Four Reasons to Be Grateful for Suicidal Depression
Waking up every morning wondering if today’s the day you’re finally going to kill yourself doesn’t exactly fill you with a whole lot of gratitude.
Nor does looking out the window at the tree outside, trying to determine whether it’s branches are thick enough to support your weight when you eventually hang yourself from it.
No, gratitude rarely -if ever- has a place in the deepest, darkest throes of depression.
At least, it didn’t just a couple of months ago when I found myself in the worst bout of depression I’ve yet to face, when no waking thought was ever too far removed from ‘I should just go hang myself from that tree.’
I’ve battled depression multiple times throughout my life, but I don’t think I’ve ever come up against an adversary as vicious, as seemingly indestructible, and as all-consuming as the one that took over my life at the start of the 2017.
That bout of depression was the darkest, most terrifying thing I ever recall going through.
It was persistent, all-powerful, and ever present. From the moment I opened my eyes in the morning to the moment I finally gave up on another day, not caring whether or not I woke up ever again, the black dread came on me and nothing could shift it.
No amount of well-meaning friends could help. No amount of telling myself that This Too Shall Pass reassured me. I existed in a permanent state of hopeless. With each day that passed I grew more and more convinced that I would never recover.
I barely even felt human, let alone grateful for anything.
But here’s the thing:
I did recover.
Maybe not permanently, maybe not even for all that long.
But for now, for today -and that’s all you and I have after all- I am not in the grip of depression.
Everything passes. Including bouts of depression, and including the kind of periods I’m having now where I am able to look back constructively on that most terrifying time in my life and make sense of it.
The more I do, the more I reflect on the darkest, most horrible experience of my life, the more I realise that, in some perverse kind of way, it was actually one of the best things that ever happened to me.
No, I’m serious.
With the benefit of hindsight, I realise that I actually have a lot to be grateful for today that I would not have if I had not been close to suicide at the start of this year.
Here’s just four of them:
Gratitude Itself — A New Appreciation of Life
Last year, I wrote about how, after I quit smoking, I felt overwhelmingly grateful just to breath in a lung full of fresh air.
I only realised how good it was to feel fresh, clean air filling my lungs because I could compare it to the experience of filling those same lungs with filthy, toxic smoke.
It’s the same now, being months removed from depression.
I have a deeper appreciation for the simple things; for genuine laughter, sunshine, the company of others, all because I can compare these things to a time that is still fresh in my memory where life was joyless, dark, and where I isolated myself as much as I possibly could.
I can compare, and I can see clearly that laughter and sunshine is better than joyless darkness, and I feel grateful that I’ve got the former, and not the latter, just for today.
I have an immense gratitude for the experience of waking up in a morning and looking forward to the day ahead because I know what it’s like to wake up every morning wondering if today’s the day I kill myself, and I know that I prefer to look forward, rather than look towards the end.
What it comes down to is this:
I feel good because I can compare my life now to how it was just a few months ago, and realise that this is so much better.
Valuable Lessons Learned — An Insight into Who I Am and How to Survive My Next Bout of Depression
A doctor once told me that I have what he called “relapsing depression.”
As I understood it from our conversation, what he meant was this:
Depression may be something that I am never truly ‘cured’ of — that there is always the possibility of me “relapsing” back into the darkness no matter how much better I think I am here in the light.
I don’t think I fully accepted that then, nor for a long time after, but now that I’m finally out of the darkest of the darkness, I can accept it.
This may be something I have to deal with for a long time to come.
This is mainly the reason why I’ve spent much time reflecting on my last battle with depression, gaining insights into who I am when I’m depressed, how I behave, and the consequences of that behaviour.
I’ve learned how quickly I can spiral out of control, and appreciate more than ever the importance of a good routine.
I’ve learned more than I ever have about the importance of looking after mind, body, and spirit. Fatigue is usually one of the big triggers of a full on depressive episode.
I make no apologies for stopping during my day to take a nap. It might just be the one thing that stops me from hanging myself from that tree somewhere down the line.
I’ve learned about what helps me get through the day when I’m at my worst, and I’ve learned what makes my worst even worse.
Because of all this, I’ve already started to make a contingency plan for what to do the next time my depression relapses and I find myself in the darkness. I’m planning to write about that later on the down the line here on Medium.
Here’s something else I’ve learned:
Life Isn’t That Scary — I Now Feel More Confident Because I Survived My Depression
I realise now that nothing I’ve ever faced -or probably will ever face- in my life is -or could ever be- as terrifying as coming close to taking my own life.
As such, I no longer find people, places, and situations as scary as I once did. I feel less socially anxious and socially awkward — I am not controlled by fear like I used to be because I realise now that there isn’t much to be fearful of.
Nothing that anybody could say or do to me could be as bad as what I came close to doing to myself, so I can approach life with a new level of confidence and ease today.
Because I don’t have that same fear, I can seize new opportunities, enjoy life a little more, develop better relationships with people. Heck, I even had a girlfriend this year if you can believe that!
Empathy, Experience, and Hope
Life is all about helping others, isn’t it?
I find that I typically feel the most fulfilled in life when I’m doing something helpful for somebody else — even if that is only just listening to them going through their own stuff.
Because of what I’ve been through with my own depression, I have a greater understanding of what people are saying when they’re telling me about their own mental health struggles.
I’m able to listen -and only listen- without resorting to “don’t worry, it’ll pass,” or other responses which -though they seem helpful- usually aren’t.
I can, if it’s appropriate, share my own experience, and how I lived to tell the tale, because sometimes, I find just the reassurance that somebody else has been through what you’re going through and actually “gets it” is the most helpful thing anybody can do for me when I’m depressed and maybe that just might be the thing that stops somebody else from waking up and wanting to die, even if only for one day.