor helps. If anything or anyone has kept me alive it’s the dark humor of Doug Stanhope.

  6. tresmonos

    Mental health is often overlooked. It’s just as important as our physical being. Thank you for the reminder.

  7. elad sputnik

    Apparently the cool kids are abusing prescription pharmaceuticals these days, I don’t know the exact combination (because get off my lawn) but it sounds like anti anxiety and anti depressants. The 20 year old on my crew is on disability right now from it, he came close to suicide and is seriously messed up.
    I don’t mean to diminish this young man or mental illness in general, but too many people don’t want to know that this stuff is happening, and want to play the angle that’s more acceptable to them.. “Hidden demons” is more acceptable than “ate pills and crashed”.

    • yamahog

      Anyone abusing anti-depressants probably isn’t getting much recreational value out of it.

      At that point, it’s probably just a preference for being fucked up rather than not.

  8. -Nate

    Thanx Mark .

    I have lost several friends and work with unhappy people every day, I’ve been at the edge too and know how much a little bit of empathy can help .


  9. Panzer

    I’m 27 tommorow and I had to grow up for almost 20 years with an undiagnosed autism.
    Every day I was treated like a subhuman piece of shit by almost everyone outside my immediate family. I never seriously considered killing myself, (though I often thought about how many people would attend my funeral if I died the next day) I think my autism gave me an extraordinary resilience to just keep on grinding, which is what I did until I grew up, matured, and got some professional help for my issues.

    Thanks for writing this Bark, it helps do much to realize that it isn’t actually the case that everyone else leads a perfect life except for you and be reminded of this fact.

    These days I’m much happier and content with my life and who I am, and I even get with the ladies occasionally 😀 As you pointed out, ‘no situation is permanent’, when I think about how miserable I was back then and how happy I am now, I’m so glad I survived to get where I am now.

  10. rpn453

    It doesn’t seem like a temporary problem if that’s all you’ve ever known. Suicide isn’t tragic to me. It’s just someone doing what they need to do to get out of this world, their mind, or both.

    It doesn’t make sense to talk about this stuff. Either you’re not all that serious about it and whining for attention, or you are and risking imprisonment for your thoughts.

    • Bark M Post author

      It doesn’t make sense to talk about feeling suicidal?!?! So if you’re thinking about killing yourself, you shouldn’t tell anybody?

      • rpn453

        Correct. You can be imprisoned or have your freedoms restricted for discussing it with the wrong person.

        It happened to my buddy. He was arrested at work and imprisoned for a couple days for an off-hand comment about how he’d like to drive into a train on the way home or something. Basically, the usual sort of feeling you have whenever your personal life sucks and things aren’t going good on the drilling rig either.

        But that was due to a new girlfriend who obviously wasn’t his type. I don’t think he spoke to her again after. That sort of thing is just part of casual conversation among my close friends. Somehow, we’re all still here.

        Obviously you can discuss anything you want among true friends who believe that you are the only one who has ownership over your own life. Maybe Mr. Hilinski felt alone because he hadn’t yet discovered anybody he could relate to. If his only options for communication might initiate authoritarian control over his person, then it makes sense to stay quiet and deal with it internally.

        Maybe he did want some help. Not that kind of help though. He didn’t think his views were wrong, and that he needed to be controlled and monitored and medicated because of them.

        It’s unfortunate if he simply had nobody to turn to that he could trust with his thoughts.

  11. Shocktastic

    Dear Bark,
    Thank you for this post. I no longer do psychiatric emergency healthcare but this guy’s story breaks my heart in so many ways. The WSU community is very tight & small; no one saw this coming. I can’t tell you how many times I looked into the eyes of someone who OD’d but then decided that they wanted to live. Men tend to pick more lethal exit plans like hanging or firearms; women tend to do more easily reversible suicide plans like overdose or deep lacerations. When I say easily I am a little tongue in cheek because SSRI ODs require a skilled MD w/ a poison control center consult & a solid nursing team to juggle meds to keep someone alive.

  12. Kvndoom

    “You look at Facebook or Instagram and everybody else is buying expensive items and living in perfectly decorated homes and taking their 2.2 perfect children on lavish vacations, and you’re sitting there counting coins to buy bread.”

    I have to CONSTANTLY remind Karen of this. Everybody lives a fairytale life on farcebook. You can wish you had the material things they have all day in and out, but a) you don’t want their problems that they hide within the walls and b) most of the time all their “good stuff” is bought with heavy debt. I’d rather pay cash for lesser things than keep going down the black-hole debt spiral for “the good life”

  13. Kvndoom

    It’ll be 10 years this June since an ex girlfriend of mine jumped off her apartment’s balcony. The Bangkok police report called it an accident but they didn’t know her.

    That wasn’t the first time she had ever tried… just the first time she succeeded. She had a massive vertical scar on her chest and a vocal slurring, remnants of the time she drove a van off the interstate into a tree. For the time we were together she said she had found the formula for happiness, but when I found out she was gone I guessed perhaps not.

    I can’t judge. My teenage years (1988 in particular) were full of suicidal thoughts and more than one failed attempt (one of which has had lasting and worsening negative effects on my short term memory through the years). For me at least it’s kind of funny; when I was young I was afraid to live. Now that I’ve gotten older I’m afraid to die. Weird…

  14. silentsod

    I’ve mentioned before that my kid brother was in an accident that left him permanently brain damaged with poor motor functions, seizures for a number of years, and badly slurred speech. I am out of contact with him enough now that I can not understand him easily. If you’re around a lot you pick up the patterns and sounds with less issue.

    The accident occurred on a youth group trip that I decided not to attend because I was attending a play late at night with a girl I had a crush on at the time and, well, teenage me during the summer time was big on sleeping in. The next morning saw me at my computer desk, chatting with three or four people on AIM and idly playing Minesweeper. The call came in around 10AM and soon enough four of us were hurtling down the road in an A4 at a rapid pace headed for Modesto. When we first saw him in that hospital he enough had tubes and lines running into his body, ensuring he received adequate O2, water, and nutrition, that I thought to myself he should be dead. I blamed myself for not going on the trip with him for quite some time. I knew other people on the trip so I probably wouldn’t have been keeping too close an eye on him; but he and I were also in the process of becoming real friends and peers. Still, over and over, I told myself I should have been there to save him. I would sit in the dark, headphones on, pounding that message in my head while the old Discman I had spun Where Blood and Fire Bring Rest in endless circles and soaked into me while I poured out.

    He was in the hospital in a coma for months; when he woke up we took him home where he couldn’t talk, let alone walk, and his food pumped straight into his stomach. I helped take care of him my senior year of high school. He would sometimes aspirate his mush and start choking. I’ve rolled him on his side to keep him alive after staggering out of bed to a shout for help. I spent nights wondering if my brother were actually still in there and not just a set of eyeballs rolling around an empty skull. I ached for the loss of what we had been and the loss of a future where we were tight knit. My appearance on the outside was fairly normal for me and my grades weren’t suffering. I was absolutely heart broken and more and more thoughts about skipping out on life and the pain it was bringing were visiting me and growing tempting. I dry ran my own suicide, it was nerve racking (what if the chamber you checked twice isn’t empty? When that hammer falls…). As that school year closed out I was sitting in my room with a single shell of 00 buckshot loaded in my shotgun. I was mentally preparing to close everything else out when my sister called me on my flip phone. She talked with me a little bit, just checking on me; I told her I was not doing great but thanks. We hung up and a friend of mine texted me and was asking if I wanted to hang out. I cleared the shotgun. No one knew what I was doing and neither of them knew they had saved my life.


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