There's a common myth that suicide is a coward's option. The "easy way out." That it's a selfish act, and that people who commit suicide are thoughtless and self absorbed.
The truth, as always, is much more complicated.
Because it's World Suicide Prevention Day, in the middle of National Suicide Prevention Week, let me tell you what it's like to be suicidal.
You see everything through a fog of self loathing, and you believe everyone else must see them that way too. You expect your friends to abandon you, because you are worthless and depressing and sap the joy out of life. As you alienate them, the grief that they must find you awful only fuels your depression.
You see yourself in only the worst possible terms, and when you're given a glimpse of your life through the lens of happiness or success, it brings all your misery into sharper relief. There are few things more painful than joy, when it becomes clear that you understand that which makes life living, and are simply denied the ability to experience it.
You believe you are a burden. Your constant sadness, your inability to complete tasks, your chronic complaining or resigned silences, the endless droop of your eyelids and the way you have to pause before smiling- to remember that it's an appropriate human response, you believe all of these things make you bad for other people. You believe your depression is infectious, and that your presence endangers people around you.
You believe that if you were dead, people would get over it. They would move on. Your parents, your friends, your spouse, your children... they would move on and have their own lives. Lives that would be richer without the constant strain of dealing with you.
You are scared of pain, and you are scared of death, but only a little. Your fear is absolutely nothing in comparison with the constant agony of living. The constant doubt and hatred and sadness. You begin to wonder what ways you could overcome your fear of death and take your life the most quickly, cause the least additional burden to your loved ones.
Men and boys, they tend to go for the sure-fire, foolproof death. Gunshots, hangings, jumping off bridges and cliffs.
Women, they generally go for the cleaner methods. Leave a corpse that just looks like a corpse, and spare their loved ones the trauma of cleaning up the bits, even if the death itself takes longer. They gas themselves in ovens or parked cars, overdose on medication, swallow bleach.
You spend weeks, months, years, debating what method to choose. You spend weeks, months, years, slowly building a plan- not because you're going to do it, but because it's a comfort. It's a comfort to know that when you truly can't bear life anymore, you know how to get out. The comfort becomes an addiction, and then an obsession.
You begin to give things away. To let your friends and family know that you love them, that they should never question that. That you love them more than you love yourself. You have no doubt this is true.
And then, finally, you snap. Frequently, it's joy that does it. It's a good day, a good party, a good dinner. Something really, truly good. And you think to yourself, "This is the last time I'm going to feel happy, ever again."
And you calmly begin to carry out your plan.
That is what it feels like to be suicidal.
I want to be perfectly clear- ALL of this. The feelings, the self loathing, the belief that you are bad and the world is bad and it will never be okay. the idea that you are hurting people you love simply by being alive, all of that...
All of that is a lie. It is all a lie that depression tells you, that a disease spreads through you. It is an illness, and it can be treated. It is not true.
Depression is an insidious disease. It masquerades as your own thoughts and emotions, but it's not. It's a tumor, sending out little metastasizing molecules and infecting your entire thought process. It's a self-detonating time bomb.
It is not your fault. Nobody goes out out looking for depression, but it finds you. It comes through windows in your experience. PTSD, RTS, panic disorders, chronic illnesses, a bad day. Depression is a disease that like to tag along with the other crap events that happen in life, and when it sets in, you tell yourself it's okay. You're not depressed, something happened and it's bumming you out, but you'll get over it.
Usually, you do.
Depression is like a germ. You can wash your hands and keep Purel on your desk, but sometimes, it will get inside. And you're not defective, you're sick. And there's help.
There is always help.
People with depression often don't go looking for help. They're too consumed with guilt and self loathing. When you hate yourself, you don't want to help yourself. And when you're ashamed of yourself, you want to punish yourself. The disease causes the symptoms, the symptoms perpetuate the disease.
Often the first cry for help is an experimental suicide attempt.
If somebody you know, seems depressed, there are things you can do. Ask them how they are. Let them know you care about them. You don't have to tell them you think they're depressed, just make an effort to talk. To keep the lines of communication open. Invite them out, and offer to spend an evening in. Be honest with them. If it becomes clear that yes, they are depressed, let them know you understand and you're willing to help.
If you are depressed, talk to your doctor. Talk to a therapist. Talk to a friend. If you find yourself fantasizing about suicide, call the National Suicide Hotline- 1.800.273.8255. It's open twenty four hours a day, every single day.
Know that yes, life moves on for other people. But it also moves on for you. You can survive, you can get better.
Like any chronic disease, there are flare ups. And these can be more dangerous than the original occurrence. Just like cancer, knowing you've beaten it once doesn't mean you can't beat it again, and there is no shame in its return. Just as you wouldn't blame a cancer survivor for a new tumor, don't blame yourself for your depression. It is beyond your control that your depression returned.
But you can get help again, and you can get better again.
Be well, everyone.