For pretty much as long as I can remember I’ve had cycles of depressive moods. I’d go into catastrophe mode where everything in my life seemed bad and wrong. I’d cry in bed at night, and I’d remember that I’d felt that way before and would probably feel it again.
But I’ve never understood how it could get so bad that someone would want to end their life. After last year, I understand now. The depressive mood got so intense that even if I didn’t have clinical depression and even though I wasn’t suicidal, I can understand what it’s like and why suicide becomes an option.
Here’s my attempt at writing what the depression was like for me:
My world became a world of pain. It almost got to the point where it felt like nothing else existed but pain. The depression was like a cloud that covers the stars. The darker the cloud, the more intense the pain and depression is. The stars are the good things in life, and even though I knew they were there all around me, the cloud became so thick and dark that I could hardly see them anymore. And when the cloud of darkness stays around long enough, I start to believe the stars aren’t there. The darkness becomes my reality.
In this place of pain and darkness, all I want is relief. It becomes too much, too painful to deal with. And so death actually looks like a good thing because it provides relief from the pain. Suicide never tempted me, but I sure did welcome the idea of the relief that death provided. So it’s not actually death that is the appeal or the goal, but relief.
I could still see the faintest glimmers of stars, but for someone enveloped in a cloud where the stars have been invisible for a long time, I can see how suicide becomes the only light in a dark place—the only good thing when everything else seems bad.
When all around you is only pain and you only see more pain coming, no wonder people have suicidal thoughts. I don’t blame or judge them at all now that I’ve gone through some of that pain. Until you’ve experienced that place of darkness and pain, or unless you have a really good imagination, I don’t think you can understand why suicide can look right to someone.
I read through some sites where people describe what it’s like to have depression and I could relate to a lot of what they said. These ones especially get me (paraphrased from the article 50 Sufferers Describe Depression For People Who Have Never Been Depressed):
- It feels like your drowning or suffocating
- It feels like falling in a deep, dark pit
- It feels like you’re a ghost
- It feels like a disintegration of self, a loss of who you are
- It feels like you’re trapped beneath a glass pane and banging on it for help but no-one sees you or knows you need help
When I read that last one, I felt like crying because it was so spot on. To use another analogy, for me it feels like I’m trapped inside my skin and I’m trying to tear myself out but no-one knows I’m trapped or sees my struggle.
I used to think saying things like, ‘It will get better’, and, ‘Get over it,’ were helpful. Now I see how unhelpful they are because a person who is enveloped in the depressive cloud can’t control what they see and all they see is that things won’t get better.
For me, the most helpful things someone could say are: ‘You’re not crazy,’ ‘You’re allowed to see things the way you do,’ and, ‘I’m here for you even though you feel like this.’
I felt guilty for being depressed, but that guilt only adds to the pain. So removing that guilt and knowing it’s okay to feel the way I do is one of the most helpful things. That’s why I’m all for talking about this stuff. I don’t want anyone to suffer from any unnecessary guilt or silence.
Maybe if we talked about it and expressed our depression, that would help give substance to our ghost-like existence, break the glass, and tear the skin so we could be ourselves just as we are and know we are okay.
I used to think people with depression needed instant fixing, as if they were a problem to be solved. But now that I’ve gone through it, I’m okay with it, with sitting with it and working through it.
With or without depression, we are loved and useful, and we matter.