This is a blog post I've been thinking of writing for a while, and since I was just talking with someone about this, I figured what better time to do it!
So, probably everyone who knows me in Cyan Chat (CC) knows that I was pretty much suicidally depressed last summer. *yay fun!* And I got put on anti-depressants and whatnot *not so fun :(*. And I'm doing a lot better now, but depression/suicide still kinda fascinates me (probably always will because it's one of those things that I just don't understand unless I am in that mood).
So, I had it fairly easy, but there's this guy in my department who was talking to me today, and he basically said that he envies people who are not depressed because there has never been a day in his life where he has not been depressed. He was talking on the phone to his sister one day, and he was excited to tell her that he had spent the past four days *not* wanting to kill himself. I can't even imagine. I mean, I had those days last year, but the really bad days only came on the first two weeks I was on anti-depressants (I had a rapid-cycling mood to extremes of emotion for about two weeks) and the week that I decided to admit myself into the hospital a couple of months later so I didn't hurt myself. It's just about a year later, and I am proud to say that it makes me shudder that I would even *think* about killing myself. And I haven't had those types of thoughts since at least November or December of last year. Now, that was the first time *I* hadn't thought about killing myself since about sophomore year of high school, but I wouldn't consider it a daily occurrence. I only thought about it when I was feeling depressed, and my depressed periods would only last for a couple of months at most. So I was never even remotely as bad as the guy in my department, and thankfully I managed to get through it all and I'm still here.
However, the experience of being completely and utterly suicidally depressed has left me with some interesting views on life. (1) I guess I appreciate the good days oh so much more now because I can actually smile and say on some days that I honestly feel happy (today is one of my happy days actually...go figure that I'm writing a blog post about depression). (2) I think I appreciate my friends around me that much more because I wouldn't have gotten through those times without them. They helped remind me that things weren't always going to be like this, and provided me with moral support when I needed to heavily lean on their shoulder just to convince myself that it was worth living through another day. And finally, (3) I do not believe that suicide is a selfish act, nor do I believe that someone has the right to prevent another person from committing suicide if they are absolutely determined to do so, nor do I believe that someone has the right to say that you cannot commit suicide. It's the last point that I want to talk about because I think I differ dramatically from most people on this standpoint.
(In the following, I am using "I" as a matter of convenience, and not because I am suicidally depressed, nor is this blog post a cry for help of any sort, but a discussion on what my views are, and why I think they are so odd. I am sorry if this offends or disturbs anyone in any way.)
First of all, suicide is not a selfish act. If I am suicidally depressed, don't automatically assume it is because of you (my friend, my relative, my mom or dad, whoever). It is within me, and there is nothing you can do to change that. Most people (my mom included) have this idea that suicide is a selfish act. How can you be so depressed that you would want to kill yourself? And what about your friends and family that you leave behind? At that moment, I am not thinking about the friends and family that I might leave behind. I am concerned with the fact that living is so painful that I don't want to go through another day. I do not want to live my life feeling like every day is so painful that I just want it to all be over. It is torture to feel that. The worst thing in the world. Would you like me to torture myself just so that you can feel better about yourself?
Second, do not belittle my depression by asking me if it is a chemical imbalance or something wrong in my life. It doesn't matter where the depression is coming from. It is there. Whether it is my fault or not, I can't do much about it other than try to live through today and hope that I make it through tomorrow and slowly start to try to fix whatever may be the underlying cause. Likewise, do not assume that I am automatically irrational just because I am talking about killing myself. You'd be surprised at the rationality that is behind my mind keeping me alive while you stand there thinking that I am off my rocker and unable to deal with myself. You need to trust me sometimes that I am not going to kill myself if I say I won't. But likewise, do not assume that I am automatically okay if I say I am. It is a very fine line to walk.
Third, it is not your fault if I commit suicide. Suicidal thoughts are a cage from which the mind cannot escape. You cannot show me the door or hand me the key and expect me to unlock it for you. I have to do that for myself. Remember, I am the one who is depressed, not you. You can only be my moral support in a hard time and be there for me when I need you to be there. If you know someone who is depressed, this is the best thing you can ever hope to do for them. Show them that you care by just being there, and listening with an open mind no matter how much it hurts to hear them say how much they would rather not be alive. They need to talk about it. Keeping it bottled up is the worst thing you can do to them because they are already bottling too much up if they are as depressed as that. Make them feel as if they can tell you anything because that is the only way you will maintain an open dialogue with someone who is depressed.
