Being in the throes of suicidal thoughts and feelings is a devastatingly lonely place to be. I know this from experience… twice over. A number of years ago I was there, for an extended period of time, several years in fact. I was solidly stuck in that place, that excruciatingly painful place where I was (or so I thought) completely alone and literally struggling to hang on.
I still look back on those days with incredulousness (is that a word?) for a number of reasons first and foremost being how on earth did I ever get to that point? I think no matter how much therapy I have, no matter how much I learn about myself, no matter how much I come to understand that adult depression has its roots in childhood experience I will still and always be incredulous that I ever got to such a point. That I could reach such a painful place that it seemed the only way out was death. I think many would agree with me when I say that after struggling in such a place for so long, after exerting so much energy to a) keep myself going and b) trying to hide my awful state of mind from everyone around me the peace, the sweet release that I envisioned could only be offered in death became almost an obsession. I can honestly say that if I did not have a young son at the time I am not entirely sure I would be here now.
I said ‘twice over’. These days my son suffers from depression and I have seen him struggle through some pretty low times. I know he thinks of suicide, he told me so because I asked him. Trust me when I say there is nothing, NO THING on God’s green earth that can strike the kind of fear in the heart of a parent as the knowledge that their child thinks of suicide. I have not yet decided if it is good or bad that I have first-hand knowledge of how it feels to get to this point. I suppose it’s a double-edged sword. On the good: if I hadn’t been through this myself I wouldn’t have the first idea what he goes through sometimes and beyond that I would have that same unwillingness to talk about it with him. Let’s face it, there aren’t a lot of people talking about suicide in everyday conversation. It’s one of those topics that grown people shy away from, too unpleasant, too awkward to talk about. Let’s change the subject. I am here to tell you that to have to sit calmly while your child tells you this requires a fortitude like no other.
It is the utter loneliness of that place that is so much a part of the devastation one feels. This is part II of my incredulousness. How on earth could I have let myself suffer for so long in isolation? I cannot believe I did that. How tragic that this is such a taboo subject that somebody who is seriously considering driving into the nearest tree at top speed feels like they have no other option, nowhere to go, nobody to talk to.
Little by little I am going to engage him in conversation about it. I have cracked the door open a bit and now he knows (hopefully) that the doesn’t have to suffer in this alone, that I can handle talking about this and that I can even empathize in a very personal way with him (that’s the bad side of the sword).
It is undoubtedly to those of us who have been there that falls the responsibility to bring this taboo subject out of the darkness. I can honestly say that the opportunity to talk about it openly and honestly with my therapist without her freaking out or reaching for the phone to call the nearest psych hospital has been shockingly helpful. Such a simple thing and yet the benefits that I have reaped are immeasurable.
And so I ask how it can be that something so devastating, so tragic and yet so controllable in so many cases can be buried in obscurity? Unsayable.
Because it makes us uncomfortable.