“If you commit suicide, your soul will suffer for eternity. It’s a selfish decision, unfair to your family and friends. Your funeral will be awkward. Killing yourself means you’re weak. So hang in there and roll with the punches. It will eventually get better.” – Society
If you ended your life, your family will suffer. Your burial services may be awkward. And yes, don’t kill yourself. But is it that simple?
To the person luckily unfamiliar with the experience of depression, a reason not to end your life isn’t required. Just the thought of suicide is on par with the worst things a person could do. Why fast track death when you can smell and appreciate the flowers? To understand suicide, you need an intimate familiarity with severe pain.
The desire to take one’s own life is often related to the experience of chronic, unendurable pain. When you experience pain, be it physical or emotional, the hope in its cessation is time sensitive. When pain exceeds tolerance, the sufferer exists alone in a living nightmare. Pain that is visible is easier to understand and sympathize with. Without naked eye or test-related proof, however, you are a pariah, like those of us with depression.
As depressives, we explain ourselves, often through the use of metaphor, to help others understand our pain. The experience of depression, however, cannot be transferred through metaphor. And without conclusive evidence, our pain will always be in question. So why not choose suicide when the understanding and alleviation of depressive illness is not certain?
When you’ve “tried everything” to relieve depressive illness, the prospect of suicide becomes enticing. This consideration can often not be helped when you are clinically depressed, especially when its chronic. But I was not born this way. Although hard to access, I have memories of not being depressed, which include sense and feeling memories of a fuller experience of life, one in which I was capable of a range of emotions. I once had the capacity to live fully and because of this recall, I advocate for everyone suffering from clinical depression to not take your own life. Don’t abstain just for your family, friends, or religion. Rather, survive to see the day when you will be capable of experiencing emotional fullness.
Advancements in the understanding and treatment of depression are being made, often outside public awareness. Scientists are abandoning old theories in light of new discoveries. Structural changes in the brain of depressives are being identified, pointing toward systematic dysfunction across brain regions. And new treatments are showing up, such as Ketamine infusion.
Ketamine infusion therapy has been around for years, yet this may be the first you’re hearing about it in regards to depression. Under the care and supervision of a medical professional, Ketamine infusion is known for its speed in alleviating treatment-resistant depression, which is synonymous with suicide. There is also TMS, ECT, clinical trials on psychedelics, and deep brain stimulation. For the first time in recent history, there is hope for those of us who don’t adequately respond to standard depression medications and treatments.
Your pain is real; you’re not imagining it. You are not weak or less than. Your suffering has an answer and that answer will soon be measurable. Until then, wait around with me. And while you wait, learn everything, try everything within the boundaries of what is safe and legal, and fight for your life. You deserve to live outside the grip of depression, but this requires you to be alive.
To those of us suffering the pain of losing someone to suicide, it’s imperative to normalize the experience. Not to the point where you accept suicide as an inevitability—you need to stay vigilant and work towards future prevention. But your loss is not something to be ashamed of, no matter what society has ingrained in you. This normalization starts with understanding that suicide is most often a result of illness, albeit an illness that is difficult to comprehend if you haven’t been touched by its wings.
Ryan Wetter is a writer and creative services professional with mental illness. If you have a question for him, reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org.