Tuesday, August 3, 2010

This is an important post.

art by Know Hope
A girl that I graduated high school with killed herself this weekend. She was not a friend, just a distant acquaintance, but the event resonated very deeply in me. It's no secret to people who are close to me that I've gone through some very dark times in my past. I have a history of depression, and it runs pretty deep in my family (my uncle committed suicide when I was about 9, and I have a whole slew of close relatives with various addictions, probably at least partially due to depression.)

Currently, I am doing great. I have learned that depression is an illness, and not to be ashamed of it. I've learned that by being open about it helps me cope, and whenever I feel the symptoms descend on me, I seek treatment. This means that about ever two years or so, I need to go on antidepressants, for about 8-12 months, until the symptoms run their course. Currently I take Lexapro, but I've been on Anafranil, Effexor, Paxil, Prozac & Wellbutrin in the past.

Why am I telling you all this? Because I know, from experience, that depression is a lonely disease. Everyone's symptoms are a little different, and when you go through them, you think no one quite understands. If you or someone you know is dealing with depression, I'm putting myself out there. Get in touch with me. I will freely share my phone number, and I will gladly talk about it with you or them (even if you just want to ask about side affects of meds.)

More importantly though, I want to share a story. When I was in the trenches of the worst of my dark days, I had a friend (he knows who he is) who made a deal with me. He said, if I ever was thinking of doing anything stupid, or drastic, to call him - anytime, day or night. He told me he wouldn't judge (and this is important: he really didn't judge. Not even a little bit;) and he wouldn't try to talk me out of anything. We didn't even have to talk about what was bothering me. He just made me promise to call. Afterwards, when I got off the phone with him, I was free to do whatever I wanted. He wouldn't yell, or call me names, or get angry.

I'm sure I'm not exaggerating when I say that that deal saved my life. Not on any specific, dramatic occasion (that I can remember anyway). But self-injury is a moment. Just one, sad, stupid, desperate, hopeless moment, and any one of them that I experienced could have led to something drastic. Sometimes (most of the time, I think) if you can just get a person past that moment(s), just distract them through it, you can save their life.

I'm urging you: please, if you know someone that you've worried about in the past, for any reason, make this deal with them. Make it absolutely clear that you won't judge them. Make it clear that you won't try to talk them out of it. That it's their life, and they are free to do what they want with it. Just ask them to give you one minute; one phone call before they hurt themselves in any way (for me it was cutting, just like an after-school special starring Tori Spelling or Kurt Cameron.) Make them promise.

*A caveat: suicide is a decision made by one person. It's not anyone else's fault, and you cannot take on the weight of saving another person. You can maybe talk them through a bad situation or two, but you can't be there 24/7; you can't be inside their head. I don't want anyone to ever think they are to blame for not saving someone's life if they decide to commit suicide. That's their decision in the end and you can only do your best for them.