An article worth sharing…

A friend sent me a link to this article and I felt it was worth passing on to share with all of you.

It’s always so helpful to read these kinds of things that remind me that I’m not alone in having these feelings and that it’s OK to talk about it!  Please take a moment to read and share!

On being chronically depressed and suicidal

on the life I could have lost, on the lives we could still be losing

A few days ago I told a roomful of people — both strangers and friends — that I am chronically depressed and suicidal.

Notice the present tense. I am still chronically depressed and suicidal. I am pretty certain people don’t really believe me. I look like I am the furthest away of being a person you would think is thinking of ending her life every other week, if not day.

That is the whole point though.

There is no telling how someone with chronic depression and suicidal tendencies should look.

Before I go on, I want to make it clear that what follows is entirely my personal telling of my story, I am not speaking on the behalf of all depressed and suicidal people, because they are complex conditions — they cannot be reduced to one person’s story.

I have had countless people tell me that I have so much light on my face, that I am full of life. I tell them paradoxically, I have so much light on my face, and I am full of life, precisely because I think about killing myself all the time.

Life becomes a choice. It is not something I am automatically wired for, just for mere survival. Every single day, it becomes a fight. Do I want to live?

When I was younger, that answer often came back with a flat “no”. I did not want to live. Life was meaningless, often tedious. I did not understand why I had to exist.

I consider myself lucky. I had a few years when it all went away, out of my thirty-plus years of living. I stopped questioning my existence and I had thought I was recovering from my chronic depression. . I know of many others who are less fortunate. They had never seen a day of light.

I now know. My depression and suicidal tendencies will likely not go away, ever. They are always there, just waiting. It takes only a split second to feel that sinking feeling all over again.

Life has gotten a lot more complex and also simpler. I have stopped looking at life in binary terms: do I want to live or die? I started to understand I could want to live and die at the same time.

I have learned to see nuances between being neurologically depressed and psychologically depressed. They are intrinsically tied, some would say they were one of the same. Yet I have some days when I know I am experiencing shitty emotions not because I have an unbalanced psyche. I know that is just my neurological system malfunctioning because I was not careful about up-keeping it through sleep, diet, movement. I exert an extraordinary amount of effort just to be relatively functional. I know I cannot fight the hormonal imbalance during my monthly menstrual cycles. Once a month, I just try to let myself be. If I am weepy, I just let myself weep. I keep myself away from people because I know I have magnified reactions to everything.

Some other times, I know it is my unexcavated emotions that are affecting my physical health. Unexpressed emotions, repressed grief, denial of some sort, overwhelming sadness, triggers of old wounds. If I don’t address them in some ways, I start to fall physically sick.

Once in a while, I cannot deal with myself. I have overwhelming melancholy and I let myself go. I start to binge eat. I hide from the world. It snowballs. I start losing all perspective. My hormones and neurons are all over the place. My emotions are out of whack. There seems to be nothing left in me. I cannot move. I feel like dying. All that pain, it can just go away.

Else, I could be experiencing one of the most balanced periods of my life, and yet I experience moments of existentialist suicidal tendencies. I think of dying not because I am sad or numb or empty. I think of dying because intellectually, I question all of this. Yes, my life could be amazing and it could have meaning, but so? It is a rabbit hole.

I can tell myself: it is the process, the journey, the love, the evolution. I can look at it spiritually. But what if I just don’t care — about spiritual growth, about human evolution, or anything?

Sometimes, it is not the pain that drives me closest to death. It is when I am my most sane self, and I find tiny moments in-between when I just simply don’t care.

Here is what that keeps me alive. I cannot find it in myself to end my existence knowing that people would have to spend the rest of their lives dealing with it. How can I be someone who knows what it is like to carry so much pain and be the same person who delivers exponential pain to people I love?

So I try. I try to live. Since I don’t see the point of survival, I try to be brilliantly alive. My life has to be extraordinary, on my own terms. It is not enough for me to merely exist.

