This is the first time in my life that I have been consciously aware of Suicide Prevention Month. Mental health has become an extremely important part of my life, and I have learned so much from people I admire and respect sharing their experiences. I’m not saying you should admire or respect me, but I do hope that this post can help shed the light of what’s going on in the mind of someone who struggles with depression (me).
I originally wrote this to help myself understand my own depression. It was a two-part exercise where I wrote one letter from me to a close friend (I didn’t actually send it, it was just to help express what I was feeling), and then I wrote one letter to myself from a close friend. I never intended to share this with anyone, but it turned into an activity that was really therapeutic for myself. I have no idea if this will make any impact, but I thought it might be an interesting read for someone struggling with depression to recognize they’re not alone, as well as for someone who has friends that struggle with depression.
This letter may be a bit intense and hard to read for some people. Use common sense and determine if this topic is too much for yourself or those who may read it around you to handle.
This is my unedited first letter.
I hope you’re doing well. In fact, I know you are. I know how optimistic you are naturally, and you don’t let anything hold you down for long. That’s something that I admire from you and hope to have in my life one day. From where I am now, I don’t know if I believe that I will.
As hard as it is for me to write this next part, I know how important it is for me to have true friends who can support me, and that means embracing the uncomfortable and being vulnerable. You have always been someone I consider family since I know I can trust you with what this letter contains. I know that you’re super busy and have your own struggles, I just hope that this letter sheds some light on my behavior and emotional swings lately and helps you understand a little more what I’m facing.
Growing up, I never experienced depression that I can recall. I was genuinely a happy kid who went through awkward growth stages, but always thought things would work themselves out and that everything would get better. A lot of that probably had to do with being raised in a Christian household where I was taught that all things will work together for my good, and that we will always have the strength to overcome any challenges put in front of us. I believed that thoroughly, and never doubted when I was younger that life was meant to be enjoyed and that I could always find happiness.
That all changed when I went through my divorce. I felt extremely lonely, upset with God, and for the first time in my life, worthless. I had never experienced that feeling before. Previously, any time I made a mistake of any kind I was able to chalk it up as a learning experience. Something about the divorce changed me, though. I started identifying with it, and since my marriage failed, I thought that I was a failure. I slowly started feeling like anything I tried in life would fail, since “I am a failure.”
The first time I thought about suicide was soon after separating. And I’m not talking about those short thoughts that I think many of us have in moments of gloom where we wonder what life would be like without us in it, a la George Bailey from It’s a Wonderful Life. I’ve had plenty of those moments, but they fade away relatively quickly. This time was different though. I remember laying in my bed one night, thinking that everyone would better off without me bringing them down in life. It’s a very depressing thought, but it genuinely seemed to make sense to me as I was thinking it. In that moment I didn’t believe that I had done anything worth living for, and just considered my life to be a waste of potential. Since I had “failed” so badly, I thought it would be better to end it all before I could fail more.
Luckily, I didn’t go through with it because I was too scared. After that experience I started meeting with a therapist and reading lots of books and trying to get better. That helped me a lot since I was constantly putting in the work, and I could understand that I wasn’t alone. I also changed my mindset to only focus on what I could control, which significantly improved my attitude for a long time. Things were starting to look up for me, and I started to feel that hope for the future again. Unfortunately, that hope didn’t stay around for very long.
That was a lot of the backstory, but I want to focus on what’s been happening now. The last few months have had some of the biggest ups and downs of my life, mainly downs. I’m ashamed to admit that I have sat in my car in my driveway, on the side of the road, and in random parking lots crying more times than I can count.
I say I’m ashamed, not because it’s a bad thing, but because what I have been feeling lately has been shame, even though I know consciously that it’s not bad to have emotions. But there is a major disconnect between what my logical brain and emotional brain tell me on a daily basis, and it causes me to constantly be trying to fit both of them together. It’s like trying to fit two puzzle pieces that don’t fit together. It’s exhausting.