Fourth, most people do not actually want to commit suicide. A suicide attempt is very different from a completed suicide. A suicide attempt is most likely a call for help. So is a suicide threat (saying that "I'm going to commit suicide if..." or "I want to commit suicide"). I need your attention, and I cannot figure out how to get it, so I try to kill myself. Do not automatically assume that I actually want to die. Maybe I do, maybe I don't. If I am telling you about it beforehand, it means that I really don't want to kill myself and I just can't figure out how to get through the next couple of days to a week or more by myself. Likewise, if I tell you that I want to commit suicide, take me seriously. The worst thing you can do is assume that I am joking. Suicide is never a joke.
As a random aside, you may hear someone who is suicidally depressed talking about "succeeding" or "failing" at suicide (or other things in life for that matter). If you are depressed, success and failure is everything. Accidentally forgetting to turn the stove off and burning your food is a huge failure. Having a cat who decides that the screen in the window is fun to play with and having the cat tear it down is a failure. Being late because you slept in too late because of your medication is a failure. Being late because there was an accident on the freeway that is out of your control is a failure. Very little is a success. One thing that can make you feel successful is actually completing a suicide act. Still being alive at the end of it is a failure. My psychologist and the people at the hospital tried to correct this belief of mine that killing oneself is not a "success" if you are attempting suicide. Honestly, I fail to understand why this should be a "failure" to commit suicide if killing yourself is what you are determined to do and you actually end up doing it. Maybe someone else can enlighten me who sees things from a non-depressed/never-been-depressed standpoint.
Fifth, you do not have the right to prevent me from committing suicide if that is what I have decided. If I find that life is too painful to continue, who are you to tell me that I am wrong? Would you like to be me for a day and discover if you can keep yourself alive if your mind is constantly telling you that you are a failure, that life isn't worth living, nothing is fun or even mildly enjoyable or tolerable, you don't want to eat, you don't want to drink, and you very simply don't want to exist? If I ask for your help directly by telling you that I need help, or indirectly by telling you that I plan to commit suicide before I actually do it, then by all means, please try to stop me. I want you to, underneath it all. If I didn't, I wouldn't have told you. If I just go ahead and try to commit suicide and end up failing because you walk in and call the ambulance, you are being almost cruel. I mean, it's possible that I timed it so that you would come home at that exact moment and prevent me from killing myself, but you shouldn't count on that being my intention. Shit happens.
Sixth, you do not have the right to tell me that committing suicide is wrong. My morals are not your morals. Maybe your religion tells you that suicide is a sinful act, or maybe you just plain think that no one should have the right to kill themselves. Who are you to tell me any different? You are not God, my Savior, my belief system, whathaveyou. You are just another asshole trying to tell me that my beliefs are inferior to yours. It is possible that because of your disapproval and others like you that I can't handle this world anymore and want to kill myself. (When you are depressed, it is impossible to see the good in people, and only possible to focus on the bad. The more bad things that you see, the more depressed it may make you feel, and so the cycle continues.)
With that, I end my exposition of why I think it is wrong to prevent someone from committing suicide, and my general advice for other people who know a suicidally depressed person. The following notes are for those people who are suicidally depressed coming from my experience of being suicidally depressed and some of the only things that helped me get through it:
(1) Hold onto your friends and talk to them as much as possible. Just knowing that someone is there can be a tremendous help.
(2) Find one thing that you can live for, no matter how small it is, and hold onto it with as much force as you can. For me, it was the guitar. When I sat down to play the guitar, no matter how I was feeling, it would usually make me calmer. And it was one of the few things that I honestly enjoyed doing somewhat, even on my worst days. (Although, I must admit that even the guitar couldn't help me sometimes...that is why you need to have other people.)
(3) Make a list of things that you resolve to do before you commit suicide. Believe it or not, delaying the act can sometimes work just long enough to make you change your mind.
-Go out and get some tea or coffee.
-Go visit some place that you've always wanted to go to and never have been to (after all, once you're dead you won't be able to do this anyways, so you might as well do it while you can).
-Stay away from home and in a public place if that is what it takes. Cafes are awesome for this, plus, what better way to spend a suicidally depressed day than sipping hot chocolate and listening to live music or watching random people work around you. If you're daring enough, you might even start up a conversation with someone to take your mind off of things.
-Try not to be alone. I know depression and suicide make you want to be by yourself, but it is one of the worst things you can do to yourself. Yes, sometimes you honestly need some time to yourself, but having company is never a bad thing.
