I’ve been hit by a Depression recently, and been hearing from people with Depression, so here is a recap of my survival strategies, made for times when you genuinely do not want to live. This will be a two-part blog.
In severe Clinical Depression, you lose all will to live. It’s one of the worst things special chemistry can dish out. It’s just a chemical shortage, but that’s not what it feels like.
The way I’ve always described it to myself is that the motor has died in me. Everyone has a little, crucial motor that wakes up with them each day and makes them want to go on – at least after a cup of coffee or two. In Clinical Depression, the motor STOPS. It is jammed or broken. Who knows why.
And you don’t care. You are perfectly happy to stay in bed all day every day. People don’t realize till they’ve been there that it takes energy to give a damn. That’s something the people around you, trying frantically to get you ‘back to normal,’ don’t understand.
With time, and maybe the navigation of some crucial life issues, that motor will kick in again. The job of anti-depressants is to jump start it. The danger is that people won’t live that long.
In suicidal Depression, you have one job and one only: stay alive until the motor starts. It is gruesome, but possible. I have been suicidal, I forget how many times. Once I spent 2 whole years in bed. I survived it. This is how.
First and most important: do not buy into how you feel. I know it seems like the world is one big kitty-litter box and you are buried at the bottom. But your brain is lying to you! That is vitally important to understand. When your thoughts say, “It’s not worth living,” you can respond, “What a load of crap!”
In rehab they taught us something I never forgot: Feelings are not facts. Feelings just are. It’s just a broken brain showing you everything through a black filter. It’s not real. It’s a movie-screen disaster. It cannot kill you all by itself! Only you can do that.
If we have an ‘ordinary’ Depression and things look dark, we are usually best served by keeping busy and keeping in motion. But if we are flat out suicidal, it just may not be possible. The rules are different when all you can think of is how much you want to die.
Your only job right now is to stay alive, and here are a few tips to help you do that:
1) Get rid of all weapons. I have a gun for self-protection (I know that’s not very PC). When I start thinking I don’t want to live, I give that gun to my therapist and say, ‘’Hold onto this for me for a while”. Pills are weapons. If you start thinking of overdosing on your pills, it’s time to get somebody to dole them out to you one day at a time. You can do this. Doctors are willing. Your friends would rather do this than see you die.
2) Get a crisis number and call it any time you have to. Call your therapist. Ask for extra sessions. Write long letters or journals about how bad you feel. But don’t expect your best friends to be able to listen to it every day. They can’t even understand, though they may be willing to try. There is no normal person on earth who will be able to stand your current point of view for as long or as often as you will need to vent it. Use the professionals. They’re there for exactly this.
If there are local prayer lines, you might call them too. A lot of people praying might just make the difference. What could it hurt?
3) Find something passive to keep yourself occupied. TV or books or audio tapes or crosswords – anything will do if it keeps you from sitting around brooding. Cuddling your cat or stuffed animal helps, too. If you just sit and think, you might crumble. If you have to watch reruns at 3 in the morning till you finally drift off into a coma, that is better than dying.
This is a good time for that music collection I recommended. This is a good time to take up knitting. This is a good time to play Slinky, or Solitaire, or Marbles. This is a good time to surf endlessly on your computer. Go into a mindless zone where you are just slightly too busy to think about much you hurt. This is NOT a good time to take up drugs or alcohol. Your lens on the world is already way too distorted as it is.
4) Keep it simple, and take your medicine. I know hygiene and moving about socially don’t interest you very much right now. I’m going to be different than the textbooks and say that’s fine sometimes. If you want to lie dirty in bed all week except when you go get the groceries, OK. Just so you stay alive.
I have a request, though: when you do go for the groceries, take a shower first. It is the kind thing to do, and it will make you feel marginally better. Also, get up for therapy and to pick up your prescriptions, even if you don’t get out of bed for anything else.
NEVER neglect your pills. Especially now.
The above is an excerpt from Deborah Fruchey’s book, Is There Room For Me Too? 12 Steps & 12 Strategies for Coping with Mental Illness. It is available on Amazon.com, from Kindle Editions, and in Apple’s iBook store. You can visit the author’s web page at www.lafruche.net.