Suicide without a Corpse

digital illustrationMichelle, a writer I greatly admire, just offered a post on her blog, wherein she details some of the characteristics of her daily experiences in life as a person with depression. As always, she makes me think. It’s not simply that I, too, am such a person—albeit one whose version of depression is as unique, individual as hers and everyone else’s—but that there are a few aspects of depression that, if not exactly universal, are amazingly common. First of these is that being sad is not depression. Sadness is to depression about like a paper cut is to getting an ice pick stuck in your eye.

I will not belittle the paper cut, real or metaphorical. Pain of the physical and the psychic sorts will always be relative to our own experiences and our own moments, and pain of any kind is inherently unpleasant and undesirable. That, I think, would be hard to argue.

But I might also say that it’s less accurate to equate sadness with depression than to call being sad, however jokingly, being “differently happy”. Sadness is a passing, ephemeral experience of the sort where the last scoop of one’s favorite ice cream flavor has been dished up and handed to the person just before her in the queue. Depression is when she has the dish of that flavor sitting right in front of her and not only doesn’t have the strength to reach over and take a spoonful of it to eat, she thinks she isn’t a good enough person to do so, if she can form such a solid thought at all, and if there were a super-powered sleeping pill that could put her peacefully to sleep forever sitting right next to the ice cream and she longed beyond words to die, she mightn’t have enough strength to reach over and take the pill either.

Suicide is a hideous thing, if you ask me. It’s tough enough that anyone would hate or fear her life and self to the degree that she sees no alternative but to end it, but of course she either knowingly accepts whatever horrible consequences her death will have on the entire rest of the universe, starting with the people who love her or she is no longer capable of recognizing that there are such people or consequences or caring about them. Beyond that, it inevitably is simply messy in the practical and logistical and legal senses. Someone will have to clean up after the fact, and the suicide doesn’t or can’t care that this will require others to deal with her corporeal remains, the legal messes she’s left behind, the tasks unfinished, and most of all, with the incurable suffering that follows when survivors realize that they couldn’t save her, might indeed have been utterly forgotten by her in the abysmal darkness of her depression.

Every individual’s best response to depression is as different as his or her version of the ailment. I am one of those whose unique combination of depression and other physical and emotional characteristics and components resisted all non-medical interventions until despite my vigorous resistance to the idea of chemical treatment I learned that that was the only useful method for me. Rather than diminishing my sense of self, it allowed me for the very first time in my four-plus decades to experience what I now believe is (and yes, probably always was) my true self. It still required being dedicated to a variety of other forms of non-chemical rehabilitation and therapy; talk therapy, meditation, and my practice of various arts and exercises mentally and physically that please and heal me all contribute to my wellness along with my meds.

I was fortunate in a way that many clinically depressed people are not: I never seriously contemplated committing suicide. I would go so far as to say that I considered it as a rather detached philosophical argument, inwardly, but I never reached the point where I so lost my will to oppose the idea of killing myself that I could let go of all the external reasons not to do so, those messy consequences others would have to undo or survive. If I valued myself so little as to want to be dead, I suppose it could be said that at least this made me think it would be that much worse of me to impose so terribly on those around me for something that wasn’t directly their problem. This sort of tautology clearly says to me that I wasn’t in imminent danger; I was busy arguing myself out of something that I didn’t really have the strength to do anyhow.

What I didn’t recognize in the midst of all of this soliloquizing was that I was committing a form of suicide, if an invisible one. True, there would be no stinking remains turning into human soap and sliming the rubber gloves of some poor janitor, no internecine paperwork to be sorted by attorneys and opportunists. But the burden on the world around me would have been just as heavy, the struggle of my loved ones just as inexorable, if I hadn’t rather literally stumbled into the intervening care that brought me to this lovely resolution where I find myself dwelling so comfortably today. Because, in my depressive brain fog and fear and self-loathing and ennui, I was rapidly forgetting how to be alive. It’s quite possible, I discovered, to die without stopping breathing, without even losing all conscious thought. A walking coma, an animate death is entirely possible in the midst of true depression.

And for that reason, I am all the more grateful that by virtue of being surrounded by people who helped to guide me in that direction, combined with being blessed, lucky, fortunate, or whatever combination thereof you prefer to name it, after my years in the dark I fell into the combination of elements that conferred a kind of wellness on me that I’d never known before. I am among you today not just as a happy and contented person, full of gratitude and amazement at what a good life I have, but also as a testament to the unfathomable differences and distances between existing and living, between something indescribably yet terribly akin to sleepwalking through life and waking up every day a little bit more…alive.

