It's been over a week since Robin Williams committed suicide and everyone on the internet with any sort of opinion on the subject has already written on it. I so hate reading, hearing, thinking, or talking about suicide that it's taken me a week to get around to adding my two cents to the interwebs. And it's not going to be eloquent or poignant; I still struggle mightily to address this stuff without sinking into the panic that wraps itself around my throat when I think back to my darkest days.
My best advice for dealing with someone who's depressed is to love them. They can't and won't get better until they've hit their bottom (however low that may be), but they'll need your love and support to help cushion the fall a bit, and then to help haul them back up off their asses. They might act indifferent or hostile to you love, but they still need it and appreciate it (even if they can't express their gratitude to you). You know your friends and family members. You know how best to show that you love them. And that's all the really need. Well, that, and therapy, and medications, and, and, and...but the love. That's what they need that you can immediately and freely give.
I was with a friend when I heard about Robin Williams, and he expressed a (seemingly common) sentiment: how could someone kill himself? I still don't have good answers to this, but I've plumbed these depths before, and I still agree with everything I wrote two years ago. I'm going to repost it in the hopes that it sheds a little light on the suicidal brain for those who are fortunate enough to never have experienced it.
Originally posted November 28, 2012
At lunch today, I learned that a woman I knew peripherally killed herself last week. She had a son who is a senior in high school and the conversation turned - naturally, I think - to how a mother can do that to her kids. One woman couldn't understand how it was possible for a woman to think ending her life was the best thing for her children. I don't think anyone who hasn't been there can really comprehend such utter madness.
Unfortunately, I know exactly how a mother can think and do such things and because it's important to me to be understood, I tried to explain. I tried to explain how your brain gets so twisted that the only thing you can see is how miserable you make everyone around you and how everyone, especially your babies, would be better off if you weren't there any more. I tried to explain that you don't necessarily think you're hurting your kids in the long run, and how that thought makes sense. I tried to explain that the need to get out - of your situation, your brain, your life - can drown out all other thoughts, including those of your children.
I don't think I did a very good job of conveying the agony of a suicidal mind. I mean, it's an agony that can smother all motherly instincts. It must be pretty strong. But she remained skeptical.
I suppose it's good that my friend couldn't wrap her mind around being able to leave your kids through suicide. If people who haven't lived through it understood how "easy" it is in the midst of a serious, deep depression to determine that you're as worthless to your kids as you are to the rest of the world, well, there might be more mothers like the one who sparked this conversation.
I've been doing well lately. I feel like all of my chemical issues are finally balancing out and most of my stressors are now external instead of internal. But today's lunch talk has churned up all the ugly darkness that surrounded and nearly swallowed me not too long ago. These feelings are horrifyingly familiar and seem like they could easily make themselves comfortable in my life again.
But I'm stronger now than I have been in years, and I think I can banish those feelings back to whatever circle of hell they came from and tell them to stay there. And I need to. Because even though my depression has taught me how a mother can kill herself, I've promised myself that I'm never going to be a mother who teaches that heartbreaking lesson to her children.