I collapsed in a puddle of tears. It’s as if a monstrous force had slammed me down. I was paralyzed by a pain so raw it consumed me. The tears wouldn’t stop. I didn’t want to move, to get up, or attempt to do anything. Living took too much out of me. Every molecule of my body froze with loneliness, despair, fear, sadness, pain. I didn’t want this life.
My longtime companion had struck with a vengeance a year ago. Depression is part of my make-up. I’ve learned to live with it. Usually, I keep it quelled with great success. Occasionally, it overpowers me.
For years, I’ve lived a dual-life as both a mental health professional and mental health patient. Locally, I can be seen volunteering at the Shalom Free Clinic, where I put to use my License as a Clinical Social Worker. I’ve also depended upon their services to help me battle the worst of my depression.
I’ve taken clients to Enloe Hospital. I’ve also taken myself there, when I couldn’t stop the tears. Sitting in the waiting room at the Crisis Center, I saw a police officer bring in a woman who seemed comfortable there – as if it was another daily visit.
The officer looked at me. In a sincere, caring tone, he said: “It’s going to get better.” I couldn’t see him through my tears, but I’ll never forget his kindness.
I’d been waiting for 45 minutes when the woman turned to me and asked, “Ma’am are you okay?” This lady, who spends her life battling each moment, expressed concern for my well-being. My well-being. She could’ve been my client. I’ll never forget her sweetness either.
“Yeah,” I told her. “I’m just tired of waiting. Thank you for asking.”
A year later, and back on anti-depressants -- which I had stopped due to lack of medical coverage -- I’m much better. Tearfulness comes and goes, and I’ve had a couple more doses of trauma, but I’m handling it all. A compassionate and skilled therapist, finally, helps too. I exercise regularly, and I write daily. I’m known by my friends and readers for my beaming smile, my humor, and my love of chocolate.
I don’t appear depressed. Then again, depression has no face. It doesn’t necessarily look sad. Despite or perhaps because of my depression, I’ve learned to laugh and smile with my entire soul.
Further, depression does not always express itself. Societal stigma remains as monstrous as the beast itself. Therapists have suggested stupid “cures” like charting my exercise routine or reciting the Lord’s Prayer. Friends have told me to join the Unitarian Church, despite knowing I’m Jewish, or “Nobody ever said life was easy.” The messages: “Don’t experience difficult feelings. Don’t be human. Get over it.” These inane responses only furthered my despair and isolation.
Yet I’m certainly not alone. The World Health Organization reported that depression is the number one disability in the world. The most dangerous aspect of not wanting to live is that depressed people can easily slip into suicidality. In fact, a reported 15% of those with clinical depression die by suicide. Many more attempt or consider suicide, and far more suicides are completed than the numbers suggest. (My late ex-husband completed suicide, but it was recorded as a “homicide.” This is often the case.)
Whatever the actual numbers, and we’ll never know for sure, instances of depression and suicide are fast increasing. More people now die of suicide than by car accidents. A student at CSUC told me that they’re hearing about yet another suicide, nearly every day.
Facing these tragic facts may induce hopelessness, but there’s much we can do.
Across the nation, chapters of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention are organizing an Out of the Darkness Walk —to bring awareness and raise funds (but you need not donate; it’s about the power of community).
Chico’s Out of the Darkness Walk will occur on Saturday morning, September 14. You can register here.
September 9 -14 marks Suicide Prevention Week in Chico. A number of events will serve to educate and support the community.
The aspects playing into depression and suicide are so complex, no one person can eradicate them. As a community, though, we can and must come together to support each other, lift spirits, and help save lives.
A few resources:
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-TALK (8255)
Alex Project for those more comfortable with texting. Text ANSWER to 839863 / www.AlexProject.org
American Foundation for Suicide Prevention 1-888-333-AFSP (2377) / www.afsp.org
California’s Care Enough to Act www.careenoughtoact.org