Depression, suicide, and assumptions that make it worse
Considering recent news, most folks on my friend list have been very good about commiserating in our sadness about losing Robin Williams and sharing resources for help when dealing with depression and suicidal ideations. Overall, the reaction from people I know has been encouraging in that we, as a society, seem to be making good progress when it comes to understanding depression as an illness that needs treatment rather than a choice someone can magically snap out of. This post isn't for you.
That being said, it’s incredibly disheartening to still see people talking about suicide as though it were selfish, cowardly, or the “easy” way out. When you claim to understand depression, but then treat a symptom of the disorder as though it were a choice that someone could simply walk away from, you don't understand this level of depression. Maybe you understand a depression that still needs medical intervention, but you don't understand severe, suicidal depression.
Hi, I've been dealing with chronic depression that comes complete with suicidal ideations at least every few months for the last 18 years. There have been times when suicidal tendencies were less of a thought than an obsession. You've probably heard the phrase "everyone has their breaking point." It's true. Getting there would have been scary if I could actually feel it.
At the worst of it, I hadn't felt anything for months. No sadness, joy, humor, pain, love, happiness - nothing. Even physical sensation was dulled. I wasn't always aware of things like when my husband reached out and put his hand on my shoulder. It was some strange, extended sensory deprivation inflicted by my brain. Somewhere in all that I realized that I wasn't living, so there wasn't really any point in being alive. I came to that point with the emotional detachment of a Vulcan. I could even argue my point logically with someone who was not depressed for what I considered my euthanasia - not my suicide. The next step was hours upon hours of research - of course clearing my search history afterward. I'm being intentionally vague about this part of my story. A depressed person can get there on their own and if any depressed friend of mine reads this, you're not going to find a checklist of search criteria and debate points.
The only thing that kept me alive was knowing how much pain I would cause my husband. I couldn't feel the emotion that went with that thought, but I remembered things like pain and grief. It kept me alive long enough to finally accept some help, but you can't live for someone else forever. In this case, I was quite literally living for him. Even those arguments wear down and the distorted thoughts of a depressed mind say he'd be better off in the long run. Not everyone makes it to the point of being able to get help, either from not knowing how to get it or being unwilling to accept it, which is also part of the disease.
If anyone reading this thinks it's easy, cowardly, or selfish to end a ones own life after months or possibly years of mental torture and fully believing that your loved ones will be better off, then you can just move on now. Unfriend me, don't talk to me, forget about me. Why? Because if I'm ever there again, then the fact is I would rather face it alone and die than tell anyone so ignorant and judgmental I'm thinking of hurting myself. Anyone like that is not my friend.
I know I'm not alone. Any of your friends who saw that armchair expert post about Robin Williams or anyone else who has taken their own life won't reach out for help if they want to die. Not from you. Think about that. Think for a long time about it.
Do your research. Learn what mental illness is. Make yourself a safe person to talk to.