With two famous suicides in the news, I have been thinking, even more than I normally would, about mental illness and suicide. And since I have been plagued by what Winston Churchill called the “black dog” since I first tried to kill myself at age eight, I have a bit more than two cents to offer on it. I’ve got a whole dollar and what I anticipate being a lot of swear words. Because I am pissed.
First off, for nearly every person I have heard comment on how important it is to talk to you about my depression, because you really care. Mean what you say. I cannot tell you how many times I have heard this line, then attempted to get my head in a safe space only to be on the receiving end of bullshit like:
- How could YOU possibly know about depression? You’re my cheerful friend! Just because I work my ass off to keep it positive absolutely does not mean I have not visited or sometimes resided long-term in the pit of despair.
- Here’s what you should do! Yes, I have seen a therapist. Yes, I’ve read books. Yes, I have tried exercising more (an hour every day) and yoga and meditation and eating differently. Yes, I do take note of small miracles and kindnesses (bees! a smile from a stranger! that cloud there, literally floating!), of how TRULY great my husband is, AND how lucky I am. And yet, none is a cure. My brain is still broken.
- Oh, well then, maybe drugs are the answer. I tried them, multiple kinds and doses. They only made it worse, physically and mentally, so I quit them.
- I’m super uncomfortable. Let’s talk about something else. If I am feeling brave enough to share my anguish with you, a person who is supposed to care, I am going full narcissist and only want to talk about my shit. Shut up and really listen. It is being heard, admitting openly (sometimes only in a whisper to myself) that I am hurting and my suffering is bordering on self destruction that I am saved.
Finally, should I ever choose suicide, know that it isn’t because I think it will make me happy or that I don’t have a fierce love or genuine concern for the feelings of my family and friends. It will be out of sheer exhaustion and a sincere desire for relief. My body aches with depression. My head, my heart. It makes me vomit while shouldering the crushing weight of mountains. It fills my mind with terrible piercing screams, of the horrible and unspeakable that exists in the world, of my own foibles – all that I am not, all that I cannot do and be and see, of the utterly stupid and trivial. Some of it is true. Much of it is not, but still, it continues, and I along with it, for how long I cannot say.
But, because, miracle of miracles, I remain an optimist, I have hope that it is ages and ages.