In 2011, I was sobered by a report in USA Today that said 1 in 100 adults had planned their suicide in the year leading up to the article — a statistic that didn’t surprise me, knowing what I do about depression.
I’ve suffered a lot of depression in my day. I’m experiencing it right now. While I’ve never seriously considered ending it, I can easily see how someone in that state of mind could head in that direction.
From that 2011 report:
There’s a suicide every 15 minutes in the United States, and for every person who takes his or her own life there are many more who think about, plan or attempt suicide, according to a federal report released Thursday.
The analysis of 2008-09 data from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health found that … more than 2.2 million adults (1.0 percent) reported making suicide plans in the past year, and more than 1 million (0.5 percent) said they attempted suicide in the past year, according to the researchers at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.
Perhaps subconsciously, as I binged my way to 280 pounds and ate painkillers for breakfast (I was prescribed them for chronic back pain), I was slowly trying to kill myself. A troubled mind can easily rationalize that it’s not suicide if you’re not jumping off a building, pointing a gun at your head or wrapping a noose around your neck. Fortunately, I came to my senses before I could finish the job.
But I’ve seen relatives get hospitalized for suicidal talk and my best friend became one of the tragic statistics on November 15, 1996. When depression takes hold of the vulnerable mind, you stop thinking clearly and, at some point, you lose full control of sane actions and thought. Some people think suicides were simply cowards who couldn’t cope with life’s everyday challenges. But they have no idea what they’re talking about.
Depression lurks like a vulture, waiting for you to get just tired enough to submit to the torture.
I’ve learned to see my own depression as just another chronic illness that comes and goes. I’ve learned, in a strange way, to still be happy when I’m depressed most of the time. That sounds fucked up, but it’s the best way I can describe it.
Being lucky enough to have reached that point, I’ve made it my mission to help break the stigma.
Sadness and suicidal thoughts need not be the end. For a lot of people I know, it turned out to be just the beginning of a life full of wisdom and beauty.
The report understates an important point:
1 in 100 adults plotted suicide; 99 did not.
That doesn’t mean the 99 weren’t troubled, depressed and going through difficult times. But whatever the difficulties, they soldiered on. Just as I do today.
Because a depressed mind rarely equals a beaten soul.