I didn’t really know what to do for “World Suicide Prevention Day 2014”.
First off, I didn’t know it existed at all. Like, c’mon, know your audience, if you have a party like that, I want in!
Second, it’s a terrible name: I hereby propose “stay with us day” in place. Nevermind the “world” part because, hey, we’re on the internet, the “suicide” part because, well, avoiding that is just the very start of a long uphill battle, and let’s keep the “day” part because, honest, if we can attract people’s attention for even a single day per year, it’ll be nothing short of a miracle.
Now, I’m not that naive anymore: I’m pretty sure this article won’t help anyone having suicidal thoughts right this moment. But then again, if you are, please, please reach out - there are hotlines in about every country, family, neighbors, even a stranger in the street: help comes from the place you expect it least.
I’m serious - if you think you’re in immediate danger, call someone. Now. And come back to read this article later.
If you’ve reached this part, it means you’re either someone who struggles with suicidal and/or depressive thoughts on a regular basis, or just a passer’s by who was pointed to this article by someone else.
In any case, welcome! You’re about to read advice I’m gonna give to my future self, for when I’m too mentally drained to formulate such thoughts.
Nobody understand depression
That’s right. Nobody fucking understands depression. And I should know, right? Because, if I’ve always refused to go through the whole institutional enchilada, I’ve been following it for years because of various friends.
Nobody understands depression: not psys of various isms, not chemists, not your mom, not me, and definitely not people suffering from it.
When I said “nobody understands depression”, I’m not saying it like some kind of religious superstition “oh, nobody really understands where the wind comes from” (hintedy hint: yeah we do) - I’m saying it like: we’re sitting on a 150-layer high tower of abstractions and we’re poking with wooden sticks to see how it changes what we feel. That’s pretty much the state of the art in the depression business. Fucking conjectures and side-effects.
It’s easy to spot, by the way - listen to someone trying to explain alcoholism, for instance (which I’m not trying to minimize in any way). It’s compared to other “diseases”, “real” diseases, those that you can see and oh my god your face is green and you’re puking alligator-snapping-turtles, are you alright?
With depression: “well son, it’s just as if you were perfectly the same as others on the outside but inside everything sucks and is 1000x as hard even basic stuff like shaving or buying a pizza and most of the time nothing makes sense and even the most basic stimuli can fuck you off big time.” (After which you’d enter into some shady metaphor to explain what a stimuli is, and remind your kid that you’re the only one of you both allowed to say ‘fuck’ until they turn twentyodd.)
But most importantly when I mean “nobody understands depression”, I mean: nobody understands the scope of depression. Whether you’re self-diagnosed or medically helped, from the time you realize you’re the winner of the horseshit lottery to the end of your lifespan, it’s just realization after realization after realization.
Am I fit to be a parent? Should I be allowed near firearms? Heck, should I even drive? Fuck if I know. You’re not taking my license, though.
On a larger scale, the loved ones quickly realize that having a depression-struck friend, lover, cousin, sibling, doesn’t come with an instruction manual. Awareness might start as “oh yeah so sometimes they feel crappy when there’s not enough sun. A bit like I do - but a bit worse. Right? Am I right? Where’s my cookie.”
meep. Wrongo. If you’re unsuspecting, depression will fuck up everything on its path from physical health to personal relationships starting with your dignity and ending… I don’t want to take about endings. So fuck that.
The point is: there’s no degree in depression-handling. It’s not something you ever really heal from (but hey, I’d be glad to be wrong). It’s just something that, like every particular trait, is both a curse (in many, many cases) but can also be a blessing in that it can allow you to be a fantastic, down-to-earth, compassionate, deep, creative, dreamy person.
How do you become that person, you ask? Please turn to step two of my 12-step program:
Your brain is a faulty peripheral
Now this paragraph title betrays two particular sins of mine: the love for unnecesary and ill-fitted metaphors, and the definite bias towards technology.
But I stand my ground: when you’re in a depressive episode (and episodes can last months, years, lifetimes), YOUR BRAIN IS LYING TO YOU.
Sure, you retain some level of functionality. With a lot of work, a lot of faking-it-until-you-kinda-manage-to-make-it-but-not-really, you can definitely appear relatively normal. But then again that’d be a waste to act like a perfectly lambda person when you have so much more to offer.
Yet, you have to learn the - to me - most important and difficult skill in a depressed person’s toolset - managing to distinguish between the cold, analytical, reasoning part of your brain (objective truth - nothing is, but you get the idea), and the depressed part of your brain.
You can try and conceptualize it (if you’re not too afraid of/prone to dissociation) as another being you have to cohabitate with. You can choose to completely ignore them as long as possible - try to keep a completely normal life, and inevitably fail because, if your medication isn’t strong enough, you can be sure they’ll be back to get what’s rightly theirs - part of your life. Sometimes, tragically, all of it.
Or you could (and that’s yet another metaphor) - try to ride the wave. Introspect, try to be in touch at most times with what’s going on in that headbox of yours. Give yourself downtimes voluntarily instead of waiting till your crash (solid general life advice too, btw - everybody needs rest sometimes).
And, when the worst times arise, try to find solace in the fact that you were prepared for it. That you have coping mechanisms - people, drugs, whatever makes your world last longer, one day at a time. Smoking’s bad, don’t start, but I mean, if it’s one of the things that keeps you sane then maybe quitting is even a lot more delicate than for others.
It’s wonderfully weird feeling, when you’re down in the drain, to be able to tell yourself “I acknowledge these things that I’m feeling right now are real, but I also reckon that they’re the product of depression and they afffect my capability to think for myself - if I wait, things will change and I’ll have a clearer mind” - and actually MEAN IT.
Really. It’s bizarre. I don’t know if it’s 80% bullshit or not - at this point in my life, it’s that one weird trick that I think works - except it’s not one weird trick at all because it’s a very-fucking-long series of weird-as-fuck tricks you have to pick up all the time if you want to last.
The plus side
Now I’m not one for motivational speeches - in fact, I downright suck at them.
But there are plus sides. I’ve found that I can connect more easily and to a deeper level with depressed people than “regular” people (everything is wrong with using “regular” here as a word but I’m on an intellectual deadline here so bear with me and replace with the adequate vocabulary).
Depressed people have, on top of their incredible burden, the ability to bring to this world a freshness that people who didn’t have to struggle with all these questions cannot even conceive of. They are, undoubtedly, behind the most inspiring music albums and literary works.
I don’t really know how to end this article, so I’m going to close with this: first of all, take fucking good care of you. Be patient with yourself. And when you have enough energy, be patient with others because it’s so very foreign to them you wouldn’t even imagine.
And when you’ve found a way to somehow take care of yourself while remaining functional to some degree - go out there, do what you love. Whatever you do, it may not make you rich or your parents proud, but it’ll have a special spark.
Stay safe, y’all.
Love, - Amos