Last week, we were all rocked by the news that Robin Williams had taken his own life. In the wake of that news, some oh-so-sensitive people in the media (that was sarcasm, in case you didn’t catch it) called him out for being selfish or a coward.
I’ve had trouble finding a way to fully articulate my feelings about his death and those shitty comments…but I can share my own struggle. I can show the tiniest glimpse of what it’s like inside the brain of a person with depression — the clinical kind, not the “I was sad once because my dog died, so get over it” kind.
Here, then, is the stream-of-consciousness thing I wrote awhile back but never posted. I think it’s time. I did not write this looking for sympathy, or virtual hugs, or attention. I wrote it because sometimes when you’re in the pit of depression, you can’t imagine anyone else ever experiencing this kind of thing, ever.
Here’s proof that you’re not alone, and you’re not weird or wrong…or fucking cowardly for feeling this way.
Warning for those with depression: I’m describing my thoughts and feelings as closely as I can remember them. If reading about others’ struggles is triggering for you, you might want to go look at funny cat videos instead.
If you’re depressed and feeling wrong, alone, or guilty about it…don’t. You’re not alone. Depression is not wrong — it’s an illness. You’ve nothing to feel guilty about.
Here’s a nice gaggle of puppies to act as a buffer between this and the triggery stuff. Here’s your chance to turn back:
And one last chance, just in case:
“I just want to DIE.”
The first time the thought crossed my mind in such clear, bald terms, it shocked me right out of the fog I’d been in.
Death wish? Me? No way. I’m not one of “those people.” Not one of the selfish, cowardly people who suck on car fumes, or tie a noose, or down a bottle of pills.
It’s an aberration. I’m just lonely, away from home for the first time and missing my family. That’s all. It’ll pass.
“I wish it would all just END.”
Later (I can’t say how much later, because I don’t know – the days, weeks, and months all ran together into one big blur), when the thought came again, it didn’t cause the same level of shock. It wasn’t even cause for a raised eyebrow.
It was just another part of the fog, some thing that went through my mind and disappeared again.
See? It’s nothing. It’s not like I’m serious. Just ignore it and it goes away.
I didn’t know until much, much later that depression doesn’t always come with storms of tears and thunderous emotion.
I didn’t know that sometimes it comes in the form of mist, a damp, wet fog that rolls in slowly, dimming the world until it’s completely leached of color.
I didn’t know that sometimes depression means not feeling at all.
Here’s the routine of a person with clinical depression. I don’t know if it’s a typical depressive’s routine, but it was mine:
1. Slap the snooze button at least twice.
2. Force self out of bed, mostly because of a pressing need for the bathroom and not because I actually want to get up.
3. Consider lying on the couch all day, watching TV.
4. Panic at the sight of the stack of bills on the table, and decide to go to work.
5. Paste on a fake smile, go through the motions of socializing with coworkers, even crack a joke or two. Feel absolutely nothing during any of it.
6. Go home, maybe change out of fast food uniform (more often, don’t bother), lay in front of the TV until bedtime. Sometimes, if the fog is a little lighter that day, pretend the people on the screen are actually in the house, because then you can almost fool yourself into thinking you’re not alone.
The first time I thought I might be crazy, it wasn’t the depression that brought the worry. It was one of my coping mechanisms.
Always an imaginative (and usually lonely) child, I had a hard time giving up on made-up friends as I grew well past the age most people would feel is appropriate to have them. When I was 13 or 14, my little sister caught me playacting, having a “conversation” with people who weren’t there.
Her laughter, innocent sibling teasing that nevertheless cut right down to the bone, confirmed in my mind that I was nuts, wrong, weird. Other.
Eventually, long after I should have, I sought help. I went to a physician, who asked a few perfunctory questions and put me on a Prozac derivative.
It didn’t work, so I didn’t go back.
Nobody told me at the time that it can take months to find the right medication and the right dosage.
Nobody told me that some antidepressants can work against some people’s brain chemistry and actually cause suicidal thoughts.
Nobody noticed I was still blank. Still numb.
Depression also turns into a vicious, venomous serpent at the first sign that you might be fighting back.
“Worthless…” it whispers.
“…better off without you…” it purrs.
“…do everyone a favor…” it encourages.
“…too lazy to do it, aren’t you?” it sneers.
I don’t know what little corner of my brain was still awake and watching carefully, but it finally raised a screaming, raging fuss the day I found myself wondering if a painful method of suicide would be preferable (the better to actually feel something for once), or if I should just fade quietly in a pleasant pill-induced haze.
For a little while before that, I’d been contemplating steps to take to make sure it wasn’t a family member who found me, and what I might say in a note to make sure they didn’t in any way blame themselves for my obvious failings as a human.
But it was that only-partly-idle musing on pain vs. haze that caused a jolt of fear that actually snapped me out of it enough to look for help again.
I was lucky. I wasn’t stronger, or braver, or smarter than people who actually go through with their plans.
I just happened to have the thought at a time when some part of my mind was still stubbornly clinging to life.
Here’s the thing people don’t get about depression: Like alcohol or drug addiction, most people are never cured. You can manage it with meds, and maybe someday you can even manage it without them, but that black, sucking hole is always ready to swallow you up again.
That doesn’t make you weak.
It doesn’t make you cowardly.
It makes you a freaking warrior, in a constant, every-freaking-day battle for your very life.
Survived clinical depression? Surviving it right now? You’re a freaking superhero.
Depression is Lex Luthor. The Red Skull. Perhaps most aptly, Doctor Doom.
And all those assholes who say depression is a weakness and suicide is a coward’s way? They’re the supervillain’s minions. Fuck those guys.
And just like a superhero, sometimes you need to call in some help to fight the villain and his minions. There’s no shame in that, either.
Here are some heroes you can call on to battle next to you:
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-TALK (8255)
Can’t bring yourself to talk to someone on the phone? Believe me, I understand. Use the Lifeline Crisis Chat instead.
Above all, remember this: Depression is a lying bastard, and none of those things it’s telling you are true.
People want you to be here, on this planet, and will absolutely not be better off if you’re gone.
I want you to be here. This blog can’t afford to lose any readers. 😉
Be well, and be good to yourself.