A year ago today I decided to live for real. I’d come close to committing suicide through a drug overdose because I just couldn’t take the pain anymore. Every day seemed drab and grey, like nothing would ever be right again and I’d never be free of the maelstrom in my head.
As I sit and reflect on the past year, I’m tempted to think I haven’t done as much as I’m supposed to. So I didn’t decide to kill myself, big whoop. Am I happy? Am I productive? Am I useful? Shit, am I existing or just passing through each day in a mist of pills and mood swings?
Well. There’re a couple of ways I can answer that.
I guess I’m open about my challenges because I have nothing to hide. I’m not the first person to be diagnosed with major depression and PTSD, and I’m pretty sure I won’t be the last. I just want to use my voice to say something useful, to give hope to my people in the trenches and help those outside understand what it’s like for those of us who suffer.
Now, one year later, I’m glad I didn’t take an overdose. I’m glad my mum didn’t have to discover my dead body the next morning because I gave up hope. I’m glad my sisters didn’t have to hear I died because I was too heartbroken to continue. I’m glad my dad didn’t have to mourn his third daughter. I’m glad my family didn’t have to cry over my untimely end. I’m glad my friends and soul sisters didn’t have to deal with the devastation of a sudden death. How gruesome, right?
I guess I’m writing this to say that suicide is real. I guess I’m writing this to say that those who do go through with it are just looking for a way out of the pain, a way to feel free, a way to stop hurting. I’m not saying suicide is right or wrong, I’m just saying it’s real.
Do you know what it takes to want to take your own life? It means you’ve lost all hope and you can’t remember why you matter. It means you’ve been lost in the dark for too long. It means you’ve teetered on the edge for too long. Not everyone’s able to pull back from the brink. Some are too far gone, and some just can’t care anymore. They have nothing left to give, and nothing left to live for, so why bother to stick around?
That’s just a snapshot of what goes on when you’re suicidal. It’s not pretty, it’s not weak, and it’s not self-indulgent. It’s just a human being in real pain looking for a way out.
Depression is real, folks. I’m on a soapbox about it because it’s still a stigma, still misunderstood, still judged. We get through the best way we can, and we need you to stand in the gap when we can’t go on anymore. Words of encouragement, a helping hand, an ear to listen . . . it doesn’t cost much to be there for someone who’s suffering. It’s not about fixing or trying to make them better, it’s just about sitting with them through the fire.
I thought I’d be all bubbly and shit today since it’s my anniversary, but I’m not. It’s one of the bad days, and there’s nothing I can do about that, but there’s something I can do about having a platform to reach the rest of the world. There’s something I can do about shedding light on the reality of mental health and living with shaky equilibrium.
There’s something I can do about correcting misconceptions that depressed people are weak or sad because they choose to be sad. Seriously? People still think that shit? It’s 2014, people. Get educated.
If you’re depressed and suicidal, please, please get help. I promise you the pain will not eat you whole. twloha.com is a good place to start, and they have a lot of resources to help here. I know you feel you’ve lost all hope, but the fact that you’re here and reading these words means you’re looking for something to get you through the next 60 seconds. Let your family help. Let your therapist help. Let your support group, peer network, or those who care help.
Please, please, let us help.
A woman I was in hospital with took her life when she went home over the weekend. It rocked us all because no one saw it coming. Her friends were weeping and asking why, and all I could think was how much she must have suffered to decide to leave it all behind. The truth is we don’t know what went through her mind, and we’ll never know.
How many lives have to be lost before we learn to heal our collective wound?
To be clear, I don’t expect you to drop everything and run to the side of your friend or family member who’s depressed. I just ask that you be more open-minded and aware of how hard it is to feel like something’s wrong with you and you’re always talking about it. Nobody wants to be around a party pooper, right? Well, what you see as party pooping is our reality; different when you have to live it and trust me, you don’t wanna live it if you’re not already in it.
We know what to do. We know we should go to therapy, pray, journal, hug it out, whatever. We know all that. And if we don’t, you’re there to tell us, right?
Well, here’s something you should know too: sometimes it’s not enough. Sometimes we can’t help it. Sometimes we can’t care. That’s the nature of the beast. That’s what we carry with us. We keep looking for ways to let go; sometimes we succeed, sometimes we don’t. That’s why we need to know our friends won’t abandon us, we won’t become pariahs, and we do have hope to live through brighter days. That’s why we need you to just listen sometimes, to give us a hug and let us know you’re there even if there’s nothing you can do.
There’re those who love the drama and spotlight, who drain joy and energy everywhere they go. Um yeah, that’s a different kettle of fish. Limit your exposure and gently nudge them towards professional help. Onward.
There’re also those who’re trying. They’re really trying to believe in something better, to live brighter, to feel something deeper and richer than the strain of pain they’re so used to.
We are the gladiators swaying in the arena, bruised and bloodied, fighting for our lives. Fighting the lions of apathy and despair, the monsters of oppression, the demons of fear and worry that we’ll never be good enough, pretty enough, clean enough. We fight to feel whole, to feel loved, to love ourselves, to be kind to ourselves. We fight so we don’t feel broken, so we don’t feel useless, so we don’t feel unworthy. We fight to feel anything at all.
We’re not really asking much of you. We just want to know we can be ourselves around you without being judged for it.
Well, can we?
One year later, I’m still here. Standing strong. Still fighting to feel something greater.
To all my people in the struggle, in the trenches, feeling like no one’s there and no one’s listening: You’re not alone, you’re not broken, and you don’t need fixing.
May you have the grace to stay strong when the fire comes.