Depression and suicidal thoughts are things that I’ve battled on and off for most of my life. Since I was a child I wondered why I couldn’t just kill myself. It felt very unfair that I should have to live because someone else told me so. But as my psychologist explained to me recently, it’s not uncommon to have thoughts about suicide. It’s a cause for concern when the thoughts become more intrusive and upsetting, overpowering all the others.
Growing up, I remember my wee mum being depressed, so I knew it wasn’t uncommon. However, when I sank into my deepest depression a few years ago I was still deeply ashamed of myself for it. I had a good life – what right did I have to be depressed? Of course we all know that depression does not discriminate based on your income or the number of friends you have. But the shame was there all the same and it kept me from speaking to anyone about my struggles for years. I was worried I would lose the respect of my colleagues or – even worse – lose my job altogether. I thought friends and family would think me ungrateful for all the good things in my life. They might stop seeing me as the strong woman I was trying to be and begin to think of me as a pathetic burden.
In my experience, depression isolates you. As well as feeling f*cking miserable (total understatement), it can make you feel selfish, guilty and ungrateful. It’s not just emotional though, I felt exhausted and irritable and was holding back tears most of the time. For me, being around people was a huge struggle. It made me feel guilty for not appreciating the people in my life. I resented having to put on a happy face because heaven forbid someone might ask if I was OK and I might just cave and tell them exactly how not OK I was. I hated being around the people who cared about me because to my mind they had just become massive obstacles to my one goal in life – they were the reason I couldn’t kill myself. So I avoided human contact where possible.
Back in my early twenties I had volunteered with the Samaritans. Now it was my turn to seek their help. I emailed them. They replied. I emailed again. And so on. It’s a listening service, so it’s not their job to give advice or convince you one way or the other. It’s a safe space to talk about anything, free of judgement. So while they weren’t saying anything ground breaking or giving me any answers to my problems, having that contact was vital to me at that time. It really helped me knowing that I’d have an email from them to look forward to.
For a time, the only space I felt safe was on my own or with my dogs. That was fine for a while. But gradually the depression worsened and being alone with my thoughts became the most terrifying place imaginable. I’m not sure when it started, but I became preoccupied with thoughts of harming myself. Which kitchen knife would be best for slitting my wrists? Or would I be better using a razor blade? Where would be the best place to hang myself from? Who should I have discover my body? I’m a pretty organised person, so I wrote a Will, did some research and came up with my suicide plan.
Just before I went through with my plan, feeling that I had nothing left to lose, I opened up to my partner at the time. I told him that all I wanted in the world was to die. I vividly remember the tortured expression on his face upon hearing that. I’m sure I broke his heart in that moment, however, by that point I was so numb I couldn’t even bring myself to feel bad about it. To my depressed mind, he was only upset because he didn’t understand the situation. If he truly knew how pathetic and awful a person I was, then he wouldn’t mourn the loss of me. I was worthless and he was better off without me.
Thankfully, he did the best thing anyone can do for a depressed or suicidal person. He listened without judgement. He listened to every detail about how much I hated myself and how badly I wanted to end it. He listened to me tell him how I had planned to kill myself and our two dogs because I honestly thought it was what had to be done at this point. He listened and held me and told me I wasn’t alone.
It’s all a blur now, but at some point we made it to my GP and I agreed to try therapy and take anti depressants. I had been offered medication several times before and I had refused. Do you know why I refused? It was because of a b*itch named Stigma.
The stigma around depression results in many misconceptions. Eat healthily so you’ve got more energy. Exercise more so you’ve got more happy hormones floating around. Keep busy so you’re distracted from feeling sad. You just need to work harder to make your life what you want it to be. Try goal setting, the sense of achievement will really help your self-worth. Medication has so many side effects; it will make you feel suicidal. You’ll be so numb from the medication that you’ll lose yourself completely. You’ll have it on your medical record so you’ll always be judged as unstable from now on. Medication is a true admission that you are f*cked up.
So what about now? I wish I’d started medication sooner. I have never felt more ME since taking it. I am not numb – I still laugh and still cry, but my emotional responses are in better proportion now so I’m less likely to spiral because of one thing that’s upset me a wee bit. With the support of my GP, psychologist, family, friends and my doglets, I’ve reached a place where I can honestly say for the first time in my life that I’m happy to be alive and I truly want to keep living.
I write this, not because I have a unique insight into depression, or because I’ve been through anything more traumatic than anyone else. On the contrary, I share my story because I know now just how common my experience is. Had I known then what I know now, I might have started my recovery sooner. I might have shared how I was feeling with more people, and then maybe a friend of mine would have felt able to open up to me or someone else and he might still be with us now. All I know for sure is that we have to look out for each other and sharing the bad as well as the good is one simple way of doing that.
So to anyone reading this who is suffering from depression, my advice is to fight that fucker with everything you’ve got. Don’t keep quiet about it – that’s what it wants. Isolation allows the depression to thrive. I say expose it and allow those close to you to help you fight the horrific things depression makes you believe.