The Mother of Gloom
My clash with depression and suicidal thoughts
As news of Robin William’s suicide played in the background of my hotel room, I reached to the small balcony contemplating the beautiful Copacabana Beach in Rio de Janeiro. From the 19º floor I looked down and let my brain work his dark tricks. Could I do it? Could I really jump down to the end?
Of course not. I don’t have the balls to do it. But so didn’t Robin Williams back in 2010, even putting the matter in the “What The Fuck” category of things. His balls eventually came around and last week he waved us goodbye for good.
I have considered suicide. Way too many times, for many more years than I can remember. Not constantly, but often enough that I am actually afraid of it. Not so much recently, but still more than any healthy mind should be allowed.
Every time I hear about the suicide of a prominent person, my head gets hijacked into the idea that I could possibly do the same thing.
Immediately I want to know about the method. “How did he do it?”, I ask to whoever is breaking the news. Only later I start to reflect about the person, motives and struggles.
It’s like I am a lot more frightened of “how” I will do it than “if” I will do it. And that scares me too. Because no matter how much I am able to flirt with such dreadful outcome, I don’t want to ever face it for real.
Suicide thoughts are a common known product of depression, a disease that kills people like Robin Williams. Other people too.
It’s hard to explain to those who never dealt with such misery. I can’t even explain to myself when I am not desolated. If feels alien to anybody who enjoys even the smallest peculiarities of being alive.
Reading an article on this very topic I stumble upon this compelling metaphor by writer David Foster Wallace, who killed himself in 2008.
“The so-called ‘psychotically depressed’ person who tries to kill herself doesn’t do so out of quote ‘hopelessness’ or any abstract conviction that life’s assets and debits do not square. And surely not because death seems suddenly appealing. The person in whom Its invisible agony reaches a certain unendurable level will kill herself the same way a trapped person will eventually jump from the window of a burning high-rise. Make no mistake about people who leap from burning windows. Their terror of falling from a great height is still just as great as it would be for you or me standing speculatively at the same window just checking out the view; i.e. the fear of falling remains a constant. The variable here is the other terror, the fire’s flames: when the flames get close enough, falling to death becomes the slightly less terrible of two terrors. It’s not desiring the fall; it’s terror of the flames. And yet nobody down on the sidewalk, looking up and yelling ‘Don’t!’ and ‘Hang on!’, can understand the jump. Not really. You’d have to have personally been trapped and felt flames to really understand a terror way beyond falling.” — David Foster Wallace
To me, depression never felt like a force pushing me down or making me sad. Its presence is noticed only by the absolute lack of will to do or be anything. When I am down I don’t want to go out. But I don’t want to stay inside either. I don’t want to laugh or cry. Seat down or stand. Talk or be silent.
Most of the times, under acute melancholia, the only acceptable though is to not exist. For that, unfortunately, the answer seems quite evident.
To escape those plans I trick myself by remembering another version of me that has his shit together. That other self is well diagnosed, medicated and knows a lot better everyday. He’ll get things back on track.
If I could possibly leave anything close to an advice for fellows of the Gloomy Club - and I can’t - it would probably be along these lines: take care of your balanced self. He is your best friend.
So far, Healthy-Me has managed to emerge from the dark and save the day—every time. May he always be there. Even in the unlucky prospect of some ball growing phenomena.