For people who don’t have chronic depression, it can be hard to imagine what it feels like to be in a depressive state. Everyone has felt sadness. Chances are, there have been times when you couldn’t stop crying or when you felt lonely or like you couldn’t get out of bed. The difference is that most people don’t feel that way weekly or even daily for no apparent reason. Most people get over their sadness after a few hours or a few days. Most people don’t imagine drastic ways to stop the overwhelming feelings, such as through suicide. These are signs of chronic depression.
September is Suicide Prevention Awareness Month. It’s been many years since I’ve had real thoughts of suicide. I’ve been lucky enough to find resources to help manage my depression and have educated myself on other options when things get really dark. This doesn’t help everyone, but it has helped me, and for that I am lucky.
However, just because I can keep my depression subdued most of the time doesn’t mean it is gone. There are days when I fall into a depressive state and can’t get myself out of it even when I know what might help.
Last time I was in a depressive state, I came home from work and lay down on the floor in my apartment living room. After a half hour of lying there, I decided to take some notes about how I felt. I’m hoping that sharing my notes can help those without depression understand some of what goes through the heads of people who are depressed or even suicidal. Maybe if more people knew what we were thinking in our darkest moments, they could help us in our fight.
Here were my thoughts during my last depressive state:
- I just want to be alone. But I also want to be comforted by someone. But I also want to be alone.
- I want to punch something as hard as I can until my arms stop tingling or just until they break. I want to do something physical to get rid of this weird, numb feeling.
- If I could just take my fingernails and dig them into the center of my skull and peel it back until all the uncomfortable feelings and headache pain goes away, that would be great.
- I’m so hungry, but the thought of eating anything seems impossible.
- I hate everyone.
- Why am I so angry?
- Why even bother with anything? There is no point to life. You try to accomplish your dreams, but your dreams don’t even matter. Do I even care about my dreams? What is the point?
- I know that exercise, water, rest, or spending time with friends would help, but I don’t want any of that. I wish someone would just give me those things. I need someone else to help me. I can’t help myself right now.
- I just want to fall asleep for a few years. Or just fall asleep and not wake up.
- Everything I’ve done so far in life was wrong. I did it all wrong, and there is no starting over.
- I am completely alone in the world.
Not everyone experiences the same thing when they slip into a deep depression, but some thoughts are common. Feeling lonely, hopeless, helpless, numb, or like you’ve failed are fairly common for people who suffer from depression. Looking at this list, I recognize that these are unhealthy thoughts, but in the midst of depression, these thoughts can seem like the only reality.
Unfortunately, it can be nearly impossible to tell when someone is in a depressive state or considering suicide. Most people who are depressed are not lying on the floor of their apartment. They are living normal lives and going through the motions. If you know someone who committed suicide, do not for one moment blame yourself for not knowing. Those of us with depression can do an excellent job hiding it, and you cannot help us all.
But if you suspect that someone is dealing with depression, check in on them regularly. Remind them that they are not alone and that this feeling won’t last forever. Affirm that they are loved, they are strong, and they are on the right path. Open up the blinds to let the sunshine in. Force them to go on a walk with you. Put on a funny TV show. Do anything you can to help them through their depressive state, and never ever tell them to smile, power through, or get over it.
Learn the five steps that could prevent someone from committing suicide. This week, memorize step one: ask them directly, “Are you thinking about killing yourself?” It’s uncomfortable and may seem unnecessary, but it could be the lifeline they need.
If you struggle with deep depression or suicidal thoughts, please tell someone. Tell a friend, a family member, or a counselor. Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. I know it can feel like there is no point in going on, but there is. You are meant to contribute great things to the world, and we are here to help you.