OK, so it
isn’t the most enticing headline ever and the first thing I ought to say is
that no, I am not suicidal. Far from
But in the past I have
And I feel
that I have something of value to say on the subject.
I have received
a lot of comments on my blog, many praising me for being brave in sharing my
thoughts and feelings in the way that I have.
Such feedback is always a real pleasure to receive and it means a great
deal to me. But to be honest, doing this
has never felt brave; this is who I am, and I am happy and secure with who I am,
regardless of what happens to be going on in my life.
post is different. This is tough. This is uncomfortable. And that’s why I feel that it is important
that I write it.
One of the things that
I have learned in recent years is that when faced with things that challenge
us, things that we know will be tough, more often than not it is the difficult
path that is the right one to take. And there
are few subjects closer to my heart than this.
I need to write this.
Why is this
post so difficult for me to write? I
have written very openly about my struggles with depression but this feels
different. I guess there may be something
in the fact that, thankfully, depression is being talked about publicly much
more these days with many high profile figures talking about their
experiences. I’m in very good
Maybe it is
because, despite the stigma that still exists, there is a growing acceptance
that depression is indeed an illness, a serious illness that kills many people,
especially young men.
is why it’s difficult - how do we tell people that depression kills when ultimately
a person that commits suicide is making a choice to end their own life? How can we say that depression killed them?
is a choice, and it is natural that people that haven’t known the turmoil of
severe depression will question how that decision was made, especially given
the terrible pain caused to those left behind, especially any children. That’s just selfish. Isn’t it?
Imagine. For a minute, try to imagine just how bad
things must be for the sufferer that he or she makes that ultimate choice. It goes against every instinct that we have. The strongest instinct that we have is
overcome – that to survive. How does
“In depression this faith in
deliverance, in ultimate restoration, is absent. The pain is unrelenting, and
what makes the condition intolerable is the foreknowledge that no remedy will
come - not in a day, an hour, a month, or a minute. If there is mild relief,
one knows that it is only temporary; more pain will follow. It is hopelessness
even more than pain that crushes the soul. So the decision-making of daily life
involves not, as in normal affairs, shifting from one annoying situation to
another less annoying - or from discomfort to relative comfort, or from boredom
to activity - but moving from pain to pain. One does not abandon, even briefly,
one’s bed of nails, but is attached to it wherever one goes.
has been your experience for months or more all you want is an end to your
suffering. Nothing else matters. Nothing.
But, as Styron observes, faith in deliverance is absent. One of
the hardest truths of this cruel illness is that it robs you of the very thing
that you need to survive it: hope.
recovering from my first bout of severe depression, which lasted for approximately
8 months, I used to think that if the worst happened and it did return that it
wouldn’t be as bad because I would know that it passes. And I would know just how beautiful life on
the other side of depression is. And
after having my children I thought that I would never again feel suicidal,
because now I had the greatest reason that I could possibly have to endure
whatever life could throw at me.
utterly unprepared for the force with which depression would strike again, and
was quickly robbed of my naïve illusions.
Although in hindsight there were tell-tale signs that I was sliding back
into the black hole, I was adamant that I would not, could not, suffer with
wrong. I went from a week’s holiday from
work having a wonderful time with my daughter to being able to think of little but
how I could end the anguish that I felt within a fortnight.
depression strikes with such brutality all you want is an end to the pain. That is all.
And no matter what else you have in your life, the only thing that you
can feel is the pain and anguish that crushes your soul. Even with the knowledge that depression
passes, even with the experience of having overcome it once before, the belief
in recovery, the hope in deliverance is… absent.
And this is
how depression kills. Not because the
person wants to end their life, but because they want an end to the unbearable
suffering. But there is no end. To the sufferer, there is no end and there
will be no end. Not just for them, but for
the people that love them and care for them who are helpless in the face of
depression’s onslaught as it robs them of the person that they knew. So leaving does not feel selfish but an end
to the burden, for everybody.
want to die. But I didn’t know how I
could continue to live. Because I wasn’t
living. I was surviving, from minute to
agonising minute I was merely surviving.
But to no end. The truth is that
if I was offered a pill with the promise that I would go to sleep and never
wake up I would have taken it. In a
being consumed with thoughts of little but ending the suffering, I couldn’t do
it. And I can’t tell you how grateful I
am that I couldn’t. But that wasn’t how
I felt then. I felt weak. Weak that I couldn’t do the one thing that
would end the nightmare for me and those that cared for me.
terrified of what my life would become, with no hope for recovery, and no way
escape. I recovered and I would like to
think I am stronger for having done so. Not
everybody does, and for those people I have nothing but deep deep sympathy that
they were never able to reach the light.
And sympathy too for those that were left behind. Blame and accusations cannot take away the pain,
but maybe a greater understanding of what leads a person to that terrible place
can go some way to helping them to learn to live with it.
I will end
with another observation from William Styron:
“The pain of severe depression is quite
unimaginable to those who have not suffered it, and it kills in many instances
because its anguish can no longer be borne. The prevention of many suicides
will continue to be hindered until there is a general awareness of the nature
of this pain.”
I hope these
words can help.
Labels: depression, mental health, suicide