Recently some friends of mine lost another close friend to suicide. By all accounts, he was a warm, smart, handsome guy with many friends who loved him. Although he had been through very rough times recently, no one had any idea that he had been feeling that low. His friends struggled to understand what he had been thinking and how he had reached that point without anyone knowing. I know that many of my friends and family had the same questions after my suicide attempt, so I’m going to try to explain my state of mind when I jumped in front of that train. Hopefully it will give you some insight into the minds of the people in your life who struggle with depression. Here goes.
Done. By the time you start planning your suicide, you are just done with the seemingly continuous upward battle towards a happiness that feels more and more elusive the longer you chase it. I felt that I had done everything I could think of to fix the constant ache inside myself and nothing was working. I had run out of options and could not think of anything more to do except to just end it once and for all.
The struggle every single day just to survive and not be discovered a fraud or not to lose a grip on everything was exhausting. I couldn’t face the prospect of going through this for the rest of my life, endlessly hoping for that one day when everything would fall into place and I could live – not fight, just live – a day that might or might not ever come. I couldn’t keep wearing the mask of being “fine, thanks”. I was weary and drained. I just wanted to go to sleep and never wake up – to have some relief, some rest, and to no longer worry that at any moment I was going to screw up.
Over the years, I had never reached out for help, because I thought it was my own problem, that no one else – friend or therapist – would be able to say something that would fix it all. People often confided in me and I enjoyed listening to and supporting them. Every time I thought of revealing my own struggle to anyone, however, I decided against it, because I knew that they had problems of their own and I didn’t want to burden them with mine as well – especially if there was nothing that they could about it. It was my responsibility to figure it out myself. I never considered that if I had given anyone the choice, they would have been honoured and pleased to support me.
By the time I was planning my suicide, I had reached the conclusion that removing myself would be better for everyone – my parents wouldn’t have to take care of me if I returned to Cape Town from London without a job, my friends wouldn’t have to keep making the effort of trying to connect with me through my impervious walls that deflected any attempts at sincere and meaningful conversation.
Towards the end, just before my suicide attempt, whenever I considered talking to a friend or asking for help, I also wondered how I could justify to them that I had never come to them with this before. How could I have let it get this bad before trusting them to support me? Would they even believe that it was so bad that I was genuinely contemplating suicide, given that I had never spoken of my depression to anyone before? I didn’t want to seem like a drama queen who was only looking for attention.
None of these thoughts may seem rational to you, but that does not mean that they are not completely reasonable to someone with depression. Such mental illnesses distort your view of yourself and your relation to the world.
I remember a few months before my suicide attempt, a close friend of mine actually opened up to me about a breakdown that he’d had a few years earlier. He had even been on medication for depression for a while. Listening to him in that moment, I thought, “Yes! That is how I feel. I get it!” I wanted to confess all to him, but then decided not to, because I thought to myself that if I spoke to him then, just after he had bared his soul to me, he would not believe me. He would think that I was making light of his struggle by turning the attention on to myself and being patronising about something I actually knew nothing about. That made it difficult to talk to him then – but it was much harder trying to explain it to him a few months later, when he came to see me after I had lost both my legs in my suicide attempt and he asked me, “I told you my story; why didn’t you tell me yours?“
Now that my depression has been diagnosed, I have been on medication and had monthly therapy sessions for two years. I still have some of the anxiety and self-esteem issues that I did before and they still affect the way I live my life to some extent, if I don’t remind myself that worrying about things beyond my control is futile. These issues no longer overwhelm me, however, and I feel capable of living a good life. Perhaps the biggest advantage to me is being able to acknowledge my depression as a real illness that I can control. It is not my own failure, flaw or weakness, just a condition that I must manage. I can recognise which of my fears and insecurities are unfounded and so disable them.
Humbling and scary as it is to admit my mental disorder, it is also liberating and rewarding to live an honest and frank reality with the people in my life. That I got this chance to start again makes me one of the blessed few. Suicide is not a choice, it is the conclusion to an illness that is left untreated. We need to make it okay for anyone to ask for help before that chance is taken away from them.
Few people survive the dark pit you were in and I have never before read such an exact and well written description. This blog will be a great help to others in a similar situation and an inspiration to therapists.
Suicide is a choice. The right to die is fundamental. So long as our society tries to fight it, why should I ask for help?
Depression doesn’t distort reality. It’s a part of reality. If you find yourself struggling with it for few years, it’s reasonable to kill yoursel
Help is unavailable. People who think person X shouldn’t kill himself without even listening are only interesting in talking about themselves, about how terrible they feel if someone close to them die.
If you truly care about a person, you will consider the option that it’s better for them to die. Yes, I was there.
Thanks for adding this comment and raising some excellent point. I should not have generalised that way about suicide not being a choice.
When I attempted suicide it did not seem like I had a choice of any other way to escape my disease – it felt like suicide was my only option. There have also been times, however, when I have considered the concept of euthanasia and wondered why such a death could not be allowed to people with depression too. It is seen as a mercy to allow people with terminal cancer or other prolonged debilitating diseases to die peacefully rather than go through an indefinite period of suffering. Why then are people with depression denied that choice when every day is filled with overwhelming sadness and despair?
Depression does not have to be terminal, though. You are exactly right – it is a part of reality – but it is not a part of me. I could only come to grips with my depression and drag myself out of the suicidal cycle I was in when I was able to recognise that, although my depression was real and probably going to be a part of my life for a long time, it was not a part of me the way that my gender or my personality are parts of me. It was a huge turning point for me when I was able to treat it as an illness, rather than agonising over what was wrong with me.
Yes, I have to take medication regularly, I have to be more careful about the types of books I read and music I listen to and films I watch, about how much I drink and who I spend time with, but I don’t have to bully myself over how useless I am, because I finally know that I am not the problem. I do forget this sometimes and I my depression is always there knocking at the door, but I no longer believe that there is no hope of ever overcoming this.
I’m very happy that you managed to overcome it. It’s no small feat. People who think psychological problems are nothing are fooling themselves. Give an anxious man a hot girl that wants to have sex with him or give a depressed person a billion dollars, but they’ll be too caught up in their troubles to take advantage.
Still, I don’t think anecdotes of “some overcome it” are enough to deny assisted suicide. Help should be available, yes. People should be given the choice: Do they think life is worth overcoming the depression, or is it all too much?
A society that respects individual rights will make both options accessible.
LikeLiked by 1 person
Wow Daryl. Spot on… great wise words.
I really connected with this post. Thank you for writing it.