And I am curious. I love to create. As much as part of me is borderline suicidal all the time, I am curious about what I can make out of this. When life itself is not an incentive, it can be incredibly freeing, because I have a lot less I am afraid of losing. For me, it is not about losing money, people, reputation, it is about losing my will to live, so I am unafraid of most losses just so I can feel truly alive. It is easy to quit that cushy job or make a seemingly insane decision when the other side of the equation is feeling like I want to end my existence.

In a parallel universe, if I didn’t know people love me, curiosity and the desire to create may not be enough to sustain my life. It is also not enough to live just knowing that people love me. Both are essential in keeping me alive.

I deeply empathise with those who end up taking their lives successfully. I am even envious. I know what it is like. To exist at that brink, to feel so much pain that even the mere thought of death is a relief. Or to feel so numb that nothing is capable of being an incentive to live. Or to look at humanity sometimes and be like, “really?”.

I am not sure if I will always be capable of reasoning. To be reminded that people love me, so I just can’t. But I have also lived through moments when I am not capable of remembering. To be so overwhelmed that I don’t give a shit about my curiosity. I understand why some people make that choice.

Yet it breaks my heart each and every time I know of someone ending their lives. I understand, I empathize, I am envious, but I still get so, so, heartbroken. Life is not binary. The world is less without them. We have lost permanently, what these lives could have brought to us.

People get all confused when I tell them I am chronically suicidal and depressed as though I am describing the weather. Maybe some of them think I am doing it for the attention.

It is important to reduce the stigma, the misconceptions. There are so many others out there who are less lucky than me. I have been blessed with people who love me. I never used to know, but I lived long enough to know, to be capable of knowing what love feels like. There are some of us who do not experience that. Some of them are unable to express the weight they are carrying until the deed is completed. They are afraid to be judged, censored, dismissed.

We wouldn’t judge someone for telling us that they have diabetes or any other long-term chronic illness. Why do we not acknowledge the life-long suffering of people whose brains are attempting to eat away every single bit of them?

We tell them it is not real, to get over it. If they could, why would they choose to tell us about it, even though they know how they are going to be seen?

The chronically depressed/suicidal people I personally know are the most empathetic, generous, creative souls I have known. I shudder to think what I, individually would have lost if life had taken them away from this world. I would be so, so, much less without them. I don’t know who I’ll become if I thought that I was alone.

It makes me really upset and angry when we lose people this way, especially young humans who haven’t had a chance to experience a fuller spectrum of life, or for reasons that can be mitigated — bullying or trauma. They experience all that pain and they think, that is it. Why live? They think they are their wounds. They think their wounds make them unworthy of life.

And there are some of us who because of unjust circumstances, never ever got to get a hold of this condition. They did not get to experience anything else other than pain. They have never gotten the breaks I have been given.

I am not sure if I would still be alive if I didn’t make the decision to visit San Francisco in July 2011. If I didn’t have that one single friend who told me it was okay to be me, when I was in my early 20s and numb. If I didn’t fall in love when I was 15. If I wasn’t afraid of heights when I was 10. If sleeping pills weren’t accessible in Singapore. If I didn’t start to meet people who saw me beyond my pain and chaos.

I was an extremely pale shade of myself for two decades of my life. My life only truly turned when I hit 30. Even then, even now, it is still questionable.

I discovered agency — that I was capable of making choices. I can now choose to live. I felt back then I was forced to buy into a life I didn’t want, now I am capable of consciously choosing to live. I started to see myself and accept myself, only because people saw and accepted me first. I learned more about my condition. It started to feel more like a blessing and a curse, instead of just seeing it as an lifelong affliction.

I have accomplished a lot. For my work, for the people in my life. My accomplishments are not to be seen in my resume. They are to be felt. This is the life I consciously choose.

But if you, the reader, have in any way derived value from me — whether through this post, through something else I have written or made, through my love or friendship, through something I am not even aware of;

think about all those times I chose not to die;

think about the ones who are still trying to make that choice. Think about the ones who have chosen the other way. Think about what we as a whole, may have lost, or are still potentially losing. Because we saw them as less. Because they are afraid to tell us. Because they didn’t know we love them.

