He stepped out of the prison nervously after 50 years - 50 long years.
What's he to do?
As he scanned his immediate surroundings just outside the prison, he knew the path ahead was uncertain and unknown.
He took the bus clutching tightly to the seat in front with his eyes filled with a sense of dread and worry.
Inside the prison, he had friends but now he was on his own.
Getting down from the bus, he walked on the sidewalk before preparing to cross the street.
As he took a few steps trying to work his way through the busy stream of vehicles passing by, he suddenly stops and quickly takes a couple of steps back at the angry honk from a pissed off driver.
Then he hurriedly crosses the road avoiding the cars driving by and walks into the halfway house arranged by the parole board in addition to a job - bagging groceries at the local store.
He didn't like his job or the store manager and his only solace was going to the park after work to feed the birds.
At night, he had trouble sleeping as he constantly tossed and turned in his bed and sometimes he would get up in the middle of the night worried and anxious because of bad dreams.
It would take him a while to realize where he was.
He had thoughts of robbing the store he worked in or even shooting the store manager so that he could go back to prison but felt that he was too old for that kind of stuff.
Finally sick and tired of being afraid, he decided not to stay.
Donning a suit and a tie, he took out his pocket knife and walked up to the chair, got up on the chair on to the adjacent desk and with his pocket knife carved something on the wooden overhang.
After he was done carving, he closed his pocket knife, took one final look at his carving before knocking off the desk with his feet as they briefly struggle midair before coming to a rest.
He hanged himself to death with the words, 'Brooks was here' carved in the wooden overhang.
This heartbreaking scene from the movie Shawshank Redemption is the best example of how loneliness can drive you to death.
For Brooks - living in the outside world was actually more terrifying than being in a guarded prison amidst his fellow inmates.
Yes- it's a movie and Brooks is a fictional character, but it's hard not to be moved by this poignant scene and not be impacted by the deep darkness of loneliness, fear and hopelessness.
When I was suffering from depression and woke up on a rare day feeling good, I would feel weird because I was depressed for so long that the dark melancholy mood became my default state of mind and after a while it became my identity.
It wasn't like I enjoyed being depressed - trust me I hated it, but over time, the known devil was better than the unknown angel.
The fleeting rare moments of hope, positivity and joy stood no chance against the big black hole of negativity, despair and loneliness.
Joe Dispenza in his book 'Breaking the Habit of Being Yourself' writes:
“Psychologists tell us that by the time we’re in our mid-30s, our identity or personality will be completely formed.
This means that for those of us over 35, we have memorized a select set of behaviors, attitudes, beliefs, emotional reactions, habits, skills, associative memories, conditioned responses, and perceptions that are now subconsciously programmed within us.
Those programs are running us, because the body has become the mind. This means that we will think the same thoughts, feel the same feelings, react in identical ways, behave in the same manner, believe the same dogmas, and perceive reality the same ways.
About 95 percent of who we are by midlife is a series of subconscious programs that have become automatic—driving a car, brushing our teeth, overeating when we’re stressed, worrying about our future, judging our friends, complaining about our lives, blaming our parents, not believing in ourselves, and insisting on being chronically unhappy, just to name a few.”
I let my life run on autopilot with the same old negative thoughts day in and day out as a result of which I became cynical, resentful and bitter.
At one point, like Brooks I was tired of being afraid and lonely but unlike Brooks I wasn't successful in my attempt to end life.
So I suffered in silence for a long time until I finally saw the light at the end of the tunnel that gave me hope that I can change my life.
That four letter word - hope is powerful - it's the perfect antidote to depression and the bedrock of resilience.
*Too many spoiler alerts to follow
In fact, hope was the ONLY reason why Red lived while Brooks died.
When Red steps out of prison, he too felt lonely, scared and out of place in a world that didn't make sense to him.
He too thought of ways of breaking the parole so that he could go back to the prison and be among his prison friends...
Until Red thought about the promise he made to Andy and goes on a trip to find Andy's letter.
That's when the transformation happened and he stopped feeling afraid.
Red felt like a free man even though he was violating his parole whereas Brooks felt trapped despite following the rules.
Red felt like he had a long journey ahead of him while Brooks was stuck in the past.
And most importantly Red had something to look forward to - a friend to meet and spend time with whereas Brooks was yearning for his prison pet bird Jake.
In short, Andy gave hope to Red, a reason to go on - without which he would have ended just like Brooks.
As Andy writes in his letter, "Hope is a good thing, maybe the best of things, and no good thing ever dies."