Have you wondered what happens if a depressive episode becomes extreme, lingering, and fatal? To this reading, my stories have hovered in the mild depressive range. Where is the rock bottom that we hear about? When we hit bottom, do we bounce, or splat? Do we cope, or do we put an end to the madness?
From personal experience I can speak about some extremes because I lived through them. Not many know how bad I felt during the dark times. I was ashamed. I’ll share with you that suicidal ideations often pass through the minds of people suffering depression. I’m told that is a common occurrence. Whether situational depression or chemical imbalance, the option to end the suffering is there in the minds of the depressed. Something we need to consider is the commentary from those who have attempted suicide, but lived through the act and later described their experiences. Many say there was a belief that the bad feelings had no end, and they wanted an immediate end to an unbearably painful situation.
One very brave young woman I know wrote about her attempted suicide as a high school class assignment. She detailed the alarmingly high statistics of teenage suicide in a powerpoint presentation, and as the slideshow continued, she divulged her own true story of attempted suicide. She is lesbian, she felt alone, angry, and determined to gain control and put an end to the pain that permeated her dreams, lasting through the waking days alongside teenagers who were nowhere near her level of intelligence, awareness, or understanding of what it meant to feel different and depressed. Her parents were atypically accepting of their lesbian daughter, in fact their acceptance included acknowledgement and acceptance of her choice of a partner, a man who was living with gender identification mismatch. What extraordinary people, with the strength of characte to accept rather than shame their child for this reality. What life changing healing followed, for this family of high achievers. My friend has since graduated college and made a life for herself, with her partner, in the United Kingdom. She is a thriving heroine.
My own wish for eternal peace and self-imposed end came after the realization I had put an end to a very rewarding career of teaching “people skills.” No more paid vacations, no more salary checks, and for me the payoff of no more travels and sleepless nights on long haul international trips. It was a terribly change-filled period of my life. I had to sell my beloved home of 20 years for the knowledge I could no longer afford to pay for it. I had to explain dozens of times to my long term disability (LTD) case manager what progress was not occurring as a result of my weekly visits with doctors. I existed on 3 hour naps, several cycles in a day, but never reaching the Rapid Eye Movement (REM) sleep state. REM is where adult growth hormone is synthesized and secreted, and restorative processes weren’t happening– waking up after only 3 hours meant trying to go back to sleep and not being able to do so. Doctors assured me that keeping a regimen of going to sleep and waking at the same time was highly effective in achieving restful sleep, however, the practice instead of helping, facilitated an irrational anticipation of not being able to stay asleep, and self-fulfilling prophecy of premature waking. I was in the no sleep Twilight Zone, part of the Walking Dead of The Tired Man bad reality TV show.
The feeling of exhaustion during “normal” waking hours meant that simple tasks like driving, managing payment of my bills, shopping for groceries, all required great planning and effort. I found myself missing doctor appointments and at times forgetting how to get to the office of the doctor. There were countless notes and lists, and reminders on my phone. My LTD case manager would press me because she had not received requested status updates from physicians in charge of my care. These setbacks, along with sleep deprivation, poor appetite, irritable bowel syndrome, erectile dysfunction, recurrent nightmares about work, all led me down the path to wanting an end to a dreadful and lingering madness. I was having ideations that being dead would be preferable to enduring worsening insomnia. I kept this from my doctors for reasons that seemed obvious at the time– who wants to be Baker Acted, forced into a hospital bed and housed in the psychiatric ward where others with mental illness were warehoused. Nope, I can live with that sin of omission, thanks.
It’s believed that if you have knowledge of the method you would use to end your life, that meant that the probability of actually following through was high. I had my chosen method– overdosing on the sleep medications and going to sleep, only after maxing out my credit cards and enjoying a wonderful last meal alone. I remember the story of the death of Woolworth heiress Barbara Woolworth Hutton, rumored to have squandered her fortune and died with less than three thousand dollars in net worth. By damn, that sounded like a pretty good way to leave this world given my circumstances.
How bad must it get before you’ll get help?
I’m still here. At each time I felt the urge to take the pills, I gave thought to having to go max out the credit cards, make dinner reservations and get dressed, and suddenly the plan sounded like a lot of work. In all seriousness, I ask you to think about breaching your own threshold, how long will you suffer before you take a positive step to get some help? You can keep your ideations, just place them further down on the list of options and consider a few positive choices with priority.
“Ignoring facts does not make them go away.” – Fran Tarkenton
Before you entertain ideas of ending your journey through a dark depressive episode, have a thought about those you’ll leave behind. Will they feel like they’ve let you down by not reading your mind, or recognizing clues that you were suicidal? Will someone you love be haunted inconsolably by your death? Can you be certain that the bad conditions are permanent and unchangeable?
Here are some “Dos” that I recommend:
- Have some dark chocolate (even diabetics– check sugar later)
- Go to a public place and if you have a close friend, invite them along
- Get your affairs in order
- Consider the available, free resources available for quick help
- Rest, breathe, meditate, exercise in the sunshine
No one can stop someone determined to end their life, that’s just not reasonable, nor rational. What we can do is educate ourselves about the causes of suicidal ideations, and evaluate our own needs against our circumstances during calmer times, with the knowledge there will be calmer times ahead. To those who have lost loved ones to suicide, I am sincerely sorry for your loss. For those survivors of suicide, I have walked your path before and am glad that we are among the living. For those suffering depressive episodes, I hope that you get some meaningful, lasting relief and will consider joining this blog to share your perspective.