It has been so long since I logged onto the blog that I was honestly a little surprised that it loaded today. It's been a hair shy of a month since my last post, which is astonishing. It's felt like years.
And I don't want to be here. I don't want to write. Blogging is one of the now hundreds of things on a too-long list of neglected tasks and ideas that winds through every room of our home, a relentless, ghostly rebuke. And I want only to turn away from it all.
But I am here to share this:
Because today is National Suicide Prevention Day, the day that we bring attention to this grievous problem. But every day should and can be suicide prevention day. The World Health Organization estimates that 800,000 people die due to suicide every year. That is 800,000 too many.
This is a long post so if it's too long for you, please at least read comic writer Matt Fraction's advice on suicidal thoughts. He's one of my favorites and his answer to a depressed fan is heartfelt, piercing, funny and incredibly helpful.
I think it's pretty obvious how far-reaching anxiety, addiction, bullying, violence, and mental illness are, and depression is the constant consort of all of these condtions. You, dear reader, are affected by depression, if only because you know people who live with it. I can guarantee it. I mean, you know me, don't you?
This has been a dreary month. The last two weeks especially have been unsparingly dark. I have never come close to suicide, although one of my most ubiquitous symptoms is fantasizing about death or, more precisely, the overwhelming desire to have never existed. My brain has never made that next step into contemplating a plan, and for that I am grateful. My walls haven't crumbled.
But I'm lucky. I have a good team who has helped me deal with whatever comes up. A lot of people are not so fortunate. A lot of people are suffering. So that's what I'm writing about. Let's try to help each other. Here's a few thoughts:
- Get help. I know it's hard, but you wouldn't just leave you broken leg and hope that it heals itself, would you? Treat your depression as if your life depends on it. Contact your local branch of NAMI if you need a place to start. There are sliding scale options in most cities, too.
- Do not feel ashamed of medications, counseling, or any other therapy that a professional has recommended. Think about it as something necessary and blameless, like an allergy pill. Related: do not judge people for what helps them hold on to this crazy fucking life. We could all use therapy, especially people who think therapy is for fuckups.
- Help someone to get help. I can tell you from experience, if someone can barely get out of bed or take a shower, then researching doctors, and setting up appointments and transportation is going to be akin to running a marathon. Ask a friend in need if you can make a call for them, give them a ride, or accompany them on that first anxiety-wracked trip to a new doctor's office. It could make all the difference.
- Allow yourself to have hard days. You don't have to pretend. I know you are exhausted, from feeling bad and from hiding it. BUT, don't slip, don't fall away completely. Keep planning something you enjoy every day, however small, and really, really try to do it. Change into an outfit that you wouldn't be embarrassed for the mailman to see you in. It'll clear the fog a little bit. Keep in touch with friends.
- Keep telling your story. Reading other people's accounts of their mental illness and daily struggles made me understand for the very first time that I was not alone.
And keep this in mind above everything else: better days are coming. I can guarantee that, too. You might have to wait a while longer, but we can get through it, because damn it, we've done it before. And don't let anyone (including yourself) tell you that you are weak. Anyone who surfaces through these endless cycles of having your life smashed in out of the blue is the opposite of weak.
Take a few of your happiest memories and let them be your hope. In your darkest days, take those memories out and project them into the future. Remember that your life isn't all depression, it's made of best days ever, too. More of those days are on their way.
You are not your thoughts. No one else can play your part. There is NOTHING wrong with your life that can't be fixed. I promise. You are valuable, and you matter. Let's help each other get to those better days.