-Resolve to never commit suicide at night. That is usually when I am the most depressed, so I figured if I wanted to commit suicide at night, then it meant nothing. If I still felt like that in the morning however, then I was in trouble.
-Resolve to always ask someone's permission before you actually commit suicide. As stupid as it might sound, this actually worked for me and it's the reason I didn't actually attempt suicide on the day I checked into the hospital. As contradictory as it might sound from my previous statements, no one is ever going to *let* you commit suicide. I don't care how busy they are. If you say that you want to commit suicide, then they will come over right away. If they don't, then why are you friends with them?
-Make a list of the people who love and care about you. If nothing else, it'll make you cry and if you can still feel anything, then you will feel sadness at the thought that you might hurt someone else. As odd as that sounds, I didn't give a crap about myself when I was depressed, but I couldn't bear the thought of hurting someone else like that.
-Make a list of things you can live for, or a list of things that you used to live for. Try to do any one of them, and see if it helps. If it doesn't, don't worry; just keep trying. You can never fail if you just keep trying.
-Anything else that you can think of, please try that. Even the smallest things can help.
(4) Smoke some pot. It almost always puts you in a good mood. Or at the very least it makes you eat. If it doesn't do any of those things, then you should probably get some help.
(5) If you have a pet, as morbid as this sounds, you might want to consider what would happen to you if you committed suicide and left the pet without any food or water. <.< They might love you, but they don't love you that much if they're starving to death. If you're absolutely determined to do it, at least put the pet outside or give it to a friend or call a friend to come over and get your pet later (after you're done killing yourself) and leave the key outside the door so they can get in. (Heh, sadly, this was one of the other main thoughts that kept me from trying to commit suicide. Go figure. I have a really morbid mind.)
(6) Don't try to commit suicide unless you actually plan to kill yourself. I think the worst thing in the world would be to lose the mobility in my hand because I cut my wrists, but didn't cut deep enough to bleed out before someone found me. Or to lose the functionality of my liver because I took too much tylenol, but not enough to actually kill me.
(7) If you're going to commit suicide, look up the right way to do it. Believe it or not, a bottle of Advil won't kill you, but a bottle of Tylenol just might (after a very lengthy, painful hospital stay of about two weeks). If you want to prevent yourself from committing suicide, then don't find out how to do it properly. You will most likely fail just by not knowing how difficult it is to actually kill yourself. If you already know the way you would commit suicide, then try to rid your house of those objects: the gun in your closet, the knives in your kitchen, the scissors in your desk drawer, the pills in your bathroom, etc. Whatever it is, give it to a friend and tell them to keep it. Or throw them away. It's amazing how much depression and listlessness can do to prevent yourself from killing yourself. Having the right tools on hand to do it, makes the process seem a whole lot easier and more inviting. Also, keep in mind that it's not when you're the most depressed that you're the most dangerous to yourself. It is when you are fairly up and active after being severely depressed that is the most dangerous time to watch out for.
(8) Don't count on someone finding you right away. Please don't time your suicide attempt to coincide with someone coming home and calling the ambulance, thereby preventing you from actually dying. What if they're delayed at work? What if they meet up with a friend to have drinks? Then you die, and they come home, realize that you meant for them to find you before it was too late...and oops. It's too late. You can't take it back, and they will feel guilty for the rest of their lives that they didn't just come home when they usually did.
(9) Don't be an asshole and take other people out with you. If you want to die, just kill yourself and have done with it. Leave life to those people who want to live it.
(10) Suicide is permanent. You cannot take it back. One of the worst things that could happen (in my opinion), is you attempt to commit suicide and realize halfway through that "oh shit, I don't want to die". But at that point it is too late and you pass out and die anyways.
(11) Remember that life isn't going to always be like this. One day it will get better, and you need to be prepared for it when it comes. (Unfortunately this last statement may not apply to everyone, but I think it can help most people in the short term. It was one of the other things that got me through some days.)
Anyways, that is my thought on the subject. I am sorry for disturbing everyone, but this blog post needed to get written at some point.
I am a linguistics grad student with interests in Bantu languages, tone, opacity, phonetically-based phonology, and any complex morphological phenomena (within the scope of phonetics and phonology). I'm in the middle of working on my master's thesis on Kuria vowel-height harmony right now. Currently I am also trying to figure out what I want to do with my life. Possible options include teaching and working at Starbucks and *gasp* actually continuing to be a grad student. It's occurred to me recently that I'd love to own a used bookstore with an adjoining tea shop, but I don't think I'll ever do it.