I’ve never hidden the fact that I’ve dealt with depression most of my adult life. I’ve shared that I have had some special angels placed in my life that helped me through the darkest and roughest times, when I was dealing with suicidal ideations, after my Parkinson’s Disease diagnosis in 2007. Some of the comments I’ve heard in recent days as a result of Robin Williams’ suicide have got me to thinking that sharing the grim realities of dealing with this illness needs to be done. The comment that caught my attention on one of the news channels was that “we don’t know if he was a coward for doing this, or there could have been something else that he couldn’t deal with…” If this was just said for the shock value, it gives us an indication that some people just don’t get it. Rather than using their voices for awareness and education about depression, they use them to make jaw-dropping comments. As with most issues that need awareness, the people that experience the disease, or know someone that has, are in the best position to help right the wrong that false statements have created.
I’ll start off by explaining suicidal thoughts as compared to suicidal ideations, in my own words. Suicidal thoughts came into play when my comments included: I don’t want to live anymore, I would rather be dead, my life is not worth living anymore, why should I keep going if nothing changes the way I feel? The scariest part came with the suicidal ideations that included: What is the fastest and easiest way to end my life? Some considerations included using a gun, choking, poisoning, pills, driving into oncoming traffic, driving off of an overpass. These are just some of the constant thoughts that I had to deal with on a daily basis. The suicidal thoughts brought on by my depression would come and go through the years, and I would reach out for medical help to alleviate my condition, which took several years and attempts to find the best medication that would work for me. The suicidal ideations were brought about as a result of my Parkinson’s Disease diagnosis. I would venture to say that most changes from suicidal thoughts to suicidal ideations come as a result of a trauma that we can’t seeme to figure out the best course to take. Is it cowardice? Absolutely not. When you are forced to go into the darkest recesses of your being to try and figure out how to fight an unseen illness, there is no cowardice involved. Is it a selfish act? I don’t think so, either. For me, it is one of the most difficult actions that anyone of us can take in order to make the suffering and misery go away. Contrary to popular belief, we can’t wish depression away, and we can’t just pretend that it is not there.
My suicidal ideations started not long after my diagnosis in February 2007. I was 42 and had just been diagnosed with a progressive, neurodegenerative, incurable disease. What did I have to look forward to in the years ahead? Absolute misery was my thought. I projected my disease progression to the latter part of my life and decided that it just wasn’t worth fighting for at the time. There were feelings of hopelessness that pervaded almost every waking moment. There were feelings of impending doom because I didn’t know what to expect. There were feelings of helplessness because people didn’t understand what I was experiencing and I couldn’t express myself in a way that they could help me cope. The happiness in life was diminished almost completely, with the thought of a smile and a laugh not an option, because things were just not worth fighting for or dealing with at the time. Did I care about my family and friends and how they would react to such thoughts? Yes and no. Yes, because it wasn’t their fault that I was feeling the way I did and no, because I felt as if they would all go on with their lives, without dealing with my issues and that I would soon be forgotten. My mornings started after long nights of little to no sleep. Did I care much about work? No, just doing the bare minimum to get by was the best that I could do. Did I care much about family? Yes, but the realities of depression for me left me with absolutely no energy or drive to share in any joy that was present in my life. Could I just not think of the negative that was in my life at the time? Easier said than done. One of my only constants at the time was the ever-present fatigue. I wanted to sleep all the time, perhaps to stop thinking of not wanting to be around. Then when I slept, instead of waking up refreshed and ready to tackle the day, I was even more fatigued than before…
This is a just a sample of the issues that I have dealt with through the years. I could go on for pages at a time, but my wish is that my sharing gives some indication as to what we deal with on a daily basis.
I am blessed to say that my depression is in check at this point in my life. The anti-depressant that I take on a daily basis has literally turned my nights (of gloom and doom) into days of wanting to do my best, to the extent that I can, despite living with Parkinson’s Disease, and dealing with its insidious nature. My request to all who read a bit of my journey is to keep those who struggle with depression and other mental illnesses in your prayers.