So, basically, what happens is you can’t stop thinking about something. Let’s say you’re ashamed. Let’s say you feel like you’ve done something terrible. So you’re, for example, just incredibly afraid someone will find out about it. It haunts you. The idea that you might end up revealed as a terrible, unlovable, irredeemable person just dogs your every step. So you tell someone; maybe a therapist and maybe a friend and maybe your wife or your husband or your boy- or girlfriend. And sometimes people, especially people who know you well, really will speak to you lovingly and tell you they think you’re a good person or that you didn’t do anything wrong at all, that you’re being too hard on yourself, and that doesn’t actually help, which comes as a shock, because you kind of expected it to snap you out of whatever this is. Sometimes, too, you will talk to somebody who feels like it is his or her job to “hold you accountable” or score points for Jesus or something and they’ll say, “You did a really bad thing. That is horrible. You should ask God for forgiveness.” And, unfairly, that actually really does make things much worse, even though the kind people don’t make anything better. There’s a part of you that really wants to hear anything bad anyone has to say about you, because it will feel right. You just lust after condemnation and hatred. You really want to be despised.
Or let’s say you’re sick. You don’t know what’s wrong. You’ve been to like seven doctors and the medical bills are starting to pile up and you just start to see in your partner’s eyes not that he or she is going to leave you or abandon you or even resent you, but that this person you love more than anything else is going to just quietly chop off a little more of him or herself to make it okay for you to be alive. And you are just filled, utterly, with horror. And it just punches you in the balls how unworthy you are of that kind of sacrifice, how much better off someone you personally love would be without you. And maybe you’re actually able to express that to this person and you hear back, no, of course I would not be better off, I love you, I want to keep on being with you, it doesn’t matter how sick you are I will always prefer a world with you in it. And you think, God, no. You are lovable. You are worth everything. You will be really happy when I am gone after a very brief period of grieving and I know all the stories about people who cheat on their dying spouses and I know we all agree those people are shits but now I kind of understand what would drive them to that because I’m going to turn into a weird, soul-eating death monster before I finally kick off and I refuse to do that to you.
And then, after a little while, whether you’re ashamed or ill or whatever else, you kind of start to feel like maybe you should just die. Like, you feel bad all the time, you’re afraid and when you’re not afraid you’re disgusted with yourself. You hate being here. It feels awful. You feel like the people who love you are just totally wrong and deceived and so you try, experimentally, to see if you can make them hate you as much as you deserve. This rarely works.
Then you start to fantasize, and think, hey, what if I jumped off a bridge. What if I cut open my wrists. Then you start to get organized about it, not really on purpose, more like you’re picking at a scab or something. Maybe I shouldn’t cut open my wrists at home—maybe what I should do is put the paring knife from the kitchen drawer in my backpack, creep out of my house at night, go to a nice chain hotel, pay for a room in cash, put a note on the door telling room service to call the police and not to go in the bathroom, leave a nice note telling my wife or husband that I love her or him so, so much and hope you are able to move on quickly, please forgive me, and then run a hot bath AND THEN IF YOU ARE VERY, VERY LUCKY, YOU WILL SAY TO YOURSELF, HOLY FUCK, I SHOULD NOT BE THINKING THIS WAY.
I’m going to take a moment and stop here and say: if you are thinking this way, or have thought this way in the recent past, and have not told a medical professional about it, you should go do that right now, before the end of the day, even if that means calling 800-273-8255 in the dead of night, and you should be as truthful as possible about how likely you are to do it, because you are a child of God who is fearfully and wonderfully made and you should not take your own life. It’s not yours. It was given to you, and you should take care of it.
Sometimes, if you are not too far gone and if you have a broad enough network of other people who love you and think that getting therapy or taking psych meds are valid and reasonable choices for a normal person, or, even less likely, you fail at a really honest attempt to do yourself in, you might actually get to a place, with therapy and possibly the addition of an SSRI or an SNRI or a really hardcore drug like an MAOI, where you are able to feel happy again. Maybe you are forgiven, or able to forgive yourself. Maybe you are not sick anymore, or your symptoms go away and the doctors shrug and go, “miracle, whaddayado,” and you move on with your life, feeling vaguely insulted at how blase everyone is being about the second chance you really didn’t honestly think you were going to get for a while there. And maybe you can eventually get off your drug and discover that you’re still with your partner, or a new partner, and your loved ones still love you, or maybe you have new loved ones, and you’re at peace for a bit.
What I’m saying is, this is like a broken arm, or a deep cut, and it heals but it doesn’t go back the way it was. And if you are off meds and out of therapy and just happily living your successful life, sometimes somebody really famous and well-known and beloved goes to a black place where there is no hope and it seems like there’s no way out but down and that’s the way they go. And then all the coverage has nasty, horrible things that you don’t want to think about in it! Really repulsive, gross details that seem to make everyone else shake their heads and say “aww” and actually what it does to you is make you feel much, much worse, and you say, “Why is everyone else insane? Why don’t people fear and hate these awful news stories? Why am I clicking on them?”
And it’s because once you’ve been to that place, you know the way back there, and you can feel the undertow, the awful weight on the broken arm, and you want to get away from it, but it is ubiquitous. It’s no use pleading with the news media to stop. They won’t. People like death. It makes them feel alive. You could, if you wanted, write a letter to the news outlet of your choice begging the editors or producers to stop publishing suicide-themed news, but they probably will file it with letters about Freemason conspiracies and immigration (I’ve worked at several newspapers; there’s a lot of that stuff around).
Instead, just turn it all off. Read a comic book. Go to the movies. Listen to Queen. But unplug, and find something else to do, because the world isn’t really going to magically start understanding depression; you actually have to take serious measures to protect yourself, because you’re not crazy if you feel this way. I feel it, too. It’s the dread of something real, but it is something you and I know and understand and can defeat.
Also, watch this, it’s hilarious and both of the people in it are alive and happy today.