Disclaimer: I’ve been wanting to write this post for a few weeks now…but I had no idea when I should post it. It’s not funny. It’s not a recipe. It’s not one of “my favorite things”. It’s a total bummer–and I don’t want people to come to The Midnight Goose and be depressed–but I pray that, ultimately, it is a little hopeful and helpful. If you don’t want to start your day out reading something…not fun…maybe wait until tonight or tomorrow. Up to you.
Nearly 20 years ago–I attempted suicide. The attempt came a week after a pretty severe breakdown. I was all alone. When I say “I was all alone”, I mean that in my mind, I felt like I had no one.
Also, I mean that I was physically alone. My plans involved committing suicide on a day that I knew I would be alone for at least 24 hours so that my plans wouldn’t be ruined.
Obviously, I didn’t succeed. And the next day–I felt like a huge failure. It was one of the reasons that I didn’t seek help for very obvious mental health issues right away. Didn’t even mention my attempt to anyone for years.
I didn’t feel like I deserved love and support to begin with–being a failure on top of that just made me feel even less worthy of love and support.
Because of this, existing problems that I had with alcohol and pills got worse and went on for far longer than they should have–not that there’s ever an acceptable length of time to be an alcoholic and a pill-popper.
One thing that people don’t tell you about depression is that, like any other emotion:
Depression demands that you stand at attention. It can’t be ignored.
Depression is not sadness or “The Blues” or feeling a little “off”. Depression isn’t crying or sobbing or a breakdown or an overwhelming mix of emotions that crash against you like a wave.
Depression is a complete lack of emotion–a complete lack of caring.
Depression keeps you from feeling…anything. It convinces you that there is no point in continuing to exist because everything is pointless. It convinces you that even if you think that there is love and support and happiness and joy and any number of good things out there–they’re not for you. That stuff is for people that aren’t total wastes of space. ‘You’re not worth all of that’, it tells you. There’s no point in your existing.
That’s when suicide becomes not such a bad idea.
It’s cyclic. It’s systematic. It’s hopeless. But maybe not even hopeless–because hopelessness is an emotion, too.
It wears you down. You no longer want to look for a reason to live or fight to feel better. You want to commit suicide. Not because it’s an “easy way out” or because it’s “easier than living”–but because depression convinces you that suicide is a natural progression in your story. People that attempt or commit suicide are not weak. It actually takes a great deal of strength and bravery to even really consider suicide. Attempting or committing suicide is the culmination of symptoms piling up until it just feels like the next logical step because you’re dead inside anyway. No more, no less. It’s like dating someone for years and years and one day looking at that person and saying, “So, should we make it official?”
I’m thankful I failed, though. Failure made me ashamed of possibly being a failure again, so no matter how much worse my depression got–I was too afraid to be a failure again. Fear of failure kept me alive.
But also, I couldn’t be depressed and a failure. That was just too much for my mind and soul to handle. I was faced with a decision. Either get help or risk being a failure again.
I would like to say that I picked myself up right at the moment of that revelation and I walked into a psychologist’s office. But that’s not what happened.
It took 10 years for me to do something about my mental health issues. And it wasn’t a journey in a straight line, either.
I visited some counselors. Talked with my medical doctor(s). Tried prescription anti-anxiety and anti-depressant medications. I tried therapies that doctors and counselors suggested…I tried to live. I tried to feel something. And I drank. A lot. I ended up “self-medicating” for a very long time.
Ultimately, I couldn’t cope with prescription anti-anxiety and anti-depressant medication–but that’s just me. Prescription medications help to varying degrees for a lot of people. I didn’t find talking to counselors all that effective for the most part. But I did find practical and cognitive therapies pretty helpful. I also found avoiding some things helpful to my mental state. This is abundantly clear anytime I have too much alcohol or too much sugar–I can feel my mental state changing. Sometimes it’s a good change, but other times it’s really dark.
Don’t confuse this is as me giving advice about how to help your depression.
What I discovered is that depression is not the same for everyone. Not everyone interacts with therapies and medications the same. Some people have chemical imbalances, some people have a personal issue(s) that need to be resolved, some people have an actual defect or deformity in their brain composition. There are a million reasons for depression.
But ultimately, depression doesn’t just go away one day.
Help is needed. What form that takes varies for each individual. But help is absolutely essential. You have your brain saying one thing–you need a different voice to counter-balance it. Admitting there is a problem you can’t control is essential. Seeking out help is essential. And most importantly, no matter how hard this one is, patience is essential. Your first treatment may not work. Your fiftieth treatment may not work. No treatment may ever work fully. That’s the nature of depression–it’s cyclic. Sometimes it’s like chasing your own tail.
I’m talking about this today because Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain recently committed suicide and drove home how prevalent the topic of mental health is. Success and the illusion of happiness don’t get a person a free pass with depression or other mental health disorders.
Mental health is not something to take lightly. Especially today. Not today today, but in our present culture. It’s hard not to open an app or turn on the T.V. or open a newspaper or a periodical–and just lose all hope. And that’s even if you are a completely healthy person. For a person struggling with mental health issues–it’s fucking brutal.
My mental health issues have been in check for several years now. But any day that I wake up feeling sad, or I suddenly feel my mood change, I can’t help but think:
Is today the day that I lose myself again?
Ultimately, that fear is usually unfounded. But if you’ve ever battled depression, you know that you can’t take for granted that you will ever be 100% irrevocably “okay”. Even when deep in a battle with a bout of depression, you can have really good days. Days that give the illusion that the worst is behind you. And then the next day–it all goes to shit. You’re back down the rabbit hole, wondering how much more you can take.
Thankfully, I have the people in my life that make me feel good about me and no more than that is needed. The people in my life support me. My life is a struggle in other ways (ask me about my complaints about being a struggling blogger and author), but depression is not one of those struggles. I don’t visit the rabbit hole anymore and I don’t spend time feeling…nothing. I feel sad sometimes–but most of my moments are filled with happiness and laughter and ridiculousness. And I love my life 99.9% of the time. The other .01% I have learned to cope with through techniques I’ve learned along the way.
And I still have fucking brutal days even now. But nothing like what lead to me actually attempting suicide. Not even close.
I guess the best thing I can say here is this–there are people that care about you. All of you. Maybe they’re not the people in your life right now, but they’re out there. Admit that there is a problem. Go seek help. Make the changes you need to make your life what you want it to be–and don’t feel that you have to apologize to a single fuckin’ person for doing it. This is your journey, your health, your happiness–not all of them can come along for the ride. And, honestly, it’s probably best that some of them don’t.
And above all things–have patience. You won’t be better tomorrow. You won’t be better the next day. You might not be better in 6 months. But don’t follow my example and wait a decade. Take the first step today. It’s really, really hard. But it gets easier. And you get better at doing it. I want you here. I want you to want to be here. There’s a whole community of people that are glad you’re alive. Now, work on believing it.
- The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255
- The NSPL is also accessible to the deaf and hard of hearing via TTY at: 1-800-799-4889
- If you’re not comfortable speaking, the NSPL also has a chat service: https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/chat/
- Or you can text CONNECT to 741741 to reach the Crisis Text Line (free, 24/7).
If you know someone battling with depression, or you notice changes in a loved one’s mood or mental state, don’t wait for them to reach out to you. Do the reaching out yourself if you are comfortable doing so and there is no imminent danger. Admitting that you are struggling with mental health is debilitating. A lot of people just can’t manage that first step.
I’ll be here tomorrow and I hope with all of my heart that you all are as well.
I love you all, even if you don’t believe it right now.
Until next time…