Saturday, September 10, 2016

I want to preface this by saying this is NOT a plea for sympathy in the comments (or anywhere). I'm asking for something else entirely.

I'm going to ask a favour. A big one. It's important. And I'll go first. But I totally understand if you don't choose to participate.

Can we talk about depression and suicide without shame?

They are still in many ways part of a silent epidemic. Revealing such things can be terrifying, especially if you work in an industry where image is important - and these days that's just about every field.

Fear of being judged is why so many people do not reach out for help and spiral into a state in which we can consider ending our lives preferable to going on. Some of us feel desperately alone. Some of us know we are loved, we have people around us who would be devastated if we acted on those impulses. But all have one thing in common: we reach a state where the despair feels intolerable and ending our life looks like the only way out.

Were you paying attention to the pronouns? I am one of those people.

I have suffered through periodic bouts of depression, combinations of my own biochemistry and baggage. Sometimes they are triggered by events in my life, some of them seem to come out of nowhere, when things are going very well

There was a time I considered ending my life. Oddly, the time I did have suicidal thoughts was not when I was in the depths of despair, it was at a point when I felt myself on the verge of falling into another episode and I just didn't believe I could go through that again. I did not act on the impulse, but it was powerful. I reached out for help and I got it.

The details are not important right now. Suffice it to say that I've gone through periods when I was one of the walking wounded or struggling to keep my head above water, and periods when I thrived and felt pretty terrific.

Full disclosure: lately, I'm wrestling with a great deal but I am not depressed. I am at times sad or angry and I can't see my way through clearly, but I am not hopeless and I'm NOT suicidal. Really. I promise.

About a dozen years ago, I lost a friend to suicide. He chose to end his life and though I wish with all my heart that he had not, I will not judge him for it. Nobody can know the depths of another person's pain.

I am also privileged to have another friend who very recently reached out to me when he felt that depth of despair and after some struggle I am very glad that he chose life.

So that favour I'm here to ask...? If you are willing to participate, I want your help to end the stigma.

If you have ever been depressed, please speak up. It needn't be a source of shame.

If you have ever felt the urge to end your life, please speak up. It's not a dirty secret.

If you meet/speak with/read about someone who discloses these things, please refrain from judgment. If you meet one of us when we are in the throes of that condition, please let us know we are not alone and help us to get help.

I'm a survivor of depression. I am very lucky and very grateful to be here to say that.

We are not weak. Quite the opposite. We are survivors who contend with an illness that can at times be overwhelming. It is just one part of what makes up our lives. It does not define us.

Let's work together to end the shame by shining a light on the dark places.

If even one life is saved, or if even one person feels just a little less desperate for not having to hide, it's worth it.

Whatever you choose, thank you for reading this.