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The ‘S’ Word

Suicide – a word that nobody really wants to talk about.  It’s a word that so few understand or can explain.  The only ones who can really explain it are dead.  I guess that sounds harsh even though it’s true.  I just finished reading a book called “Blue Genes”  by Christopher Lukas.  It was a memoir in which he explored the history of his family which included mental illness and multiple suicides.  Plagued by depression himself, he wonders if his life will end that way as well.  His mother and brother both killed themselves.  He tells of his anguish, anger, feelings of abandonment and guilt.  These are all common responses when a loved one suicides.  The author points out that the family history of depression, their mother’s suicide and the complex feelings this resulted in and  the feeling that he never measured up even though he won 2 Pulitzer Prizes, all contributed to his brother’s suicide.  I think that this shows us that each person perceives their experiences and feelings differently than what others might imagine.  After a suicide, many will ask things like why did she do it when she has such a great family, or a great job, or a happy life, etc.  But even the most successful person has doubts and feelings of inadequacy.  We perceive the experiences of our lives in a very different way than people who are looking at us.  Even those most close to us don’t truly know what’s going on inside of us, what thoughts are going through our heads.

Can we look at suicide from the depressed  person’s point of view?  The closest we can come to that is to talk to those who have tried to kill themselves but not succeeded.  I am one of those people.  Since I’ve had depression, their have been many, many days when I wanted to end it.  Being depressed is a horrendously painful, dark, harrowing experience.  To feel that way day after day,  trying to force yourself to have some kind of life and try to show a happy face to your family gets exhausting.  After a while, you feel like you just can’t do it for one more day.  You think your family and friends will be better off if you go, because you are causing them so much trouble.  One day it becomes too much, you have nothing left to give.   So you do something to end your life.  For me, it was pills.  Thankfully, a friend found me in time so I’m still here to tell the story.  If I weren’t I wouldn’t have seen my daughter get married, or played with my grandchildren.  I would have missed out on so much.  There are still plenty of days that I feel like I wish I were dead, but the thought of my grandchildren keeps me going.  Sometimes it also makes me feel trapped.  Before, I always thought that if I couldn’t stand it anymore I could always kill myself.  Now I know that I could never do that .  I couldn’t cause my children and grandchildren that kind of pain.  You see, their father committed suicide.  I couldn’t put them through that again.  But I understand the feeling.  It’s not one of selfishness, it’s one of total despair.

Once someone has decided to end their life, there isn’t a lot you can do to change their minds.  But don’t be afraid to ask someone if they’re feeling suicidal.  Talking about their feelings might help.  Also, don’t hesitate to get them help if you think  they might actually harm themselves.  They might not thank you then, but they will almost certainly be grateful when they are feeling better.


The Hours

I just finished watching the movie, The Hours.   It was a fabulous movie, but very dark.  There were some wonderful actors in it, including Meryl Streep, Julianne Moore, Nicole Kidman  and Ed Harris.   The main theme was suicide, mental illness.  It looked at how mental illness affects the sufferer and their family and friends.  It examines how people view life and how sometimes, death seems a better alternative.

For people with major depression, this is a subject that is very familiar.  Most of us think about death a lot, and many have tried to die.  Many succeed.  This is not because we don’t value life , or because from the outside looking in our lives  are terrible.  They might even look darn good.  But it’s the getting through the hours, putting one foot in front of the other and somehow continuing on day after day.  As with one character in the movie , many of us carry on because of the people in our lives and the fact that we don’t want to hurt them.  But often life is almost insufferable, and we wonder if it’s all worth the trouble.  For myself, it’s the thought of my children and grandchildren that keeps me going.  Yes, I want to see my other children marry and have children if that’s what they want.  I want to spend time with my grandchildren and see what kind of people they become.  But there are times when it seems that I would be doing them a favour by no longer being in their lives.  They wouldn’t have to worry about me any more.

Just yesterday, I was having what I must assume was very bad indigestion, and I wondered if I was having a heart attack.  That’s how my dad died.  And you know, I hoped I was.  I hoped that this was the end.  I didn’t want to keep on pretending that things are better than they are, to go out because I feel I should for someone else’s sake,  or gather myself together and push on through for one more day.  As you can see, I didn’t die.  I’m not really sure how I feel about that. Somewhere inside me there’s the seed of hope that tells me that things will be better one day if I just hang on.  I think of the love I have for my family and friends and how I want to spend time with them.  I guess it just wasn’t my time to go yesterday.  So I’ll push on through the hours once again.

Depression isn’t weakness.

Depression is not a sign of weakness, it is a sign that you have been strong for too long. Author Unknown

I don’t know if this holds true for everyone, but it was certainly the case for me.  I grew up without a dad as mine died when I was eight.  It really makes you grow up fast.  Other than that I guess my childhood wasn’t out of the ordinary.  It’s just that I felt on the outside, different somehow.    Then I got married.  Ta da! All my problems solved, right?   I tried to hard to choose the right guy.  I made sure he had a good job and was good with kids.  He was kind of romantic and really funny.  He shared my religious beliefs.  Or so I thought.

