Trigger Warning: Depression, Suicide
Disclamer: Personal findings and experiences. I am not a medical professional and these views are my own, from personal experiences and listening to people who go through depression.
Depression and mental health awareness is a topic extremely close to my heart. As such, hearing and reading some of the reactions from people when someone dies of suicide, is heart-breaking and frustrating to say the least. I feel that more public awareness and education is needed for people to actually understand what goes inside the head of a person who is close to making that ultimate decision, the choice to end it all, to leave it all behind and to end the pain once and for all.
Pain, yes, I said pain. It can be physical as well as emotional. And no, it is “not all in your head!” Chronic pain is one of the symptoms of depression. Headaches, migraines, chest pain, backaches, muscle and joint aches, all of these, all of the time, and the doctors despite multiple tests cannot find anything wrong with you. Nothing at all that they can treat, perhaps not even fibromyalgia. Now imagine being in that kind of physical pain all of the time, and not being able to do anything about it. It is in those moments to extreme despair that the darkness inside you whispers, “There is no way out. Let’s end this now.”
Let’s talk about emotional pain now. You are living the life. To anyone on the outside, you have it all: a family that dotes on you, wonderful, fun friends, financial stability, a job you love, you have it made! And yet, deep inside you there is a darkness, not a sadness, because there generally is a reason to feel sad. This is beyond sadness, there is no reason to feel this blue, and yet, here you are… curled up on the floor. You are crying out loud, so loud that perhaps your neighbors can hear you. Your pets and children are helplessly looking at you, they don’t know what to do, how to help you. Your partner, your parents, perhaps some close friends are all around you. You feel like a burden to them, and yet, you can’t find your way out of your funk. You feel so guilty for putting all the people you love through this misery. Yes, they love you but perhaps your final act of love should be to end their suffering, of which YOU are the cause. The darkness isn’t whispering anymore. It is loud, it is roaring. It’s shouting for you to help them, ease their pain, end the cause of their misery. And that cause is you.
You’re in bed, just snuggled into your pillow. You just do not have the energy to get up, to wash your face, brush your teeth, never mind taking a shower. All you want to do is stay there and if you’re lucky, sleep. Sleep so that the darkness leaves you alone, so that you don’t have to think, feel guilt. Your friends have been calling, texting, inviting you to come out with them. This isn’t the first time you’ve let them down. Sometimes you say yes, and then cancel at the last minute because you just can’t bring yourself to get out of bed. At other times, you made an excuse right from the start. Now the guilt raises its head and whispers to the darkness. The darkness smirks and tells you that they don’t even care anymore. They’re better off without you. Maybe they should stop inviting you. You’re in a funk even if you do go with them. You don’t deserve them and they do not deserve your negativity. Let them go, you don’t belong with them. Close your eyes, they’ll be better off without you. At least they won’t feel guilty about not inviting you anymore!
Today is a good day. You’re dressing up to go out with your SO. You have been taking your meds regularly. And then you look into the mirror…. Your mood altering medicines have piled pounds on you. You are once again in your dark place, trying to battle your demons, but they keep growing louder, more insistent. You do not deserve your partner. They will be so much better off without you. Look at yourself! Who wants to be seen with you! Let him go, give him that gift, set him free!
And then let’s not forget about the black box warnings on some of the mental health drugs, some have suicidal thoughts as a side-effect and some have that as a side-effect when you go off the drug for whatever reason… Your insurance doesn’t cover it anymore, you can’t afford it, etc.
This is not what everyone with depression or a mental illness goes though, but these are some things that do happen. Difficult as it may sound, these scenarios are very, very real, and a part of every day reality for some people. The strong ones fight it, they keep on fighting, and that fight alone wears them out. Not today, it’s my son’s graduation in a couple of weeks. No, not now, let mom recover from her surgery, then I can go…. One excuse after an other, one step at a time, fighting the demons, defeating the darkness, but it never, ever goes away. It is always there, waiting to pounce back, waiting to catch you unawares, when you’re alone and at your lowest breaking point. When there is no more fight left inside.
Meanwhile the world sees the smiling, cheerful successful you. The sarcastic, happy-go-lucky, have-it-all, “living-the-life” person who doesn’t have a care in the world. Oh wait, you’re just sad, it’s in your head, go pray, meditate, think positive thoughts, you’ll feel better. You must find solace in religion, in faith. But what happens when your darkness tells you that you’re too far gone even to be blessed with that grace. Trust me, there is no logical answer. There is no answer, except….
Please, please, please be there. Check on the strongest ones, the fighters. A study finds that there are 25 attempts at suicide for every one that’s successful. On an average, there are over a 120 suicides every day in the U.S. and the rate is highest among middle-aged people. The first thoughts are generally not even of killing yourself, but of how if you got cancer, or in a car accident, things will be much better for those who’re left behind. Hmmm let’s google how many of my prescription meds I can take to OD. How far is the fan from the door, will the ceiling hold my weight? When you hear about a suicide, please do NOT publish details. What mode was used, how was it done, and PLEASE, don’t use the phrase “commit suicide”, because that brings with it the connotation of committing a sin…. and your mental illness is not a sin, it is not a curse.
Just a phone call, a text a day. Checking on someone you know who has a mental illness, asking them what kind of a day they’re having or if they need something. They may not even answer every time, but it’s not personal. That right there might be the thread to keep the darkness away, the one reason to live another day….