Christopher Redman Is Part of Something Much Bigger
At a dark moment in his childhood, the actor found belonging when he buried himself beneath the snow
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Christopher Redman told his story to producer Sarah Fuss Kessler for an episode of The Daily Rally podcast. It has been edited for length and clarity.
Content warning: This story discusses suicide.
As a kid, I had certainly never at that point been close to death. The sneaky thing about real hypothermia is that it’s pretty comforting. You want to go to sleep and kind of shut down.
My name is Christopher Redman. I’m 43 years old, and I’m called Bra and Dude and Chrissy by my seven-year-old son. Professionally, I am an actor and have been making a living acting since I was 12 years old.
I grew up about an hour and a half north of Toronto. The doors would open and my siblings and I would be out in the fields and in the forests and in the river. I knew the branches I could swing on. And I knew the stumps where the raccoon bones were hidden in holes. It was a very magical place to grow up
Back in the ’80s, we would get really, really deep snow and in the field behind the house in the wintertime. I would go out by myself all bundled up and dig a little hole and put myself in it, and cover myself up with a little bit of the loose snow and wait for the wind, until I could look down and not recognize where I was. I was as smooth and as pillowy as the rest of the field, and I was sort of absorbing myself in the snow to a point where only my face was sticking out. I really felt in nature, that I was fully a part of it. I really felt wild.
And then things changed.
When I was seven or eight, I was very, very small and super, super skinny. Growing up in Canada, everybody played hockey, and I just couldn’t participate. Playgrounds are like prison yards. I was bullied a lot at school and I got physically beat up a lot. So, going to school became sort of a daily terror, and I turned inward and stopped playing outside as much, read books, and became very lonely.
I have three younger siblings, my two brothers and a younger sister. Around that time, both of my parents had to work, and I was sort of put in charge of looking after my siblings after school. That turned into another point of great anxiety and loneliness for me, because I didn’t feel like I could relate to anyone else about the responsibility I felt, to make sure everyone was OK. I kept it to myself.
Around the same time that this was all happening, I would have what I now understand to be night terrors, I guess is what they call them. They’re full hallucinogenic experiences, and the scale and craziness of what I was looking at terrified and paralyzed me.
On my eighth birthday, my mom gave me a diary, maybe she recognized that I had some thoughts I needed to get down. The cover was Garfield, naturally. It had a little lock on it, and in the cover she wrote, “Always be true to yourself.” And so I thought, OK, I will be. And so I filled it with suicidal writings, saying things like, I thought everyone would be better off without me. I’m not capable of handling school or my brothers.
And I remember writing in my diary about a trip to England for my grandfather’s funeral. It was an open casket. I looked inside and my dad had asked me if I wanted to touch my dead grandfather’s hand. And I did, and it felt very cold and strange, but he also looked so serene and relaxed and carefree that it wasn’t scary to me. In fact, it kind of looked good.
I was really spiraling pretty bad for a young kid like that. And nothing was helping.
Ending winter break meant going back to the last half of fifth grade, which I don’t think I felt like I could handle. One night there was a big, big snowstorm and the sun went down early. My mom started making dinner and I thought, I’m gonna go do my little trench outside in the snow. I don’t think I had gone out to do that in two or three years.
There is something to be said for Canadian cold, which feels very different, especially out in the open plains, where it can drop to minus-30, and the hairs in your nose freeze instantly and your eyelashes crystallize. I heard about lost people in the wintertime and how it was perhaps a peaceful way to die.
I bundled up, full scarf, hat, and everything, and walked way out to the far end of the field, as far as I could, which ended at a river. It was really, really windy, and I dug my trench, and got in. I piled up snow, and tucked it all the way around my face, and waited for the wind to blow.
I laid there for a while, longer than I usually had, and I was getting tired and sleepy. Looking back, I was probably suffering from hypothermia at this point, because I decided I would close my eyes and go to sleep. I did, and thought I’ll just let the snow cover my face and I’ll be here all winter, and no one will ever know, and they’ll find me in the spring.
However, there was a huge thunder sound, which shocked me awake and scared me. I thought it was wolves growling. Now, I think it was probably the river ice shifting, which would make very strange, surreal noises at night.
I sat up and could see myself sort of from a third person point of view, sitting in the middle of this snow—with my woods and my river and the dark sky and the blowing snow around me—that felt like it was just telling me to get up and go back to my house. I had to wake up, and I had to go home.
I felt like being lifted out of the snow and put on my feet, and understood very clearly that I was actually a part of something, in the same way that I felt when I was much younger. That I was a part of this big nature, this universe, and that I was also supported by those things. I wasn’t a child alone, but I was a wild animal attached to this much larger world. And it was gonna be OK.
So I ran up the hill again and went inside and took off my snow gear and cried and cried and cried. I pulled myself together and went upstairs to my mom’s spaghetti and my brothers arguing and the warmth of my house and my family.
After that night, I felt like I would never really be alone again. That I was part of a much larger organism, and my anxieties literally stopped. They went away. I had gained a new appreciation for my family and the love that they were constantly providing me. I was nervous about going to school, but I felt renewed in myself in a way, and I just felt better. I stopped having the dreams, too. I never had another one.
It’s like it opened a new fold in my brain, the understanding that I’m a part of nature, that I’m not a separate thing. It was, for a non-religious person, a very religious experience.
If you or someone you know is struggling or in crisis, help is available. Call or text 988 or chat at 988 lifeline.org.
Christopher Redman is an artist and actor currently appearing in The Old Man on FX, Alaska Daily on ABC, and The Watchful Eye on Hulu. He lives in Los Angeles with his wife and son. You can follow Christopher on Instagram @redcrumbs.
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