If you ask people what emotional state precedes suicide, most would say, “depression.” First a person becomes terribly, terribly sad and hopeless and then one day they decide to make those feelings stop by ending their life.
While that chain of events is correct, I think there is another place on the despair continuum that exists between “depression” and “suicidal”…
- A place that never gets talked about outside clinical circles.
- A place that doesn’t even really have a name.
- A place I have visited and lived in.
I call this place “the bottom.”
The bottom is not “depression.” It’s a sensation and a state of being, which is something entirely different, and in my opinion, much worse. (I know, because I’ve experienced both.)
When you’re at the bottom…
- You feel like you don’t want to exist anymore.
- You feel like you don’t want to feel anymore.
- You wish you were in a coma.
- You largely shut yourself off from friends and family because you feel no one can help you or really understand the hell you’re living in.
- You imagine how painful and awful your death will be, (because if you feel this bad now, image how bad you’ll feel after decades MORE of this.)
- You feel utterly lost and alone, abandoned by everyone, (mostly because you’ve pushed everyone away.)
The bottom is a place in the pit of despair and sorrow where there is no light, no perspective. You may not decide to die in this place but you sure as hell aren’t living your life when you’re there either.
In my opinion, being at the bottom is not the same thing as being suicidal, (which I think of as “The End,” and am also familiar with.)
For a number of reasons, some people at the bottom decide suicide is not the answer for them, (even though they haven’t come up with any better answers to the questions they face.)
Because these people don’t consider themselves to be in crisis, they’re less likely to ask for help. (Their lives are not technically in danger, so they figure their mental health is not technically an emergency.)
This makes it easier to live at the bottom for days, weeks or even years until the depression lifts, they recognize they’re in trouble or they just succumb to the suck.
The problem is, when a person is at the bottom sometimes from the outside they can seem pretty okay.
During times I’ve been at the bottom, I’ve given presentations to huge audiences, had coffee meetings and lunches with professional contacts and posted tons of witty things on Facebook.
I’ve even had situations happen where someone will be telling me how funny I am while, at the same time, I’m thinking, “That’s because my entire life is a pointless joke,” in the back of my head.
(This disconnect that happens between the way I feel in real life and the way I present myself in public is so vast and disorienting sometimes it’s downright disturbing.)
I bring up the concept of the bottom not to take away anything from the importance of suicide prevention.
Being suicidal is a dangerous situation where a life is on the line. It gets all the headlines and attention in the media for good reason. Since people don’t usually die at the bottom, it makes sense that people pay less attention to it.
But I’d love for that to change, because the bottom is also…
- A place that destroys marriages, families, careers and lives.
- A place where some people just disappear to, falling off your radar forever.
- A staging area conducive to suicidal ideation.
Trust me, right now you likely know someone in your life who is at the bottom. That person needs your help just as much as a friend or family member who is suicidal.
However, because that person is ashamed, they’ve likely shut you and everyone else out. In their mind, the situation isn’t dire, just depressing. They’re prepared to sit and endure the pain for as long as it takes.
Don’t let them sit alone.