One of the cruelest traits of clinical depression is that it can often make you feel as if there's no way out. It can convince you that your despair is eternal, and destined to oppress you for the rest of your days. And it's when you're in that horrifically black place, staring down the barrel of what you truly believe can only be a lifetime of wretched agony, that your thoughts turn to suicide.
In that moment, it seems as if it's the only way out.
Unfortunately, I know that place well. I've been to that place where all hope is lost, where death seems to be the only salvation. Below is an excerpt from my memoir where I write about what that was like. It was April 2010, and at the time I was a 21-year-old university student and aspiring author.
The days dragged along. This was the worst I'd ever felt. Period. There was no relief from the ceaseless dread. I could barely function. Paying attention in class was almost impossible. Studying was too overwhelming. I'd fallen absurdly behind. I hadn't touched my book [that I was writing] in days. I'd quit my [part-time] job at the law firm, too - needed all my free time to try and catch up on uni. But there was never enough time. I was constantly exhausted. Drained of life. Depression sucked at my soul. My spirit withered. My goal for the day got broken down even further: "just survive the next six hours," I'd tell myself, "the next four hours. Hold off killing yourself until then." [At which point I'd tell myself the same thing over again.]
I'd previously thought I'd get better. I'd always thought it true that hope and depression were bitter rivals until one inevitably defeated the other, and I'd always thought that hope would win out in the end. But for the first time in my life, I was void of hope. I honestly believed that being depressed was just the way I was, and that being depressed was just the way I'd be, for the rest of my life. And because I was so convinced that I'd never get better, there seemed no point in fighting my illness. Instead of willing myself to "hang in there" because I believed that my suffering was temporary and that everything would be better one day, I comforted myself with the knowledge that human beings are not immortal. That I would die, one day. One special, glorious day. Then I could spend the rest of eternity moulding in a grave, free from pain. You might be wondering why I didn't just kill myself if I wholeheartedly believed that my future consisted of nothing more than excruciating misery. Well, first of all, I still was not a quitter. But more importantly, I didn't want to hurt the people that loved me.
"It's not fair to commit suicide and ruin their lives," I thought. "So I have to hold on. No matter how much it hurts me I have to hold on."
Hence why I drew comfort from the thought that one day I'd die and finally be free.
When you're that depressed, that insanely and utterly depressed that you genuinely believe you'll suffer that acutely for the rest of your days, life seems to lack all purpose.
"After all," I remember thinking, "what's the point in working, fighting, striving for a better life if I'm sentenced to one of chronic anguish and despair? There is no better life. There is no life outside of pain. So what's the point in doing anything but waiting until death finally arrives on my doorstep and whisks me away to the Promised Land?"
I was still studying, and I still planned on finishing my novel and trying to get it published, but it was more out of force of habit than anything else. My passion had been drained. My zest for life asphyxiated. I was like a ghost, just drifting through the ghastly days.
"Shit! What's wrong, mate?" an old friend once said when I ran into him at uni. "Perk up, brother!"
I was shocked. One of the most well-known attributes of depression is that it is entirely possible - and very common - to suffer horrifically without anybody knowing. But somehow without realising it, I'd crossed the line from a place where I was able to put on a front and fool people into thinking I wasn't depressed to a place where I was so sick that it was obvious to people I hadn't even seen for a year. When I got home I looked in the bathroom mirror, and realised that I was staring back at a man whose eyes were exhausted slits, whose whole face shrieked of agonising misery. I was staring back at a man whose spirit had been broken, whose soul had been destroyed. I was staring back at a man who, for all intents and purposes, was already dead.
As you can see, I was so convinced that I'd never get better. I was 100% sure of it. But after a while, one of the multiple medications I'd tried started to work. I started benefiting immensely from therapy. I committed myself to eating well, sleeping well and exercising frequently. And over time, I began to recover. Towards the end of that year and throughout 2011, I also made a number of positive lifestyle changes, and by early 2012, I'd kicked my depression for good. Ever since then, I've been feeling great.
And I'm hardly the only person who's recovered from depression. I'm just one of thousands - 10s of thousands - probably millions.
Depression is a maestro at suffocated your hope, but countless people have proved that Depression is a liar. Recovery IS possible - even if you can't always see it.
If you enjoyed reading this post, I encourage you to download a FREE copy of my memoir here. Recounting my struggle and eventual triumph over depression, I wrote it so that sufferers of the illness could realise they are not alone - that there are other people out there who have gone through the same excruciating misery, and who have made it through to the other side. I also wrote it so that I could impart the lessons I learned on the long, rocky, winding road that eventually led to recovery - so that people could learn from my mistakes as well as my victories - particularly with regards to relationships; substance abuse; choosing a fulfilling career path; seeking professional help; and perhaps most importantly, having a healthy and positive attitude towards depression that enables recovery. Multiple-bestselling author Nick Bleszynski has described it as "beautifully written, powerful, heartfelt, insightful and inspiring ... a testament to hope."