Sunday, March 22, 2009

society's view of depression

I've written about my depressive episodes before. One thing that was obsessing me this past summer was how unfair it seemed to me that people living with depression are left out of the euthanasia debate. Even when I once read the book, "Final Exit" by the Hemlock Society, which is a guide to offing yourself effectively and relatively painlessly, that book stressed that the guide was for people in the terminal stages of a physical illness, and did apply to depressed people.

Yet true depression can be a biochemical illness. It doesn't just go away and pills don't always work. All I wanted was for the pain to go away last summer. It was thinking of the future of how I couldn't stand to wreck one more job, one more relationship, be incapable of normal happiness. The worst part was knowing it could get better - that's what people always say, right? And it is true - but equally knowing that it would likely get bad again at some point.

I hung on and fought again because I knew my parents would feel the loss so deeply. I also knew that no matter what I wrote or said, that they would blame themselves. That's also when I started thinking though - having depression is lonely in and of itself, but when people do get to the point when they commit suicide, it becomes even lonelier. I don't ever want to be the person jumping in front of the subway or flinging myself off the Bloor Street Viaduct (or whatever bridge is now possible since the construction of the steel suicide veil). I don't ever want my family to have to identify a mangled body and hope that I at least left a note.

I wish that there was an option where you could go to hospital and be injected. Like my sick kitty was at the vet, or like prisoners are who get a lethal injection. I wish that like with cancer patients who have recurring illness and are left with no options that at some point families could find the strength to say, "It's okay sweetheart. We know how much you're tried. Stop struggling. We don't want you to live in pain anymore." Then depressed people could die surrounded by those they love, instead of committing self-violence in secret.

I know for so many reasons this will never be an option, but I do wish that society could at least start talking about it. It's terrifying to even mention when you want to die because there's always the fear that someone will call the cops on you and you'll be dragged off and drugged up until you promise to keep living.

apologies if this sounds overly dramatic and whiny. I don't claim to be a brilliant writer and this is a tough topic to describe! For me, for now, focussing on my garden, family, and upcoming bike ride are working. It's keeping me going (that and my meds), and that for now is enough.


eroswings said...

Okay, here's a really long reply, but I thought it necessary given the gravity of the issue:

Well, this is a tough issue, and I admire you for being so candid and open about it.

I've been depressed at some points in my life. Back then, I didn't realize I was depressed. I was just angry and got into trouble a lot. And I'm surprised I still have a functioning liver, given how much alcohol I used to drink--and it takes a lot more of the hard stuff now just to feel a buzz.

I think that when I realized that I was unhappy and did something about it, that's when I felt much better and empowered. I just removed myself from the people and the situations that were making me depressed.

The pills work, and I'm happy for you. When you're in pain, you should get pain relievers. So when your depressed, you should get treated.

You're right about people (your loved ones, esp.) feeling terrible and awful when you leave. Suicide affects everyone. Though to be honest, I do think that terminally ill patients in constant pain do have the right to end their suffering.

But then again, I'm not one of those people who think suicide leads to hell and damnation. I don't believe that at all. I do think that it's your life, and you should live (or end) it the way you want, given that you are of sound mind. I mean, I remember reading about Buddhist monks who burned themselves to death to protest the oppression and occupation of their nations. I think that's quite the brave statement.

But I do believe that depression is an illness that does need to be treated. Do I see euthanasia as an option? Maybe in the future. But you're right. We should at least talk about it.

I'm proud of you for taking control of your life and dealing with depression. You're a lot stronger than you realize.

Roxrocks said...

I don't know if they classify depression as a terminal illness, that's probably why depressed people are left out of the euthanasia debate. So many diseases and medications leave a person in a state of depression, for example MS patients. It most certainly should be considered.

I believe in Euthanasia. I think it's humane. When you can put down a sick dog so it doesn't suffer, why is it okay to leave Aunt Mary writhing in pain? I just don't get it.

I'm glad you're not sad anymore. Depression is a tough thing for so many, it's great when you hear of people who are able to manage it.

-jkg said...

im not sure i could stand watching my loved ones watch me die. that would make me so sad id just want to kill myself. oh wait...

Susan as herself said...

Having lost a couple friends to suicide, I do know how painful it is for others who love them. However, I have also watched family members die slowly from terminal diseases, and that seems just as awful.

I don't think there are any easy answers here. Death is the final mystery, and everyone is different in their approach, their views, and beliefs.

I read something once where a certain group of enlightened monks somewhere remote chose when they had lived long enough on earth, and could just decide when to leave their physical bodies and move on. Fascinating. I think if more people had that capability, it would be a popular choice.

I have never been clinically depressed (I don't THINK, anyway), so I will not even try to talk about that struggle. I have many friends who have that diagnosis, and I cannot begin to comprehend the darkness they describe. I am sorry you have that burden, and I wish you hope and peace for a steady place when life takes you to somewhere bright.

CoffeeDog said...

I encourage you to keep trying meds until you find the one that gives you relief. I've been depressed on and off in my life, lucky for me it's only situational. Hugs to you

madamerouge said...

I've had similar notions.

A friend told me about a Swedish study that looked at the "positive" aspects of depression: heightened critical thinking & analytical skills, etc. If I find it, I'll send it to you.

Snooze said...

Eros: Thanks for such a thoughtful reply. I thought all along that I was doing something about my moods, and I suppose I did, but it's only now that I realize I needed meds to lift the incredible and intermittent sadness I was coping with in my 30s. but what if the pills stop working? this is my fear.

Rox: I'm so mixed about euthanasia. Oddly enough, I'm more for palliative care than 'mercy killing', but I wish that suicide options could be discussed. That makes no sense - but it does to me.

jkg: You always make me smile. And your writing has inspired me in a million ways.

susan: I can't handle anyone dying and you're right that watching people die from terminal diseases has to be about the worst. I hope I have not offended anyone by comparing my sadness to that.Thank you for your words of support and I'm very intrigued about the monks.

Coffeedog: I'm so much better right now. I'm a long way from last summer.

Madamerouge: I would love to read the study. You know, I do think it adds clarity to a lot.

Stewie said...

I have a lot of thoughts about it, way to many to post.

I will say, though, the legalities of suicide stem from religious beliefs more than societal beliefs. I certainly don't want any of my friends committing suicide, but it should be debatable whether or not they should have the right.

Not as bad a Freak Magnet as Norman said...

I don't think that post was whiny at all. You bring up some very deep issues that are important to you. That is never whining.

I've always thought suicide was a very selfish thing to do because of the devastation left in its wake. Maybe part of that is BECAUSE people have to do it in secret and loved ones feel they have no say and/or don't understand. I know I will be thinking about that for at least the rest of the day. But you're right - in some cases, suicide should be an option, namely in cases of terminal illness. It's ridiculous and inhuman to try and prolong life when someone is in great pain and can no longer enjoy life.