The last thing I want is for this post to come across as clichéd and well-timed, as though I sat here and premeditated the whole thing. Lord knows the subject is serious as hell, I myself have discussed it ad nauseum for years, blazing a fire beneath the first cause to really (I mean really) move me. It absolutely thrills me to see the conversation finally having its day as it rightly should. At the same time, it makes me refrain from posting certain things these days. You see, there are people of the opinion that advocates like myself are simply riding on the trend cause of the moment, and that I, in particular, am just another blogger milking or feigning mental health challenges for attention. (Yes, there are actually people with such ignorant, insensitive and bigoted beliefs). Not sure why of all the things one could pretend to be consistently, a mentally challenged person would be the most desirable option. This seems absurd to me, especially given the stigmas we have to battle or hide from daily, but hey, what do I know?
Anyway, I wanted to address this subject last week when Delus died, but panicked about putting myself out there yet again as ‘the depressed poster girl’. Especially as it’s something I’ve tried so hard to change over the years. Then it became yesterday as a #mentalhealthMonday piece, but I was ready and then I wasn’t sure anymore because it became all too real for me. We, JAMHAN, an advocacy group I’m part of, had just appeared on Smile Jamaica showing our video and talking about things we want to identify, discuss and change here in Jamaica. It was brilliant, timely, just what we need in this country, especially with many people seeing suicide victims as selfish and cruel. Suddenly I felt horrible and lost all energy to share it, but it keeps popping up because I’m still here today, so I figured it might be worthwhile to add my two (or 20) cents to the discussion. Here goes…
What does depression look like?
These were supposed to be my last pictures taken alive.
It’s been seven years since my last suicide attempt (there have been two), and two years since I’ve actively thought about it. Therapy has helped a lot, and so I went from having active thoughts (e.g. planning a day, time and method) to passive (e.g. wouldn’t it be a relief if I just died of a heart attack in my sleep instead of waking up tomorrow?) Mind you, neither of those are healthy thoughts, but for a depressed person, the latter shows much progress and promise. You cannot begin to imagine just how much brain work and willpower it takes to get from that point to the next, especially in my case, as the last time I tried to ‘not be here anymore’, I very nearly succeeded. My body had gone through the fight and given up, while my mind went through the acceptance and I was on my way into the light when I was jerked back to consciousness. I remember my initial thoughts – I was angry that I was stopped, then frustrated that I failed again (like I did at everything else I tried in my life), and then… numbness.
A few hours later I was back to partying, smoking and drinking a tonne of alcohol as I was doing right before, because I simply didn’t know what else to do to quiet my mind and I knew no one around would have understood me in that moment. Yes, it was a good thing that I was saved, but also very dangerous because in a way, I now know what it feels like to die, and it’s not as scary as people think. While on the way into the light I had happy memories, sad ones, angry ones, I could hear what was going on in the world above as well as the world below and it was a little frightening for a very short time, but then I felt free and calm… happy it was finally going to be all over and to be doing everyone I knew a favour. It was, and still is, my first real taste of inner peace and joy. Imagine fighting the urge to go back to that seemingly attractive place where nothing matters any more every. single. day. and you’ll begin to understand a fraction of what experiencing depression is like. It’s very fucking hard, to say the least, and until a month ago, I was so proud of myself for moving away from the proverbial edge of the cliff on to thoughts that I could actually spot and tweak before they turned into plans.
Now after all that work, all that progress, the last three weeks for me have been nothing short of hellish. I’m having active thoughts again and almost everything is a trigger, so much so that I thought yesterday would be the perfect day to do it for real. I would have had a nice weekend with my boyfriend Adam, Skyped my sister Simone, hung out with my other sis Ash at the Raging Fyah concert, killed it at work on Sunday all day while chilling with my friend Miriam, then seen all my years of advocacy work pay off when JAMHAN appeared on TVJ. I’d know I at least managed to make a contribution before I ‘left’ and reckoned that being such a burden on everyone, they would, once they got over their grief, eventually be relieved that they no longer had to deal with me, so I even stopped feeling guilty about it. The only thing on my mind was anticipation of that sweet peace I once tasted in that place where nothing hurt anymore… that’s all I want, all I ever wanted… not to hurt, not to feel burdened, embarrassed, sad, angry all the time. Not to have to fight my thoughts and feelings and feel like I’m a colossal failure at everything in life only here draining everyone I love each day. It’s exhausting.
I won’t go into why or how I managed to be here today as this is already a long enough post, let’s just say a mother’s intuition is a very real thing, so, too, the intuition of a significant other… but I wanted to clarify for everyone that while it may seem like selfishness is the driver of suicide, that is far from the truth. I’m still trying to fight and I plan on seeing a new psychiatrist this week to help me some more as I believe I now need to be on mood balancing medication, but in case you find it helpful, I’m going to share my own warning signs below so you can reach out if you recognise similar behaviours in someone you love.
- Withdrawal from people and activities
- Poor eating habits
- Constant fatigue/illness
- Not really sleeping
- Sleeping too much
- Irritability (lashing out with not much valid reason)
- Crying all the time (I should probably take this off because nobody ever sees me)
- Sounding really dull, bothered by or uninterested in everything
- Being really dressed/made up all the time (for me this usually follows a major meltdown – case in point, Sunday before brunch)
- Being happy and upbeat all the time (this too, as it helps people not to question how you are)
I also want to let you know that people are categorised as suicide ‘victims’ for a reason… usually they are in some kind of pain and their thoughts are too cloudy because most of the times, they’re too ill to reason properly and thus see only one way out. I’m speaking from my own experience in the hope that you will understand a bit more of what it’s like and act accordingly by showing kindness and love to everyone, because the truth is, you just never know what’s going on inside.
P.S. I’d really appreciate it if those of you who know me personally do not blow up my phone with suggestions or keep telling me to try and snap out of it, and as for strangers, don’t bother submitting your horrible, bigoted thoughts in the contact section of the blog. Go ahead and show the world how you really view women or #mentalhealthmatters and leave a comment right here on the post.
UPDATE: I started a mental health support group called #itsokayJA in Kingston and it will be rolling out in a few other parishes soon. For more details on that, plus tips and coping strategies as well as general information for those who want to know, please sign up for my e-mails here: bit.ly/tamitsansai-emails. Mental health can be restored but we can’t do it alone, support is crucial. Let’s do this for each other.
Thank you for reading.