On Depression and Suicide


Katherine Day Photo courtesy Roy A. Adkins

After watching a recent episode of "Being Mary Jane" that dealt with suicide, I can't help but think of my own experiences with depression and those, including myself, who have contemplated or successfully carried out the deed. In the wake of losing loved ones, we often think about what we could have done in the end to prevent it. As a culture seemingly obsessed with ourselves, it is no wonder why those who feel left out or even left behind choose to leave. But are our feelings genuine? What are we really sorry for?

In the episode, Mary Jane Paul (Gabrielle Union) loses her childhood friend Lisa (Latarsha Rose) to suicide. Lisa led a full life, but because she was unlucky in love and relationships, she decided to end it. This may be a gross over-simplification, but it's one I understand. To some extent, I believe suicide to be a completely selfish act, but on the other hand, when it seems that there may not be one person on the earth willing to go to bat for you—to take a stand for you—what do you do?

Today I know that particular reality to be a farce. Yes, I find myself surrounded by people so seemingly caught up with their own wants and desires that my genuine desire for companionship seems to go overlooked. But the reality is that all relationships take work, and I can't for one second believe that cold, harsh reality is all there is. It is not. Maybe you believe that it will not get better, but I know for a fact that the individual faced with this choice can.

I've gone through several "upheavals" in my life, where everyone who has ever loved me seemed to have fallen away. I appeared to have sailed away from them as if venturing on some trip unintended for anyone I know or knew. It was and is a rediscovering. We once believed the world was flat, and I am under no delusions that the first trip to prove otherwise wasn't marked by extreme bouts of fear, regret, anger, hopelessness or even desertion. But those who stayed the course opened the world's eye to an entirely new and different perspective.

I use this analogy to say this: Enduring this period of what I call #offroading has taught me much. It has taught me that a lack of love or approval does not make me unlovable, un-live-with-able, nor unworthy. Even though as a woman, this strength sometimes proves to be a catch-22, especially here in the South. It's like being forced to train as a Spartan while simultaneously being enrolled in a European finishing school for ladies in waiting. This "struggle" seems almost unbearable, as if the universe intends to make me something not human. But human I am (at least, I like to think so).

We all want to be accepted, but what are we applying for? What exactly is it that we are seeking? Some might simply say the truth, but lies are often too easy to come by and far too lucrative. On another show I watch, "Lie To Me," the main character Dr. Cal Lightman, which Tim Roth plays, once said, "I assume everyone is lying. The trick is finding out what they are lying about." I'm not quite this cynical but close enough. The trick, though, is focusing on my own truth. This is laughable in the sense that every day I seem to be learning something new about my past, which in turn shapes the way I view my present and my projections for my future. But this unknowingness has been my best friend at times, because if I don't know, how can you? Either way, when seeking, one must be careful not to focus too hard on the outside.

This world isn't pretty—it's beautiful! This is not some "Kumbaya," peaceful, fly-on-the-wind idea. It's actually quite radical. In a time where social media is lord over how people see themselves, how they see themselves is often based on how others see them. "If you don't like my picture, I must not be likable, and if no one likes me, I should probably just end it."

It's silly, but true to some varying degree. But what it's not is an excuse to end my time on this earth.

A friend once shared with me that when she has had thoughts of suicide, she simply asked, "Why?" And for every answer, she would write down the solution. I've done a similar thing in my life. When I'm faced with a problem, be it someone I don't like, a job I hate, whatever, instead of feeling stuck and defeated about the choice or choices I've made, it's now more of an "OK, now what?"

Living in a way in which I'm intending to solve my problems instead of succumbing to them puts me in a position to actually affect a positive turnout to the things I don't like about my life. So to my friends that have left this world for whatever reasons, by whatever means, thanks for hanging around.

Katherine E. Day, an author, filmmaker and designer, is a Mississippi native. She loves traveling, adventures and gardening. She writes occasional JFP columns.


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