I don’t know the girl that took her own life last night.
I don’t know what she was wearing, what her last words were or even who the last person she spoke to was.
I don’t know where it happened, by what method and if she had ever sought help prior to making her decision.
I don’t know anything about her.
Here’s what I do know.
I can feel her inconsolable pain.
- Roughly 20 million people in the United States suffer from depression every year.
- 1 in 4 young adults will suffer an episode of depression before age 24.
- Women are 2 times as likely to suffer from depression than men.
- Continuous exposure to violence, neglect, abuse, or poverty may make people who are already susceptible to depression all the more vulnerable to the illness.
- Depression is a common mental disorder. Globally, more than 350 million people of all ages suffer from depression.
- Depression affects all people regardless of age, geographic location, demographic, or social position.
- The World Health Organization estimates that depression will be the 2nd highest medical cause of disability by the year 2030, 2nd only to HIV/AIDS.
- Over 8% of adolescents in the United States suffer from depression at a given time.
- 20-25% of Americans 18+ will suffer from depression in a given year.
- Depression can lead to suicide. Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the US for all ages.
- There is one death by suicide in the US every 13 minutes.
- Only half of all Americans experiencing an episode of major depression receive treatment.
- 80% -90% of people that seek treatment for depression are treated successfully using therapy and/or medication.
I know that she isn’t alone. I wish that she had known that too. I know that depression is more than feeling sad or inadequate.
Feeling depressed makes you see a world entirely different from the one that your friends and family see. You see a hostile environment full of people who don’t want to help you despite their pleas to, because you know in your heart that you’re nothing more than a burden to them. Your closest allies fade into strangers. You find yourself stranded in a sinking boat, wondering why everyone else around you is standing on solid ground. You cry out at them silently and then lament at the fact that they couldn’t if they tried.
I know what it’s like to feel so deeply that your world has crumbled beyond repair. I know how easy it can be to decide that whatever physical pain you’ll feel is momentarily worth the lifetime of torment you might face if you choose not to go through with it. I know what it’s like to make that decision; I think that in some small capacity everyone does.
We are all obsessed with death.
I know how easy it is to trick yourself into thinking that your friends despise you and that you aren’t deserving of love. You replay everything that you said to another person that day in your head, just to come to the conclusion that your words and actions are somehow creating an unfathomable wedge between you and your loved ones.
When we lose someone to the devastation that too often becomes the outcome of a lifetime of depression, the same thoughts run through our head:
I wish they knew how much they were loved.
I wish they would have told someone that they were hurting.
I don’t understand how someone so happy and full of life could manage to take their own.
They always had a smile on their face.
To quote the late Robin Williams,
“I think the saddest people always try their hardest to make people happy because they know what it’s like to feel absolutely worthless and they don’t want anyone else to feel like that.”
You will not understand depression until you’ve been there. Until you’ve reached the point that your feeling every knife in your kitchen drawer to find the one that will make the deepest cut. Until you’re drowning on your third bottle of wine to numb what will likely be just minutes of agony before you experience the sweet release of death. Until you’ve researched what common household cleaners contain the largest concentration of poisonous chemicals. Until you’ve written your goodbyes and stored them safely on your home computer for the right moment.
Until you’ve stopped crying for fear of dying, but rather anticipate the calm of death, you will never understand how swift and convincing depression can be.
Depressed people know they are loved. They know they can reach out to their loved ones to let them know that they’re in a bad place. They are oftentimes the person that someone might go to if they were to experience similar thoughts and feelings – they’re kind, selfless, and full of positive energy.
They know all of these things, so they smile to mask the shame that they feel in harboring each rogue, suicidal thought.
I know what it’s like to walk into a room and think an entire group of people are silently judging you for the way you look, the way you speak, or the way you carry yourself.
I know what it’s like to have a tumble at work and suddenly think your entire career is crashing in front of your eyes.
I know what it’s like to feel rejected by love interests, dumped like you have no value at all.
I know what it’s like to feel ostracized by your core group of friends because you don’t fit into the particular mold that they’ve deemed worthy of their friendship. I know how it feels to constantly be on edge as if anything you say or do will cause them to want to remove you from their graces forever.
I know what it’s like to look at yourself in the mirror and tell yourself with full confidence that if you were a smaller pant size, maybe people would like you more.
I know what it’s like to savor every like you receive on social media because you know that you’ve successfully tricked others into thinking you’re happy and that your life is full.
I know what it’s like to panic when you get a text because you assume it’s something awful.
I know what it’s like to couple depression and anxiety and drown every single day of your life. Even so, I know it gets better.
It gets better with acceptance and love. It gets better with kindness from strangers and reminders from friends and family that you are enough. It gets better with a community of people that understand your disorder and have maybe even suffered from it themselves. It gets better with a lifted stigma on mental illness.
Depression is an illness. It’s a devastating disorder that claims nearly 105 Americans per day. It’s inconsolable, it’s relentless, and it’s hidden in plain sight.
Please don’t let it claim another beautiful life. Be kind to one another. Always.
If you or a loved one are experiencing suicidal thoughts, you’re not alone. Call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline: 1-800-273-8255. They’re here for you, I’m here for you. We’re all here for you.