Depression affects 1 in 3 people in the UK and can vary from mild to extremely severe. Having suffered severe depression for the majority of my life, I feel equipped enough to be able to discuss the way the mind works in relation to the topic of depression and death.
At some point while suffering with severe depression, I began to start thinking about death. Death I eventually began to believe as being the only option available to me to rid myself of the pain I was experiencing. Of course, I now know that it is not the only option, but I sincerely believed that it was at the time.
The death fantasy that those who suffer with severe depression begin to experience had pounced on me and was starting to cloud and distort my mind. There wasn’t a day that passed that I wasn’t thinking about death in one way or another. At first, I had simple thoughts. What would my funeral be like? Who would attend it? But over time, these thoughts became more isolated and the questions I began to ask myself started to turn into images in my mind. I could actually picture myself following through with suicide.
I would question how easy it would be to kill myself? Could I just step out off the pavement into the road and in front of oncoming traffic? Could I jump from a bridge? Could I hang myself or poison myself? Which of these methods would be the quickest, the least painful?
Of course, I knew what I was thinking wasn’t right. I knew I should not be torturing myself with this type of thought, but I couldn’t stop myself, I couldn’t help myself and I started to think about things more deeply. How long would it be before someone noticed I wasn’t around? How long would it take for my body to be found?
The worst times were when I was sat alone, at home with nothing on TV, no-one to talk to and no-one around that could distract me or talk some degree of sense back into me. If I went to the kitchen to make a sandwich, I was troubled when I picked a knife out of the cutlery drawer and began considering how I could use it to slit my wrists. I only ever made my sandwich and never became a self-harmer, but the thoughts were there, the death fantasy always lingering in my mind, in my daily routines, ready to pounce on me if things got too tough, if I found I was unable to cope with something. It’s like it became an opt-out ‘option’ there if I needed it.
I started to question if this type of thinking meant that I was crazy? Maybe I wasn’t right in the head; maybe I actually was a loony or a psycho? For certainly any ‘normal person’ wouldn’t be thinking about death, wouldn’t be as fixated on it as me?
Many people think that suicide attempts are a ‘cry for help’ but I can categorically say that they are not necessarily that. Depression distorts the mind so much that all a person can think about is the negativity in their lives and a way out of the pain – death. They hate to feel sad, to feel depressed, to feel as thought they are unable to function. No-one that suffers with depression wants to feel the way that they do and it is a very scary thing to find yourself contemplating your own death in your mind.
Thankfully, I managed to get myself into my GP’s practise. But the fear of telling a professional the type of thoughts that you are thinking is huge. I worried that I would be sectioned, worried that I would be thrown into a straight jacket and dismissed as crazy in a mental institution. The courage that I had to find to discuss what was happening in my head was immense. However, it took strength, courage and a strong belief in that I was doing the right thing to help myself.
And the advice I would give anyone else who may be suffering depression and in a similar position to that which I was in is to seek the help, to talk to someone, to try to do something before considering the only option that you think is available to you. Because death isn’t your only option – you can get better and have a life depression free. I am living proof.
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(c) Samantha C Weaver