I’m watching a great series on Netflix right now – called “13 reasons why“. I read the book first and didn’t hold high hopes for the series because I feel like once a book is on the screen – it loses so much of its purity and honesty.
But this has exceeded expectation and I’m so blessed.
I love it.
I wanted to blog tonight though – because as I’m watching the series – I’m struck by the people in it – especially Hannah’s parents – who just want to know why.
When someone kills themselves and they don’t leave a letter – the people who love them want to know why.
As someone who’s stood on that edge – I’m hoping to expose ‘the other side’ and help you to understand.
Firstly – depression and suicide are different for everyone. There is no ‘one size fits all’ cure or solution to it – but there are definite similarities in the suffering of it – and this is something I can address because I know a lot about it.
Now to tell you what I know:
We don’t jump off a building or cut our wrists or overdose ‘just because’ – it’s usually the outcome of us actually suffering for a long, long time and it is a combination of things all at once that overwhelms us to the point where we want to die rather than be in incredible pain anymore. Dying feels like a blissful exit – and it’s so tempting, you can almost taste the freedom.
Because in the fragile state depression and suicidal tendencies brings you to – freedom is suddenly what you become obsessed with.
That’s what I like so much about “13 reasons why” – it is one of the rare moments I have witnessed something true to the representation of depression/suicidal suffering. It shows the build up of hurt over time that just pummels the poor girl until she just wants out.
That’s how it happens, you know.
It starts with one small thing.
One inconsequential thing.
It could be illness. Just a flu – that leaves you in bed and away from home/school for weeks. Just a stupid illness but it becomes the first snowflake – then others stick to it – then it builds and builds and builds…and then it’s a snowball. Then that snowball is 80 feet high and wide.
Then it kills you.
Because when you get back to work or school after you’ve been ill, you’re not at your best and you can’t keep a lid on your temper/emotions so you end up saying something you shouldn’t. And the person you say it to has no time for your bollocks and they shut you down.
Now, on any other day, that would be an inconvenience.
But suddenly – it’s your whole world – and it’s crashing in at you from the ceiling.
So you’re already bruised – and now you’re seeing cracks appear.
But you’re so used to ‘keeping it together’ that you don’t even realise you’re falling apart.
And that’s another thing about suicide…you’re so deep in it by the time you need help – that you convince yourself you’re beyond help and that you’re all alone.
And that makes you want to die even more.
Depression eats away at you from inside. It hollows you out. For me, my brain becomes my worst enemy and it decides to play back – on endless continuous loop – all my fears and failures.
From the moment I open my eyes – it begins.
“no-one wants you”
“you’re a fraud”
“no-one likes you”
And then my mind plays back everything I’ve ever done or said that I’ve felt bad about.
As I swing my legs over the bed to start the day, my mind decides to remind me that my natural father didn’t want to know me.
He left when you were a baby, you know.
You must have been some ugly-ass baby.
I can’t tell you what that’s like. I can’t explain in words how incredibly painful it is to know I wasn’t good enough.
Depression asks “Are you good enough for anyone?”
And in that fragile state, I can only answer “No. Not really”.
I look at my dishevelled appearance in the mirror.
“You are so ugly”
Now…I can’t help but agree.
And in the next 20 minutes as I shower and dress for the day, my mind decides to replay all the times I was alone and left out in primary school. All the times other children said “ew” and pretended touching me or having any contact with me was going to make them sick. All the times I scrubbed my skin raw in the shower – trying to get the black off.
It never came off.
So I break a little more.
And little broken pieces of me trail behind as I walk to work. Bits fall off as I smile and greet everyone from reception with a bright “Good morning!”, more pieces crack and crumble as I go through the motions of the day.
And that’s another part of depression – it’s invisible and you can still smile when you have it.
You can still laugh. You can find things funny. You can carry conversations, perform well at work, go to the gym, walk the dog, water the garden, pick your kids up from school…you can do it all.
…while the whole time, you’re screaming and you’re dying and it hurts like a bastard.
And in all of this – the waves keep coming.
The 80 feet waves keep coming.
It is such an awful thing because when you need people around you the most – you become your prickliest version of yourself so that anyone who comes close to you gets hurt. So they back right off. Such a terrible conundrum because you need them close and they run. The more you run after them, the more crazy you appear and the more they run.
When all you needed was a friend to listen. A friend to put their hand in yours and squeeze it and remind you it’s all going to be okay.
But depression isolates you.
It whispers “you’re all alone” “no one will understand” “don’t say anything because they’ll think you’re a weirdo” “don’t say anything because you’ll burden them” “keep quiet so that people don’t have to worry about you”
You want to ask for help at this stage – at the stage where you think about hurting yourself…about ending your own life…but it is so HUGE and so dark and so freaking SCARY that you honestly don’t know where to begin.
How do you start to say “help me” when you’re so freaking overwhelmed?
How did it get to be like this?
Where did it all go so wrong?
And the snowflakes keep adding.
Because if you have cancer – you have physical evidence of your suffering. If you have a medical illness – again, you have evidence. People can see what you’re going through and they gather around to help you and love you through it.
But with depression – there is no evidence.
