This post doesn’t have anything to do with writing, or helping you make more money from your writing. This post doesn’t attack any of the current sacred cows of publishing, or promote any new releases. This post isn’t funny, and probably won’t piss anybody off. So if you’re looking for my typical fare, you should probably skip this one and come back next week. I can probably find something to bitch about by then.
Last week I lost a friend.
More specifically, last week a friend lost his lifelong battle with depression and mental illness, and took his own life.
This isn’t the first time I’ve gone through this, and it probably won’t be the last. I write some variation on this post every time, because I feel like I owe that much to my uncle Ed, to Logan, and now to Dave. I can’t make sense of their actions, and I can’t explain them. I won’t excuse them. I’m still angry at all three of them for choosing a short-term solution to a long-term problem, and I probably always will be.
But I understand why.
I have a semicolon tattooed on the inside of my left wrist. Depending on who asks, I either tell people it’s for suicide awareness, in honor of people I’ve lost, or I tell them the truth. I tell them that it’s there because I could have ended my sentence, but chose not to. If I’m being honest, I tell people it’s because I’ve considered suicide, but never made a serious attempt. I’ll tell people that I’ve never been truly suicidal, but I understand how fine a line it is between living and dying when you deal with depression and mental illness every day.
I recently had a conversation with another friend who battles depression, and something finally crystallized for me – I never wanted to kill myself, but there have been a lot of days when the thought of dying, or just not being alive, was pretty fucking appealing.
Let me clarify – I have never attempted suicide. Yes, I’ve had suicidal thoughts, but not for a long time. My depression is pretty well-managed right now, with medication and good people around me. But I know where it lurks, and I know what it’s like when it’s on me.
I know what the fight feels like, and I know how goddamn tiring it can be. I know the bone-deep exhaustion that comes from fighting every minute of every day. I’m lucky. I’ve never lost that fight. My friend last week lost. He probably lost for just a minute. Maybe less. But that’s all it takes.
It’s not like anything else. You can lose a championship boxing match and come back for a rematch. You lose your fight with depression, and the monster kills you. You give it one opening, and the monster kills you. You drop your guard for one fucking second, and the monster kills you.
That’s why people who suffer with depression seem so tired sometimes. Because they are fighting for their life every second of every day. Because if Mike Tyson lands one punch, you’re probably knocked out. If depression lands one, you don’t get up off the mat. Ever.
So yeah, I know what Dave’s fight was like, even if I don’t know nearly everything about what he was going through. I was shocked when I heard he’d taken his own life, but the fact that he hid that side of himself so successfully for so long surprised me not at all. The best liars in the world are addicts and depressives, and there’s a reason there’s so much overlap between the two groups. Nobody hides their true fan better than someone with serious depression. Nobody.
So please, if you’ve got shit going down in your life – talk to someone. If you don’t have a therapist, talk to a minister. If you don’t want to talk to a preacher, call a hotline. Call somebody who understands how to talk you down off the ledge. Sometimes your friends might be the worst people to talk to, because they may not understand what’s going on. It might be better to talk to a faceless person on the other end of the phone. But talk to somebody. Just for a minute. Maybe two. Take a second to let somebody shield you from the body blows your monster is dealing you. Most of the time, that’s all you need – a minute or two. Then you can get back in the ring. You can get back in the fight.
Because your depression? It’s a lying sack of shit. It’s going to tell you that nothing you do matters. I can tell you firsthand, from looking in the eyes of too many friends and family left behind and asking why, that everything you do matters. You matter. And I don’t lie. I don’t have the energy for it.
So I’m sad. I’m not depressed because my friend lost his fight. I’m sad. There’s a difference, and it’s pretty critical. I also hope that wherever he is, he finds peace. Because his fight is over. He can rest. I can’t. I won’t. I’ll keep fighting for me. And if you need me to, I’ll fight for you, too. Just stay in the ring with me. We might not ever beat the monster, but together, I promise the motherfucker won’t beat us.
For more information and resources, go to Hold On To The Light, a campaign for mental health and surviving founded by Gail Z. Martin.