I wrote this as a response to things I’d heard and read at the time of Wade Belak’s suicide. Let’s change our culture of shame regarding mental illness. It’s okay to reach out.
Suicide is cowardly. How could he do that to his kids, his wife? He must have been weaker than we realized. He had everything – what could he be sad about?
If you’ve never been in a suicidal state, you know nothing about it. Period. You may think you have an understanding of it, but you have to have been there to truly understand it. I can assure you that his family crossed his mind. I’m also willing to bet that he truly felt they would be better off without him.
Depression, major clinical depression, has nothing to do with your career or socioeconomic status. Nothing. It has to do with chemicals in your brain. It is an illness just like any other. I’d love to hear you tell a diabetic that taking insulin shots is for the weak. Tell the cancer patient to suck it up and just be happy. There is, of course, no shame in having cancer or diabetes. There is shame in having depression. That’s a fact. You feel weak; you feel “crazy”. In your more rational moments, you know you technically have nothing to be depressed about. That only makes you feel even worse, even crazier.
And seeking help is not easy. You’re admitting that you’re weak. You’re opening yourself up to the judgment of others. That’s how society works. It’s just the way it is. The overwhelming majority of people don’t get it. Good for them. Those are the folks who’ll tell you to suck it up. They’ll tell you to smile. They’ll remind you of your beautiful house or your great friends or your adorable kids. They’ll also ask you how long you’ll have to take those pills.
And that’s just the people you know. Have you ever tried to seek help for depression? Because then you have to deal with the insurance company. You’ll have to call a special division and they’ll ask you several invasive questions. Some anonymous data entry clerk will ask you if you have thought about hurting yourself or someone else. And you know what? You’ll probably lie. You’ll lie because it’s humiliating. You’ll lie because you don’t want them alerting someone without your knowledge to have you put you on suicide watch because maybe that’s happened to you before. You’ll lie because you don’t want them taking your kids from you. You’ll lie for any number of reasons, but you’ll most likely lie.
Then they’ll tell you who you’re allowed to see. And they’ll tell you that the level of coverage depends on the severity of your depression – if you are, in fact even depressed at all. They’ll remind you numerous times that you are not qualified to diagnose yourself. They’ll remind you that it all depends on what numerical code the doctor submits to them. That code will let them know if you need help or you’re just being a baby. The coverage amounts are significantly different depending on the code. Part of you prays that the your depression code is hideous enough that they’ll cover more than 3 visits at 50%. But part of you would be embarrassed about it, too. And if you don’t get that severe code, it just verifies that you are actually a baby. Oh, and that code is only good for a couple of weeks. If you make illogical decisions (as depressed people are apt to do) and don’t immediately seek therapy, you’ll have to start the entire process over again.
Depression is miserable. Depression to the point of being suicidal is beyond comprehension if you’ve not been through it. I can say that with authority and from personal experience.
So, if you ever need a sounding board or a non-judgmental ear, I’m here. There’s nothing you could say that would shock me, because I’ve probably thought about even worse in my years of struggling with depression. I’ve been suicidal. I’ve been unwillingly placed on 24 hour suicide watch after a phone call to a suicide hotline - talk about losing trust and feeling betrayed. I’ve been forced to move to the first floor of my dorm. I’ve been involuntarily withdrawn from school. I’ve been yelled at for being depressed. I’ve been blown off and misunderstood until I finally learned not to talk about it. Internalizing gets you nowhere though; it just exacerbates things. I was reminded of that a few months ago when the suicidal feelings came back and I did have to start the whole humiliating process again.
So, yeah, I get it. Unfortunately, I do understand.