Warning: This post talks very bluntly about depression and suicide.
If you have intrusive thoughts, or have thought about suicide,
DO NOT READ THIS, call your doctor or 911 immediately.
National Suicide Hotline: 1-800-273-8255
A lifetime ago, I blogged about my PPD and suicide attempt. In reality, it was 7 years ago, but things are so different that it feels like another life. I still have depression, but its very carefully monitored by me and my advocates (husband, doctor, friends), and I have a very tailored treatment, which keeps me doing fairly well. I still have rough times, but I no longer have the intrusive thoughts, and scary darkness and loneliness that came with severe depression.
Recently, a neighbor's husband passed away. When I found out it was suicide, my heart broke, and I spent the rest of the day sobbing. I hardly knew them, only met him once, but the situation hit very close to my heart. Why did God allow me to live, when others don't? I don't have the answer. I'm heartbroken for those who live on, when their family member or friend takes their own life. I feel like I have a bit of a glimpse of what was going on for their family member / friend, and it takes me back to that horrible day when I attempted.
The thing that really tears at me is watching the survivors pick up the pieces and having to keep moving forward in life. Knowing how close my husband and 3 children were to being in that situation. And SweetPea ... don't even remind me that baby SweetPea would have never been part of my life. I try very hard not to dwell on the "what ifs", but its hard not to sometimes, and see the stark difference that makes my heart heavy and sad.
A lot of the time during my severe depression is dark and blank. I don't remember much of baby Sunshine's first year, it was all foggy and dark. I do remember very clearly how I felt in the time leading up to my attempt, those feelings, the state of my mind, and what I felt my reality was. I hope that sharing this will help those who are survivors, who wonder why their family member or friend committed suicide, why they couldn't see how much they were needed, why they were so selfish.
I was living in basic survival mode, sleeping, changing diapers, laundry, and I sat in a daze often. I did what absolutely had to be done, and my mind had a constant monologue telling me how I wasn't good enough, I would never be good enough, and my family would be so much better without me in their lives. Now that I am recovered and all, its very easy to see how tragically flawed this thinking was, but at that time, the depression was so thick, I wasn't living in reality. In my world, everything was dark and painful. I was always tired, so very tired. I was never good enough to be worthy of anyone's love. I wanted to go to sleep and not have to face day after day of darkness. However, I hid it well. I thought that my burdens were something I deserved, and shouldn't dump on others. I thought that if I talked about the taboo subject of depression, mental illness, or suicide, that people would see how worthless I was. So I pretended to smile all the time, and kept telling myself to "fake-it-but-you-still-won't-make-it".
Don't ever try to tell me that I (or anyone with depression) should have tried harder to be happy. That is one of my pet peeves, when someone is to the point of questioning their life, to think that the easy answers will help them, the religious Sunday school answers, the exercise answers. All those did for me was make me feel like I was a worse human being. I tried, but I still felt completely alone, like my Heavenly Father didn't feel like I was worthy of his love or blessings. Everywhere I looked showed me how unlovable and undeserving I was. I didn't deserve the love people did give to me, and if they tried to tell me how much they cared, I smiled, but inside I knew that they didn't mean it. The world I was living in was dark and lonely and scary, and I just wanted out.
Depression is NOT a choice. Its a CHEMICAL IMBALANCE. I was NOT choosing to feel that way. I was very sick. VERY SICK. There are so many people who don't consider mental illness a real sickness. IT IS VERY REAL AND VERY TERRIFYING. Its like a cancer that people will judge you for having, tell you to suck it up and just get over it. People like that need smacked ... in the face ... with a chair (not really, but they need a reality check, and hopefully they never have to experience it first hand to truly understand) You can't just suck it up and choose to move on. You need serious help, medical help.
I've heard people say that suicide is a sin. I'm sure it can be. However, I also believe very strongly that people who are suffering enough to consider suicide often are not "in their right mind". I believe that God has such sorrow that their mind isn't working, and they don't understand how special they are. I know that my savior, Jesus Christ, who suffered and died for me, knows exactly how I felt. In the Bible, Mark 15: 34 says: "And at the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying, "Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani? which is, being interpreted, My God, My God, why hast thou forsaken me?" He knows what it feels like to be alone, and being submerged in darkness.
Gethsemane © Intellectual Reserve
I know that God is fair and just, and can see in our hearts, and know what is truly there, and that many cases of suicide are not a conniving sin, but a tragic side effect of severe mental illness. I was not attempting suicide for a selfish reason, rather I had the delusional idea that it was selfless, it would give my family happiness in the long run, and they would be better off without me there.
Some of the trouble with people who haven't experienced depression, and try to judge what should be done, don't understand. People who are to the point of suicide are not mentally in the same world as you. Trying to rationalize or reason with them isn't actually helpful. Sure, they might smile and nod, and thank you for your help, but all they heard was "You're broken, and you can't be fixed" over and over in their head.
Now, 7 years later, I look back at myself during that time, and my heart breaks for that girl, so lost, lonely, hurting and scared who felt like suicide was the only option. I now have the ability to think clearly, and I think about everything I would have missed if my husband hadn't acted so quickly, if I had succeeded in my attempt. And I cry for everything I have. I cry out of sorrow and happiness for the opportunity I have to watch my children grow up and turn into such special people. My heart aches and I sob at the idea of never having our fourth baby, our little SweetPea miracle. And I have to stop the "what-ifs" very quickly, or I quickly work myself into a series of sobbing panic attacks and hatred for what I tried to do.
For those who are survivors of someone who has committed suicide due to clinical depression, I hope you can find peace. I hope you know that they loved you, and your love WAS enough, but the illness had already taken over. I hope you know that God is watching over you, His heart heavy from the load you have to bear. He is there for you. He loves you.
image © Greg Olsen
Depression sucks, but if we can all be more kind and sensitive, and find compassion for those who are living with depression, whether we know them or not, then maybe people will be more willing to share their stories and experiences. Life is about learning and growing, helping those around us. Life is hard for all of us, but maybe as we look around, we can find people who need our help to see the sunshine around them.