I’ve heard so often from people who don’t know depression, the questions about how a person who is loved and who appears to have everything they need in life could want to commit suicide. It is almost automatic, this assumption that because what is seen from the outside is perceived as wholesome, that’s what must be going on inside too. Society wants to think that it is only the down and out, the psychotic or disturbed that kill themselves. That way we can continue to view mental illness as a sickness to be cured, as something ‘other’ to what’s mainstream.
The truth is that, while there are varying degrees of severity in people’s struggles, one in four adults in the UK will require treatment for mental health issues in their lifetime. That means that a quarter of the people you meet in a day might have at some time felt suicidal. They could be the happiest, luckiest, healthiest people you know. And they might still want to end their own lives.
I read this incredibly moving letter this morning, published by a woman in response to her sister’s suicide. The key message hit home with me. Depression lies.
It doesn’t matter how much money you’ve got, how wonderful your children are, how much talent you possess, etc., because depression shouts louder than all of that. I could list a hundred amazing things about my life, and my depression would come up with two hundred reasons why they aren’t real, they won’t last, or I don’t deserve them.
Depression tells me horrible lies. It tells me I will never feel like life is worthwhile. It whispers in my ear in my happiest moments, reminding me that they could be my last. When I’m alone, it guides me into darkness, urging me to follow it down into dangerous places.
The words of depression are more pervasive than any others. They ring in my ears long after any compliments have drifted away. It’s as though I have this membrane through which I can only absorb the worst sentiments, the criticism and the hopelessness. At the same time it’s a barrier that prevents the good stuff squeezing through.
I hate this depression that takes so much energy from me. It drains colour and leaves me with insipid greys. It questions everything; the love I’m given, the gifts in my life and the warmth of my friends and family. Without depression, I would be a better person. I could use my talents to spread some happiness into the lives of others. Breaking free from what my depression tells me, I could learn to truly love myself, in the now and in the future that awaits me.
Depression lies. It steals time and joy and wonder from amazing people who deserve better. That makes it so much sadder when the blackness of those lies steals a person’s existence. So I will keep fighting that dark voice. I’ll keep trying to hold on to what’s good. And I will strive to remind myself that what depression tells me is cold and cruel and quite simply is not true.
Photo: thematthewknot, Creative Commons.