When Robin Williams committed suicide in 2014, I was one of many people hit hard by it. In the days that followed I experienced a rather bad bout of depression. Social media exploded with discussion and comments about mental illness and suicide. The composition below was intended for my Facebook page, but it was never posted. Beardless, here is that composition unedited.
I’m not normally someone who likes to “over share” on social media, so I debated whether or not to post this. Well here goes.
Regarding suicide and depression: The family and friends of a suicidal and depressed person often don’t understand how they could have missed the “signs”. As someone who suffers from depression I have some insight into why this might be.
One of the most common behaviors associated with depression is isolation or withdrawal. This isn’t always physical withdrawal, it can be emotional, or a combination of both. Depressed people are often quite adept at hiding what they are feeling and can hide their emotional isolation well. Why? Well there can be many different reasons why we do this. One reason is because we don’t want to disappoint others or make others feel bad. For me personally, this is often the case. Or, sometimes it’s just too hard to face the questions. “What can I do to help?” “What do you need from me?” “Why are you feeling this way?” It isn’t just that we may not have answers for these questions but that there really isn’t anything that they can do to help us. For me and many others it is a chemical imbalance in the brain triggering an emotional state and there really aren’t any actions by others that can change that emotional state.
Another reason, at least for me, is that I just can’t face the look I see in my husband’s eyes. That pained look of helplessness and sadness that I see when I tell him there is nothing he can do to make me feel better. Seeing that look in another’s eyes, and knowing you are the cause, is unbelievably heartbreaking and it feeds into an already depressed state of mind. That state of mind is built from negative thoughts. Those horrible thoughts of worthlessness circling back in on themselves. Those dread filled thoughts being reflected from fun house mirrors of one’s own mind; distorted reality, irrational, and illogical. These thoughts are also why we isolate and hide our feelings. Or, we cry in the shower where we can’t be heard or seen. Why we make sure our eyes are dry and we’re not looking sad when someone enters the room. This is why we hide our pain.
This is also why I get angry when people bring blame to the table after someone commits suicide. Blame has no place here. I get angry when someone blames a victim of suicide. Make no mistake they are as much a victim as their family and friends. They are a victim of their own mind and body which has betrayed them. This is because not all depressed people have the ability or skills needed to help themselves. I consider myself fortunate in that when I’m feeling depressed I’m able to recognize suicidal thoughts as being from my chemical imbalance and that they are mental distortions. I’ve spent a lifetime teaching myself this skill and clinging to this tool is why I’m still here today.
For those who suffer from depression or if you know someone who does; I’m sharing this and hope it helps you.
The first thing is to recognize that you are having negative thoughts. This is by far the hardest part. One way to do this is by telling yourself, “these are negative thoughts”, “these are distorted thoughts”, “these thoughts are irrational”, “these thoughts are not logical”. Next, you need to deny that bad logic. Say to yourself things like, “I deny that bad logic”, “I don’t accept these irrational thoughts”, “I refuse to harm myself”, “these feelings are temporary”. This may sound silly or “affirmationy” but it can work. It won’t be easy and will require practice, lots of practice, but I’ll tell you something. I no longer need to say these things to myself, now my mind immediately recognizes the distorted thoughts. While I do still occasionally have suicidal thoughts, they are fleeting and no longer linger because I can push them away. Please don’t misunderstand this; I’m not saying that I stop feeling depressed because I don’t. What I am saying is that I’m no longer suicidal or wishing to self-harm.
While I’m aware that this is nothing that hasn’t been said before; if you think you are suffering from depression, seek medical attention. For so many years I suffered alone and now I wish that I hadn’t. I’m not going to paint it all sunshine and smiles. It took years for me to get my meds right and I still have bad spells of depression that last for weeks. I’m also recommending therapy of some kind. Therapy is where you get the tools you need to help you help yourself. The above is what I learned on my own the hard way, but it mirrors what I learned in cognitive behavioral therapy and dialectical behavioral therapy. Good Luck and remember you are not as alone as you may feel.