Tuesday, January 8, 2008


For once it's not my own pain.

Suicide just touched me, if indirectly. I heard soft crying coming from my colleague's office, but thought it was a patient out in the hall and so tuned it out. Then another coworker came in to my office, slightly frantic, for my kleenex and told me what was going on. We got some help, canceled my coworker's duties for the day, and I waited in the office until we got my coworker into the hands of someone who could help better than we could.

Depression to the point of suicide is something I can't fathom. I'm really, really lucky that my suffering, as bad as it's been, has never reached that point. Suicidal ideation, yeah. It's been that bad before, and it's that bad now. But with me it's never been to the point where there was a plan, much less a successful one. With me it's been fleeting thoughts, benign when compared to other people, really. Suicide and attempts in general happen as a way to get rid of the pain, to escape the very, very real pain that comes along with major depression. When I'm suffering enough, what goes through my head isn't exactly thoughts of killing myself, but rather a more vague desire to just not exist. Thankfully, I am able to see this as a very worrying sign and get the help I need. (Like the ongoing care of my doctor, who I see tomorrow.)

Thinking about the degree of pain and isolation that friend of my colleague's must have gone through, to be in a place where the only viable option seemed to be death, reminds me to be grateful for what I have. For what I've accomplished through my own hard work. For medication. For the support I get from professionals, family, friends, coworkers, dogs, and pictures of baby animals.

I feel good today. I know the pain I've been feeling will pass, and I know I'm not as bad off as I could be and have been before. I'm strong, and I can share this pain with other people, so that I don't have to shoulder it all myself. I can reach out in a way that others, the ones who are the ultimate casualties, cannot. I'm lucky.

One of the things I feel most passionate about is the mental health situation in society, and today with a level head, balanced between the logical and the emotional, I want to just remind myself and anyone who reads this, that there is NOTHING wrong with getting help.

And I want to ask you to do as I do, and fight like fucking crazy to support people like me, my colleague's friend, and the legions of people I know have dealt with depression. Talk about it openly when you can. Be strong like me and others who work to reduce the stupid stigma that goes along with illnesses of the brain and emotions. I suspect I'm preaching to the choir here, but it just eats me up to see all the ways that mental health treatment and prevention are marginalized. Insurers and societal attitudes are forces that are tough to change, but I've seen so much progress over the last 20 years that I feel hope now.

Take care of yourself. Take care of others. Fight.

I'm strong as hell.