by Dish Staff
Elizabeth Nolan Brown’s post reminded me of the thoughtful and informative comic on depression by Hyperbole and a Half. It’s in two parts – One and Two. I just re-read it all, and making it a little more heartbreaking this week is that the movie she is looking for in Part One stars Robin Williams …
Another reader opens up:
First, I want to make it clear I’m not writing this for sympathy or attention. A lot of people have been posting on social media this week about their own personal struggles with depression and suicide. I’m not ready to go public like that, but in the wake of Robin William’s suicide, I wanted to share something anonymously with your readers.
Yesterday I showed up at my therapist’s office with my “suicide kit”:
a bottle of 20 OxyContin, a bottle of 100 Tramadol, a bottle of aspirin (to thin the blood and facilitate drug absorption) and a half-dozen straight razor blades. I’ve had variations of this kit since a botched suicide attempt in my teens. If I had to give a reason why I’ve kept this thing around, the closest I could articulate it would be “escape hatch”. There’s a history of depression and manic-depression on both sides of my family tree, and I saw how it ground away at them, especially my mother. I did not want to die like that – alone, bitter, medicated, stripped of personality and hope.
So here I am at 50, no immediate family, just filed for divorce because my husband of 18 years found something perkier out yonder, and I’d be lying if I didn’t tell you I haven’t been eye-balling that kit every single day for the last three months because holy shit do I ever want to fucking escape.
And then Robin Williams hangs himself on a doorknob, evidently after hacking away at his wrists first, and suddenly it seems like half the people I know are confessing to suicidal thoughts or struggles with depression. Last week I was not so depressed that I could not hear it, could not absorb it, could not register the fact that I am not alone in feeling this way.
I’m not adequate enough of a writer to describe to you how important this is to someone like me, but know that it is important. Important enough to make me close and throw away an escape hatch I’ve held open for 33 years. And that’s why I’m writing. In case one of your readers out there also struggles with depression, also has their own “escape hatch”, can also hear, absorb and register that they are not alone in this. Because you’re not. I’m here. We’re here. Know this. And if you can, let others know it too.
Of course the ongoing Robin Williams discussion hits a cord with anyone who has felt what deep depression feels like. I feel blessed that I have had limited experience with it personally, except when I had my twins 10 year ago and suffered a despair – post partum – that I could not explain or get rid of without medication for a while. As those who have felt this inexplicable emptiness know, there is no amount of external stimulus, love, support or encouragement that can really heal this.
But that depression was NOTHING compared to what was a nearly suicidal reaction after being on Wellbutrin earlier this year. I was in a lethargic funk and feeling down about all sorts of things, and my doctor said if fatigue was a problem, perhaps bupropion could help. For about a month I thought it was helping, and then I woke up one morning and wanted to end it all. It was the scariest feeling I’ve ever had. The only thing I could muster was the will to look up my symptoms and it appeared I was having a paradoxical reaction to the medication that was supposed to help lift me out of the blues.
The idea of moving out of bed, of even getting to the toilet seemed beyond me. I cried, screamed and scared myself all day. Thankfully I felt sure it was a strange reaction to the medication and despite the pharmacist telling me I should taper, that was not going to happen. I stopped taking it immediately and about two days later I felt better.
But to think that feeling I had is something people with severe, suicidal depression grapple with every day, I can totally see why some battles end the way Robin’s did. I cannot even explain the feeling, other than to say I came close to calling 911 and checking myself into a mental hospital, and I do not have a history of major mental illness. I felt like a hopeless prisoner in my own mind, from which there was no escape, relief or balm but time.
Some people deal with that every day. We should have compassion and mercy and not question the “what ifs” – because unless you’ve felt that pit of despair, you just don’t know. So in the talk of seeking medication help as part of the fight against depression, that is well and good for many, but people should also be aware that the cure can make things even worse for some people. The brain’s chemistry remains such a frustrating mystery, so it’s impossible to tell for whom this will be the case. The warning labels say these things but I never thought that would be me.
Thanks for listening.