Editor's note: This article is part of “Breaking the Silence: Shining a Light on Oregon’s Suicide Crisis,” which is a statewide project that emphasizes suicide prevention and awareness in the week of April 7-14. Click here for a list of resources for anyone who may be in crisis.
I preface this writing by stating that I speak only about my own experience with depression and suicide. I find it important to understand that even though others may have had similar experiences to my own, when it comes down to it, these experiences are each our own. My main goal is to illuminate on my own history with depression and suicide because I feel it important for my voice to be heard. Hopefully, in expressing my voice, I can enlighten others.
Suicide is a topic that seems to be spoken about in two main ways in our society. The first being jokingly and often accompanied after a story of an embarrassing interaction between people. The other is whispered, often through tears, to a trusted confidant with fear in the back of the mind. Suicide, and depression for that matter, have been a taboo subject in today’s society. It makes sense in a way because it defies all the logic of our basic primal need for survival, but that should only accentuate the pain and suffering that has been experienced. During the times in my life where I have considered suicide, I have felt trapped in a whirlpool of pain, doubt, and hopelessness. It was not that I did not want to feel the joys of being alive, but it all seemed to fail in comparison to the seemingly endless amount of suffering I was having. Going through the torturous existence that was my life seemed less appealing than the great unknown, whether it be heaven, hell, or absolute nothingness.
The reactions of my friends and family to my thoughts of suicide varied greatly. I was met with a resounding sense of concern but also with thoughts that I am weak or pining for other’s attention. The intentions of the latter have always confused me as I never felt weak for admitting how I felt, and I knew the immense amount of strength that went into not acting on my feeling. As for wanting attention, that one was true, but not for the reasons of those that seem to doubt my resolve might imagine. I did not want to die, hence the reason I reached out to others. I did not obsess about the morbid ways that I would end my life but had the overwhelming feeling that I simply did not want to exist anymore. These feelings seemed to push many of my friends and family out of my life for various reasons that I can only speculate. Some seemed to be afraid of me in the sense that they did not want to do anything that would send me over the edge, or they were afraid of what I was capable of as someone who didn't want to do something as sensible as living might be capable of any myriad of unsavorable things. Others seemed to be frustrated when it took time and effort on multiple occasions, and they seemed to feel overwhelmed that I "couldn't just get over it". And of course, there were the fair weather friends who only want to be with you at your best. So a lot of my struggle was dealt with alone because I was afraid of how others would react. My suicidal thoughts would come and go but I was too afraid of expressing them to others, but in a way, these thoughts and feelings did a lot to keep me going.
In a lot of ways, I've come to realize that my depression and suicidal thought have done a lot to shape the person I have become in a positive manner. I do not think that they define who I am, but they have done a lot to shape me into a more compassionate person that desires to help others not feel the way that I have. My thoughts on suicide have almost become like a superpower to me, admittedly a pretty bad one. I know this sounds rather macabre, but let me explain. It allows me to have some sense of control in an otherwise chaotic world because if I can't seem to take it, I can just stop. This often gives me the courage and strength I need to put myself out in the world. It is partially what drove me to finish high school and subsequently college. The trick is to always tell yourself one thing--just give it one more. No matter how hopeless I was feeling, I would tell myself to give it one more try or one more day, or if circumstances were incredibly hard, I would tell myself to give it one more minute. Then when that day or minute was up, I would tell myself again to just give it one more. Sometimes days would get harder, but sometimes they would get easier too.
So for anyone who has considered suicide or lives with depression, just give yourself one more day to see what life has left to offer, and whenever that day is overly difficult, challenge yourself to another one. And for those who know someone who has or is considering suicide, offer them the help and support they need. You don't need to understand their pain but listen to their experience like you have mine. Help them access the resources they need and tell them to challenge themselves to one more day, every day.