You look the way you’ve always looked.
You sound the way you always have.
There are no limbs falling off, no illnesses, no scans to point at – no hair falling out. No bruises or cuts. Nothing that shows how incredibly painful it all is.
Because you can still smile.
So it gets worse. You and your secret illness and you can’t ask for help because you don’t know how to show what the hell is wrong with yourself to others.
How do you ask for help when you can’t show evidence of your suffering?
So slowly – it gets worse. And worse. And worse.
More friends avoid you because they don’t know what to say or do to make you feel better.
You interpret that as rejection and you know what? It hurts! It hurts SO MUCH.
So you spend more time alone – in your own warped and hazy company – you spend time with the only person who’s out to get you – yourself…and you isolate yourself from love and reason.
And the snowball gets bigger.
You worry more. You eat more. Or you stop eating altogether. You stress. You’re anxious all the time. In pain all the time from your muscles cramping because of all the worry and stress. You don’t sleep anymore. I heard somewhere that going without sleep/rest for a prolonged period of time is the same as being drunk.
You stumble through your life in a ‘drunken’ haze.
So you make more mistakes.
In the case of Hannah in “13 reasons why” – a**holes in your life can make things worse. Much worse.
And yet that’s another thing depression seems to do and do really well – it repels the people in your life who bring goodness and light and it attracts those who want to do you harm.
I don’t know why it does that – but it does.
And that makes things so much harder. So much more painful.
And after enough pain and grief in depression – you just stop feeling.
You can’t cry and you wish so much that you could because it would be good to let some of the pain out.
So instead – people cut themselves. They hurt themselves on purpose because they need an outlet for all the fear and grief in their heads and hearts. They burn themselves. They get drunk. They take drugs. They have promiscuous sex. They get into fights. They commit crimes. They do whatever it takes to let the hurt and the pain out…and I’ll tell you a secret – none of it works. The pain always comes back.
So you need another hit.
Another sexual partner.
Another cut on your arm.
Another sleepless night.
And when that doesn’t work – suicide starts to look very, very attractive.
People who don’t know what it’s like ask:
Why didn’t you talk to someone?
Because I was so out of my mind with fear and shame that I didn’t know how to ask for help. I just didn’t know.
Why would you think dying was a good idea?
Because suicide transforms in your mind from an end of life – to an end to the constant pain, fear and worry.
And the big one:
Why would you do that to people who care about you?
Because when I was suffering that badly – I honestly believed with every fibre of my being that no one cared. No one would notice. No one would mind. And if they did – it would just burden them. And that I was capable of wanting to save them from.
SUICIDE IS A PERMANENT SOLUTION TO A TEMPORARY PROBLEM.
You might have even heard that before.
But unless you’re there – in that deep, dark pit of hell – you don’t know that it feels f**king permanent at the time.
Trust me, it honestly feels like it will NEVER EVER END.
So before I write another novel – here’s what I try to do for my friends when they struggle and what I hope you’ll do for yours.
They’ll try to push you away. Respect their space but SEND THAT TEXT. The one that says “I’m thinking of you” “I care so much about you” “I’m worried about you” “I’m here if you need to talk” “Are you ok?” “what can I do?” “do you want to talk about it?” because no matter what they say – they READ it. Whether that person responds or not – it still means a lot that you reached out. Believe me, it really does help. Your texts may well save a life.
The best messages I received when I was suicidal – on the very brink of life and death – were from people I love who offered to come over and just be with me. I said no to all of them – but having the offer – I think that’s so much of why I’m still here on this blog today and not 6 feet under.
Suicidal/depressed/anxious people – when they’re in the thick of it – are the most obnoxious, annoying, whiny, negative, HORRIBLE versions of themselves. They are their most unlovable selves and you will want to put about 10,000 miles between yourself and them – but don’t – just be patient. Take deep breaths because God knows, they can’t. Stay. Persist. Love on them even though they’re being a**holes – because they need it now more than they ever have in their lives. Remind yourself of who they really are when they’re not like this. Remind yourself of their laugh, their kindness and of why you love them in the first place. Then put that into a card or letter, email or text – and REMIND THAT PERSON, too.
I guess that’s it. Just do those ^^ 3 things – over and over and OVER and OVER and that person will live to fight another day.
And they’re worth that.
They’ll forget that – but that’s why we’re there for our friends…to remind them.
Keep an eye out for friends who:
Drastically change their behaviour or looks
Talk about problems they’ve encountered haltingly, in a confused, anxious manner.
Say ‘jokingly’ or ‘casually’ how they’d like to die – and then laugh it off. That’s a cry for help. It’s not a joke. DO NOT IGNORE IT. Don’t let them ignore it. Hug them. Hold them. Get them to a hospital.
Tell you in some strange way that they’re not okay “I’m having a tough day”, “I’m just so tired”, “I’m fed up” – it may be a small thing, but if you ‘catch’ it before it gets to be a BIG thing, you’ll save a life. Keep an eye on them. Text them daily – hourly if you think they need it. I’d rather be annoying than lose a friend to depression/suicide.
Be the light when all they can see is darkness – because it will make a difference.