Depression can be a difficult subject to talk about. I think it helps to find the humor in the situation. There is humor in the story I am about to tell you, but it is of the dark kind. And know that I am in a good place right now as I write this. I am not depressed right now, far from it. It is from this good place that I want to try to see this episode in my life with a little perspective, humor, and whole lot of humility.
Why am I about to share this with you? Because I believe a lot of folks have been there, are there, about to be there. I am talking about depression here...the kind that leaves you lifeless and dry and the kind that makes you think crazy things.
And I want to tell you what it feels like for me.
The thing about depression that people who do not suffer from mood disorders don't understand is how very physical it can be. It isn't like...oh I am sad...boo hoo and spill a few tears. It physically hurts. Your body is drained. You don't want to move. You don't want to get up out of bed. Talking seems unbelievably difficult. Basically you suffer. The body and the brain get together and beat the crap out of you.
It is like being in a tunnel where it is impossible to see any light. My favorite analogy for myself is that it is like sitting at the bottom of a well. Sometimes people come and peer over the edge but they can't quite ever reach you . You are too far down.
Every loss you have ever felt in your life comes back at you full force. Memories you do not want to re-live play over and over in your mind leaving you hollowed out and at their mercy. "Abandon hope all ye who enter here" seems more than appropriate for the place you find yourself in. You are one raw exposed skinless creature cowering in fear and pain. But there is nowhere to hide. Your mind offers you no relief.
The thoughts pour in then as you begin to drown. The thoughts are all about being worthless and the mantra of "I don't matter...I don't matter" begins to rain. Part of you struggles to retain some semblance of normalcy...get up...talk to someone...get a cup of tea...do a chore. But everything feels slow and painful...like you are trying to walk through nettles. All your mind wants to focus upon is ending that pain anyway that you can.
You start to think crazy things...like endless sleeps...or drowning...or running away...or harming oneself paradoxically to end/release all that pain.
It is comical in a way...so very melodramatic...larger than life. The pain becomes the very center of the universe and you are trapped there. Other people cannot see this or begin to understand this. "Why?" they might ask. "I don't know why...it just is." Not talking becomes easier and a way to save oneself that energy of explanation when there is none.
I was feeling this way some years ago. And I did not want to share this with family or friends. I didn't want to burden anyone with...me. I also didn't want to be judged. I wanted to handle this alone but when it became too much for me I made a decision. I decided to call a suicide hotline.
No I don't believe I really wanted to commit suicide. But I was thinking of it and that is where it begins...as a thought in your head. I didn't want to die so much as get relief. I wanted some way, any way, to stop the pain.
Now here is the humorous part if you can believe it.
I think I chose a number out of the phone book...a national suicide hotline number. You are not going to believe this but...I kept getting a message that all operators were busy and nobody was there to receive my call. Yeah...that's nice. Too many suicidal people that day...so sorry. Try again...or...not.
So I tried another number and this time, although I got a hold of someone...I could not hear them. The connection was bad. I would begin my lowly monologue..."I am feeling extremely depressed today and just wanted someone to talk to." The response began with the other person trying to get more information, "How depressed are you?" and then the voice would trail off as I would tap the phone and yell, "I CAN'T HEAR YOU!" They would try again but to no avail. More than frustrated after many attempts I slammed down the phone.
At least this gave me something to do other than oust myself.
I had written to a friend about my ordeal and we came up with the following little skit. Just goes to show you humor can be found in the darkest of situations.
"Hello, if you are thinking of doing away with yourself press one. If you aren't serious but just thinking about it press two. Hello you have pressed one so you must be serious. Our clients are important to us. All available counselors are occupied, but your call is important to us. If you could just wait to do the deed your call will be answered in the order it was received. If you have an Internet connection, you might want to check our website HelpAren'tUs.Org.
While waiting, please take our survey. If you are planning to take pills, press one. Knife, press two. Jumping off cliff, three. Jumping off bridge, four. Revolver five. Getting police to do it, six. Train, seven. Tractor-trailer, eight. Airplane, nine. Doctor assisted, ten. Phil Spector, eleven. OJ Simpson, twelve. We did not understand your selection. Press zero to return to the main menu. This is the main menu for HelpAren'tUs. Our offices are now closed. Normal office hours are from noon to 12:01, odd days of the month. If we have been able to help, please tell a friend."
Perseverance must be my middle name because I tried a third time using another number. This time...thank god...this time I got a live person and a good connection.
Frank was his name. Frank was wonderful. The man let me talk for nearly an hour. I had no idea I had so much to talk about. But it all came out for Frank. Maybe because he was a stranger. I could say whatever I wanted. That kind of freedom is a blessing.
Basically Frank used all the good therapy techniques which...I already knew but seemingly saying them to yourself...doesn't do the job. You need that outside voice to say the right things. He told me I had a right to be sad. He told me I had a right to feel rage. He told me he could tell that I was a strong woman. He told me my loved ones would not be better off without me. He said...simple things. Common sense things. But yet nobody says these things. People want to fix you or pick at you until you come up with explanations or...they minimize or patronize. What Frank did for me was to give me permission to feel. It was okay to feel like this no matter how ugly I felt. He allowed me to retain my dignity...my humanness...and my ability to forgive myself.
I ended the call when I could walk away feeling like maybe there was a little hope after all.
Know that I am vulnerable sharing this. It is not something I am particularly eager to share with the world. But I think the risk is worth it. I am a strong woman but I am human too. And so are you. If you are someone who can relate to all this please know that you aren't alone. Please know you matter. Hold on. Even if it means calling a hotline. Do what you have to do to survive. Depression makes us think and feel crazy things. It sounds cliched but there is tomorrow. One of my dear friends who knows me well helps me so much by saying factually..."You have been through this before...and you are going to feel better in time." My friend is always right. Yes the pain may come again. People who suffer from mood disorders may have to deal with this extreme pain a multitude of times. But it doesn't mean that there aren't good times too...and more importantly there are times of great meaning for what you can give to the world despite your suffering.
Whatever you are going through, know that you are not alone. Reach out. I am here to tell you that it is worth it.
Published On: August 13, 2008