Track eight of the Hamilton: An American Musical soundtrack is my newest favorite jam, Right Hand Man. In this number, George Washington is attempting to offer Alexander Hamilton a job as his assistant. Hamilton, upset that he is not offered a position in command, balks at the idea. Washington, in turn, tells an eager to fight Alexander Hamilton “Dying is easy, young man. Living is harder” and these words serve as mantra for me some days. Years after that night, I find myself sometimes wondering, “What if?” What if I had succeeded? And then the guilt sets in.
Guilt because I have a great life, surrounded by people who love me and want to see me succeed. My kid loves me, she’s a teen and thinks that I am awesome! Seriously. The Librarian and I are in that dizzy stage of relationships where everyone runs when they see us making googly eyes at each other. My family, even with our struggles, can put all of that aside to support each other. I have so much to be thankful for, a career that I love, people who love me, people whom I love and then, then, then…depression, that lying liar, starts its lies…”No one cares about. They don’t REALLY like you!” and it’s sometimes enough to make me want to turn back time and do it.
It’s suicide prevention week and even though I’m here and a survivor I feel so conflicted. I know that having the above is not a magical solution for The Big “D.” Me being grateful for the greatness in my life has nothing to do with these thoughts and the creeping, crushing feeling that rolls in with depression. To be honest, I try not to think about it. I’m Rachee, Miss Rachee if you’re nasty, and how dare I talk about something so private? Yet, in between Instagram snap shots of my kitty and me sharing the latest sponsored post, there is the me that feels like she’s undeserving and wants to say, “So Long!”
Months ago I was chatting with my friend Kelly, who also suffers from The Big “D.” When I was unable to participate in a story slam to tell my story, I wrote a blog post about what happened. After I shared it with Kelly she asked, “Do you ever feel that way anymore?” And while we continued to have a chat, it struck me that this was the first time I had actually admitted that, yes, I thought about suicide more often than U cared to admit but I was reluctant to tell people because “I have it all” and “what do I have to be depressed about?”
During our conversation we shared what was working for us: Kelly was going to try some other therapies because even though she is not in a bad place and I talked about how exercise helped me feel a little more control of my feelings. We chatted more about how to control these feelings and then life called and the conversation ended.
This is National Suicide Prevention Week. I’ve thought a lot about what I could write, but it all sounded a bit hypocritical considering that I still live with suicidal thoughts like one lives with the aching joints of arthritis. It is a symptom of the illness I have, Major Depressive Disorder. It will likely never go away. Dealing with suicidal ideations for many people with MDD is akin to dealing with low blood sugar drops for diabetics. For me, one of the most paradoxically freeing aspects of coming to understand that my illness is here to stay, that my brain chemistry is such that I’m stuck with this illness for good, is that I am now free to stop pursuing being “cured”, which sets me free from the spirals of disappointment and shame when another depressive episode comes along. For me, understanding that I have a physical illness – an imbalance in chemistry and disordered firing of synapses – that results in symptoms that relate to mood and vitality, keeps me from piling on self-hatred when I’m depressed, which of course is the last thing I need at that moment. I say all that to say, if you are dealing with suicidal thoughts and feel like you’ve “tried everything”, it doesn’t mean you’re hopeless. It means you can live with them, just like a diabetic lives with pricking their fingers every morning. You notice the thought, you see it as a sign that the illness is flaring up again, and you do what you can to gather your coping resources. It’s not the end of the world unless you make it irreparably so.
Please know there are people who can and will help you if you are suffering. If you don’t know where to turn, or find it difficult to speak, there is a Crisis Textline that can help. Just text the word “Go” to 741741 and a trained crisis counselor will reply. You don’t have any more to be ashamed of than someone dealing with cancer. What you’re dealing with is a physical illness that manifests itself mentally. That’s it. Ok? Ok.
I love you guys.
Issa and Kelly…again, I don’t relish the idea that there are other people suffering but it’s very comforting knowing that I am not alone.
September 5 through 11 is National Suicide Prevention Week. Visit the link for information for yourself or for a love one. Depression sucks and it lies and you are not alone.
I end with a picture of a kitty and these words: Am I hip enough to say something is “my jam” or am I tragically unhip and sound like a big lame-o?