My sister shared this with me and here are my comments in addition to it. I’ve avoided saying anything until now because I was afraid that I would be coopting the Williams family tragedy with my own stuff. But this is too good and maybe it will help someone understand this difficult subject
That brought tears to my eyes. That’s exactly what it’s like. I’ve been trying to figure out how to explain this. I have wanted to share it with everyone. It’s not that you choose to commit suicide. It’s that everything in your mind and your emotions is screaming that this is the best and right thing to do and you just can’t think any more of any reason not to because you’re exhausted and you can’t think clearly anymore and you just can’t think anymore about anything else. Your mental world shrinks to the point where there is nothing but the pain and a way out. You’re virtually blind to everything else. You don’t feel any joy or feel any pleasure or find any source of inspiration or peace in anything. You just feel hopelessness and despair and you feel disconnected from everything. You ‘know’ in your mind that people love you but you can’t ‘feel’ it and so it doesn’t provide strength and support and I think that is a difficult concept for most people to understand who haven’t experienced it. And you literally feel like it’s always been this way and you’re deluding yourself to think that it hasn’t. And you feel like it’s always going to be this way. You’re only going to be able to distract yourself from it with whatever obsessive behavior you’ve developed to accomplish that. But it’s only a distraction and the pain is always there underneath it and when the distraction is not there you are completely naked and defenseless against all its relentless, impersonal fury.
There was a time when I literally thought that I was defective, like a factory second and the Universe wanted me dead. It wanted me removed from the gene pool. I was a liability to it and it didn’t want me consuming any more resources. And no one is going to miss me and they’re better off without me anyway. So, who was I to keep resisting? I literally had an item on my to do list once, ‘Check to see if life insurance has a suicide clause. Gail will be able to start over’. I’ve felt that way to one degree or another since at least 1979.
But somehow there has always been this tiny little voice that said, as persuasively real as this seems to be, I choose to believe that it is an illusion. Why would my mind and my brain do this to me? I don’t know, but I refuse to believe it is real and I won’t give into it, no matter what. But, I couldn’t have held out forever.
I don’t know where that voice comes from.
I think one thing that compounds the problem is that you don’t want to talk about it; not because you don’t think people want to help but because they don’t know how to help. They say things that are not helpful and even harmful and you just can’t handle the pain of feeling so alone with something that no one can do anything about. But the self-preservation instinct is still there and it feels safer to say nothing and think that maybe someday, somewhere I’ll find someone I can talk to or some other source of healing, than to talk to people about it and be disappointed.
That’s part of the reason that we call it a disease. This is not rational thinking. Something is causing you to think things that you would not normally think, even in a time of stress.
So, when you have that kind of treatment-resistant depression you think: What’s the point of seeking treatment or support?
The best thing you can do for someone, is just to be *unconditionally* involved in their lives. A person in this situation needs to know that you will be there *no matter what*. I think most of us who suffer this know that you can’t be there 24/7 and that you need a break on a regular basis. But we need to know that there is a lifeline we can count on. And you need to be pro-active about it and not wait until it builds up into a crisis. There usually are things that you can do that will make a difference and make a dent in it, until hopefully, gradually someone can, by their own internal efforts and through treatment, find a way to get out of it. But it requires determination, dedication, creativity and resourcefulness to figure out what those things are.
But the reality is that while many people do respond to support or therapy or medication or other kinds of treatment, some don’t respond to any kind of treatment, regardless of its quality or their own efforts. Then it gets very difficult for the sufferer and those around them.
Lately, I’ve been thinking that my life is divided into two phases: the one where I am depressed but hopeful that it will improve and the other when I am depressed and have no hope that it will improve. The latter state is the risky one. Fortunately, so far, and more and more, the former state has prevailed. I hope that becomes the rule.
Ironically, some people think that suicide is an act of cowardice. The real cowardice is that, in my opinion and in many cases, people around the sufferer and in society in general, turn a blind eye to depression and suicide and do not fully engage in helping. This illness is so common and under-diagnosed that *I guarantee you* that you know someone who is in it. There’s no lack of resources out there for understanding this problem and providing support.
But the thing is that this is not confined to this illness. The principles underlying helping someone with depression are not that different from those underlying supporting someone with any other kind of serious illness. You just have to first recognize and fully acknowledge that it is an *illness*, a serious one, a potentially fatal one like cancer or heart disease. It’s just that this illness has no external signs and you can’t see it on a medical test.
But the reality is that it does. With my extensive experience with it, I feel like I can look around and see it on people’s faces and in their eyes and in their posture and body language and the way they speak and conduct their lives. And there are other signs if you learn to recognize them.
For me, suicide is still a risk. I’ve become kind of philosophical about it. It’s no different than having some other potentially fatal illness. If you have cancer, your doctor is likely to give you a statistic for the five year survival rate for whatever variety you have. Well, the lifetime mortality rate (risk of suicide) for someone with Bipolar disorder is 25%.
It’s far better now than it once was. But I still frequently have periods where, if they were to persist, it would be quite impossible to hang on. But I do, somehow and I keep seeking better treatment and keep finding better ways to cope and I hope this is helpful to someone.