Depression Kills

I began this day like most others, pulling my laptop into bed with me, scrolling through emails and social media as I slowly wake up and try to gather enough motivation to start the day.  One of the tweets that crossed my path was a chart about suicide awareness, listing many of the contributing factors.  As I looked through them, though only one was labeled directly with mental illness, the majority of the others could be linked to depression, as well.  Half-awake, I hit the button to share, and added in my own two cents:

We need to stop treating mental illness as a dirty secret that we can’t talk about. Depression is killing people. Silence is killing people.

I continued my scrolling, continued waking up.  Grabbed a leftover piece of texas toast to take my pill with and continued on with my day.  I changed out the cage set for my sugar gliders, cleaned their cage, continued on with my regular routine.  Yet that post about suicide risk factors lingered in the back of my head, drumming along, refusing to be silent or to fade away.  My mind kept going back to it and my sleepy response to it.  Sometimes those thoughts that form when my mind is still muddled with sleep are clearer than anything I think about when wide awake.

Depression kills.

I think back to when I was a young teenager.  The son of one of my father’s friends killed himself.  He was in his late teens, a popular kid who played sports and had a long-term girlfriend that everyone assumed he would one day marry.  He was a few years older than me, around my brother’s age, so I didn’t know him well beyond the fact that our fathers were friends and we both were involved with sports at school.  He seemed happy enough.  Nobody saw it coming.  It blind-sided everyone, especially his father.  I always remembered his father as being this sweet, goofy guy who was always joking with my dad.  The last time I saw him, his eyes had a hollow, empty look to them, like part of him had died and would never fully recover.  It was my first exposure to suicide.

Depression kills.

I’ve known many people who have walked that ledge and attempted to take their own lives, myself included.  I remember my mother taking too many pills and my father frantically pleading with the emergency room to let her come home, that it was an absent-minded mistake, not an attempt, as my mother kept repeating “Jim, you can’t leave me here.. you can’t let them keep me,” and I sat quietly in a row of chairs they assumed was out of earshot.  Pills would be my choice, as well, the first time I tried.  Nobody wants to talk about struggling.  We make excuses and minimize situations.  We don’t address the gorilla in the room because it’s a hard conversation that nobody wants to make.

Depression kills.

Someone very dear to my heart almost lost his mother to a suicide attempt.  He was the one that found her, had to call the ambulance, pull her out of the tub, try to revive her and wait, praying someone came in time.  It scarred him for life and damaged their relationship beyond repair.  She had been struggling but, like many of us parents, always put on a brave face and pretended things were okay because no parent wants to appear weak in front of their children, but that is no excuse.  No child should ever have to see their parent like that, to fear not only for their parent’s life, but theirs, as well.  Every time now that I walk that ledge myself and consider giving up, I think of him and how that experience still haunts him years later and it snaps me right back.  I could never put my children through that.

Depression kills.

Not too long ago, I found out someone who had been a close, dear friend and much more years ago had lost his battle.  He was an incredible man with so much passion, so much to give the world.  He was the type of person who lit up a room just by being in it and made my life brighter just for knowing him.  He will forever be my one that got away.  He was struggling hard and couldn’t take the weight of his life pressing down on him.  He felt lost and alone, like he had no one, even though he had a brood of children who loved him to death and friends who adored him.  Everyone knew he had been struggling here and there, but figured that everyone struggles sometimes so nobody gave it a second thought.  Nobody really saw it coming.

Depression kills.

I receive letters and emails here and there from people who have read things I’ve written and related enough that they wanted to reach out and say something.  I always try to respond because I never want anyone to feel they have to struggle alone, that they reached out but were unheard.  I never spend as much time, though, as I do with anyone who messages talking about being affected by suicide.  I’ve spent entire days messaging back and forth with complete strangers because they lost a loved one, a spouse, a sibling, a friend, and just can’t seem to get past it.  I find myself going back and forth, trying to help explain everything from both sides, as the one who wants to die and as the one left behind, because I have been on both sides of that fence. It destroys people on both sides of that fence because, whether or not an attempt is successful, nobody on either side will ever be the same. Walking that ledge and wanting to die kills a piece of you, whether you actually die or not.  Having someone you love give up on life, feeling like your love wasn’t enough reason for them to keep going, kills a part of your heart just as much as if you had been the one to die.  I know how it feels on both sides.  But some things aren’t able to be explained.  Even if you know how it feels because you’ve been there, some things will never make sense.

Depression kills.

Every now and then you see stories in the news about celebrities killing themselves.  Whether it was a direct act or labelled as an “accidental overdose”, it is always followed by some vague statement about a “history of mental illness”.  Memorials are set up, posts are made.  The world seems momentarily heartbroken because someone in the spotlight has died.  Everyone remembers fondly their lives and mourns their death, yet everyone avoids focusing too much on what snuffed out so bright a light.  Mental illness is uncomfortable to talk about, even when viewed from a distance, because it forces us to consider how it may be affecting our lives, as well.  It sits there, the gorilla in the room that we all know is there but are afraid to address.

Depression kills.

The fact is that people are dying every single day because of mental illness.  Whether their depression is caused by the loss of a loved one, the end of a relationship or job, bullying, struggles with physical illness or whatever other reason, it is there, it is agonizing and it is unbearable.  People are struggling through life, feeling completely lost and alone, feeling like they have nobody to turn to, no one that understands.  People are suffering in silence because we’ve made them too afraid to speak up.  They’re afraid of being labeled, seen as weak, a danger to themselves or others, or a joke.  We’ve told them too often to suck it up and reminded them that others have it worse rather than acknowledging and addressing their pain.  These are people who are loved, cherished and adored, even if they themselves cannot see it.  They are our parents, our siblings, our partners, our children, our friends and our co-workers.  They are faces we see every day and names we carry imprinted on our hearts.  They are people who should never have had to die but they’re too afraid to speak out and we’re too uncomfortable to have that hard conversation.  So nothing is being said and the body count keeps growing.

Silence kills.

mightylogoRepublished on The Mighty on 11/14/16.


One thought on “Depression Kills

  1. this really touched me, and i find it incredible that you can write all of this with such correct words. everyone should have a look at this and be more concerned when it comes to mental illness. it should be talked more, it should be shared sometimes. i really appreciate that you wrote this post, i really do. love, triz


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