Depression Isn’t A Fucking Joke
When I read some people’s reaction to Robin William’s death all I can think is ‘you really don’t get it, do you?’ The smug dismissal of someone’s private torment makes it pretty clear some people don’t have much time for compassion and empathy.
Why on earth would anyone belittle another’s suffering - does it make them feel tougher, stronger, better able to cope. To me it seems they’re boasting that they can manage the shit life throws at them, so why can’t others. But if that’s true then why are they so weak that they need to mock an individual’s moment of utmost despair to feel good about themselves?
What exactly is the point of labelling the actions of someone, who has been brought so low that their reason for living snapped, as selfish? Perhaps they really think depression is just someone being a bit sad, that all they need is a hug and they’ll snap out of it. I’m pretty sure that’s about as effective as patting someone’s back when they have cancer, more a gesture to make the unsick and uncaring justify to themselves that they made an effort.
I’ve had moderate to severe depression on and off over the years, and mostly I’ve managed to manage it. I’ve heard more than enough shit about what others think depression is, and watched how some people act around those with depression, to understand that there is an ignorance about mental illness - which is sometimes wilful. I understand full well that there are those who would seize on any individual’s depression as an opportunity to take an advantage for their own personal gain. These days I expect it as a matter of course, there’s always some cunt who’ll look to benefit from the flaws he can expose in others.
I’m guessing, but like most people with severe depression I’ve had a instance or two where I was just a momentary decision away from giving my head some lasting peace. The sheer relentlessness of internal negativity is spirit crushing, and it’s often compounded by the actions, and inactions, of others. Seen through a maelstrom of overly self-critical thoughts everything carries extra weight and meaning, which drags you further into a downwards spiral. It’s remarkably easy to create a hellish internal logic based on skewed perceptions of external events, especially if you’ve been abused, excluded and/or lied to. All of which can create an absolute belief in one’s lack of worth, which can mean that every decision will lead to a biased choice designed to reinforce whatever fucked up version of yourself you believe you’re stuck with.
I can’t imagine anyone who’s genuinely contemplating suicide is doing so for entirely selfish motives - I don’t believe people in a healthy frame of mind would contemplate such drastic actions. Yet, there is dark place filled with grasping irrational thoughts that suffocate every good thing, where, as much as you scream and rage at their blindness you can’t make the ones you love and hold dear most understand the simple fact that you’re a danger to their well being. You want to save them, spare them an ongoing situation and an interminable future that you believe won’t ever improve because you don’t have the strength left to fight to be the person you used to want to be; the promises and hopes you held out to them seem to have slipped through your fingers and you have nothing left to offer. You believe you have failed yourself and, more importantly, them.
That’s hard, man. To see yourself as a threat to the well-being of the ones you’re supposed to be there to protect. It’s not about being rational, it’s about being desperate and scared and lost.
The only way out of this mess is for something radical to happen. For me, I took a long walk to a high place where I flipped stones and counted the seconds a pebble took to fall and hit bottom - I figured anything over three ought to be enough. I watched birds circle beneath me above the rocks and waves and , ha!, wished I could fly. And I got wrapped up in watching those bastard birds, circling and weaving about in the cold wet winds. I’m not sure how long passed, but enough time for me to start shivering. Watching the birds do their crazy thing shone a light in my head: I can do this any time I want, it doesn’t have to be now. I gave myself 24 hours. For a long time after there were many days where I just told myself to wait until the next day.
After that I made some more decisions, the most important was to take my wife’s advice and seek help. I can’t honestly say that the next two years were easy, they were as tough as fuck, but at least i was trying. Not saying anyone I went to see made things snap back to a normality I could quickly adjust to, I’m equally sure some of them had their heads someplace else. But there were a few who made a lasting impression, others people I met who were in far worse situations than I was, and others less so, and most everyone just trying to figure out a way to get by from day to day and hoping the next day would be a good one.
It takes time.
You stumble and fall along the way.
You get back up.
You grind it out.
You keep on keeping on.
And you have one good day.
And soon there are more good ones than bad.
It’s never perfect, and it’s never going to be.
I’ve learned to accept that.
Two years or more later I still tell myself the same things, that I can choose and I choose to wait another day. With help i’ve made a new life for myself, begun again from scratch as a farm hand and wedding photographer. I doubt I’ll ever make the money I was on before, but I leave it to others to place a true value on a coin’s worth. I have gained something far more precious: time. If at one point I thought I was at the end of it I can now look back and be thankful that in those looking down moments something happened to distract me and pull me out of that dark pit. I know where that darkness is now and I’m wary of it, though not anywhere nearly as frightened. It’s easier when you know what the dangerous triggers are that set you off, you learn to recognise your own mental landscape and become all the stronger because of it.
I’m still mindful of my thoughts and those who I choose to spend time with. In the evenings, when the weather permits, I sit outside and I watch the birds circle and play about this house under a setting sun. I listen to the ones I love rattle about inside my home and I’m glad to be here, at peace.
A few links to places and people that listen respectfully listen to troubled souls without judgement.