Making it stop, making an end. Every day that crosses my mind. Being atheist removes the unnatural dread of death for me that religion creates. i was hit on the head with ice-skates once and I remember how that was. I fell, saw my older brother fall to try to avoid hitting me, his skate came up–darkness. That was it. I didn’t feel the cut of the blades across my forehead, leaving a -1 scar that would last for many years. I don’t recall the throng of people who gathered around or my Aunt Eve placing my head in her lap. What I do remember is waking with blood in my eyes and wondering where all the people had come from.
In that moment of black out, time stopped for me. The time it took for those people to gather round, and for my Aunt who was an RN, to show up. There was no pain from the blow, no fear or distress. I was completely unaware. And now I’m thinking, that is death. Or that is how death is if in fact all the hopes in an afterlife we humans like to hold dear, are false.
Is that so bad? One friend put it very well. “I didn’t mind not existing all the millions of years before I was born, why should i mind not existing after I die?”
Or if there’s an afterlife, and evidence doesn’t disprove it any more than it proves it, I really do think it’s a natural condition same as our physical life is a natural condition. There are no hoops to jump through. No holy rituals one must complete. No giant man god in the sky who’s unending ego must be appeased. It’s just something that comes after the darkness, after the body shuts down, when the energy leaves the body and who knows, perhaps takes with it a little echo of what we are.
Why do I sometimes wish to die? Because I have depression, and because people with depression are subjected to a stigma. Now if I had cancer, or heart disease or any other physical illness, I am quite sure my friends or the people who cared, would still be there for me. But any form of mental illness, which, by the way, is just as much a physical illness people can’t help as cancer or heart disease or anything else, is not the same. Having any sort of mental illness effects the way your brain works. It effects the way your thoughts come across in your head. Mental illness distorts your thoughts, or makes your brain less efficient at processing them. Little problems seem huge. Or at least that’s how it is with depression and anxiety disorders. The person with these illnesses, reacts differently than people without them. And in doing so, drives friends away at the precise time encouragement, support, and kindess would help the most.
I used to love my life. I used to laugh and look forward to new experiences. I engaged in the world around me. Since depression has cost me the few friends I have, and left me feeling outcast and unwanted at a time I could really use some support, I find myself with nothing to look forward to. The friends i miss, do not miss me. Because I was a burden to them. I didn’t mean to be, but I was and people do get tired, even nice, well meaning people. But unlike them I am unable to abandon myself, and so on I must plod mostly alone, understanding that my illness is punishing me by taking away my already small ability to have/keep friends.
Or so it seems. So every day I must fight to find reasons to get out of bed. This is what depression is. I find there are a lot of addictions in the world that hide behind labels calling them something else. In addition to the known addictions like cigarette smoking and alcohol abuse, there is also addiction to anything else that we might use as a crutch to get through our day. Many people are addicted to work, and the feeling of success and worth it brings. Or people can be addicted to people, which I was. I was addicted to how wonderful it made me feel being around people who treated me like I was okay too, like I was wanted and liked and cared for. I loved how that felt. I loved how it made me feel. I didn’t want to lose that, and when I did it tore me apart; what little I had left of happiness fell to pieces, and why is that? Because I had a dependency on other people to give me that warm fuzzy feeling I loved so much. I went years hoping to have the company of people I respected who seemed to actually like me and accept me flaws and all, and having people like that, knowing people like that, gave me happiness I hadn’t felt for a very long time, if ever.
This was a nice thing for me at the time, but it had a negative side. Without knowing it, I became addicted to that. I never developed any ability to make my happiness on my own. I needed something on the outside to make it for me, other people to make it for me. And people get tired of making happiness for someone else. It’s hard enough learning how to make happiness just for yourself–but to have someone else dependent on you for their happiness–that gets very tiresome after awhile.
So that was my addiction, and it helped ease my depression having those people, and then when I lost the support of those people, I fell to pieces, just as much as any heroin addict or alcoholic would fall to pieces cut off from his/her drug.
Another addiction of course, is religion. That crutch that people need to feel good about themselves. Doesn’t matter if no one else likes me, Jesus is always there–he will never forsake me. Or…I wouldn’t be such a loving person as I am if I didn’t have Jesus. Because of Jesus I am saved, because of Jesus I am not an abomination in god’s eyes anymore–a sinner. I am a new being, born again. I am saved.
See, I had that addiction too, but losing the people in my life I thought cared for me because I developed this illness, made me realize or become aware that people are not reliable or dependable. Sometimes they’re not even what they seem to be. And learning this about people I had grown to care for very much, made me want to remove any other falsehoods I didn’t realize existed, from my life. Any crutch I might turn to like so many alcoholics turn from one addiction–alcohol–to another–religion.