Link to the author’s page:

On being chronically depressed and suicidal

My Guest Entry for The Christi Center Blog

I was recently asked to write a guest blog entry for The Christi Center here in Austin, Texas.  Here it is!

My life changed forever on Wednesday, October 13, 2010. No one had heard from Brian in days. After a lot of discussion and many frantic, unreturned phone calls, texts and emails, we made the decision to send the police over to his place to do a welfare check. It wasn’t until about 3-1/2 hours later that we heard back from them. That wait was excruciating; but not nearly as excruciating as hearing my Mom say, “Honey, he’s gone.” I hung up the phone and fell to the floor, shaking and sobbing and gasping for breath.

I knew he was going to take his own life. I’ve struggled with that fact every single day in the 3 years since he died. In my mind, having been aware that he had attempted twice before in the previous decade and that he continued to struggle with a fierce depression and feelings of suicidality and still not be able to help him makes me an “accomplice” of sorts. Losing anyone close to you is painful but to lose someone you love at their own hand makes for a very complicated grief. There’s the sadness, the anger, the guilt…the fear you’ll succumb to the same fate out of pure exhaustion from trying to survive the loss. That’s why I was so grateful to have found The Christi Center. I began attending the Tuesday night meetings for suicide survivors only 2 weeks after Brian died; I found myself desperate to talk to others who understood, as I was having trouble talking to anyone else–I didn’t feel like I fit in anywhere anymore, I didn’t feel understood and I felt guilty for talking to my friends about it because it seemed to make everyone terribly uncomfortable. I’m also grateful that The Christi Center recognized the need for holding a separate meeting for survivors of suicide; I would have found it very difficult to have been truly open about sharing my grief over Brian’s choice to die while sitting next to someone whose loved one fought valiantly for years against cancer in a desperate struggle to live. And I feared that my grief would have been difficult for them to relate to as well.

Laura and Brian Habedank as children

Laura and Brian Habedank as children

I’m not the same person I once was. Some changes have been for the better, some have been for the worse. Some of the less-than-desirable side effects of Brian’s death include panic attacks, a constant feeling of being “different” from everyone else and a crippling and embarrassingly intense fear of abandonment. After 3 years those things still cause me pain nearly every day. On the flip side, I’ve learned a few helpful things having experienced a loss like this–I’ve learned to become far more assertive than I ever used to be. I am clearer about what I will and won’t tolerate in my life. I know what I want out of my relationships and discard the ones that are hurting me or are not serving me well. I have become more compassionate.

I've learned to not run away from my emotions...I've learned that the best way to get to the other side of the pain is to go through it, not around it.

There is a story that Glenn, the leader of the suicide group, told very early on in my attendance at The Christi Center. He told us a story about the buffalo. It was observed that when a storm was approaching, all the other animals would scatter in an attempt to outrun the storm. However, the buffalo instead would turn, face the storm head on and run straight through it. Turns out that, while the more difficult choice, it turned out to be the fastest way through the storm and they instinctively seemed to know that. I think that’s why the story meant so much to me — I felt just like those buffalo. It hurt so much to talk about Brian but in my heart I knew the best thing for me was just to start talking and face my pain head on and not attempt to outrun a grief that no doubt would catch up with me later. The Christi Center offered me a place where I could openly talk about the details I couldn’t share with anyone else and I could sob until my eyes swelled shut and not feel ashamed or out of place or as if I’d “worn out my welcome” for needing to work through my grief by telling the same story week after week. They gave me a safe place to do that and a wonderful group of people with whom to do that.

I still have a lot of grieving yet to do–and I will for the rest of my life–but having the group at The Christ Center really helped set me on the right path for healing my heart.

Follow Laura’s blog!
Letters to Brian: Surviving the Suicide Loss of My Only Sibling