I have a pretty great life by most standards. Awesome kids. Great family. Good job. Close friends.
That still hasn’t stopped me – during my darkest hours – from researching ways to kill myself online. Sometimes for hours on end.
Yesterday was “World Suicide Prevention Day.”
Many of you know that I’ve been pretty open with my past struggles with depression. The rest of you probably know me as a funny, fun-loving, outspoken asshole who makes questionable but hilarious life choices. That may be true. But I’ve also been in some of the darkest mental places imaginable. And I wouldn’t have gotten out of them alive if it weren’t for people like you.
The brains of people with depression are wired differently. When we are in a depressed episode, no matter how good our overall life situation is, our brains feed us a steady, constant IV-drip of pain, worthlessness, and guilt. That drip continues until it slowly blinds us to everything we should feel appreciative of. It’s like slowly losing our sight. And we know it’s happening. Which only makes the pain, worthlessness, and guilt even worse. It’s a wretched, numbing, nonsensical hell to be in.
When it happens, we act differently. If you look close enough, maybe you’ll notice it. We may withdraw. If we don’t, we’ll likely be quiet or irritable. We sleep more because it beats being awake. And when we’re awake, we may drink or abuse drugs to excess because they make us feel something other than pain, worthlessness, or guilt, even for a few hours. We can also hide it very well.
If you notice any of these symptoms from me, or anyone, there’s definitely something you can do: be a pain in the ass. Call us. Text us. Be up in our business. Let us know you’re thinking of us. Constantly. Drag us out to do something. The less time we have in our own head, the better. The more we see right in front of our own eyes that contradicts the bullshit-drip from our brains, the better.
We may hate you for it. We may resist and tell you “we’re fine.” Don’t believe us.
Do what you can to disrupt the dark mental static that has clouded our outlook, motivation, and judgment. Push us to get professional help. Doing even one of these things can be the piece of a puzzle that can end up saving a life.
And once you’ve done what you can, please take a break. We can be exhausting to be around and exhausting to try to help. We understand. Don’t sacrifice your own mental health for someone else’s. That’s not your job. And the sad reality is, some people just can’t be saved no matter what you do.
Depression is a powerful disease and it will inevitably claim some people who “have it all.” (See, Anthony Bourdain, Kate Spade, etc.)
It may claim someone you love.
But being a “pain in the ass” may help prevent that. And it will us even more grateful for you on the flip side once we’ve emerged from the fog.
Photo Credit: Flickr/Creative Commons Attribution License – Sicko Atze van Dijk