….and another….and another….and another, this time, a 49 year old, intelligent, artistic/creative, successful, admired, respected, loved and adored, husband, father, son….the list goes on, of course…close friend, another victim of the horrible, cruel illness – yes, illness – clinical depression, as much an illness and often, as in this latest tragic case, terminal, as cancer.
I put it like this a few days ago (in response to a ‘Facebook’ post on the ‘Timeline’ of a broken hearted relative) though I have amended, and added to, what I ‘wrote’:
The loss – the devastation – being suffered by family (mind boggling and unimaginable) and friends and the thousands of people whose lives he has touched during his short life, it’s too awful to contemplate. I didn’t know Simon (not his real name) but the outpouring of love, admiration and respect has been staggering – it appears that my life is ‘less’ for having not known him.
You know that I know a thing or two about clinical depression (and associated illnesses/conditions) from first hand experience. Although I didn’t know Simon, the news of yet another victim of this illness, this scourge, hit me in my gut. As one who understands the illness – and that’s what it is, an illness – and as an empathetic, fellow human being, it breaks me to learn of another tragic victim.
The stigma, ignorance, misunderstanding, insensitivity, it all adds to, compounds, the sense of embarrassment, shame and loneliness experienced by the sufferer. Despite the fact that a sufferer might be surrounded, supported and enveloped by loved ones, by family and friends, there is so often still a suffocating sense of loneliness brought about by a feeling that his/her depression is different from that experienced by other people, that no matter how many heartfelt protestations of love and understanding there may be, no one, not one person, unless a sufferer (or, in some case, a family member or friend who is/was very close to a sufferer) could possibly understand, understand/appreciate a loneliness which cuts off the sufferer from everyone and everything around him/her, a loneliness which, to all intents and purposes, causes the sufferer to feel that he/she has been cut adrift from life. In that sense/context, the next step, crossing the threshold between life and death is, well, easy to ‘understand’ – to put it more simply, in one way or another, life simply becomes intolerable, the loneliness too soul destroying, the darkness too dark, the anguish too difficult to cope with, it all becomes ‘too much’, the need to escape too great….just as a terminal cancer patient doesn’t want to ‘leave’ but does crave an escape from the physical and mental torment, my guess (and that’s all I can do, ‘guess’, as no one REALLY knows what was going on in Simon’s mind), my guess is that whilst part of him wouldn’t have wanted to ‘leave’ his loved ones, he, too, was craving the escape and, in that sense, he is now at peace and I hope that, in the future, Simon’s loved ones, family and friends will get some comfort from the knowledge that he is not suffering any more. They mustn’t blame themselves – they could no more have prevented Simon’s passing than they could have prevented it if he had been suffering with terminal cancer.
We can ALL play a part in helping to eliminate the stigma, the ignorance and the insensitivity….raise awareness, talk about it, get people to understand that just as asthmatics use ventolin to help themselves breathe, just as diabetics need insulin to prevent themselves dying, some people suffer from/with the illness called clinical depression and they require medical treatment and understanding, not calls to “Pull yourself together!!”
Remember, always, that the question, “How are you?” is usually responded to with a simple throw-away, “Fine, thanks” but that, more often than not, people aren’t “fine”. Simon didn’t kill himself…he died as a consequence of his terminal clinical depression.
People suffering with depression are often very good at hiding it, putting on a mask, acting throughout the day, and ‘reverting to self’ in private. It is often the case that the most gregarious, the loudest, the most sociable, the ‘soul of the party’, that he/she is the one who is suffering with depression. Most people are amazed when I tell them that I suffer from/with depression (and associated conditions) but I am hardly ever surprised when I am told that this person or that is a sufferer. I met someone recently who told me about his experience of depression but he said that he is 100% ok now – I ‘knew’ that he wasn’t and that was confirmed by a friend a few days later.
Progress is being made, there is more understanding than there was even five years ago but there’s a long, long way to go. You might think that you are ‘aware’ of depression – even if you are, raise your awareness a bit more, keeping raising your awareness and help to spread the word….