Here it is, I’ve barely had a few sips of my morning coffee and I get the alert that world famous chef and traveler Anthony Bourdain has died, and by suicide no less. This comes days after we’ve received report that famed handbag designer and lifestyle maven Kate Spade had taken her own life. Everyone comes forward with their stories, their sympathies, and their criticisms. Many people are absolutely baffled as to how someone, especially someone with a seemingly good life, could be so anguished and so selfish as to take their own life and leave loved ones behind. I’ve come to learn and accept that there really is no good way to explain it in a way that people who haven’t been in the throes of it can really understand. I know this, because I was there at one point in my life.
Years ago, I suffered from immense depression, to the point where I was suicidal. I would spend hours crying, thinking of ways to end my life, wanting to make sure that I got it right because the last thing I needed was to botch my own suicide and go through life knowing that I couldn’t even get that right. Every day was an internal battle between the two mes. One side was lucid and logical. The other side was in PAIN, anguished, irrational, violent. These sides battled all the time. The logical side argued that suicide was not the answer, that there would be people who missed me, that my mother would hurt, that there was light at the end of the tunnel. The pained side argued that it was my life and my body, that others didn’t have to walk in my skin, that I would be doing everyone a favor if I wasn’t around and that it wasn’t worth it having so many people see me in such a pathetic state and they couldn’t help me because they were getting tired of it. They didn’t understand. They really didn’t understand.
I had been receiving counseling, but all I was told was basically to practice diaphragmatic breathing. I was prescribed TWO antidepressants, Zoloft and Wellbutrin, which combined made me absolutely numb. I felt like a Stepford, like I was floating outside of my body and had no control over my own faculties. My employer (I shall not name) accused me of malingering, which was made worse when the medication sent me from down in the dumps to cloud nine, so things became difficult there. My work was unfulfilling and the hours were irregular, and any attempt to move into something perhaps more agreeable was rejected. I was alone and away from family, with virtually no friends, thanks to the machinations of a sociopathic boyfriend. There really was nowhere to turn, I felt imprisoned.
The break came when I showed up to a doctor’s appointment and the physician asked me how I was doing. I broke down and admitted that I miserable and I wanted to hurt myself, which set the wheels in motion. I was transported to a medical facility with a mental health ward, and I admitted myself. I spent three days there until someone from my job came to help me check out. Even when I returned, I was held at arm’s length, like I was broken and dangerous, someone nobody knew what to do with nor wanted to be bothered with. That incident facilitated the end of my career as I knew it.
Even my mother, with all her infinite love, wisdom, and patience could not fully understand what I was trying to explain to her when I described my thought process. May people don’t. They also don’t understand just how much they exacerbate the problem when they try to get the person to “snap out of it”, when they tell them to stop thinking about themselves and start worrying about other people, when they tell the person that maybe what they should do is stop paying attention to themselves and focus on doing for others. Tell me, if you were drowning in the ocean, would you stop trying to stay afloat and try to help some dolphin caught in a net beside you? If someone was in traction after getting hit by a car, would you tell them to simply get up and walk because they’re not trying hard enough? No, you wouldn’t.
I know, we love to say “It’s not all about you”, but honestly, sometimes if is. You have to focus on trying to make yourself whole and well before you can do anything else. We also have to accept the distinct possibility that the person may NOT make it through. If a person is truly committed to taking their own life, they WILL find a way and there is nothing anyone can do about that. And even if a person does make it out to the other side and seems to get well, there is a chance that they will descend back into the darkness. I know I do sometimes. It’s like a Dementor hovering over you, stealing your joy, your will to live. Even to this day, I am overcome on occasions. I go back to thinking about how to end it, I make sure that my life insurance policy has a good enough amount of money to last my kids at least until the age of majority. It’s a constant battle, and it’s exhausting, and what none of those like me need is someone reducing our struggle to selfishness and weakness. We don’t need the guilt trips or lectures. We don’t need the stigma.
Now, I’ve gotten this off my chest. Thanks.