Meds, Mind, Body & Benefits > Mental Health & HIV

WHY? - Thoughts on depression and suicide

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allanq:
Tim's (thunter34) thread about the suicide of his friend Michael struck me deeply. A few days before Tim wrote of Michael's death, I had read an obituary in the Bay Area Reporter of another young man who had committed suicide. He was 38, and by all accounts he was a successful and much-loved man. The picture showed a very handsome man with a sort of mischievous smile.

Both these suicides got me to thinking how difficult it is to recognize or understand the intense pain and aloneness that another person feels.

I have struggled with anxiety and depression my whole life. There have been many times that I have felt very close to taking my own life. When I was 16, I wrote down my thoughts about wishing I were dead. Unknown to me, my mother found and read them. Nearly forty years later, she told me about this in the course of one of our weekly phone calls. I'm not sure why she told me after all those decades. I suspect it was from a sense of guilt.

When someone commits suicide, people who knew the person are often stunned by the act. I can understand why this can happen. Depressed people can become very good at concealing their feelings, even from those closest to them. They often appear to function fairly normally. In all the years that I was profoundly depressed, there were only a couple of days that I just couldn't make it in to work. Back in the early 80's, I worked in a suburban office. During lunch hour, I would walk up the hill behind the office and look at the trees and try to pick out the best one to hang myself from. Then I would return to the office, and no one had a clue as to what was on my mind.

My parents would call me and ask how I was. "Fine," I would say, and I'd recite a few things I had done to convince them that I was OK--anything to not talk about how utterly alone I felt in the world.

I had friends. And I knew they cared about me, too. But I still felt alone. I lived for the weekends and for sex. The more encounters I had, the lonelier I felt.

Nobody wants to be around someone who's constantly down--that was one of the rationales I had for trying to appear happy to others.

I've improved a lot since my darkest times. Antidepressants (mostly Zoloft) have helped me, as well as contnuing therapy. But there are still times when I look in the mirror and wonder who is looking back at me. I still feel alone, even when I'm with people, and sometimes even when it may appear that I'm having a good time.

When someone takes his or her own life, we always want to know WHY. "He had so much to live for," or "so many people loved and cared about him." It is hard to grasp the absolute pain and aloneness felt by someone who wants to take his own life. It is a demonic force that resides within and which defies understanding.

AllanQ

Buckmark:
Allan,

Thanks for your very thoughtful and insightful posting here.  I myself could echo everything you've said here, and I do mean everything. 

I agree that it can be very difficult to recognize another person's feeling of sadness and loneliness, and the depth of the pain it can cause them.  And even if you do recognize them, they are difficult to understand and respond to.  Telling someone that "you have no reason to be depressed" or "you have everything going for you" generally makes them feel even more depressed (at least, it's been my experience when someone tells me that).

I know that I am very good at concealing my feelings in general, and my depression in particular.  I think that stems from my belief that there is nothing anyone can do to help me anyway, that the burden is on me to make changes.  That's probably why I haven't progressed with my therapist(s) in the past 7 months as much as I would have liked (but I keep working on it). 

And I totally relate to you when you say you were always trying to appear happy to others.  If people don't want to be around someone who is down all the time, and I appear down all the time, then I'd be even more lonely if I expressed how depressed I really feel.  And yet even with my friends around, I often still feel very alone.  I attribute that to my belief that suppressing one's true feelings makes you feel more alone, no matter how many people are around.

I think it's natural to ask "why" when someone we know commits suicide.  While we can think they had a lot to live for,  our thoughts are really irrelevant, because it's really about the individual's thoughts and feelings.  That's one of the most frustrating things about losing a loved one to suicide:  you'll never have all the answers to your questions about why they did it, because they are the ones with the answers, which they have taken with them.  My mother committed suicide when I was 12 years old, and I have no more answers about it now at 43, despite talking with therapists and family members about it.

I'm glad that you have improved a lot since your darkest times.  Therapy and medication have helped me stem the downward spiral.  Yet I still wonder when it will turn into an upward spiral.

Henry

komnaes:
Depression has been my imaginary friend since I was a kid, and he came with his sidekick Suicide. I let them stayed in my life for too long, all the way to my early adulthood and I let the sidekick tried out a few very dangerous games with me that led to one overdose, one car crash and, if luck wouldn't have it, an explosion in our old apartment's bathroom. It ended up only a third degree burn that kept me in the hospital for 2 weeks. Alas, no one noticed and life went on.

Both of them are still lurking around, coming back for reunions once in a while, as they constantly changed their faces, reintroduced themselves and kept modifying those games we played together as they knew that there were more forces such as the fear of other people's preception, my responsibilities to family members and friends, etc are acting on me now. By then my new friend has come to my life as at one point, I don't know when, my imaginary friend and his sidekick got married and produced a son called Self-Destruction. Up until now I have been less careful with their heir and I play new games with him - at one stage it was drug abuses, drinking, chain-smoking (with a family gene pool is that receptive to almost all cancers known to humankind) and then, finally, risky sex.

Now the son finally got me, in form of a deadly virus that is inside of me, I have no choice but to accept him as part of me because he's no longer just a force acting on me and keep whispering in my ears. I still have no idea how to deal with his new physical mutation, except his parents are making a come back, visiting me far more often then I think I can handle. I keep telling myself that it's my one last chance to comfront all three of them but for the last few weeks I have to come to know someone else - Self-Destruction has a new boyfriend and his name is Numbness.

Numbness I am afraid to say is the scarest of them all - he plays tricks that I have never seen before. He seems to know how to hypnotize and is beginning to make me avoiding the mirror because he not only makes me feel that it's a stranger staring back at me when I look at my reflection, that image has began to talk back at me. He's making me a zombie, consuming a lot of energy that I could have saved to continue my battle with Depression, Suicidal and now the physical form of Self-Destruction.

During my "up moments" I manage to push them away, but during my "down moments" they're having a party anytime, anywhere they want. They were having one last night in my bedroom and kept me awoke for a long time. Since one of them is inside me, I had to struggle even harder to not let them grabbed my hands and legs and pinned me down, then showing me again and again all the plans that I made from my teenage years for ending it all in vivid high-definition details. I have no idea how the next few years will be like - I mean in term of my relationship with these friends of mind. My counselor told me to have some thought experiments on where would I end up with all different scenarios. Just weeks ago when I received my diagnosis, I told myself and (later) my counselor that I would not let them win, but I am no longer sure. Perhaps if I could still be alive for so many years for having shared my life with them, I could just continue regardless.

Shaun

(who apologizes for his bad writing)

bear60:
Oddly enough, or not so odd, since I quit smoking I have been filled with anxiety and panic attacks.  I have decided to let my acupuncturist give it a try to get me more "balanced".  I really do feel ok after treatments but the effect wears off after a few days.  It does seem promising however, and I may be able to stay off anti depressants.

allanq:
Shaun,

I was very moved by your vivid description of depression as your "imaginary friend."

I wish I knew the formula for easing your pain. Sometimes just writing down my feelings helps a little. I hope it does the same for you. I'm glad you're seeing a counselor. Keeping the feelings inside only makes it worse.

It's been only a very short time since you got your HIV test results, but one thing I can tell you is that the feelings of despair over the diagnosis do lessen over time.

I'll be keeping you in my thoughts.

Allan

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