As time went by, more and more problems cropped up.  He was alcoholic, unstable and abusive.  I slogged it out for 16 years and finally, he did something that I just couldn’t overlook and that was the end.  Or so I thought.  Even after we separated, he continued to make my life and the life of my children hell.  Hang up phone call, broken promises, no financial support or support of any kind actually.  In the end this tragic figure suicided.  Another huge loss I had to try to help my children through.

I had been homeschooling the kids before my marriage broke down, so was out of the job market for sometime.  This meant that I had to go back to school and so did the kids.  Thankfully, the transition wasn’t too harrowing, though we were all but called liars trying to get my oldest into high school.

Previous to having children, I had been a teacher, but because of a knee problem , the orthopedic surgeon said I wasn’t to go back to teaching, I had to find something to do sitting down.   For a number of reasons, I settled on a Business Diploma.  So off I went to full time school, commuting an hour each way, then taxiing kids to activities, household stuff and homework in the evening.  I did this for two years and got the highest GPA at the college.

I decided to become an accountant.  I started job hunting and then working full-time.  To get any kind of decent pay, you really have to get an accounting designation.  So I launched myself into the CGA  program.  For those who don’t know, this is a gruelling 6 year program that you do at night because you have to working full-time. This meant I was working full-time, working on my CGA program and raising 3 teenagers by myself.  And we were broke.  But you know, you do what you have to do.

Finally I got a good job, with good benefits.  I was so happy.  I could continue studying for my CGA but now it was a condition of employment that I finish the program.  So I slogged away at that while tackling the extremely steep learning curve of my new job.   After about 3 years, I felt I was doing well at my job, my kids had finished school and were successfully launching themselves into the next stage of their lives and FINALLY I finished my CGA.  Life was looking the best it had in 20 years.  I thought I’ll have some time to myself and enough money to do some things that I’ve wanted to do.  Or so I thought.   Life had other ideas.   I no sooner took my last CGA exam, than my life started to unravel.  I was having trouble sleeping, seemed sad most of the time, and was having trouble concentrating on my work.  Of course I didn’t tell anyone.  This went on for several months, getting worse and worse.  Finally I went to my doctor.   He suggested it might be depression.  I didn’t think so.  He put me through a full physical and did some tests and said to come back in a couple of weeks.  By the time I went back,   I was crying at my computer at work.  I couldn’t function at all.  I knew I shouldn’t be driving because I just couldn’t focus well enough.  My doctor gave me a six week sick leave from work.  That was 9 years ago and I haven’t been back to work since.   My life totally unravelled.    I lost my job, my home, most of my friends.

I was sent to a psychiatrist who started trying to find a medication to help me.  We also talked about things going on in my life.   I ended up in hospital shortly after.  The first psychiatrist turned out to be a horror for me.   I was worse leaving his office than I was when I got there.  It would take me a week to recover from the appointment.  I don’t know what it was, but he didn’t like me, he didn’t believe me.  It was devastating.  It took me a long time to seek another psychiatrist.  I was in and out of hospital, wanting more than anything to just die.   Eventually, I found a psychiatrist that was helpful and still is.  But even with all the help I’ve received, noone has been able to

find a treatment that works for me.  No, depression is not a weakness.  It is not something that anyone would choose or wish on their worst enemy.  It is an ilness that can destroy lives.  It has a high mortality rate.   It takes incredible strength to keep going each day.   I wish more people could realise this and come alongside their friends with mental illness instead of deserting them.   Like everyone else, people with mental illness just want to be treated with compassion and respect like everyone else.

I’ve been thinking about starting a blog for a long time.  I’d really like to discuss issues concerning mental illness or anything else that pops into my head I guess.  I’ve been dealing with mental illness for about nine years now and so far no treatment has worked very well for me.  It has totally disrupted my life.   I can no longer work or take my cello lessons or do the work I love at my local hospice.  That’s just for starters.  My family suffers as well because I can’t be with them as much as I would like and I know they worry about how I am.  My particular illness is major depressive disorder.  I think a lot of people think that those of us with depression are just a bunch of whiners who just need to pull ourselves up by our boot straps and get on with it.  This attitude makes me wish that my illness had a different name.  The word depression is used so loosely now.  People will say they’re depressed for such trivial reasons that it minimizes the true devastation of the illness.

Major depressive disorder(MDD) affects every part of your life.  It affects mood, emotions, concentration, memory, energy, social relationships as well as causing headaches, anxiety, body aches, etc.  It’s not just a matter of feeling down for a few days.  I’m hoping that at least one person will read my blog and learn something.  If I can reduce the stigma surrounding mental illness by just one tiny bit, then this blog has done its job.

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