I didn’t want to kill myself, but I desperately hoped each night that I wouldn’t have to wake up to face yet another day. I didn’t suddenly decide I’d had enough – for me, depression was an insidious disease that slowly crawled into my brain and took over. I would come to learn that it had been a lifetime in the making and it could mean a lifetime of recovery.
I remember walking along a path near my home and fantasizing about laying down in the snowbank to sleep; the only problem was that I loathe the cold. The fantasy of sleep would be interrupted by the image of me laying there, shivering and getting wet. That’s not what I wanted. I just wanted to drift gently off to sleep. Over the years my sense of hope and purpose had been completely overwhelmed by despair and hopelessness. I want to be very clear about this: I didn’t want to kill myself; I just didn’t want to keep on living. That may not make any sense to 99% of you but then I guess there’s not a lot of logic involved with depression.
Despite these feelings, I was cognizant of the fact that maybe, possibly, I was “depressed” and there were options. On my own, I sought help from a doctor and began taking anti-depressants (ADs). In the days and weeks that followed, the meds weren’t helping and in my mind, depression’s worst lies were confirmed. This isn’t treatable, it isn’t brain chemistry, it isn’t anything other than life being pointless and me and my sour mood are doing nothing but dragging everybody else down with me. I talked about this with my Dr who replied “That’s normal; you have to understand that things have to get worse before they get better.” Well. Let me tell you, if there’s a list of things you don’t want to tell somebody in my position, that’s gotta be near the top of the list. I didn’t have it in me to get through anything worse. I’d spent years trying to pull myself up by my own bootstraps/etc. I couldn’t even imagine what “worse” could even mean and I damn sure had nothing left in the tank with which to face it.
I left her office that day knowing I’d never be back and figuring that it was just a matter of time before this all resolved itself. When I got home, my kids were downstairs playing in the living room. I sat at the table and very calmly considered their future without me. I decided I’d take one last run at this depression thing. I told my spouse where I was in my head and about my latest Dr’s appointment – I didn’t know how she’d react but at least this way, I reasoned, I’ve given it my best. I tried. She picked up the phone, made some calls and we were directed to the CAMH emerg/intake centre.
We put the kids in the car and headed downtown. I can’t honestly say I was hopeful as we drove in – the truth is I knew it was pointless – but I didn’t want people saying I hadn’t tried. Everything just hurt so much at that point all I wanted was some peace. That’s a word that had been swirling around in my head for months – Peace. I didn’t want to die, I just wanted peace. Depression convinced me, in the most absolute terms that peace wasn’t to be found amongst the living, and in fact the longer I hung around, the more people I’d drag down with me. My kids deserved better than that.
The CAMH folks were great. I got hooked up with a psychiatrist who got me on meds that worked and who took me on as a patient and helped me get things turned around. They literally saved my life.
The world of depression isn’t monolithic. Not all depressions are the same but having somebody to talk to about it could mean the difference between life and death. I know people who have treatment-resistant depression who willingly endure ECT and hospitalizations in an effort to temporarily end the horrible thoughts. They say talking helps. The feelings of isolation, pain, loneliness and worthlessness take over our brains. Talking helps. Just saying the words out loud sometimes is enough to shine a different light on things. I don’t know what part my kids played in my decision to try one last time to get help. I really don’t know. What I do know is that the idea that I should have been willing to endure endless pain simply because I had kids is ridiculous. The fog of depression convinces us that the opposite is true – our existence is harming our children – “they’d be better off without me.” I can understand the hurt and anger of loved ones who’ve been left behind. I understand why suicide is viewed by some as cowardly or selfish but that couldn’t be further from the truth. In that place and time, releasing your loved ones from being drawn further into the abyss feels like the purest act of love of which we’re capable. All we want is peace. Peace for ourselves and for our loved ones. Depression lies to us and tells us that’s the only way. Talking helps.
It isn’t easy to broach the topic with somebody and it can be incredibly uncomfortable to have those conversations with somebody in need. There was a brilliant commercial on TV recently. It was a mother who was clearly at the end of her rope in dealing with her teenage daughter. “It isn’t easy to live with a teen.” Flashed up on the screen then they showed the woman sitting on her child’s bed, in tears: “It’s harder living without them.” Talking helps. If you’re depressed, talk to somebody. If that doesn’t help, talk to somebody else. If you think your child, spouse, co-worker, neighbour, babysitter, cousin, mailmain/etc is depressed – talk to them. It will be uncomfortable but funerals are worse. Talking helps. I’m not suggesting we can save others just by talking to them but we can make sure they know they’re loved, cherished, they’re important to us and that they’re not alone. Please don’t tell them to suck it up, or that they have it good compared to XX. I’ve enjoyed a life of privilege and if there’s one thing that Robin William’s death should make clear it’s that depression doesn’t discriminate. Having money, friends and being adored by millions isn’t enough. But. Talking helps.