Speak Up, Reach Out

In his death, I found hope

12th of August, 2014 is one of the most important days of life. It’s the day after Robin Williams died. It’s the day I read about his suicide. I was perplexed. I couldn’t understand why a seemingly funny man who had everything going great for him materially, had to kill himself. I read pages after pages about depression on Wikipedia and elsewhere. As I kept reading the signs and symptoms, I began to realise that maybe, I was depressed too.

I had been married for 6 months then and my wife and I were struggling with my behaviour, my emotional outbursts, my crying and sobbing for no apparent reason. I used to sleep for 18 hours a day for weeks and then for the following weeks, I’d sleep just 2-3 hours a day. I had no interest in things, I’d slack at work, I wouldn’t get out of the house for days. She’d find me distant and aloof and it was painful. Even though we had dated for 6 years before that, we had never lived together.

There are two things that I’d like to highlight here. I only began to consider that I could be helped because someone else gave me a glimpse into the darkness that he and I shared. I only wish that he didn’t have to die. What that told me was that the darkness had to be exposed and shared. Without that, I would have continued to suffer, thinking that this is who I was and this was how it was supposed to be.

When I went to a psychiatrist to get an opinion, I discovered that I had been suffering from depression ever since I hit puberty. That’s two decades of suffering. My life has been a journey of ups and downs. So many of them that when I wrote the first draft, I wrote about 8,000 words and I wasn’t finished. This is the third attempt. (I might share more stories in the future. I share a lot of such stories on my personal blog, as well.)

I’d have continued to suffer silently and I’d have never sought help if I hadn’t read about depression. In that sense, I feel obliged to share my darkness too. I feel anyone who suffers from mental illnesses and has the strength to talk about it, should talk about it. It could potentially save so many others.

The second important thing I want to highlight here is that no matter how well you are doing materially, if you’re suffering emotionally it is important to seek help. It could save your life.

The darkness within

With that in mind, I would like to share an extremely dark episode from my life. It’s not the only one and it’s not what happened the other times, but it’ll give you an insight into what the darkness can be like. Your darkness could be different but if reading about my experience helps you see it for what it is, my job is done.

With my depression, I was finding it difficult to hold on to jobs. There was a point when we were extremely broke and had to ask my parents for help. The help came but it came with such harsh words and demeaning statements that it snapped something inside me.

I went into a delirious state where all I wanted was to die and it all to end. I had no one to speak to. I was banging my head on the wall, hurting myself physically to make the pain go away. It just wouldn’t. I picked up a knife and began tracing the lines that I was going to cut myself on. I started searching on the internet for quick, painless and sure ways to die. I realised cutting myself was not going to ensure death, so I found an airtight bag, some tape and a string and started making an exit bag. My wife started freaking out. None of us were prepared for it. She didn’t know what to do, so she called my parents and received another dose of insults and reprimands. She called the psychiatrist who wasn’t in town. By now she was crying, trying to stop me but I was not there. I was somewhere else where there was no light, no hope and no chance. There was nothing left to do. Dying seemed the only way out.

She kept fighting me and I kept asking her to leave. I told her that I was in a bad place and these are just thoughts, I’m not going to actually do anything. I just had to let them play out. Of course, I was lying and she perhaps knew that. She refused to leave. I couldn’t do anything as long as she was around and I couldn’t see her in the state that she was in. I love her too much to do that.

She tried calling friends but I threatened to do stupid things if any of them landed there. In the end we worked out a compromise, we removed everything that I could use to hurt myself from the room and I locked myself in. After a couple of hours when the clouds had lifted, I came out with a bowed head and an insane amount of guilt.

That day, something changed within me. I started talking about my depression to everyone. The moment I would start thinking of hurting myself, I’d tell my wife and I’d tell a friend. Initially because I was scared and I thought telling them would lower the chances of my acting on those intentions. Later, because I felt I needed to find others who were going through similar stuff and one of those might just want to talk to someone.

If you’ve never been depressed or have had a mental illness for that matter, the story above might make no sense. It even seems quite dramatic, overtly so. That’s where the problem is. Even I thought it was weird, dramatic and shameful. I have never shared this story publicly. Even my closest friends don’t know it. Only my therapist and my wife did, till today.

Why did I share this story?

It shows the main problem, the problem of shame. I didn’t speak about my condition to anyone because I was ashamed. I had my wife to help me. I really can’t imagine what would’ve happened if I were completely alone that night. I withdrew socially, I couldn’t hold on to a job, I was isolating myself. Isolation doesn’t work. If I wasn’t so ashamed, I wouldn’t isolate myself. If I didn’t have to be ashamed of my experience, if I felt it was okay to be that way and I could tell it to someone, I would tell it to someone. I don’t know how many times I have wanted to speak to someone who’d understand and not judge me.

It also shows the second most important problem, of help and support. My wife noticed my isolation and my behaviour. She sensed something was wrong and she sensed that I needed help. Something that no one had paid attention to. If someone around you is isolating themselves and having a tough time, you can’t leave them alone. Just reach out and offer to listen, without judgement, if you can. Even if you can’t do that, at least encourage them to seek help.

Speak Up, Reach Out

I’m not doing very well in life, right now. Especially since I have visited some dark corners in my subconscious mind during recent therapy sessions and am struggling with that. I still have suicidal thoughts on days. However, every time that happens, I now tell it to my wife and a couple of friends. I (or my wife) call up the therapist and we work on it.

By being open and matter-of-fact about these periods of darkness, I’m able to cope with it better. By exposing my darkness, I become vulnerable in front of them and that allows us to trust each other in better ways. My friends and my wife still leave me alone because I’m not really in a state to talk but they watch me and watch out and I know that they do. It prevents a lot of possibilities. I know they’ve got my back and that helps a lot. That’s where I see the value in platforms like WPHugs. Our shared experiences and speaking publicly about it might just help someone break out of their isolation and reach out.

Suffering silently doesn’t help. It takes you to places you’d rather not go. Speak up, reach out. It could save your life and someone else’s too.