Surfacing After Silence

Life. After.

Another Absence and The Same Depression


It’s been over a month since my previous post again.  I swear, I’ve thought about writing.  But as powerful as those thoughts were, they never translated into action and my fingers never typed up another entry. 

I wish I could say that the depression is better, that I’ve turned a corner, that I’m back to the old me.  But I’ve never been one for lies.  In fact, I kind of suck at lying. 

So here’s the truth:  this depression is a bitch-and-a-half.  I have never had a depressive episode (I’m bipolar, and my first depressive episode hit when I was 12) last this long.  We’ve tried multiple medications.  I used my light box throughout the winter.  And I’ve been doing ECT (electroconvulsive shock therapy).  I think we’ve found a combination of meds that is helping somewhat.  And weknow that the ECT helps.  Both times we’ve tried to taper off treatments, I spiraled down so fast I should have gotten a medal. 

But I’m going to admit something that seems to be sacrilege, something that you’re just not supposed to talk about–but something I feel needs to be talked about:  I’ve been struggling with suicidal thoughts and feelings.  People automatically think that someone who is suicidal is batshit crazy and hates life, but I hope I prove those wrong.  I’d like to think I’m not batshit crazy.  Talk to me when I’m 80, and I very well may be–but I think I’d have earned it by then.  And no, I don’t hate life.  Not all of it and not all the time.  In fact, my knowledge that I usually can find joy in my life is one of the things that is keeping me fighting.  Yeah–life sucks ass most of the time right now.  But I can still find pleasure in the small things.  I just wish those things would multiply so I wouldn’t have so much “life sucks ass” time in between the pleasurable moments. 

I haven’t been talking or writing about these thoughts and feelings much. I find that I have to choose who I trust with this information with care.  And I don’t think that should be the case, which is the reason for this entry.  I want to fill you in on the least helpful responses I’ve gotten, the responses that make me feel as if A) it’s my fault that I’m feeling this way to begin with, and B) it’s my fault I’m still feeling this way.

  Response Number One:  “Have you tried praying about it?” or “Have you been praying?”  or “Have you tried praying?”  Let me just say that I appreciate people praying for me, and when someone tells me they are praying for me, it gives me a few seconds of that warm and fuzzy feeling that helps me keep fighting.  But please don’t assume that I wouldn’t be feeling this way if my faith were stronger, because that’s what all of those questions imply.  And when spoken to someone who isn’t a Christian, they’re pretty much a slap across the face, because they tell the person who is suffering that if he or she were a Christian, their problems would be solved.  First off, people of all faiths suffer from suicidal depression.  Secondly, it’s an illness. Not a judgement from a deity for not believing hard enough.

Respond Number Two: “Oh.  Well, did I tell you about this one class I’m taking?”  Otherwise known as “Quickly changing the subject.”  I think this is how a lot of us learn that we should just keep our feelings inside and not bother other people with them.  When we do mention our feelings, unless they are nice and acceptable and easy to handle, people will do anything and everything to avoid acknowledging them.  I’m not saying that you need to offer advice and have some life-saving plan tucked up your non-professional sleeve, and I’m not even suggesting that you already need to know what to do to make the other person feel better, but I am suggesting that you listen.  I’d even suggest a response admitting that you have no clue what we’re going through or what we need along the lines of “I don’t know how you’re feeling right now but please let me know what I can do to help.”  Sometimes, just hearing that does one amazing thing for us: we know we’re not alone.  And for a lot of us struggling with suicidal thoughts, feeling alone is a hell of a large part of the problem.  And by changing the subject of the conversation, or by realizing you have to go feed your cats and leaving, or by jumping up out of your chair to use the restroom, you only reinforce the loneliness.

Response Number Three:  “It’ll get better soon.  Don’t worry.”  Really?  What’s your definition of soon?  This depressive episode has lasted well over a year, and the suicidal thoughts have been affronting my brain since January.  Even my psychiatrists aren’t naive enough to give me a timeline for this.  This is (one of the) nasty side of mental illness: we don’t have a predictable timeline that tells us exactly how long each stage of the illness will last.  Oh how I wish there was such a thing.  And I bet my treatment team wishes the same thing. 

Response Number Four:  “I knowexactly how you feel, and I got through it just fine.”  I have a couple very very close friends whom I know have gone through suicidal crises.  And they are never the ones who claim to know exactly how I’m feeling.  I know people who say this mean well, but it’s not true.  Each individual is unique, with unique thoughts and feelings and reasons behind the suicidal thoughts.  When I hear someone tell me that they’ve gotten through exactly what I’m going through, I feel weak and I feel like a failure.  If that person got through just fine, why can’t I?  Empathy is a wonderful response, but you can be empathetic without making the other person feel like they just need to copy you and they’ll be fine.  As I said before, we are all unique, and we will all have unique recovery stories.  Please share how you got through this, because it will give me hope that it is possible, but don’t expect me to follow your exact footsteps.

 

Here are some things that can help someone who is feeling suicidal.  If they have trusted you enough to open up to you in the first place, please don’t take that lightly:

  If you are comfortable with it, let us talk.  Talking about it will not mean that we are going to go home and carry through on our plans.  Sometimes, talking about it will make the thoughts and feelings grow weaker.

Recommend that we talk to someone–as in a professional.  A therapist, a doctor, a social worker, a minister or priest or religious leader, someone on a crisis hotline, someone in an ER.  Recommend that we call our therapist if we have one.  Offer to take us to the ER if we don’t have a treatment team.  A lot of times, we actually want someone to step in and take us to the ER.  Sometimes, we want to go there ourselves, but are scared to go alone.

Ask that we wait 24 hours or three days or some given time frame. 

