Friday, June 8, 2018

If you are considering suicide or someone confides they are to you...

I can tell you from a personal perspective it has been jarring to read about the two celebrity suicides in the news this past week.

It isn't that the death of a celebrity means more or less than any other person's death. For me, and perhaps others who suffer from severe depression, when I see people who literally have the means to afford the best treatments (medications/therapy) but they still aren't able to overcome this awful condition it makes me wonder what hope is there for people like me? Or maybe you? All I can tell myself, and you, is that we are each unique. There is no one size fits all life experience or treatment plan. What may be too much for one person to bear may not be for another. I focus on that and tell myself that their pain cannot determine how I deal with my own.

I've suffered from severe depression since I was around 14 years old. Most of it in silence. When I wrote a blog post years ago I thought I had left depression behind. In recent years I've been tested several times over and with the help of my therapist, many of my very incredible and loving friends, and unconditional love and support from some family members I have weathered through each episode. I suspect one is never "cured" of depression, or its companion, anxiety. They seem to be like cancers that can go into remission for years or even decades but then reappear for seemingly no reason or come crashing down upon you when you've suffered a traumatic loss or event.

I wrote a blog post back in 2010 because I felt the urge to speak out on behalf of others who might have been struggling after a friend took his life. I didn't know he was depressed. You can read it here:  Feeling Suicidal? It Gets Better. In the past three years I've lost several friends to what I suspect was suicide. I say suspect because the cause of their deaths wasn't ever shared publicly.

So why post about this today? I wanted to share two perspectives. One is new since my original blog post about depression and is for people who may not even realize they are depressed because they simply feel the way they feel. I was in that situation for years. I just wanted to say that:
  • If you have researched best ways or least painful ways to commit suicide
  • If you actively think about taking your own life
  • If you have already decided how you would do it
  • If you think nobody will care or miss that you are gone
  • If you think the world would be better off without you
  • If you think you will never feel better
These are all signs that you are very likely depressed and are in jeopardy. You may say to yourself you're only being curious or pragmatic. Perhaps. But you are also very likely depressed which skews the logic you are using to consider such a serious thing and I hope you'll consider reaching out for help to overcome it.

One of my favorite people in the world, Jenny Lawson who is aka The Bloggess and is author of a very different kind of book on depression titled "Furiously Happy," openly shares her battles with mental illness on her blog. She is brutally honest, irreverent, and quite often very funny as she keeps her readers updated with what is going on with her mental health. Years ago Jenny did a post that resonated deeply with me. It included a picture of a wrist tattoo, not of a semi colon, but with two simple words that could save lives... "Depression Lies." 

It is so true. It does lie. The little voice inside some of our heads tells us that we aren't worthy to be here, and we listen to it. It doesn't matter who you are, your age, marital status, class, gender, ethnicity, or where you live. Some groups run higher risks of suicide but the point is depression can strike anyone. If you don't suffer from it it may be hard to imagine what it is like. If you do know its darkness you may not be able to imagine ever escaping it completely.

I have struggled with it for over half of my life and can honestly say that I'm glad I didn't let it take me. Everything that has happened, every person I have known, every place I have visited past the age of 19 has always felt like a gift. That was the first time I was truly at risk, had a plan, and was thwarted when a friend's mom (a psychologist) offered to counsel me (for free) and saved me.

Which leads me to my other point that I shared in my blog 8 years ago. Out of genuine concern many encourage people to seek help, to tell someone if they're depressed. But sometimes the outcome of such revelations are less than ideal. Not because people are unkind, but simply because they literally don't know what to say.

I am not a mental health expert but as someone who has been suicidally depressed several times in the past I have been told these things by people who love me and only wanted to help. Though said with love many of the most common responses I have been told were not helpful.

Here's why:
  • That contemplating suicide is selfish or stupid. This only confirms every negative, self hating emotion the person is already experiencing and does not help. 
  • Others are worse off. While normally someone might agree, when depressed, this comment can feel dismissive of the pain they are suffering from. The pain a person from depression suffers from isn't rational or relative to any other suffering. It is what it is and the intensity of it can be unbearable.
  • That God doesn't give people more than they can bear. For many, God (or life for the non-religious) does give some people more than they can bear. Others who have committed suicide and mental illness can be viewed as proof that some of us have limitations on how much we are able to bear. To a person of devout faith they may agree with this commonly accepted interpretation of Corinthians (1 Cor 10:13, from which the quote originates) when they are in a clear frame of mind. But when suicidally depressed their faith may slip from their grasp. I don't mean this in a blasphemous way nor do I want to start a theological debate. I'm just offering a perspective of how this statement may not help someone who is clinically depressed and may cause them to feel more despair, over their inability to bear or cope with what they are going through (because now they are failing both God's expectations and yours), rather than give the comfort the statement was intended to create.
  • "Snap out of it" or to "get over it." That's not how depression works so these suggestions aren't helpful at all no matter how well intended. You would't tell someone with any other potentially fatal medical condition to snap it away or to just get over it, yet many people truly believe that overcoming depression is that easy.
One thing you can say:

"I don't know what is the right thing to say but please know that I love you, care about you, and want you to feel better."

Then, if you're up to it, try to help them figure out how to help themselves by providing  phone numbers or links to organizations that can help them.

Also from my original blog post I would like to reshare:

"If you do open up to someone and they respond negatively or are judgmental, open up to someone else and don't be upset with the person who didn't know what to say or how to help. While some may know intuitively and others may have learned, most of us weren't raised or trained to know what the "right things" to say are in the face of suicide. It isn't that we (myself included) don't care, we simply don't always know how to help or the right thing to say."

To close, please be kind to yourself. Know you have every right to be here. Know you deserve to know moments of happiness. You deserve these things. We all deserve these things. To hope for them isn't hoping for too much. There will always be highs and lows, because that's how life is but have faith in whatever works for you and please keep trying to find your way out of the darkness.

If you ever feel that suicide is your only option please call the suicide hot line and talk to a counselor before taking your own life. I'm telling you that you do have another choice. Asking for help is the other choice to suicide.

Their national numbers are

National Suicide Hotlines USA
United States of America
Toll-Free / 24 hours a day / 7 days a week


Suicide Prevention Hotline

Crisis Text Hotline

Deaf Hotline: Suicide Prevention Lifeline

Worldwide Suicide Helplines can be found at Befrienders Wordlwide.

The information and suggestions in this post are given from a personal perspective and should not be interpreted as professional medical advice. Please consult a professional Counselor, Doctor, Psychiatrist or Psychologist for help regarding depression and/or suicide.

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