This is an infinitely complex subject with so many variables and so much nuance that in order to write anything about it, I need to keep my focus incredibly narrow. This means I will inevitably gloss over vast amounts of detail. Keeping that in mind, what I want to focus on today is the nature of Depression and how it manifests itself in suicidal tendencies, namely the difference between being depressed and suicidal and wanting to kill yourself, and being depressed and suicidal and not wanting to kill yourself (like I said, nuanced). Then I want to talk a bit about what is helpful for you, the reader, to do.
Disclaimer – This is written from experience, not professional qualification.
I’m already feeling grossly overwhelmed even with that extremely narrow thesis. But, this is worth the effort. Today may be the first time you’ve heard that distinction made in regards to suicidal thoughts, and that is understandable. But I am certain you’ve encountered both variations of these people hundreds of times. Why? Because suicidal thoughts are so common with depression, and one in five people suffer from mental health disorders and a crap ton of them don’t seek treatment. This stuff is everywhere.
Let’s start with gaining some clarity on the toxic web of depression. There are so many intertwined causes of depression and which ones are the cause for any one person is basically a guessing game. Take me for example. I don’t know why I’m depressed. It could be a hormonal issue where I don’t pass enough Serotonin between my neurons. Or it could be Dopamine. Or inflammation. It could be emotional or cognitive. It could be spiritual. Who knows? The causes are impossible to pinpoint. It could be because I was abused five ways for most of my life and I’m perpetually waiting for everyone I know to abandon me. It could be because I believe lies about who I am or what I’m worth. It could also be due to my failure to live up to the image of what I want to be. It might be due to accumulated shame and guilt from years of being a crappy person. It might be genetic. Or perhaps environmental.
Do you see my point? Who the heck knows. All of those variables are plausible, but which one is causing me to feel the way I feel? Where do I start? What do I do? I’m doing nine-thousand things and yet, I still feel what I feel. Depression is a dragon that soars high above the reach of all arrows. Depression is different than having depressive thoughts. It’s not the same as being sad. Depression is a pit that goes a million miles down and there is no getting out of it. There is only learning to live with it. That’s my theory, at least. I write all that to illustrate the futility of trying to say where depression comes from. And so when I said “let’s start by gaining some clarity” what I wanted to make clear was how muddy the water actually is.
Understanding the complexity of Depression and the brain, it shouldn’t surprise you that when suicidal thoughts manifest, they may do so very differently from person to person.
Suicidal And Wanting To Die
To be a suicidal person in the more classic or commonly understood way would be to put up all sorts of red flags. They act out their mindset. This is seen in self harm, reckless and erratic behavior and sabotaging relationships, and obviously suicide attempts. This is scary stuff and is going to lead to a successful suicide if not treated. If you see these flags, get help for that person. This person needs to be physically protected from themselves.
Suicidal And Wanting To Live
This kind of person is generally expert at hiding their mindset due to years of practice. You’re only going to know whatever they’ve learned to share. You might be friends with this person for years and be none the wiser to what they suffer through. I struggle to say this person is a victim only because I hate the victim mentality and I don’t want to ascribe it to myself, but I do think it is true here. I’ve written before about how this depression essentially comes upon a person, unwelcome, and it’s like warfare trying to fight it year after year. Only if this person is wise will they will ask for help, get people involved, build a support system and fight it. Without these supportive structures it is very possible that this person could retreat into their mind or experience a loss, become overwhelmed, and make that fatal decision. It isn’t exaggeration to call true, clinical depression absolute warfare. And fighting a war without enough soldiers and supplies will lead to defeat. So this person needs help fighting. This person doesn’t plan their suicide. Rather, they by default see no point in anything and would rather “just die”. This person needs to be emotionally protected from themselves.
How To Fight
This person needs love. They need attention. They need constant affirmation. They need to constantly relearn plain truths. They need fun and enjoyment. They need to get out of their own head because it is a very bad neighborhood. They need good diet and exercise. They need meaningful work. They need hobbies. They need to not be alone. These ‘needs’ might sound pretty basic, but that’s kind of the point. They generally need nothing more than good friends. This person struggles to see life in almost anything if left to themselves, even if they are consciously aware of how much they don’t want to think that way. This kind of “I just want to die” depression is an intense itch in the middle of the back on a person with T-Rex arms. Yeah. It really sucks.
They don’t need stories about how you were sad once too. They don’t need a webmd diagnosis. They don’t need “but you’ve got nothing to be sad about”. They don’t need reminders about how great their life is. Robin Williams and Chester Bennington had great lives. Despite the vibrant colors that explode from the canvas of life in your eyes, most of the time they see nothing but fifty shades of grey (not that kind). And for God’s sake they don’t need you to tell them to read or pray more.
Categorizing everyone into one of two groups is incredibly narrow and insufficient, there is so much overlap. But it’s too complex and too lengthy to try and do anything else in a blog. Notice that I’ve said nothing about the interaction between mental health and Jesus. I’ve said nothing about postpartum depression. I’ve said nothing about dozens of important topics. What I think is important here is that you recognize that if you don’t relate to either of these two categories that doesn’t make you normal, it makes you fortunate. And it also puts you in a prime position to lift burdens as an example of the true burden lifter.
Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”