“I was me, but now he’s gone…” – Metallica, “Fade to Black”
In the wake of Robin Williams’ suicide, there’s been a lot flying around Facebook—and the ‘net at large. Talk of how suicide is/isn’t selfish, and how depression is a disease and not a character flaw. More irksome is the self-righteous standpoint most people take when addressing the issue, as if their opinion is the only one that’s right. When it comes to issues that involve psychological disorders, especially those caused/exacerbated by chemical imbalances, there’s more than one answer to every situation.
Unfortunately, when someone decides to invoke the mercy kill rule on themselves before the game is over—there’s nothing else that can be said or done. It’s kinda final like that. No respawn. No save point. That’s pretty much it.
Smile or not, that’s pretty much what it is.
One thing I’ve noticed is how some people rail about how debilitating depression can be. This is true. Not many people realize this, but I’ve been so far down that road before—I actually quit college and moved home with my parents for a semester. I had reached a point of malaise where I could hardly take care of myself—and I even had zero interest in my vice of choice: booze. Let that sink in for a whiskey soaked second. Lucky for me, I happen to have a failsafe built into my psyche that keeps me from totally destroying my life—so I at least kept going to work. I’m not sure if it was the call of the almighty dollar, or just the promise of things getting 1000x worse if I stopped going to work, but my job was the only part of my life that I didn’t completely abandon. To say that part of my life sucked would be an understatement of Biblical proportion. I had completely given up.
Now if that wasn’t a dark enough window into a part of me few are aware of, let’s get downright morbid. I’ve danced the masochistic tango with depression on and off since I was a teenager. I’ve been put on at least a dozen different medications, with varying degrees of success. Pills aren’t the complete answer—but I’ll get there soon enough. For the longest time, I freely admitted that I had an “armchair death wish.” There are two translations for this. One—I didn’t give a rat’s ass whether or not I was alive or dead. Two—I didn’t have the stones to be actively suicidal. Both are partially true, the former more than the latter. It was just how I found terms to explain the consuming emptiness inside.
It’s not just down. It’s not blue. It’s not sad. It’s a fucking void that consumes joy, sadness, anger, and everything else on the emotional smorgasbord. I eventually learned to use that ravenous maw to consume my fears and perceived inadequacies, because I was a total chickenshit when I was a teen. I’m lucky it didn’t devour me…
On second thought… Maybe it did, and I am merely what clawed back out of the pit.
Speaking of pits.
You’re probably wondering why I never tried to take a dirt nap on my own terms. Cue the record scratch, because that’s not entirely true. I deliberately tried to drink myself to death once or twice, but my liver wasn’t about to put up with any of my bullshit. Thanks buddy. Mathematically, both times I would have blown over a .4– so I should theoretically be dead twice over on those occasions.
This is the first I’ve spoken/written of it, because it’s stupid. However, therein lies the rub—I can see the stupidity now because my liver went full Johnny Badass in my moment of despair. In the moment? That’s a different story, and it’s nigh impossible to comprehend unless you’ve made the effort to call ol’ Thanatos for a free ride across the Styx. This experience is probably why I’ve been able to stop two people from making a terminal mistake.
Suicide is selfish, but not in the connotation. People are constantly coming up with trite things to say to depressed people, what not to say, et cetera ad nauseum. When it comes down to brass tacks, you can have the most wonderful family and friends in the world—but once you’ve reached that nebulous line where pulling the plug seems like a good way to stop feeling like complete shit—you don’t see them as a safety net. They’re people that you don’t want to burden. They’re the good things in your life that you don’t want to drag down with you. Depression doesn’t mean you can’t see good when it’s there. It keeps you from reaching out to touch that good, because you don’t want to tarnish it—or change how those people treat you (and yes, you do get treated differently.)
You’re not selfish as in thinking only for yourself—you hoard the suffering because that’s just what happens. It’s cyclical and self-sabotaging, and is one of the reasons real depression is so awful (none of that Google-diagnosed attention-seeking fuckery). If you’re depressed, you don’t want attention, you don’t want pity, you just want the whole shit and shebang to stop—and paradoxically you stop caring about pretty much everything in the process. It goes far beyond not giving a fuck. This is the bad kind of not giving a fuck. There’s a distinct difference.
Wait, we got to 50%? That’s shooting high.
Now let’s roll back to the whole concept of medication—let’s face it, depression is a condition as opposed to a disease. It’s not communicable; it’s not caused by a fungus/bacterium/virus. The meds can help to correct the chemical imbalance inside your brain box, but unless you ardently try to break out of it—you’re fucked. End of story. Game over. At the end of the day, all the medication and therapy in the world cannot fix someone who cannot be open to fixing themselves.
Confused yet? Good, you should be—because depression doesn’t make sense. Medication and therapy is a tool, not a fix. Once the tools are in your hands, only you can fix you, and if you can muster the drive—these tools are valuable to solving the problem. When people ineloquently regurgitate, “you just have to deal with it,” this is what they’re trying to nail home. Of course depressed people want to get better, but turning that want into ability and motivation is where the medication/therapy/friends/family come in to play.
Yeahhhhhhhh not quite.
My motivation and savior was my anger. I despised who I had become. I loathed what I had become. I tried being positive and that inevitably felt like a trite pair of rosy sunglasses, and I inevitably backslid into another malaise. Medication gave me weird side effects, and that roller-coaster often made the chemical component of my condition worse.
So I fed that void every ounce of my hate. I served that emptiness my indomitable wrath. I force-fed that void until it burned, and then dumped everything else I didn’t want on it—just to watch the blackness burn. My unusual skill for compartmentalizing my personality built a wall around it while it gagged on the overflow. I funneled everything I loathed into that maw, and then sealed that dismal oubliette shut. … and yes, I can still hear it howling somewhere in the recesses of the mind where I don’t like to tread.
That’s how it goes. Burn that shit and don’t look back.
I can already hear someone muttering, “that’s not dealing, that’s repression.” Maybe you’re right, and maybe that’s why I feel those empty tendrils working their way back into my head from time to time. However, it’s what worked for me—and this ties back what I said in very first paragraph: When it comes to issues that involve psychological disorders, especially those caused/exacerbated by chemical imbalances, there’s more than one answer to every situation.
No matter what answer is chosen… there’s only one answer that you can’t take back.
Always pick a choice that you can reflect on later– because you never know what might emerge from the wreckage.