Be honest.  Tell us you’re scared.  Tell us you don’t know what to say or what to do. 

If this is too much for you, that is okay.  Let us know that.  But please help us find someone else.

  If this isn’t too much for you, let us know if we can call you.  You may think that because you are already close friends, the phone call option is a given, but to a lot of us who are struggling, we feel guilty for calling someone and need to hear that it is okay if we do.  We may not actually call you, but sometimes just knowing that it’s an option reminds us that we have people that care about us.

 

If you have other comments that are either not helpful or ones that are helpful, please leave a comment below.  I know I’ll probably think of more as I go through my day and interact with more people. 

But please, if you are reading this and you are struggling, please reach out for help. 

And please, if you are reading this and have a friend who is struggling, please don’t silence that friend. 

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May 3, 2012 - Posted by | Uncategorized | , , ,

7 Comments »

  1. The other day a childood friend wrote on FB that his middle-school daughter brought home a letter from school. It explained that the kids are starting to read Romeo & Juliet in class and the guidance staff is concerned that they might have questions about the suicide plotline. So they are going to make counselors available for any student who wants to talk about this.

    My reaction: That could be a great way of discussing the topic! It’s important for kids to know it’s okay to reach out for help if they need it.

    My friend and other parents: If the guidance staff needs to get involved, it shows they shouldn’t be reading this book.

    I know that no parent wants to think about a child having suicidal thoughts, but you can’t pretend it doesn’t happen by just not talking about it. I appreciate your honesty.

    Comment by Millie | May 3, 2012 | Reply

    • I think literature is an excellent way to talk about this. And it’s also an excellent way for students to talk to someone. It might be easier to say, “You know that Juliet character? I’m kind of thinking some of the same things.” than to just come out and say, “I’m feeling suicidal.”

      One of my friends was teaching Mrs. Dalloway and had a student come up to her and say that she was having trouble with the plot line because she struggled with depression. My student let her read another book instead and miss the classes in which Mrs. Dalloway was being discussed. But at the same time, she didn’t just brush the student off–she recommended that she talk to a counselor and let her know where to go for outside help.

      I think teachers in general are in such a potentially helpful place.

      Comment by surfacingaftersilence | May 3, 2012 | Reply

  2. Thank you SO much for this post. I so often feel weak and crazy and judged, so I rarely admit to suicidal thinking. I wish more people would read this. You really said so well what I wish people knew. Maybe if they did, we wouldn’t be so afraid to admit we’re feeling suicidal. I wish it were more understood, less judged.

    I’d like to add one more reaction that drives me batty and keeps me from admitting when I’m stuck thinking that way: the FreakOut. The person who flips out, proceeds to drag you to the ER and insists you be committed, and never leaves you alone for a second. Sometimes suicidal thinking is just that – suicidal thinking. I WANT to kill myself fairly often. I feel like I may do so very rarely, and I actually attempt to even more rarely. My saying I am feeling suicidal doesn’t necessarily mean I need to be protected from myself. Usually the FreakOut person hears the word suicidal and then hears nothing after it. Doesn’t hear you say that you’re not actively planning. Doesn’t want to know why you’re feeling that way. Is offering no comfort. Rather feels the need to DO something to STOP it. I can understand that feeling. And sometimes, I do need someone willing to go with me to my doctors, or to the ER. But most of the time, I just want someone to hear me, listen, and be there until the feeling passes. Being dragged to a hospital is TERRIFYING. Beyond that I have no desire to be admitted unless I NEED to be.

    Thank you again for this post. I shared it on my FB, hope you don’t mind.

    Comment by Sarah Smith | May 4, 2012 | Reply

  3. #2 and #4 are why I didn’t speak about my failed attempts for years. Why bother if people are going to blow you off or belittle you? I live in a culture of emotional stoics, we’re expected to be hard and any hint of mental illness is taken as a sign of laziness and weakness.
    I hope you have a few more good moments tomorrow than you did today, and a few more the day after that and etcetera. You posts are always amazing and the way you put together a coherent and well-thought-out argument makes me get all hero-worshippy and stuff ^.^
    Take care

    Comment by Vienn Peridot | May 4, 2012 | Reply

  4. Praying for someone is literally the least a person can do for another. What a rude and disrespectful thing to have a person say to you.

    Myself, I am getting help from participating in group discussions. I have the VA to go to but there are other ways to find people to chat with.

    I totally understand your feelings about it being an illness. At this point it doesn’t even feel like a “mood” or a “feeling” It really feels like something in your brain is not processing correctly and the pain that causes is indescribable.

    Comment by aLonelyRunner | May 5, 2012 | Reply

    • While telling me that my faith isn’t strong enough, however worded, is rude, in no way do I feel that it is rude or disrespectful to tell me you’re praying for me. It lets me know that you are including me in something that is a deep part of who you are. And I really don’t think that, for some people, praying for someone is the least they could do. This is an extremely difficult subject, and some people have not learned other ways to help or offer support.

      Comment by surfacingaftersilence | May 5, 2012 | Reply

  5. Is there anything we can help you with?
    I know how much I’ve gained from reading your posts – I have a few favourite posts from people I’ve never met, that I have printed out and in my notebook to read whenever I need it. I wish I could return the favour.

    I think of it as holding on, literally. And waiting for the storm to pass.
    I’ve found I can learn to cope and how to help myself. But when it hits, I don’t really have any choice but to hold on and remind myself that this is just an illness and not reality.

    Keep holding on.
    This storm WILL eventually pass. And remember that when the sun is shining again and you have energy, motivation and interests you’ll be glad you did.

    Comment by BB | May 5, 2012 | Reply


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