TW: Mention of suicide.
In reading my stories, I came across a letter to Ask A Manager about mentioning depression at work. It generated a lot of responses, varying in terms of what the OP (Original Poster) should do, but most of the answers were in agreement that their mention of suicide was beyond the pale. Even though they said that they weren’t actively suicidal, the mere mention of suicide was going to make most people panic.
And I get it. Suicide is serious stuff. It’s not something to take lightly. But, for those of us who have struggled with not wanting to be alive, there are levels to it. There is actively suicidal–people who want to die and are working on it. There is passively suicidal–which is wanting to die, but not doing anything about it. Maybe not necessarily avoiding death, but not seeking it, either. Then there is what I was for a long time–not wanting to be alive, but not doing anything about it.
Antidepression meds helped–until they didn’t. Therapy helped–until it didn’t. Taiji helped, but it was very much help in small steps rather than a big boost. My depression (and anxiety, but more the former than the latter) steadily lifted, and I’m one of few people who did not go into a deep funk during the early days of the pandemic. Probably because my brain catastrophized everything on the regular, anyway, so why not throw a pandemic into the mix?
I want to stress that I don’t think the coworker did anything wrong in the AAM letter. It’s rough to have someone dump that on you, especially if you don’t have a close relationship. And when you’re chronically depressed, it’s easy to underestimate the effect it has on other people. It’s just something you live with, so it’s really not that big a deal to you. Hm. I’m not saying it right. It’s still a big deal, but it’s normal to you because you’re living it.
And we are really not good as a society in dealing with depression and suicide. Nobody wants to talk about it in polite society, which means people who experience it feel as if they have to keep it to themselves. I’m lucky that I have friends who experience it themselves so they can give me some grace. But I also keep much of it to myself because I don’t want to burden anyone with it.
I do think there’s a need to talk about living with depression, suicide, not wanting to live while simultaneously not being suicidal. It’s understandable why people get freaked out at the mention of suicide, but it’s not really helpful to the person who’s depressed–especially if they’re not actually thinking about suicide. I would like to be able to tell people when I’m not feeling life without freaking them out. Again, I understand why someone would panic at hearing the word ‘suicide’, but it’s not helpful.
It also doesn’t help that our society is shit at mental health in general. It’s not well-understood, even with all the awareness-raising. There is still a sizeable portion of our society that thinks people just need to pull themselves up by their bootstraps and stop whining, already. Granted, that attitude is less prevalent than before, but it’s still out there.
In a work context, it’s still considered taboo to mention shaky mental health. Again, I understand. It’s scary to think about someone wanting to take their own life–or even just passively not wanting to live.
There is a push to bring your authentic self to work, which is bullshit in so many ways. Work isn’t owed your whole self–not by a long shot. But it’s disheartening to feel as if you can’t mention mental health at all, like you have to hide it. Worse yet, people can have their careers derailed if they’re viewed as the ‘crazy one’. Or everything they had is viewed through the lens of them being the person with depression and nothing can be free of that delineation.
For me, I was sliding back into depression before I ended up in the hospital. There was no tangible reason why and I felt helpless to stop it. I knew that it wasn’t triggered by anything; it just was. That was actually more difficult to deal with because it felt out of my control. Every day, I woke up and felt just a little bit worse. There was nothing I could do about it.
Then I ended up in the hospital, which changed everything. And it changed nothing. But I want to focus on what it did change. Which was everything.
After I got out of the hospital, my depression disappeared. My anxiety did not, but it’s much less than it was before. I am not terrified by the pandemic any longer while I was low-key obsessed with it before I ended up in the hospital. More to the point, I’ve lost all my body issues and my ‘I’m so ugly’ issues. I struggled with them all my life, hating my body and my face. I refused to let people take pictures of me and I avoided looking into the mirror as much as possible.
Being completely dependent on other people while in the hospital went a long way to making me accept my body. The nurses and nurse aides treated me with such compassion, even while they were wiping the shit from my ass. It is such a vulnerable moment and they afforded me dignity when they could have easily stripped me of it.
When I went home, I left all my body/face issues in the hospital. Then I got my new glasses, which I instantly fell in love with. They were funky and fresh, and they were not something I would have bought before going into the hospital. I tend to stick to black frames that are even oval or rectangular. These are cat-eye-shaped, and while the frames are black, they have white polka dots on them. Then, there’s a strip across the top that is white with black polka dots. One arm is black with white polka dots and the other is white with black polka dots. Each has a bright pink heart on the hand of the handle. I would never have bought them before the hospital because I would be worried about being too flashy.
My goal was to blend in and not stick out because I did not want to bring attention to my disgusting form. Now, I’m cute as fuck! I take selfies and do my hair in different ways. I love my glasses and I love how I feel as I wear them.
Unfortunately, this is not something I can recommend to others when they talk about their struggles with their depression. “It’s easy. Just get walking non-COVID-related pneumonia, two cardiac arrests, and a stroke. It will change your life! Which it did, but it’s not something that anyone would willingly choose to experience.
I’m not glad I went through it, exactly, but I have gotten a lot of positives from it. At least I can say that much for it.