Life has thrown me some curveballs lately that I genuinely don’t know if I can handle. It’s frustrating because it feels like I’m still doing a lot of the good things that I can control, but now it’s the things that I have no control over whatsoever that are threatening to destroy my life and everything I’ve done up to this point, and I’m facing another period of hopelessness in my life.
There has only been one other time when suicidal thoughts seriously came into play, and that was recently. More recently than I care to admit, honestly. I was in my car driving home when I got yet more potentially life-altering news that I felt like I had no control over whatsoever. The rest of that drive, I was numb to everything. I have no idea how fast I was going, where I was going, or what was going on around me. I specifically remember just wishing that someone would cut me off and cause me to roll, just so everything would end. Then I realized that I had the wheel in my hands, and that I could make the same result happen.
My heart started racing as I started thinking about it. My emotional brain wanted me to do it since daily living was so painful for me. My logical brain wanted me to do it since it felt like for every step forward, there were five steps backward. The math to keep moving forward just didn’t make sense. At that moment I remembered the importance of genuine human connection, and I reached out to someone I trusted and drove straight to their house. That helped bring me back to the present.
It only takes one. One thought can lead down an extremely quick path towards suicide. One friend I can trust with my life, literally, can save me.
There are still many days when I don’t believe all things will work together for my good and don’t think I have the strength to overcome the challenges placed in front of me. I don’t know if I’ll ever fully believe that again. I want to, but whenever anybody tells that to me my first thought is that they are wrong. It doesn’t come naturally like it used to. But I do know that I want to fight, and I know that this is one battle I won’t win on my own. I need people I can trust in my corner.
I’ve learned a couple things in my few years learning how to cope with my depression. First, it comes and goes a lot. I have no idea what’s going to set it off. It’s frustrating for me, and I’m sure it is for those around me because they don’t know what mood I’ll be in next time I see them. I’m sure you’ve felt that way before the past month or so. I get it, nobody wants to be around a party pooper. To be honest, that’s why I sometimes reject your invitations to hang out and do things, because I know that I’ll just be sitting by myself in the corner not in the mood to do anything and I don’t want to make it so you don’t have fun either. It has nothing to do with our relationship, and in fact in a messed-up way I do believe in those moments that when I say no, I’m actually helping you have a better time than you could otherwise.
That being said, I truly appreciate your attempts to include me. They make me feel like I have friends that actually enjoy being around me, which I sometimes question why they would. I’m being vulnerable to ask this because I know my well-being is not your responsibility, but please don’t let the times when I say no to an invitation stop you from inviting me in the future. Even when I don’t feel in the mood to attend and say no, just your attempt to include me makes me feel loved and boosts my mental well-being. And along those same lines, when you reach out to check on me or let me know you’re on my team I genuinely appreciate it and feel better. Even when I don’t respond. Which I know I’m the worst at. Thank you for doing those things in the past, as well as in the future.
The second thing I’ve learned, and why I’m writing this letter, is that it only takes one. One thought can lead down an extremely quick path towards suicide. One friend I can trust with my life, literally, can save me.
I hadn’t had a legitimate suicidal thought in a couple years, even though I was struggling with lots of depression. That all changed in one moment. It could be any sort of trigger, there’s no way of knowing. But anything can set it off. The thing that helped me was doing counseling and learning how important being with someone else and having that connection is. That’s what caused me to reach out and go be with someone else when I had gone down that path recently. Just thinking that even if I have no hope, maybe this other person has enough for the both of us. If it wasn’t for that, things could have been much worse.
I have always admired and looked up to you, and I know this has been an extremely heavy and long letter. If you’ve gotten all the way through, I am extremely grateful. Like I said at the beginning, I hope this letter helps you understand what’s been going on lately. The reason I wrote this letter is to hopefully gain an additional ally and support that I know I can trust. Things can go from 0-100 at the speed of Drake, and if any of those moments happen again (I really hope they don’t) I would love to know that I can call or text you and that you’re willing to just get together. You don’t even have to do anything; I just need somewhere to go and someone I trust. Let me know if you have any questions.
Thanks for being someone I can trust,