Tuesday, August 12, 2014

On Depression, On Suicide, On Not Being an Island

I've been trying for hours to write something that completely and meaningfully encompasses my thoughts on depression and suicide. And I just can't. Plenty of people have been talking about this in the day since we learned of Robin Williams' suicide, so I keep asking why I'm bothering. But... in the past twenty-four hours, I've learned new things about people I know well, and they mean more than the words of a stranger. I hope that, by adding to what's already being said, I'll add a voice closer to home. I'll add something that will make a difference, not to the general public, but to people I know and love.

Let me come right out and say, I have struggled with depression, and I have contemplated the relief it might be to die.

I may not really be able to fully understand chronic depression (mine is situational; it has had a specific trigger), but I know what it is to hold hell within my own soul, to have nowhere to turn within myself that's away from pain or loss or shame. I know what it is to have spent my last drop of hope that the future will be better, and to be unable to believe in my heart the cheering things my head insists are true. And I know what it is to feel perfectly okay with the idea of not waking up in the morning.

If I don't talk about these things openly, some of that is not so much fear of what people will think as being territorially possessive of my own experience. My business is my business. I am a reserved and private person. Still, I'm very lucky to have close friends that I can confide in when I need to. I can feel the balance in my mind shifting, and when it begins to tip too far, I have my safety nets. I know I can't do this alone all the time, but I also don't want to worry or upset people unnecessarily. So I haven't been very open about these things in the past.  If you genuinely feel you need me share more than this with you, we can talk.

The only thing more that I'll say about myself is that the trigger I mentioned is grief. And grief is a pretty common part of life. I'm actually going through a lot of it right now for personal reasons, which is probably why I can't find the distance I need to be more thorough without rambling. What I want you most to know, if you're worried for me now, is that, sometimes it scares me, thinking how I could fall down this rabbit hole, and because it scares me so much, I've done what I need to BEFORE things get bad to make sure I have help climbing out. I am not afraid to ask for help. I will always seek help, because no matter what pain I'm in, I never, EVER want to hurt you. I love you too much, and I owe you too much for the love and friendship you've given me.

But I have one last thing to say about other people.  One of the things that makes me feel most isolated and alone and hopeless is someone who absolutely doesn't understand. Who thinks it's a matter of will power or determination or positive thinking. People who think, since I'm smart and talented and successful, what's my excuse for not being happy? What was Robin Williams' excuse? Isn't it kind of our own fault? Shouldn't we just cheer up, look on the bright side? Count our blessings?

This is wrong. Utterly and completely wrong. As wrong as it is to think that hunger is the fault of a child born into poverty, or blindness is the fault of the person who brain was damaged by fever. I'm not talking about the everyday blues, or even the anxiety attacks I get sometimes when I'm stressed. This is a self-perpetuating chemical imbalance that leaves even someone with my cast-iron self-esteem open to the ugliest, snidest, most sadistic of my inner voices. If you have no experience with depression, consider yourself lucky or blessed, but not superior. I don't say this to judge you or to scold you. I honestly envy you. But please, PLEASE accept that you have formed an incorrect opinion on something you are fortunate enough to know nothing about.

You don't have to empathize or understand, but remember this when you hear about someone battling demons or losing that battle. There, but for the grace of God, and your love and friendship, go I.