42.

Posted: June 1, 2005 in Headspace

I’ve been thinking Deep Thoughts today.

As I ate my lunch at my desk, I read Patrick’s journal entry for today. To summarize, in case you don’t care to follow the link, a good friend of Patrick’s committed suicide by jumping in front of a train. Patrick himself suffers from depression as well, and had come close to using that same method in the past. He closed his entry with:

“I’ll try to remember you whenever I hear or see a train pass by. What I almost did, what you did do. Two trains; two outcomes.”

As a person with no shortage of mental issues myself, I got to thinking about the limits that a person must have reached in order to even contemplate – let alone commit – suicide. I do believe there is absolutely no joking around about the subject – if a friend or loved one even breathes a hint of harming themselves, everyone should wake up and listen. It’s not a bid for attention, it’s a cry for help. Even if they don’t yet realize it.

Suicidal thoughts and feelings have always been a bit alien to me. I understand despair, desperation, loss, loneliness, grief. I understand that there are times when the end to the pain is an unfathomable, unreachable concept. I understand how depression and anger and sadness begin to define who you are, instead of what you feel. And I understand that even as people with depression wish to be happy (better? “normal”?) again, they also sometimes cling to their depression because they fear a loss of identity. It would be like looking into a mirror one morning and seeing brown eyes instead of blue, blonde hair instead of brunette, and the facial features of a complete stranger looking back.

I can say with certainty that I have never felt suicidal. My method of escaping depression lies in turning my mind off – usually sleeping for as long as I can force my body to remain so. Being completely antisocial. Forcing my mind to drift, drift, and not to narrow down or examine or focus on anything. Drinking copious amounts of wine.

Now, of course, I have a successful “cocktail” that has enabled me to be mostly free of depression for… (thinking)… oh, I’d say six months or so. After trying off and on for a few years, I began my search for a change in earnest on August 18th of last year. The improved feelings increased and built until I saw a significantly noticeable change, around February. But I had to stop and think about it.

It’s funny. When you’re feeling bad, dwelling on that feeling becomes your whole world. There’s a litany of “sad. depressed. sad. tired. sad. sad.” running at the back of your mind no matter what you’re occupied with. But when you’re free of depression, you actually have to stop, think, feel, take a stroll through your mind, and realize that it has dissipated. Days have been going by in which you’ve just been living life, without that knot in the midsection and tension in the temples, and you haven’t even realized it until you made yourself do so. Then one day, you have a bout of perfectly normal blues, and you’re reminded with a jolt of that darkness, and scared that you might be relapsing.

It’s a pain in the ass to have to take constant stock of your mental self, but that’s what folks suffering from depression learn to do. It becomes automatic, and it prompts us to examine our feelings more closely than perhaps a person without depression might do. When a “normal” person gets mad, they’re mad. That’s it, they just are, until they’re not. When a person who has experienced mental issues gets mad, they have to understand why they’re mad, what it feels like to be mad, watch their reactions from the outside, watch their reactions from the inside, analyze, compartmentalize, and dissect the feeling and the circumstances that created it.

I, like many others, question myself, “Am I sad because something is making me sad, or is it depression?” A rush of anxiety jolts me if I’m in the middle of my work day and realize that I forgot to take my meds. I wonder occasionally if I’m not feeling and reacting to enough. Should I be more worried about money? Should I be more stressed at my job? Have I lost my sense of urgency? Are my priorities straight? Should I get mad at that? Should I have let that go?

With the resolution of one problem comes a slew of others, I suppose.

I’m glad that, for me, there continues to be success. I continue to learn more about myself so that in the days to come I’ll be able to stop taking pills. I’m fortunate that my in-born sense of optimism, though buried sometimes, still was stronger than my darkest feelings during my darkest moments. And even then, I knew that life was infinitely better than death.

Not everyone is as fortunate as I am. Their darkness is loud, overpowering. A single solution seems to be their only way to escape it. And when they do end their lives, the darkness only goes on to share its shadow among that person’s friends and loved ones.

There are always options. There is always another way. Always. Be a friend. Listen even when there are no words. Examine ourselves and our own minds. Pay attention. Don’t see depression as a weakness, in yourself or others. It’s a challenge and a struggle against the hardest type of adversary – one that is intangible. Recognize it for what it is, because a single moment, a single word, an unconscious interruption may make THE difference.

Sometimes we will feel helpless and to blame when we see a friend or loved one succumb. There is no blame, there is no fault. The strength must come from within that person, in their own way and at their own pace. We may not be able to fix everything, or even anything. The outcome may still be a tragic one. But we still need to do everything we can to prevent the darkness from claiming any more friends.

I’m probably not making any sense at all. It all comes down to this:

Patrick, I’m so sorry your loss. You have friends that care about you and support you, whose lives are made better because you’re in it. Please take good care of yourself, and lean on and be leaned upon by the friends and family that share your grief.

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