I was sitting on a rocking chair on my front porch covered in a blanket that smelled like my dogs. It was around 11 p.m., raining hard and I was busy contemplating which method would suit me to end my life. While a gun seemed quick and easy I worried about the clean up for others, plus, I thought the metallic taste in my mouth would somehow be a deterrent and I’d chicken out. Jumping or drowning or something similar seemed too dramatic. Maybe pills would do the trick. I knew that would end up messy too but isn’t dying messy anyway. In a single moment, which is all it takes to follow through with a plan like that, I realized I needed help and fast.
This was a few years ago now. While, I’d had suicidal ideation before, this was the first time I was truly formulating a plan and it scared the shit out of me. Of course, there was a part of me that believed the lies my depressed self was spewing. “It would be better for everyone if you just didn’t exist.” “You take up precious space and time.” “This suffering will never end and will plague you the rest of your life.” “You have an amazing life how could you possibly think this way?! You are worthless.”
Feeling both mortified and ashamed of who I was and what I was thinking I MADE myself disclose these thoughts to my husband. I couldn’t look him in the eyes when I told him what I was thinking about doing. I remember feeling hot and was flushed all over my body. He gingerly responded not with countering those “lies” because he knew from experience that wouldn’t work but with questions and curiosity. He wanted to see me and understand me in what I felt was my ugliest, most undesirable state of being. That is the definition of love.
Luckily, I was already seeing a therapist at the time. I made two promises to myself: 1. That I would show up to my next appointment. 2. That I would tell her the truth about what I was thinking and planning. The heat and redness and unbearable shame again rose up at my appointment but a funny thing happened after I told her (just like after I told Justin). They stayed with me. They didn’t give me a look of disgust and abandon me. The message for me was that if they are seeing this side and “showing up” for me it was time for me to give myself the same courtesy. So I did then and I do now.
Depression runs in my family and, on top of that, I engaged in a lot of negative self talk and hate. My therapist and I worked on the self talk component week after week after week after month after month after month. If Justin noticed I was allowing those thoughts to creep in (whether consciously or unconsciously) he would immediately point it out. Was it uncomfortable? F*ck yes. Times a million. But these practices taught me to see the thoughts pop up and how to respond to them without just believing them. I also started realizing just how temporary these thoughts and feelings can be. This was important. When I found myself wallowing again and saying something like, “I ALWAYS feel down…I’m just a burden to the people that I love” I could remind myself that I feel that way now but give it some time and I might not feel that way later.
With the news of Anthony Bourdain’s death this morning on the tails of Kate Spade’s suicide I felt a bit walloped by this beast that is depression and suicide. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t know either of these people but for people with their position and access to friends, health care, restorative self care, etc. it struck me deeply. I see friend’s post on social media declaring things like “We have to improve mental health care.” “Take care of yourself, my friends!” “We must take the stigma of mental health away”. Yes. Yes. And Yes. But I wondered to myself, how can I help do that besides “liking” their post? A tiny, little voice said share your own story. To which I responded, “HA, HA, HA, HA! Not a chance in hell.” With clarity, I realized sharing stories and being real and honest and uncomfortable is how you end that stigma.
I don’t presume to know or understand Bourdain or Spade’s struggles. I can promise you they were believing some sort of lies about themselves though. I’ve learned (thanks to therapy) that while the thoughts I have are REAL they aren’t necessarily always true. I continue learning that lesson daily. In fact, identifying and responding to negative self- talk is still a daily practice for me.
I conclude this condensed recount of a small part of my battle with depression with this… If you are struggling with depression or suicidal ideation know that you are not alone. I don’t just mean you have family and friends that care about you but you are not alone in your suffering. There isn’t something “wrong” with you for feeling the way you do…tons of people feel the same way. There are tools, knowledge and skills that you can learn to reduce those deep depressive states and cycles. It may take a trained professional to take that journey with you or maybe a book to help guide you (I highly recommend “The Mindful Way Through Depression: Freeing Yourself From Chronic Unhappiness” by J. Mark G. Williams, John D. Teasdale, Zindel V. Segal and Jon Kabat- Zinn). If you currently have or are formulating a plan to harm yourself or others please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline now at 1-800-273-8255.