Understanding Suicidal Depression
Up until a couple weeks ago, I still cared deeply about what people thought about me. I boarder line secluded myself from others. Now, I just really don’t care what people think. I know that by staying silent, lives are at stake.
Two weeks ago, an amazing father, son, community leader, and my best friend, took his life. If you’ve ever experienced or been near the family affected by suicide, it’s extremely numbing. The devastating occurrence engulfs everyone in confusion and guilt.
Like every other person, my desire to understand began to consume me. Someone I understood, respected, and greatly appreciated had left me and now, I needed to understand and educate. While navigating through the cloud of confusion, I’d been led to a beautiful article written by Therese Borchard. Therese is a renowned mental health writer and advocate who openly discusses her lifelong struggle with suicidal depression.
When referencing Robin Williams (famous actor) suicide in 2014, she said “The poor guy sneezed”.
I know that probably doesn’t make sense to anyone who’s never experienced severe depression. She goes on to explain that suicidal depression is like having to sneeze. The impulse can be so strong that you simply follow your body’s command without thinking about anything at all. You don’t pause and think about your family or the reasons not to do it. All you’re feeling is an incredible itch to sneeze, and you’re certain that anything short of sneezing wouldn’t relieve you of the sensation.
American novelist David Foster Wallace gives us an even better analogy:
The so-called ‘psychotically depressed’ person who tries to kill him/herself doesn’t do so out of quote ‘hopelessness’ or any abstract conviction that life’s assets and debits do not square. And surely not because death seems suddenly appealing. The person in whom Its invisible agony reaches a certain unendurable level will kill him/herself the same way a trapped person will eventually jump from the window of a burning high-rise.
Make no mistake about people who leap from burning windows. Their terror of falling from a great height is still just as great as it would be for you or me standing speculatively at the same window just checking out the view; i.e. the fear of falling remains a constant. The variable here is the other terror, the fire’s flames: when the flames get close enough, falling to death becomes the slightly less terrible of two terrors.
It’s not desiring the fall; it’s terror of the flames. And yet nobody down on the sidewalk, looking up and yelling ‘Don’t!’ and ‘Hang on!’, can understand the jump. Not really. You’d have to have personally been trapped and felt flames to really understand a terror way beyond falling.
Therese also goes on to explain her mindset (while living with suicidal depression).
She’d said she’d recently attended a funeral of the wife of her former running partner (age 85). Theresa said she had a difficult time with it, but not for the reasons one would expect. Her sadness wasn’t for her friend that had past, it was for herself not getting to leave her own life.
Feeling jealous of the one in the casket, the one who had lived a full and beautiful life got to leave. Bringing feelings of shame to her for having those thoughts. Theresa was disturbed by her thoughts because they were so opposite of what is presented in today’s culture. When she confided on an online depression support group, she’d learned that most of the group had experienced the same thoughts, she’d elicited at the funeral. She was consoled, especially, by what her friend Melissa wrote:
Acknowledging Suicidal Depression
In your words, I see the acceptance of death … this imaginary foe we are taught to fight. We hide the signs of aging. All in this vain and futile attempt to delay the inevitable.
Some day we all will die.
And that fear of death that ironically propels most to live, doesn’t serve the same function for those with mood disorder.
Those suffering from suicidal depression need to be extremely attentive to the things that light them up. The experiences and connections that they thoroughly enjoy. Things they can sit and be present with, in that very moment. The words that show acknowledgement of being heard and appreciated.
It’s so true. People who are depressed don’t fear death, and because of that they need to be proactive in compiling reasons to stick around, especially when they’re hit with the urge to sneeze.
Theresa shares that this statement will make absolutely no sense to someone who has never been depressed but, she shares it anyway. The most difficult thing I will ever do in my lifetime, is to not take my life. Having swam across the Chesapeake Bay, made presentations to audiences exceeding 3,000 people, and stayed sober for 25 years, are nothing compared to my struggle to keep myself alive. I continually feel that overpowering desire to sneeze, and not giving in to it.
My dear friend Chris, we all bless and forgive you for having to sneeze. I can assure you that that single sneeze, will not dampen the great experiences you’ve shared with each of us. The trail of love you’ve left behind, will be picked up by family and friends for many years. From the bottom of our hearts, thank you, thank you, and one last time thank you!
Life Coach, Digital Entrepreneur, & Suicide Prevention Advocate