21 thoughts on “Suicide without a Corpse

  1. This is quite profound. I’m sitting here amazed at how well this is written. I felt the complexities which all of us have…I even chuckled a bit about the stinking remains. I too have dealt with depression all my life not to mention some physical things. Thank you for sharing a huge part of you and how you are viewing life these days. And your image is amazing!! I love it. 🙂

    • As with so many health-related and personality-related elements of our existence, I think depression and happiness, sadness and contentment are all mere specks-in-the-spectrum that we all live, changing with our circumstances and the vicissitudes of life. Some of us live pretty steadily at one intersection of all of those elements and others, like me, move around a bit—or the things around us move and we come into new positions in *that* way—health and well-being are rarely entirely static. I am always amazed and grateful that my own part of the universe has mostly been a kindly one and tended to keep me in an upward trajectory, despite any darker moments or tendencies at times. I can’t complain; even though I think I was closer to the negative side of the depressed/not equation for so much of my earlier life, I wasn’t nearly so tortured by it as some are and I suppose I found many good coping mechanisms by sheer force of need, without knowing it, before I found greater wellness. Funny how these things work, isn’t it! I am so glad to have found companions like you here in Bloglandia who speak my language, and wish you the same kinds of healing and happiness that I experience with such relish in contrast to my past!
      🙂
      xo,
      Kath

      • Thank you so much. I really love how positive you are and how open you are. Having lived with much secrecy in my life until recently, I need people like you around me who continue to lift me up! I’m basically a bubbly person but I have those moments still which are frightening. But they are getting less and I’m learning more about myself which helps me to understand things a bit more. Happy Tuesday! 😀

  2. You said that all so beautifully…. I too survive after a long battle….. here’s to the survivers.
    ‘Sadness is to depression about like a paper cut is to getting an ice pick stuck in your eye.’
    I love that line….. you rule.
    Terry

    • My friend, I suspect that every human has the full capacity for true and deep depression, and more ‘visit’ that state at least once in life than anyone guesses—but it’s pretty characteristic of the condition that we can’t recognize its full depth when we’re in it, so unless and until we have hit bottom and come back from the abyss, we may never quite understand what it is—it’s us ‘frequent flyers’ who have reason to try to suss it out somehow. I say, if you’re blogging as cogently and artfully and with such wit as you are, then you are much closer to understanding and triumphing over your own version of depression than most people. *Cheers* to you!
      Kathryn

  3. You are amazing how you write. I keep saying it but it is true. I am so glad you can find happiness and calmness. My daughter suffers with depression and Bulimia and wishes to die. Sometimes when I see her suffering I wonder about suicide in a way that she would be at peace but of course that is not spoken aloud. You are so inspirational in every way Kathryn xxOO

    • Thank you from the depths of my heart, Rosemary. I am so sorry your daughter suffers, and clearly you know how this affects everyone around her: when one suffers, all do. I can say that I have known some with anorexia or bulimia who have managed to get along for long periods of time, but I know, too, that these are not easily managed devils. I shall keep all of you in my heart all the more. All I can offer is the firm knowledge that none of us is alone in this journey, and in some ways those who feel the most so are in the most constant and intense company, though they/we may never quite comprehend it. Peace to you and yours, my dear friend.
      xoxo!
      K

      • Thank you so much for these lovely and very true words. My daughter is 40 now, lives with me and we both have a dark humour that gives us many laughs. She is beautiful and a talented creative person. Over the years we have had many moments of pleasure in little things and some days can bright and sunny for her. I figure it is pretty good under the circumstances. She is with me, safe and clean and when she is funny, she is brilliant. 🙂 as I said before you are an inspiration. Look in the mirror and give yourself a huge smile and know how special you are xo

  4. This is utterly wonderful, thank you! I read Michelle’s post and saw your response there. I’m glad you wrote this. Your distinction of sad vs. depression is right on the mark.
    On the spectrum of depression, I fall on the lighter side, if you can call it that. Blue Lite. (ha ha – that’s a local beer) It has not been disabling, but it does limit me.

    • Perhaps a slug of Blue Lite could cheer us up from the lightest funk! 😉 Yes, those of us fortunate enough to have “only” the manageable/functional versions of depression have to make some choices or it would quickly *become* unmanageable, I think. I’m sorry you’re a member of the club, but glad you seem to find those ways to manage. May we continue to find our ways to thrive! xo

  5. Admire your ability, and willingness, to share about aspects of your life that many would want to hide. Like they say, acceptance is the first step towards a solution.

    • I feel so fortunate to be surrounded by people who make it safe for me to truly be myself, flaws and all. Much healthier and happier than hiding or thinking I’d be unloved if I expressed my genuine feelings and beliefs. Thank you for your kind words!

  6. Pingback: What a Difference a Day Makes! | Art-Colored Glasses

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