[An aside: Before anybody thinks about picking up the phone and 302’ing me, don’t. Keep in mind. I am writing a book. I am writing in the moment (or from the past). I am getting naked. It is hard, it is painful, but there is also purpose and hope involved which I will get to in later chapters. It is also embarrassing, which is why I’ll be including this little nugget at the beginning of every single one now.]
Chapter 1: The Time to Write
Now is the time to write. Don’t think. Just write.
The depression is back. It was no quick strike this time, carrying me to the deeps. In the search for dry land, or maybe in the vastness of life, I forgot I was looking for dry land, got swept out to sea and carried down into the depths. It is from this perspective that I have to write.
You’ll never know it. The people closest to me, the people I work with, friends and lovers? I hide it. That is what I do, what I have been doing. Being a functional or closet depressive means coping until it passes. Or until it doesn’t. I cry at night when nobody is around, I have a shorter temper, everything bothers me, and I withdrawl so there is less of a chance of someone stumbling onto my secret.
Most people only see the “until it doesn’t.” They are the headlines: Robin Williams and Heath Ledger to name a few. Or the friends and family that take their lives leaving everybody wondering what was so bad, what was so wrong? The “why’s” I’ll get into, but, for now, I just want to write.
I have been carrying this shit around for 48 years now. I know it intimately. I know its texture and taste and smell. So, before I blow my head off, how about we discuss it for those who come afterwards? Let’s talk about depression, the life of a depressive, the life of a broken thing. Let’s talk about what those we love and care about need to understand about this illness and what we, as depressives, as broken things, need to understand about depression.
Blow my head off. Did you catch that? It was put there on purpose. Not for shock effect, but just because it is an essential part of my depression. I was saving the chapter on suicide until later on, but let’s just get into it now.
The suicidal thought came to me. Unlike most of the other times, the plan followed quickly behind it, with all of the pieces coming together in crystal clarity.
There is a reason why I have never owned a gun.
Steal my wife’s gun, the one I bought her for a Christmas present that we keep locked in a gun safe. Take it up to the mountains, far away from the clutter and noise of life, where it would not disturb anybody. Find a nice, quiet place. Warm. Peaceful. Take the little pink gun, with the hollow point rounds, place it underneath my chin…
And I push the thought and the plan away. Life kind of sucks right now. The business isn’t doing well, my marriage isn’t doing well, and there is really no joy to be found. But that is the life of a depressive. I know. I have learned.
My wife asked me once how a person can wake up feeling fine one day and miserable the next day? She doesn’t understand depression. It’s not like that, at least for me. When the depression is upon me, and it can last for weeks and months, it is not about waking up fine one day and miserable the next day. It is about how well I can hide how miserable I am from day to day.
But since we are on the topic, let’s talk about suicide, shall we?
I have been on the other side of things, with someone that attempted it and failed. Mom was good for that. A half dozen times. The last time was particularly nasty and I had to clean up afterwards. How she lived is beyond the comprehension of the doctors that treated her. She knew what she was doing. She sliced. A lot. And then she wandered around in the apartment through the kitchen and bathroom and finally made her way to her bed to die.
It was as if someone had taken cans of red paint and splashed them all over the place. What was left was dumped on the mattress to be soaked up. I remember thinking, “how much blood is in a person? This looks like enough to fill four or five bodies.”
I would never do that to somebody. It is just rude. I could never be that rude, leaving a mess for someone I love and care about to clean up. Not to mention the trauma it could cause.
But suicide? That is neither rude nor is it selfish. To a depressive, it can actually be a selfless act.
Remember. Depression alters perception, reality. Within that reality, life becomes a burden. It is just about pain, sadness and the lack of anything that brings joy. Even your thoughts of good things can be twisted and turned to become a lance of fire in your brain. Your day is perpetually overcast. It is, well, depressing.
To a depressive, it is something we push onto the people we care about. The burden we bear evolves into a burden that we push onto others. The depression is not the burden anymore. We are. There is an evolution that takes place.
How much happier would my wife be if I just did not exist anymore? My friends and family? Oh, they would be sad for a while. There would be an adjustment period, a period of grief, but then they would be free of me and my troubles. They would be left wondering what was so bad, why I didn’t reach out for help, how I could be so selfish, but those thoughts and unanswerable questions would fade as they got on with their lives.
Aye, that is the thought process.
Now, I will admit it: the PLAN has NEVER followed so quickly on the heels of the THOUGHT. That was something new. Shocking. My guess is that after 48 years, I am just tired. There is a lot more hope when you are younger, a lot more potential. But here I am, staring at the landscape of my life. The reality of the depression superimposes on the reality of my life. It is like a battlefield after the battle.
When I was younger, it was easier to look past it. Look beyond. And hope.
Now? I’m fucking 48. I’m tired of this shit. The greatest gift of childhood is the gift of immortality. We are immortal. We have all of the time we need ahead of us. This gift protects and shelters us from the ravages of trauma. For me, I slowly started shedding my immortality in my late 20’s with the last of the the cocoon shivering away in my 30’s.
I am not immortal. I do not have all of the time in the world. It is simple math. I am running out of time. There is more time behind me than there is in front of me. How much time do I have left? In the last five year years, I lost the three people I was closest to in high school.
I will never have a family. That is beyond me. Impossible. I wouldn’t do that to a child even if I did not have this depression. Retirement? I need to hit the lottery. There is a sense of desperation now. That battlefield stretches back through five decades. And I am just tired.
Will I kill myself? No. It is just not in me. And I know the depression. I understand it. But the suicidal thoughts will annoy the hell out of me for a while.
This is what a lot of people who don’t deal with depression don’t understand. Suicidal thoughts? They are normal. Constant. Like mosquitoes on a summer evening. My friends and family? I’ve had the thoughts when I am laughing with you over a beer or at a dinner.
This is what a lot of people with depression don’t understand. Suicidal thoughts? They are not normal. Healthy people don’t have these annoyances on a daily basis, hourly, monthly.
I went though periods of my life where suicidal thoughts were ingrained into my daily routine. Weeks and months at a time, they would buzz in my ears, cloud my vision, and I would brush them away to continue my day. It was not until I was well into my 30’s when I finally learned it was not normal.
I am not sure what happened. I woke up one morning, happy. I realized that I had not had a suicidal thought for well over a year. I was in counseling and brought it up at the next session. It was just something we had never spoken about because it was unimportant. Yeah, I have suicidal thoughts but my elbow also aches. Aren’t they the same thing? It is not like I am going to kill myself as much as it is unlikely my arm is going fall off.
Nooooooooooo! It is not normal. Oh. Okay. I’ll bring it up next time.
No, I won’t be blowing my head off. I don’t even have a key to the gun safe. On purpose. But I am passively suicidal. I couldn’t care less if I live or die.
There is actually a plus to this. Seriously. No shit. One of the things I have struggled with is anxiety. A long time ago I was diagnosed with major depression, minor depression, PTSD and anxiety disorder.
The anxiety disorder really kicked up a few notches about five years ago. A side effect of happiness? I was afraid of dying. Was that pain in my chest a heart attack? Did that other pain mean something larger and darker growing underneath my skin? It put me into the ER a few times before I started dealing with it and learned to brush away the panic the way I do with the suicidal thoughts.
Being in a depression, though, and being passively suicidal, what’s there to stress about? I don’t give a shit. Hell, I sleep better.