The first time I wanted to die, I was seven years old.
My parents were both young and absent and my grandparent, with whom I lived, was the type who played a few dozen mind games before their morning tea was fully steeped. They would often go on about what piles of excrement both of them were. To a young child, its an easy bit of math to figure out that if the two people who made you are nothing but crap, then you must be double.
It took some years, but I realized later that much of that dialog was rooted in jealousy. Children love their parents, and if they are not present, it does not stop them from wanting to love them. My grandparent viewed love as a pool with a set limit. If you loved one child more than the other, it meant you were taking some away. In their own way, they were trying to eliminate the parental love to garner a larger share.
Of course, that was not helpful to a seven year old child, even if I’d known that then. Suicide and thoughts thereof would hallmark much of my childhood. I didn’t find birthdays fun. I stopped enjoying holidays altogether. I went to the happiest place on earth and thought it was a miserable experience. At seventeen, I attempted to take myself out of the equation.
Obviously, it was a grand failure. I learned a heavy lesson that some things just aren’t any of our business. Afterwords, I thought of who would have been most likely to find me if I had died and the kind of hurt and trauma that would have caused. I couldn’t believe I’d been so selfish. One moment of success and I would have never been able to correct that or take it back.
Depression in and of itself has been a large chunk of most of my life. Mostly, I was able to work my way back out of it. I made very good friendships the older I got and they were a great help in talking me out of the void, friendships that are still big parts of my life today. I don’t think I will ever be able to express just how grateful I am to have them as my self-made family.
As I got older, the amount of responsibility and weight that comes with adulthood increases and so does your chance of succumbing to depression. For the first time, I had to enlist the kind of help that comes with a prescription. Three medications later and I finally found one that just lets me be me without any “extras.”
The first one I tried made me feel… nothing. My kid was just going through their series of firsts and I couldn’t force a smile on my face. That one had to go. The second one made me feel too much of everything all the time. The third, I felt like myself, only like a giant weight had been taken off. Everything was manageable, nothing was overwhelming me anymore. I sound like one hell of an odd Goldilocks, eh?
When Robin Williams took his own life recently, my kid had a lot of questions. How does a man who has always smiled and made the whole world laugh have so much pain inside he feels he needs to take his own life to get away from it? Jim Carrey seems to be another such case of the funniest among us who fight some of the biggest battles in depression. These two are just a drop in the bucket, but they are the first to come to my mind as I type this… at least that are still alive for most to remember (Farley, Kennison, Dangerfield, Hicks, Pryor or Belushi, anyone?). Why is this? Is their humor a way of trying to get the world to reflect back their amusement and humor so they might be able to feel lit like the rays of the sun?
You would think once you reach that age and that level of fame, you have enough resources to keep the demons at bay. You have the experience to understand when you’re weakest. Apparently, that is not the case for anyone. It was a wake-up call for me too in the sense that I should never be complacent in keeping my inner demons from manifesting.
My kid wanted to know what depression was and if sadness was what it meant.They only understood that if you were hurting that much there had to be a reason, a very real and tangible reason. How frustrating is it to try to explain the abstract concept of depression to someone who sees things in such simple terms. If it only it were so simple.
My kid and I are both fans of Allie Brosh, the author of Hyperbole and a Half. I even had to rebuy her book because my kid stole my copy. Allie also succumbed to depression for quite some time. The way she described the experience, in a funny but very honest way, became my source material in trying to explain this to my own child. You’ll need a laugh after this post, so please be sure to read them. They won’t disappoint.
If you feel like you’re being sucked down the void, tell someone. Reach out, not once but as many times as it takes until someone listens and leads you to resources that can help you. Some people have no clue about the signs of depression or what to do if they did, but keep reaching. Your doctor is usually the first best resource, but if they seem to be brushing you aside, find another. As long as you keep reaching, no matter your situation, you will eventually see light again.