Part of the reason I kicked off this blog is because of some common things I hear pertaining to mental illness and the lack of understanding Normals tend to have for it. Today I would like to spend some time touching on suicide. If you have never been suicidal, you will have a very hard time understanding the thought process behind it. It would be like asking a man what it’s like to be vaginally raped, or asking a woman what it’s like to be castrated.
The most common comments I hear in regards to it are “How could they be so selfish!” and “I just don’t understand.” Well, let me expand on those two simple concepts.
The suicidal thought process is driven by depression in general. Now, a Normal will sit there and think, “oh big deal, they were sad”. Well friend, you have not experienced the sort of soul-crushing, mind-numbing depression that spurs this line of thinking. There is a world of difference between being sad and being depressed. Being sad means you might feel down in the dumps for a bit but eventually it’ll pass. With depression, you feel nothing. Nothing. Absolutely, positively nothing. And it doesn’t last for a few minutes or a few hours. It lasts for weeks, months, sometimes years.
As someone that has practiced self-destructive tendencies in my younger years, I did not do it because I was sad or that I felt I needed punished. I did it because I wasn’t sure if I could actually feel anything anymore. I wasn’t sure if I was still alive or not. So I would lay a steak knife on the stove, heat up the blade, and trace it on my skin to give myself first and second degree burns. I opted to not cut because I knew it would leave bad scars and people would ask questions. But with burns, a little aloe vera and it would heal over smoothly. Which for the most part it did. I did this in some of my worst bouts of depression. And that is the difference between being depressed and being sad.
Another common misconception is simply that “What reason do these people have to be depressed?”. There isn’t a requirement for one to have reasons to be depressive. Think of it this way. When you have influenza or a bad cold, how do you feel mentally? Do you feel bright and chipper and outgoing? Or would you rather just curl up in a ball under a blanket and sleep away the time until you’re better? With making that comparison, why is it so hard to believe that there is a physical reason to feel utterly void and like complete garbage that doesn’t give you the sniffles? The difference is, depression will stay with you far into the future if not taken care of like any other illness.
Now to address “How could they be so selfish!”. If you’ve had a loved one that has killed themselves you’ve likely had that phrase cross your mind once or twice. Let me respond with this. What do you think they were thinking about the time up until that point? Being suicidal is like watching a merchant’s scales get balanced. On one side, you have everything you care about. All your loved ones, the things you’re able to care about, and everything important to you. On the other side of the scale, is the effects of depression slowly stacking up. The emptiness, the inability to connect, the inability to feel anything other than muted emotion; it all piles up slowly on the other side of the scale. Eventually, the depressive side of the scale will overwhelm the things you love.
I assure you with 100% certainty; if you have a loved one that has killed themself, they did not come to that decision lightly. A long, long string of circumstances led up to it. They thought of their families and the people that cared about them. They weighed it all several times in their mind and depression finally won. The unfortunate part is that depression only has to win once and for a very short time to remove that person from their life.
As for understanding? Unless you’ve been suicidally depressed it’s not something that can easily be understood. I will say this. It does not matter whether or not you understand now. Educate yourself to depression and the effects of it. That way if you have other friends or relatives that fall into that pit, you can help identify it early and help head it off at the pass. Suicidal depression doesn’t just pop up, typically an individual will give indications leading up to that event. Being able to identify them will go a long way towards helping that individual.
If you have a friend or a family member that took their life, let it go. Try and remember them fondly. Try and remember them in better times. Don’t avoid talking about them. Don’t “forget” they ever existed by being too uncomfortable to talk about them. The internal misery they went through to draw them to the point of no return was punishment enough. And if you have a history of mental illness in your family, chances are pretty good that some of the people around you are masking their own mental troubles. It happens all the time. Being able to identify it and help them keep those internal scales balanced on a favorable side will keep them around a lot longer.
After looking through several venues, I have recently found the history of mental illness in my own family; including two suicides and another reprehensible double murder. I never knew these individuals, but I know exactly how they felt. My relatives Sonny and Sharon took their own lives in years past. They could not reattain the balance they needed to continue moving forward through trying times. This is why I talk about it so freely. It is my belief that the stigma attached to mental illness and unwillingness for people to face it are one of several underlying causes for this statistic.
I don’t know that side of the family well yet. I don’t know how those closest to the two of them felt then, and even now in regards to it. I never knew them, but I can say that I will hold them dear to myself so that their misery is not forgotten. They are the reason I pursue information and a career in this field. So that more people do not have to walk that path alone until they reach the cliff. Everyone deserves to be able to feel. I don’t mean happiness, I mean any emotion at all.
“I once contemplated suicide. But when I held that 9 all I could see was my mama’s eyes.. No one knows the struggle. They only see the trouble, not knowing its hard to carry on when no one loves you.” Tupac Shakur – Unconditional Love
Subscribe to have blog posts and news delivered straight to your Inbox!