Content warning: This blog discusses suicidal feelings.
I said goodbye to my children for the last time last night. As I laid them down in their beds I kissed them three times and said sorry. I told them I loved them. I had convinced myself I would not be here today, because I was going to take my own life. I had gone through such a stage of mental preparation that ending it all not only seemed like an option, but a logical one. It made sense. In my head I was apologetic. Extraordinarily so. I apologised for not being strong enough for them. I told myself they would be better off without me. I was apologising for everything. I was apologising for being me. In my head was every bad thought and black cloud imaginable. The storm was here again. I shut the door. My wife asked me if everything was OK. “Yeah, why wouldn’t it be?”, I replied.
Why are so few of those seeking help men?
I have long misunderstood depression. It is, of course, different from ‘I am depressed’ - the feeling you get at the end of bag of crisps, or when a crush you like doesn’t text you back. They don’t compare. It is an altogether consuming feeling of emptiness. It takes over your life. For many people it defines them: but it doesn’t have to. I can see them now.. Suicide statistics lit up like an ill-judged Times Square. With the male suicide rate at its highest since 2001, why are so many of us afraid to get help? And why are so few of those seeking help men? How wonderful it would be to turn off the neon signs, shut out the lights and dance in the rain. Until we were so tired that we couldn’t dance any more. Because we were happy. Because we were no longer afraid.
Depression will make you question what is real
As someone who has suffered from depression and anxiety I have wanted to write about it for some time, wondering what difference I can make - how I can contribute to the conversation. How I can write about my experience in a way that is less ‘woe is me’ and more about learning, about insight. What is depression? For me it is having just about everything and still wanting to throw it all away. It is the lowest of all places, the lowest of the low. Lower than Flo Rida in a lowrider. It is going to that place and attempting to fight your way out. It’s coming out of the other side with just enough of you left to tell bad jokes. Awful, awful jokes.
It’s an extreme sense of distance when taking part in conversation. Not being ‘in the room’. Looking into your children’s eyes and feeling sorrow instead of joy. Feeling empty. Feeling nothing. A racing mind. A sense of dread and panic, with or without reason. It’s physical, too. The weight of the world on your shoulders physically weighs you down. It’s a sinking feeling, a gasp for air. It’s a swift kick to the gut. It’s sweat. It’s dread. It’s all of these things, all at once or one at a time. Switching in quick succession. Depression can be hard to keep track of. It will make you question what is real.
After it’s done toying with you, it will start to kick you when you’re down. Just as you begin to rise you will fall. It will tell you that you aren’t good enough. It will take all the evidence to the contrary and violently shred it in front of your eyes. It will make you think you’re beyond help. That ‘help’ is a special four letter word reserved only for the privileged. A cruel process. An exam which you cannot pass, and one with no answers. You’ll give in, and the wave will wash over you. Each day it will begin again and you’ll try not to drown. If you can learn to do so, it’s the most beautiful of all magic. Your life: lost in the magician’s hat, yet you can find it. Depression itself is the true illusion.
I wish that anybody going through mental illness would never, ever be afraid of asking for help
Depression is rarely something that just ‘goes away’. Yet rather than let it consume you, you can manage it. Taking the first step to getting help can be the most frightening thing of all, but I wish it didn’t have to be. I envision the ‘three wishes’ scenario. I wish that anybody going through a mental health problem would never, ever be afraid of asking for the help they need. I wish that mental health had the same level of respect as physical health. I’d wish talking about it wasn’t such a big deal. Perhaps these words are those first steps. It’s OK genie, you can leave now. Perhaps the message that I got help will encourage others to do the same. What a wonderful thought.
The next time you engage in conversation with someone, take an extra moment to be mindful of the words you choose. They too may be weathering a storm. It is rough out there. I said goodbye to my children for the last time last night. I’m such a hypocrite.
I’m still here.