I’ve been thinking about how hard it is to convince a really depressed person to work hard. I sometimes think, how did I get the motivation to put in the work to not want to kill myself? It takes a lot of work to overcome suicidality. Like, a lot of work. Most of it is uncomfortable and results can vary from one day to the next. When I was in the hospital I used to fill out these surveys with my therapist that basically measured how much I wanted to kill myself that week. I have them still, and it’s very interesting to look at. One week I was totally sure that I would never want to kill myself, and the next day I would change my mind. It was a constant swing from “life is insignificant and I don’t care” to “life is insignificant and that’s what makes it precious and beautiful.”
Anyway, I wonder why I worked so hard when I wanted to die so much. I had spent the previous ten years sure that my cause of death would be suicide. I think the key was that I had constant safety. I was safe 24 hours day while I was in the hospital. Even when we went out to see movies or to the store, I would sit in the middle seat of the van so that I wouldn’t be tempted to open the door and jump out.
So I could say things like, “I don’t want to work for it because it’s meaningless anyway,” and then I could go take a nap or have a conversation about it or play a card game. The mirrors weren’t even made of glass, and even if they had been, I had to have someone by my door any time I was in the bathroom because of my eating disorder habits. The people around me were patient and non-judgmental. My peers were brilliant and felt the same way I did — confused and ashamed. They gave me my first community.
But still, why did I work so hard? I could have floated along my time in the hospital. I was very good at putting on a smile and saying the right things. However, that takes a lot of effort and energy that I didn’t have anymore. I know plenty of people who left the hospital just as sad as when they came in. I could have done that. That was the plan when I walked through the doors. I told myself, “go in there, pretend like you care, get out of there, and die letting your family believe they did everything they could.” But something changed my attitude. Was it a few weeks of consistent sleep without the use of drugs? Was it the nurse at the nursing station who told me that my life mattered to her?
Maybe I was really sad that life was meaningless. Like, I didn’t want life to be meaningless. So when I was told that I could make my life have it’s own meaning, and that meaning could be whatever I wanted, I ran with that. Maybe. Or, maybe I thought death was the only option because I was in such a dark hole with no way out. So when when someone told me that there was indeed a way through the darkness, and they would help me find my way, I took their hand. Maybe I had a tiny bit of light left. And that light, as much as I denied its existence, was listening when I was told that there was more light at the end of this tunnel.
Not everyone has access to the same care I received (this makes me very sad), but everyone has access to community and I think that’s where prevention starts.
I could ramble quite a bit more on this topic, but I’ll leave it here for now. I’m just wondering on this as I consider what to say to a friend who said, “I really don’t feel like fighting the fight.”