07 July 2013

The Goodbye I Would Have Wished I Had Said

I have thought about writing this piece often over the last year and a half but never quite made myself write it. The topic: What I would have wished I had said in the event that I had ended my own life. I cannot speak for anyone else, though I hope if you've lost someone to Depression that maybe somewhere in all this you'll find something that helps you.

In my experience, what happened was that depression poisoned for me everything that was good in my life. I became convinced that I didn't deserve any of my friendships or my marriage. I withdrew from them because it hurt less to avoid them than to be around them, certain that they were only indulging me out of misguided politeness. This was not because of anything that any of my family or friends said or did - or didn't say or do. That was simply what Depression kept telling me until I believed it.

I rationalized the issue of how my death would affect them by reminding myself that everyone dies. They would have to face my death one day anyway. And I was in pain. Constant, daily agony. If it was a physical pain, a lot of people would have understood it as a "mercy" thing. But an emotional pain we're told to suck up because "that's life". I took it so far that I became angry at the very idea that I should live in pain because someone else would be inconvenienced by my death.

Depression is sneaky. It's skilled in rationalization and logic.

There is a school of thought that love should be able to save people like us. "Keep living for the ones who love you!" But Depression poisons that. Twists it. Tells us we don't deserve it. Why wait for old age? End it now, let them move on while they're still young enough to be more than a widow or widower or whatever.

We're led down a hallway where every day sees another door close on us. It pushes us downward to that very last door. We don't really know how we got there, but we look around and see only closed doors and a very long hallway; so long we can't even see light at the other end of it. So there's the temptation to go through that last one and hope that no one follows us down that hallway. We think that our death will become the DO NOT ENTER sign we want to hang there for our loved ones.

"They'll figure it out. They'll heal. They'll do things better without me. They'll do things better BECAUSE of me."

There's also the sense that whatever drain we've been will at least stop. "When you realize you're in a hole, quit digging", you know?

In my mind, I saw my death as a positive thing in the big picture for those I loved. I would never have done it to hurt them. I just didn't know any other way to stop my own pain.

People think suicide is the most selfish act there is. Suicidal people don't see it that way at all. We think the world will be unaffected by and indifferent to it, and that we're actually doing the best thing we can for those whose love we no longer believe we deserve. We end our pain and free them of their obligation to the albatross we feel we've become.

It's really the ultimate "It's not you, it's me" situation, except even that isn't fair or quite accurate because it wasn't me, either. It was Depression. Depression is the cruelest game of "telephone" where one person says something but Depression reports something very different. "Hey, we should hang out!" becomes "I feel like I have to say something about wanting to hang out with you but I really hope you don't take me up on it." That's how it works.

One of the most common reactions from people is that they admit they knew something was wrong, but they didn't realize the extent of it. Nor did they really know what to do about it. I've heard this from my own family and friends, and I've heard it from people who have lost someone to Depression. It's okay, I would have wanted to have said. I didn't know what to do about it, either. I tried. I really did try. But nothing I tried worked. Reaching out to those who would have done something if only they had known seems the most obvious thing in the world, but not when Depression has already convinced you to withdraw from all such people. I languished in my own pain, increasingly isolated looking at all those closed doors.

I would have wanted my loved ones to have understood all this. To know that in my mind, it was the most logical decision in the world. I worked out all the issues and sub-issues until suicide was the only reasonable thing left to me. My suicidal thoughts didn't actually originate with me being upset. On the contrary; I was actually upset by having suicidal thoughts.

You know when you have to admit that someone else is right about something even though you hate that something (and maybe even the someone else, too)? That's where I was with all of it. I tried to argue my way out of suicidal ideation. I brainstormed every possible way to make things better for myself, for my wife, for our marriage, for the whole world. Every single thing I considered died on the vine. My ideas were exercises in futility. It was only a matter of time before I came to see my very existence as also being an exercise in futility.

Somewhere in all this, I hope I've been able to give you a better understanding of how I got to that point. I can't say whether that's the exact same experience for each and every person who has succumbed to Depression's taunts and machinations, but I do suspect that there are certain near-universal themes that are applicable to most of Depression's victims.

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