Every day I wake up hoping that the day ends. That is the only semblance of hope that is anywhere in life in some days for the depressed person: the hope that most of the days will end, and that somehow, we will not exist. By fading away naturally and without pain, the depressed person looks for exits, but never quite runs towards them, only contemplates them for afar, only to be reminded of the options possible a few years later, where another episode might take its hold.
To fantasize about the possibilities of dying is to entertain the idea that the space you are currently filling will be vacant. A person forms extraordinary networks of people during their lifetime, most of them remain active one way or the other, but the question that enters the mind of the depressed person is “what if I was not there?” In its most narcissistic variants, the ideation turns towards what people will feel when the person is not there. Other times, it is a way out of pain, a relief from consciousness that sometimes only ever goes away with drugs.
When someone commits suicide, the topic comes up for a limited time, despite mortality being a persistent conundrum for most people. For people suffering illnesses, concerns about mortality never do quite go away from the day to day schedule of extra added pain people go through. However, much like suicidal ideation that is concerned more with externalities and suicidal ideation concerned more with self-relief, there are two ways to think about the opposite of suicide, that is living. Are you living for yourself or for someone or something else?
Philosophers refer to these as the “big questions” and people like Emil Cioran, Nietzche, and more contemporarily Thomas Ligotti and Eugene Thacker have tried to answer the big questions, or at least try to attack them from different points of view. In one way or the other, while it would be easy to differentiate between positive and negative thinkers of these big questions, no one has a an all encompassing, yet concise, answer to these conundrums. Systematic language betrays a lot of the particularities that make the depressed person think about living or dying. If one tries to answer the question without taking in the particulars of that person’s context and live, one might as well be speaking about a mannequin, not a living, breathing human being.
The depressed person is not seem crying all the time. In some ways, it is quite the opposite, as depression takes hold of a paralyzing numbness that might pass as pensiveness for the outside onlooker. When the depressed person commits the act of suicide, the reactions are often of surprise, only for interested people to look for signs of suicidal ideation everywhere, and connecting the dots to make sense of what happened. Commercial biographical films take this approach towards representing depression and suicide, it is the approach of the outside onlooker that knows how the story ends, and therefore sees in every movement, action, and spoken word a sign of what is approaching. Nevertheless, reality does not have background, swelling music, to highlight the actions of people, to know if what they said should be taken with gravitas or is some kind of cry for help.
It is in this way that the depressed person becomes invisible, even to themselves. The imperceptibility of the omnipresent personal grey cloud is the phantom that haunts the people around the void left by the depressed person. For the depressed person, suicide, or mortality, tends to be something that they have contemplated for years, yet never quite done. Emil Cioran famously said that “you always kill yourself too late.” I take this to mean that the continuous mulling over of suicidal ideation essentially blocks the grand gesture of committing suicide. Contemplating ways to die is never actually grandiose. There is no music before you die, and there is even less when you are dead.
The first time I attempted to kill myself, I had taken a large amount of pills. I was 13, and did this without any sort of glamour to the event. It is no wonder that I got found and forced to puke. The event was a watershed moment for a lot of people in my family that believed that mental health was not really something to be taken into account, neither did my friends. The circumstances of the time led me to believe that it was the only viable way out from what I considered to be a horrible reality. The feeling never quite dies out, it only visits less often. But it paid a visit again 2 years later.
After a while, the depressed person starts to talk about these feelings, and how they came to be part of their core. For someone that would find out later on that endogenous depression was something I was gonna to live with, the ever constant questioning of mortality and death became sources of rumination. Topics I shared with people in my family in more than one occasion where handled with the usual responses of how much there was yet to be lived. The depressed person rarely listens to cliches or pleads, as the state of numbness pushes out the triteness of optimism, and places the comfortable feeling of giving in, yet never quite doing anything about it. It may become, with time, more comfortable to talk about the idea of suicide and death, but rarely in public discourse is it accepted that death is the best option available, not if you have lost someone to suicide.
Suicide is a personal decision, something that ruminates in the mind of the depressed person for a while, and is not to be taken lightly. As with every personal decision, it has personal particularities that are not easily extrapolatable to other cases. “They were not in a correct state of mind” is one of the usual phrases professed by those that are left behind. However, this judgement call, seen from whatever angle, is not easily assessable, and it becomes hard to process for anyone around the depressed person, let alone entertain, the notion that suicide might was the best option available for the person, at the moment. A lot of these questions come down to personal autonomy, and how much of it has been fostered throughout a person’s development process. One learns of external sources of pain, and internal ways of engaging with them, but if the phantom is haunting from the inside, what is the best way to deal with it? It does not come down to help or hell, other people can momentarily serve as tokens of forgetting, but they do not make for “sustainable solution” for depression or suicide. Because there is not one.
One of the very first things in any sort of road to dealing with depression, external or endogenous, is to decide is these conditions are something that anyone is willing to live with. It is something I hope to be exploring in future posts. But I could not continue doing so without asserting the first principle of any kind of deal with depression: you have a right to kill yourself. It will never be pretty to write or say those words, as our progressive saviour culture has decided that anyone and everyone should continue living, even if they cannot fathom the thought of existing. The “it gets better” culture, specifically for adults, fosters the idiocy chain of a concatenating cult. If one has decided that there is no going back, there is no going back. When this has pragmatic consequences, no one can know. Yet, positivity culture and the rise of progressive values that elude any conversation about suicide that is not about saving, occlude the unthinkable truth of someone’s existence, that they simply should not be living anymore.