That game of life is hard to play
I'm gonna lose it anyway
The losing card I'll someday lay
So this is all I have to say
Suicide is painless
It brings on many changes
And I can take or leave it if I please
- From Suicide is Painless by Johnny Mandel and Mike Altman
I live in two worlds. One is a normal, happy place in which I enjoy my family, job and the arts, film, literature and sports. In this world I am funny, occasionally charming and intellectually curious. The other world is a dark place devoid of hope. In it I am sluggish, uninterested and melancholy.
One night last week I was trapped in the dark world, enveloped in a depression so pronounced that life seemed meaningless and especially my place in it. That night, for the second time, I thought about suicide. I was not contemplating the idea of it, but planning the execution of the deed. I’d always thought that jumping off a bridge would be my preferred method but Friday night I wanted something more immediate. I thought about ways of hanging myself and noted the long cord we use to charge our laptops. I was not simply feeling despair, my mind was in a state of agitation desperately seeking a way out. Death seemed the solution. Suicidal thinking is not lethargic but active, seeking a way to extinguish the pain forever.
Fortunately my wife was present and I managed to alert her to my thinking. After considerable effort I emailed my psychiatrist — as he suggested I do in such circumstances — and told him where my mind was. When he called I had just gone to bed. Sleeping was proving difficult especially as I was mentally writing my suicide note. Our conversation helped and gave me a glimmer of hope. It was reassuring to know that I had a loved one and a professional on my side. I eventually managed to sleep and when I awoke the next morning I was severely depressed but thoughts of killing myself were mercifully gone.
I used to think that I was safe from suicidal thoughts because I had a loving wife and family, excellent physical health and a decent income. Those are protections but as I learned they are not enough. Depression is like what is said of alcoholism in AA: cunning, baffling and powerful. It convinces you that being depressed is the natural way of things, your permanent state of being and any happiness you might later experience is temporal. And indeed it infects your mind when you do feel good, sending messages telling you that at any moment you could slip back into the darkness. Suicidal thoughts are the logic extension of this pain. What I could never imagine contemplating, in my darkest moments, seemed natural.
Right now I feel fine. It is hard to remember what that darkness felt like last week just as it is impossible to remember feeling good while in the throes of depression. They are two different worlds.
Interestingly there is no middle ground -- that I’ve experienced -- between the two worlds. In your days I might be sad about something but happy overall, which was like having a foot in both worlds. But now if something makes me sad, the depression takes it as an invitation to completely take over.
I don’t know what’s next. For over two years I’ve been depressed more often than not. Humans have a basic survival instinct and a natural desire to pursue happiness, depression is an obstacle that tries to upset these natural impulses. I don't know how this will resolve itself. Hopefully not by my own hand.
Fortunately I have good days, many of them great, and fortunately I am working — and it is work — on understanding and combatting the depression. It is a struggle worth engaging in. I am discovering who I am and why I am this way. I am seeking truth. Hopefully this journey of self discovery can enable to throw of the shackles of depression. I know no other alternative then to keep going.
Advice: If you know anyone who suffers from depression check in with them often and be there for them whenever you can and to whatever degree is possible. If you suffer from depression let people know, invite them to check in. Hold tight to the good times, make great use of them, you can see the flicker of their lights off in the distance when you are in dark places. Get professional help, believe in yourself. Hold on, don’t yield to the darkest forces. When it is darkest try to reach out. Your life might depend on it.