It's Looks A Little Different Now
Being notified about Kate Spade’s and Anthony Bourdain’s suicides, in the same week, was overwhelming. These two people influenced my life heavily. Bourdain was introduced to me by my father and Spade, by my mother. Introduced to me with admiration and love for who they are and what they did. It was overwhelming, also, because often when someone knows what it feels like to be suicidal or is suicidal, hearing about it, is almost encouraging. You’re reminded of that thought, that very gloomy yet comforting thought.
I was visited by that feeling for a moment when I heard about these two people deciding to leave us. It was brief but heavy. I really did have to pull myself out of it. Like I said, it can be comforting.
Now, I am far from the rabbit hole of depression that I lived in for many years. I am able to look at that time with a different set of eyes. I am healthy because of a treatment that works for me. I’m living a much different and better life than I was.
There’s a trend happening, that we are talking about mental illness and reducing the stigma around it and it’s great. There are, however, some things being said that do not help.
My depression manifests itself as a weight on my chest with a voice that’s telling me that I’m not worth another breath, tears cloud my eyes and my head hurts trying to hold them back. I know myself and my depression well enough to know that it will only last a day or so. Often, less than that. Regardless of my knowledge of better days ahead, it’s an uphill battle.
It can be difficult to explain the feelings of depression to someone who hasn’t dealt with it or any mental illness. As I have said before, the condition can render itself so strong that it defies all logic or common sense that we have acquired.
With that in mind, some approaches that I have seen in regard to helping the people that are hurting, do not help.
1. “Reach out! There are people that want to help you!”
I used to volunteer at a suicide crisis line. I talked to suicidal people, people that were suffering inside their minds and bodies. It was heartbreaking and real. There’s no doubt that reaching out takes an incredible amount of bravery and vulnerability. That does not mean people who do not reach out are not brave.
When I was suffering from depression, the last fucking thing I would want to do is reach out to a stranger on a hotline. Like damn, where are my friends? Depression often hinders our ability to 1) make common sense decisions 2) feel good enough/worth it to reach out. These efforts with “reach out” are well-meaning but hollow. If you care so much as to tweet the number of a hotline, send it to your best friends, friends, acquaintances, siblings, parents, relatives, anyone that you care about. Being a friend is a commitment. Don’t pretend.
2. “You’re not alone”
Okay, well, it feels like it but thanks. Don’t tell me I’m not alone, show me. Get my sad ass up and out of bed and make me eat cereal. SHOW ME.
3. “You’re leaving your family behind”
This is something else that’s very difficult for people to understand who haven’t dealt with mental illness is, it’s not about you. When I was suicidal, I thought about how my family would react and I truly thought that they would be relieved. I didn’t think about them being sad, that didn’t make sense to me because if I hated myself so much, they couldn’t be fans either. I wouldn’t be their burden anymore. But now, I loooove being their burden (I have to lighten it up somewhere)
4. Happiness is a choice
Then WHY THE FUCK AM I NOT CHOOSING IT? Depression limits people. There are things that my mind wouldn’t allow me to do. Being happy was one of them. No one chooses to be sad, absolutely no one. And if they do and maybe it’s for attention; I would recommend paying some attention to that. Because often, that’s a cry for help in and of itself. We have lost empathy.
5. It’s Okay Not To Be Okay
Another well-meaning but empty sentiment. We all have our bad days but progress doesn’t come when we start accept that there is no way we can be happy. To say that “not being happy is okay” is like treading water. And staying in the same place without getting better, with anything doesn’t make people happy. It’s okay to be sad sometimes but it’s okay-er to put the work in to be happy.
The point really is, talk to people. Let’s talk to our tough friends, our successful friends, our funny friends, our quiet friends, they’re our friends! When did we stop caring?
I’d like to offer one more thing; when I was truly contemplating suicide, in a heated moment, I was scared, anxious but ready. I took a breath. Then another. I started to breath again. Deeply. It had maybe been 4 minutes of just breathing then I just didn’t pick up the razor. I just looked at it. But I was back on Earth. I wasn’t in a tailspin heading straight into my own despair. But I waited and I breathed. I landed softly, a couple bruise and sure, I was still sad as shit but I won. If just for a second, I fucking won. I had to fight that urge many more times after that. But I swear to God, when you feel like that (and this is so difficult to do, I promise you I understand) please, try and wait. Breathe. Even if it’s for two minutes. Email me and I will breathe with you. I am here and I am not giving up on you.