My Mother Committed Suicide; I Blame Society For Thinking Depression Is An Emotion, Not A Disease
It seems that every day we are faced with some sort of news about a new disease that's plaguing the world and we, as a society, feel beyond saddened by those who are impacted by it. Whether it is one that attacks the kidneys, heart or lungs, we can't help but spread awareness on finding proper treatments.
Depression rarely comes up in these conversations.
Many people believe it to be an emotion or feeling. The statement, "I feel depressed," gets tossed around easily during breakups or times of failure, but depression is not a feeling. Depression is a disease.
Depression can lead to isolation, erratic, uncontrolled behavior, and even suicide. And the moment the word "suicide" appears in bold letters, everyone is silent -- speechless in fact.
You'll rarely come across signs, ads or billboards that offer counsel on where proper treatment for depression is because people are afraid to talk about it. Why is there such a stigma attached to a disease of the brain, yet none for any other part of the human anatomy? These are questions I have asked myself for what seems like a lifetime.
A lifetime of questions regarding depression and suicide did not take root from my personal battles, but rather, my mother's. Today the world is mourning the sudden death of Robin Williams, a beautifully talented human, one whose sense of humor was shared with many. And as the coroner's report has confirmed, a man who, despite providing so much happiness to others, committed suicide.
Like Williams, my mother, Joan, was a comic. In fact, anyone who had ever met her believed her to be one of the funniest people in the world. I recall days when my mother, blonde and beautiful, would be entertaining friends -- hers and mine together -- with her very dry humor that only liberal personalities felt comfortable hearing.
On average, my mother would have two days out of the week she was hilarious, on cloud nine, like she was in an extreme state of euphoria. The other five, she was nearly mute, suffering from severe pain.
I am still unsure where my mother's depression stemmed from; I believe it was a mixture of chemical imbalances from multiple prescription medicines she was given for anxiety, physical pain and antibiotics for an auto-immune disease.
On top of the medicines she was taking, my mother was bipolar. Unfortunately, she was never clinically diagnosed, but if she had been, I believe her future would have been incredibly different.
I say this boldly and I won't sugarcoat it because the reality of the situation needs to be addressed.
When I was 12 years old, my mother tried stabbing herself with a kitchen knife for a reason I still haven't discovered, and I had to call emergency in fear of something worse happening. When I was 14, I heard unbearable screams coming from the garage, where she would smoke her cigarettes and relax.
When I went to comfort her, I found her attempting to break open a large battery to drink the mercury, one of the most painful forms of poisoning one can experience.
And when I was 16, my mother went missing; my father and I searched desperately, only to find her hanging by a cable cord in our garage. That was the day she successfully committed suicide.
Although there were multiple suicide attempts, my young self was not aware that my mother desired to kill herself. I was not educated enough on what was "normal" behavior.
My mother had justified her actions by telling me every family has its issues, and no one knows what goes on behind closed doors. My father had no idea how bad her depression was, and did his best to help, but also lacked proper education on how to handle a situation as severe as ours properly.
Suicide is not a selfish act, as many claim it to be.
It is the most selfless act. For those who are suicidal feel they have nothing to offer others or themselves. They feel as if they are burdens to those around them.
Even though suicide takes only one person to commit, it affects so many others. The trauma left for family and friends after a suicide is a lifetime of suffering. And if society were educated on the treatment of depression as much as it is for any other illness, I am sure the suicide rate would decrease.
Too many people stay silent while others are crying. For the past seven years, I have been openly speaking about the issues of depression and suicide. I do not speak about it so that others feel bad about what I have endured... because there are people who have suffered far worse than I have.
I do not speak on behalf of those suffering with depression or any other psychological disorder because I have never personally experienced it, and I can't possibly conceive all ends of the illness.
I speak to those who know someone who may be suffering. I speak to those who can help save a life because if I knew how to, my mother might still be alive today.
Be conscious and mindful enough to notice if something is not as it should be. Be compassionate enough to ask questions and to truly listen. Be loving enough to make sure the proper treatment is given.
There may be a doctor involved, -- my mother had a psychiatrist -- but doctors may not be fully aware of all aspects of a situation and fail at properly treating their patients.
Be educated and get involved, make sure the treatment is benefitting rather than hurting those who seek it. Illustrate that they are not alone. Suicide is completely preventable if the right steps are taken. Convey love, understanding and patience. That is all it takes to save a life.
There are many organizations that aim to prevent suicide and treat depression. The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention and To Write Love on Her Arms are two of many communities that specialize in educating those who are suffering, know someone who is suffering, or who are grieving a suicide.
Even when we witness so much hate and devastation in this world, there will always be goodness out there. Whether it comes in small or large forms, it exists. Always give the love you wish to seek in return.
Photo Courtesy: We Heart It