CLARIFICATION: In the 24 hours since I wrote this post, I have heard and read two mental health care professionals say that articles should take care not to glorify suicide or offer it as a “way out.” This article does not aim to advocate for suicide but rather to offer to people who do not suffer from depression some inkling of how bad it can be. There is help; it’s just hard to know that when you are in the depths of depression. If the people around you are suggesting that you get some help, it may be that they are simply not equipped with the necessary tools; call the Suicide Hotline at 800-273-8255.
Philip Seymour Hoffman and Amy Winehouse did it one way. Robin Williams did it another. People who were so very present, always in our view, then just gone. Gone.
It’s the gone-ness that is so hard to fathom, the not-here-ness.
How can someone who seemingly has it all – fame, fortune, family, children – just up and go? Who does that?
People do that. People who are in so much pain every day of their lives that dying looks better to them and, guess what, folks? It might be. If you thought you had to live every single day of your life in abject terror, with the physical pain that depression can bring all by itself, and the absolute conviction that you would never be happy again.
What if you had to live with all that and couldn’t tell anyone? What if the people you did tell – friends, family, spouse, clergy – all said, “Go get help.” And that answer just sounded like “Don’t tell me, tell somebody else” to you? What if you did get help, and it didn’t help, and you felt like more of a loser?
What if, when someone asked, “How are you today?” you said, “Not so great, actually,” and that caused them to leave skid marks in your driveway? What if depression cost you nearly every friend you had? And what if that made you angry, and the anger cost you the rest of them?
You might kill yourself.
I thought about it.
Several years of textbook PTSD (you can check the symptoms here), a horrendous physical injury, two surgeries, and my mother’s painful death in another country from something more than cancer, mind-numbing anesthesia, pain-killers, full-blown menopausal mood swings, and a genetic propensity to addiction joined together in life-crushing bout of depression.
Go. Get help. That’s what people said. Go. I nearly did.
Until you have truly made up your mind, with lots of objective evidence, that every good thing in your life is in the rear-view mirror, you don’t know from depression. Until it takes every ounce of your energy just to put your feet on the floor in the morning, you are in no position to judge.
Until you have sat with a seriously depressed person and said, “Tell me what’s bothering you,” you haven’t helped. If you haven’t seen the anger and known it came from sadness, you haven’t paid attention.
Sometimes people for whom the world is simply too painful just have to go.
Kim Phillips is an Judaica artist and marketing consultant from Nashville, Tennessee. She’s still here.
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