There’s no coating it, there’s no glossing over it, and there is absolutely no point in pretending that I’m not having an episode of deep depression.
There is an argument floating around that writing about dark stuff on a personal level reduces readers, that people don’t want to read about the horrors of life, that people want to see the light.
And I am all for that. Honestly, I am.
But I am also for honesty, and for busting open the stigma surrounding mental illness. If no-one talks about it (verbally, written or otherwise), how on earth are we going to shed light on the darkness that is depression and mental illness?
I also know that if I am feeling down, I find it really difficult to find the light in people’s writing uplifting. However selfish that may seem, I don’t particularly want to read how well your life is doing. In my current frame of mind, reading how well your life is going only serves to highlight how poorly my own life is going right now – or, more accurately, how poorly my brain is repeatedly telling me my life is going right now.
I do, however, want to know that someone else out there is going through what I have am going through, that they understand the depths to which my soul is wont to plummet, and to read how they manage that on a daily basis. Or sometimes they might not have a strategy, but just want to let others know that darkness of the soul exists, that those out there who truly believe that they are alone have a running mate, that mental illness is alive and well and affects many of us, and that is OKAY!
I sit firmly in that camp. And it is the reason I talk about depression, alcoholism and mental illness a lot. For whatever reason, I suffer with it, and when I am under extreme stress, as I am now, the black dog arrives in force. I am incapable of writing about lightness and joy when I am feeling like this. I could, of course, simply not write. And that is sometimes what I choose to do. But then, there are times, when in much the same way as people self harm to relieve the pressure that has built up inside of them, I have to write. Writing is to me that exquisite release of pain.
It occurred to me a while ago that the statistics of mental illness get bandied about a lot. We know that 1 in 5 people will suffer from depression at some point. We know that mental illness is on the increase and we know that suicide rates, whilst slightly lower than what they were at their peak in 1997, have started to increase again.
I find this surprising and alarming and frightening.
In 2014, we lost 2,864 souls to suicide in Australia. That amounts to nearly 8 deaths a day!
With all of our knowledge, still the suicide rate remains constant. And I have to ask myself why.
I have skirted with the idea of suicide on more than one occasion. In my deepest, darkest moments I have felt that the world would be better off without me, that no-one would truly miss me, that what I bring to the table of life is precisely nothing, and as such my exit from it would go unnoticed. It IS irrational thinking, but it is thinking that our brains trick us into believing is true.
All I can tell you is that when that thought enters your head, you are in a place where you are utterly convinced that the world would be better off without you, where you truly feel so invisible and so insignificant that you cannot imagine that anyone would truly mourn your passing. You need relief from the pain, and death can seem like the only answer.
Whilst clearly something more needs to be done at a government, hell global, level to save these lives, it occurs to me that there is something we can do on a more intimate level.
We know when those around us are struggling. We don’t like to talk about it because we don’t want to be confronted with sadness, or tears, or that overwhelming feeling that we are helpless to help them. And so we don’t talk about it, and they feel even more alone, they feel like no one understands. But we can change that in small ways, meaningful ways.
We need to let the people in our lives know that we see that life isn’t always a bed of roses, that we SEE them and that we VALUE them. We need to let them know that we love them and that they make a difference in our lives. We need to let them know that we care, and that their uniqueness enriches our own lives. We need to let them know that it is okay to feel the depth of depression, and that we are here for them, sitting beside them as they walk through that darkness. We need to be brave, acknowledge their pain and let them know they are not alone.
And so, I have decided to create a range of cards with this purpose in mind.
I have called them Thoughtfulness Cards (and a big shout out to Rachel Cox from The Chronic Ills of Rach for coming up with that term when I showed her my prototypes).
We need more thoughtfulness in this world. And my cards are aimed at just that. Providing a little thoughtfulness to those people in our lives who might be struggling just a bit. Not trying to gloss over the difficult, often hard-to-talk-about emotions, but acknowledging them, and letting our loved ones know that we are here , not only for them but with them too. Letting that person know, through some small token, that they are not alone.
Perhaps it is a foolhardy notion to imagine that such a small insignificant thing can change the trajectory of suicide, but whether it is foolhardy or not, I have to try, WE surely have to try.
And so here they are – the first of my Thoughtfulness Cards. I will be adding more as time goes on. I hope you like them. More than that I hope your loved ones, friends and neighbours will know that they are valued and loved and worthy and not alone when they receive one.
10% of all sales will be donated to Suicide Awareness and Prevention causes.
I would love it if you could share this post to help get the message out there.
If you are struggling, please visit the Resources Page – there you will find organisations that can help you.
Please know that you are so loved, and so worth being here, and the world needs you. Please speak to someone!