Pre-note: I started this blog by writing about my friends. I ended up deleting everything that I had written and writing about something entirely different: depression and suicide. I wanted to warn you before you dive in.
A few years ago, someone close to me attempted suicide. I won’t go into details about their identity as it is certainly not my place. In the aftermath I was sitting with my mom and practically yelling that I could not understand why anyone would ever kill themselves. It was absurd, irrational, and simply insane. I was convinced that life is the most precious thing and that to lose it would absolutely never make sense to anyone. I was naive, but perhaps my words held some truth.
Parker J. Palmer, an author and mentor-from-afar, writes about depression as being “one with the darkness.” This is distinct from being lost in the darkness. Being one with it is different. When a person is one with darkness they have no potential to see anything but darkness. There is nothing else. As I have grown, I have come to understand the truth of this, both personally in my own life and in the lives of my loved ones.
Today I read a blog post by Tim Ferriss. In it he went over his suicidal plans from when he was younger (if you’re interested in reading it, check it out here). He wrote: “The fact of the matter is this: if you’re driven, an entrepreneur, a type-A personality, or a hundred other things, mood swings are part of your genetic hardwiring. It’s a blessing and a curse.” When I read this, it was as if an immense weight was lifted from my shoulders. For the last four years or so my mood swings have been crazy, nuts, and mostly unpredictable. I can go from the happiest person alive, literally bouncing up and down, to a depressed and hopeless barely-human over the course of hours. Only my closest friends have truly been there to see it happen, but see it happen they do.
I have only told a few people about this… On February 16th 2019, I wrote the following:
“Yesterday I thought about killing myself, not in an actionable way, but it actively crossed my mind. I was walking back from class and I stopped at the crosswalk. Cars were rushing by and suddenly I thought about how easy it would be to step in front of one of the cars. I didn’t see this feeling coming, though I had known I was spiraling for a few days. Still, it came fast and took me by surprise. I waited for the walk signal.”
After I walked across the street, the cars having stopped on both sides of me at the light, I pulled out my phone and with shaking fingers called one of my childhood friends. I knew that he had experienced more deep callings from death and that he would understand my emotions. He picked up on one of the first rings and I spilled my story out to him.
I explained that my frustration had been building up for a while, about school and how I didn’t belong. That is always the build up, a tenseness and loneliness that clouds my whole being, then there is the catalyst. Something always seems to happen with a girl, or rather in my own mind about a girl. I fall very quickly and very hard, spinning tales in my head and in my heart about what the future could look like. Then, inevitably, things don’t work out and I am heartbroken. This makes my insecurities about being unlovable resurface. If I have been building up anxiety for a while, then I break and spiral down the vortex of despair.
After explaining this to my friend he somehow talked me into laughter. I walked around and around the block my house is on, quickly, as if my body wanted to escape the feelings that it had had. We talked about our childhood and how much had changed. We promised to check in soon and I hung up. Saved. I walked inside and laid on my bed, staring up at the ceiling.
That day I realized a few things. First of all, the importance of trusting my friends and being open to them has saved my life and perhaps theirs multiple times. It pays to be open and to listen. Second, I CAN’T try to force myself into a lifestyle that isn’t mine. It simply won’t happen and instead of bending and adapting, I will break. Taking ownership of my life must happen or there will be consequences. Third, any experiences can lead to depression. It does not matter how trivial they seem objectively.
The final lesson is that depression is not evil, nor is it to be hated. Depression is our body’s last resort to tell us something very important: Change! Do something!
So, to years ago me:
Faolan, I understand where you were coming from. I know how much you feared the potential for a human, especially one close to you, to experience such great darkness that they would lose sight of the light. I know that you thought it was impossible. But, back then you hadn’t learned to feel. You blocked your feelings and held back your truths. You were young and in pain, and yet unable to share it.”
The enemy of depression is openness. Light shines from true friends who are able to embody the deepest forms of compassion and share it without hesitation. I am not afraid of my depression because I know that I can rely on those who I have surrounded myself with. I am not ashamed of my depression or my mood swings and I am not ashamed that I have been tempted by death. For in the darkness and the lows I have found my ability to be compassionate, courageous, and truthful. I am grateful to have experienced such profound pain and to come out the other side.
If you have experienced these lows and have not shared them with those you trust, I encourage you to do so. Everything gets so much easier when it can be carried by a community. If you need an open ear and don’t know who to go to, I’m here. In Tim Ferriss’s article linked above, there are resources to use. Read it, if you need. Most critically, listen to your own body, mind, and soul and don’t be afraid to share with others. Do not feel shame. Do not let the taboos of society break you. You are not alone. You are loved. You have much more life to live.
To add on/clarify, I believe that there are two distinct types of depression. First of all, there is the chemical kind. The chemical kind is, in fact, the enemy. I have no qualms with saying it. That kind causes so much pain and suffering in the world and I have no idea how to beat it (I’m sorry). However, many people get the next kind confused with the first: spiritual depression. Spiritual depression stems from a misalignment with one’s self. This is what I often experience. Spiritual depression can be conquered by listening to your heart and by taking action. Spiritual depression pales in the face of courage and community.