I have a favor to ask you. If you have never been diagnosed with clinical depression or anxiety or suicidal thoughts or ideations or any other mental health problem please remove the word “selfish” from your commentary. In fact I would take this advice one step further and ask you to stop commenting period. I would ask you to stop talking and please take this opportunity to listen. Pick up a book on clinical depression, talk to a friend who struggles or do a quick search of blogs to get a first hand description of what it is like to deal with this monster. There is no shortage of resources out there but I beg you to stop judging us and try to educate yourself. Your judgement and harsh words do nothing to help us or build us up but it does more damage than you can possibly know.
***Trigger Warning*** I will talk in detail about my depression and suicidal thoughts so if you are in a sensitive place right now maybe skip this post.
Most people who have never experienced depression firsthand have absolutely no idea what is like. At times when there are high profile suicides in the news the internet becomes a dark and scary place for those of us who struggle with this chronic illness. Even those of us who appear to be doing well can quickly backslide. Because times like this remind us that even though we feel good right now, that monster, the deep, scary, terrifying darkness is ALWAYS there. It is lurking in the back of our brain just waiting for its chance to take hold again. Waiting for its chance to start whispering its lies to us. Waiting for us to lose our grip just enough where we will start to believe it again.
Depression is not sadness. It is so much more than that. It can feel like so many things. A complete and utter absence of hope. Despair. Like all of the colors have been drained out of life around you and everything is just washed in shades of gray. A complete lack of any kind of feeling whatsoever. But mostly it is exhaustion in your very soul. It slowly drains your energy until you can barely do basic things like make a meal, go to work, have fun, spend time with others, or even get out of bed. It slowly knocks out each and every one of your defenses against it until you are lying at the bottom of the deepest well in the world and you can no longer see that pinprick of light and it looks so utterly impossible to climb out that you just hunker down in there and get more and more exhausted and you get stuck. Trapped in your own mind with the monster.
And when you are stuck down there with no way out all you can hear are the lies from that dark voice in the back of your brain. The voice that you can usually tune out or ignore. But you are just so damn tired and it is just so damn hard to ignore and actually it makes some pretty good points. I mean who the hell can possibly feel like this when their life is so amazing? I have three great kids, a husband who is basically the perfect human, who takes care of me and them without ever expecting anything back. I have a great job, a house, enough money to not worry about what comes next, friends. Life doesn’t get much better. That voice is probably right. Who wouldn’t be happy with all of this? What kind of person can’t get off the couch to participate in family fun? What kind of person can’t contribute? Look at what is happening. My kids and husband are doing EVERYTHING. I’m not helping at all. It must be so frustrating to live with me. To take care of me ALL the time. I can see it draining them. Physically and emotionally.
“Useless,” the voice whispers. And you believe it. “Burden,” it shouts, and who are you to argue? Every new thing it says gets louder and louder and more convincing and it hurts more and more and it becomes impossible to ignore and will it ever stop? You start to spiral. Out of control. The voice becomes a constant stream of commentary on your shortcomings. Pointing out how you are ruining the lives of everyone around you. And no matter what you do, eventually you can’t drown it out and it is not really even in the background anymore. It hurts. Everything hurts so much and it is never going to get better because it has been so bad for so long and it just keeps getting worse. Hope is gone. Color is gone. You can’t even remember what happiness felt like.
Imagine feeling so much pain that the only way you can possibly imagine it ending is to just not exist anymore. To be so devoid of hope that things can get better that you can’t imagine living another day. To feel like such a burden that you actually believe that everyone around you would be better off without you. I mean clearly they would be sad at first but it would be such a relief for them to not have to take care of you anymore that it really is better in the long run for everyone. Because this is never getting better and they must be so fucking exhausted. You are always bringing them down.
Imagine lying awake in your bed at night being consumed by these thoughts, this voice. Imagine not being able to sleep and praying harder than you have ever prayed in your life that God would just let you die. It doesn’t even need to be quick. Just something terminal. Even cancer would be okay because honestly you probably deserve it for being so awful and ungrateful and useless. You just need it all to stop.
This is depression. Sort of. I mean it is so much worse than this because there is no way to put it into words. This is tip of the iceberg of despair. And I have been here twice in the last year.
I hope you never have to experience this. I hope you cannot imagine what this would feel like. I hope you never have to deal with these feelings coupled with the judgement of those who have never experienced the monster that is depression. But I would like you to consider this the next time you call someone who commits suicide selfish. Because I guarantee that the last thing they were is selfish. They were in indescribable, insurmountable amounts of pain. They were experiencing a deep chasm of seemingly unending pain and they just needed it to stop. They were trapped in their own sick brain hearing that voice louder and louder, thinking it would never stop and there was literally no other way out that they could see. And more likely than not they were thinking about how much better everyone else would be without them. Their brain was broken. They were sick.
I will say for the millionth time depression it not being sad. You can not just talk yourself out of it. You cannot just “suck it up”. It does not matter what you have in your life and how fucking blessed you are and how great everything appears because none of that matters. It is an illness. Like cancer or lupus or arthritis or heart disease. And should be treated by people as the same. You don’t just “suck it up” for any of those things. You get treatment. Mental illness is the same. We do not shame people for have any of these other illnesses. Mental illness should be the same. When someone has cancer we support them. We offer to make them meals, we drive them to treatment, we fundraise for them, we check on them. But when someone is depressed they are quite often looked at as weak or selfish. We tell them to get over it and remind them that if they just “count their blessings” they will feel better. Or we tell them they have no right to feel that way. All of the things that we do feed into that darkness and make it worse. Make them feel judged and “less than”.
I suggest compassion. I suggest you think of your depressed friend or co-worker or that celebrity in the news as a person with a chronic illness. And try to think for just one second just how hard it must be to be in their shoes and to feel that amount of pain. Please.
I also suggest that you reach out to any of your friends that you even suspect might be struggling with this monster. DO NOT wait for them to reach out and ask for help. That is too much to ask and quite honestly by the time we need help sometimes it is too late to ask. Do not be afraid of making it worse by talking about it. Just check in. Because they probably won’t. And they need to feel loved. I wrote another blog post about things that have helped me through my worst bouts of depression and it comes down to 3 basics. Tell them they are important to you, you love them, and you are here for them in whatever way they need you. Even if it is just sitting with them through the pain and silence and being present. Those things can help so much. (Though everyone is different this has been my personal experience.)
If you are struggling I will say what I always say. It gets better. I know it doesn’t feel like it will and your brain is telling you otherwise but it does. And you are worth it. You offer this world something that nobody else can and you are so fucking important. I promise. So take care of yourself. Take a walk or a hike or a run. Eat a healthy meal. Go out with a friend or have them come to you. Make a therapy appointment. Take your meds. Get some sleep. Take a shower. Drink more water. Lie in your bed and get somebody to rub your back. Ask someone for a hug. Anything at all no matter how small to make you feel even a tiny bit better.
And if you need help right now text the number 741741. Somebody will be there to help you. To listen without judgement. Or call 1-800-273-8255 if you prefer to actually talk. Just get some help. Because we need you here.
Thanks for reading this.
Love to all of you. The unconditional kind.