But I am not writing about religion. I am writing about dependency and how easy it is to fall to addiction and dependency when you have depression, because with depression you will do and try anything to feel good. To have a reason to get out of bed. To not step in front of a train once you discover how to get on the tracks. To not OD or jump off bridges or in front of Metro buses.
People think it’s selfish and cowardice to comit suicide. I submit that no one does so lightly. The people who kill themselves have very likely gotten tired of trying and failing all the time, tired of succeeding and having no one notice. Because really, it’s only the failures people notice who want to find fault with you–see only the disappointments in us to justify their actions in turning their backs when we needed them most. And it’s the aloneness people can’t bear. The feeling like nothing they do will ever be enough or help enough. Death is scary–thanks to threats of hellfire or the fear of not existing anymore or…whatever, and many religions even threaten mentally ill people who die because of their mental illness are going straight to hell, so….it takes a lot of desperation to make someone, esp. a religious someone, suicidal. It’s only when life is scarier and the pain becomes so unbearable that people want to kill themselves–just to make it stop, nevermind whatever fears they have.
It is hard work to love and care for a depressed person. But it’s even harder work being in our shoes. Because depression isn’t like a lot of other illnesses. Many people don’t understand they have it. Many people who do, don’t know how to regain control of their thoughts they can’t seem to manage anymore. Everything seems huge. Overwhelming. You walk around feeling like a shattered vase just barely holding itself together–and if a strong wind comes you’ll fly to pieces across the road. That’s depression. When you want and need a loving heart to hold you, help you glue the cracks so you don’t fall apart, so you can at least function again even if you’ll never again look brand new.
But it’s work to care for someone with depression, or any mental illness. It’s work. Because just like AIDS or Hepatitis C or cancer or heart disease, depression isn’t fun, and it isn’t pretty, and it isn’t easy. It hurts, and it kills just as readily as these other illnesses, and the person inflicted is just as wanting to be cured, to feel well again, as any other sick person. But they have to go every day completely alone, feeling completely like they will never measure up or be loved or wanted or accepted or cared for–that they’ll never be whole enough again for such things.
Sometimes death seems better. Sometimes I wish for the black oblivion I felt when those ice skates hit my face. Even non-existence would be a gentle peace and an ending to a hurt I often find unbearable.
And I could deny it that I think of death. I could deny it to keep my friends from having to worry. But that would be a falsehood too. So instead I say every day I have to struggle to get out of bed, find a reason. My reasons are my animals. I have little animals who need me to go to work so I can feed and shelter and care for them. These are my reasons, and really my only reasons. Because my animals love me even when I’m struggling. Even when I’m in pain. Even when I’m damaged and I don’t know yet how to make me better. My animals do not turn their back or judge me, and they are always there. I can’t disappoint them. I can’t let them down. And they, in turn, are honest with me. They never give me false hopes, or false caring. They simply are what they are, and they love me.
This is my reason–because of my little animals. I do not put my hopes in some world yet to come. I don’t believe there is such a place. And I do not turn to Jesus to make me happy, because that’s just one more crutch, one more addiction, one more hoping for something outside myself to make my world right for me.
Happiness, real happiness, doesn’t depend on things, or imaginary friends, or other people, or such and such working out just right. Happiness is a decision. A choice we must learn to make. Those thoughts that seem so big and terrible, that the depressed or anxious person must battle every single day just to get through from dawn to dusk–only we can decide which ones to believe and which ones to reject, which ones we want to attach to and let them control our mood, our emotions, our life, and which ones we decide aren’t worthy of us.
Everyone hates me. No one loves me. All my friends were fake. I’m not worth anyone standing up for and supporting me. These are the thoughts I get every day that make me want to shrivel up and die. Every single day. These are the foes I battle. And don’t talk religion with me. It’s because of religion I have many of these thoughts now. This programming I can’t be whole and healthy and good without the help of some god. See, that’s not true. I was born beautiful, and good, and perfect, and exactly what nature meant me to be. I am a happy and wonderful, loving and good person. All I have to do is believe it about myself. Really believe it. And not look outside myself for other things to make my happiness for me.
That is the key to survival for me. The key to finding reasons to get through each day. The reasons must come from within, from myself. Not from drugs. Not from therapy. Not from self help books. But from me. Every day I need to make the decision which forces inside I want to control me–which thoughts I want to take seriously and which ones I want to recognize are just the bullshit religion I was fed or the negative messages I let myself believe all my life from my mother or the people I liked who couldn’t like me.