Depression Isn’t Sadness and Suicide Isn’t a Cry For Help… by Steve Safran

Kate Spade. Anthony Bourdain. Two gut-punching suicides that have people asking “Why them? They had it all!” Sure, Bourdain lived a hard life, but Kate Spade, the queen of whimsy? She was wealthy, adored and…

Depressed.

We need better words. One of the biggest disservices to the field of mental health is to call the diagnosis of “depression” by the name “depression.” Everyone “gets depressed.” It’s a commonplace word: “I’m so depressed the meeting I planned fell through.” “The ending of that show was too depressing.” “He’s too depressing to be around.”

None of these examples has anything to do with the psychological definition of Depression.

People who live with depression are wired differently. Our brains perceive life differently than those who do not have depression. Let me put it another way.

Suppose you were born left-handed in this predominantly right-handed world. Suppose that was considered OK from time to time, but generally not an excuse to use your dominant hand. Righties would say “Why are you using your left hand? Your right hand works perfectly well.” Or, “I had a cousin who was left handed, but with a lot of work, he forced himself to use his right hand.” Or, “Why not just use your right hand? You wouldn’t need the special scissors.”

But I’m still a lefty, you’d say. I’d like to be a righty, but everything comes out all wobbly and it’s so uncomfortable. Can’t you just understand I’m part of the 10 percent of the population that is left handed?

Depression is exhausting. And it’s cruel. It tells you terrible things about yourself. That’s why Ms. Spade and Mr. Bourdain died. I can’t speak for their experiences, but I can speak for my own and what I know to be true from many other patients with depression: our minds become ruthless bullies. They tell us the meanest things about ourselves. They stockpile ammunition and open fire. And we have to sit there and take it because, well, it’s coming from our own brains.

45,000 people committed suicide in 2016. Suicide rates are up 30 percent just since 1999, according to NBC news. Only about half of those victims were known to have a mental health diagnosis. We do not talk about this issue enough, and when we do, we don’t really know what we’re talking about, or when we do, Depression is conflated with “feeling depressed.”

News organizations have taken to posting suicide hotline numbers when they run stories about suicide. That’s a responsible act of journalism, but it’s like running the number for 911 in an article about a car accident. People with depression know there is help, but their brain is telling them it’s time to die. The evil mix of ill-behaving neurotransmitters and whatever they have been through in life lands on a singular message: You must kill yourself.

Even in that moment, they know they have friends they can call. They know there are hotlines. But they are not interested in anything other than stopping that message, stopping the pain.

I suggest much more empathy in this area. As someone who has lived with anxiety and depression since the days of mixtapes, I’ve heard lots of well-meaning (and sometimes not so well-meaning) people say it all: “You’ve got a great life. What do you have to be depressed about?” (I don’t know. What do you have to be left-handed about?) “There are lots of people who have it worse off than you.” (Yes. And I still have depression.) “Just smile. How hard is it just to be happy?” (As hard as it would be for you to become left-handed while people insisted you use the regular scissors.)

My personal experience with this rotten condition has been horrid. I am certain I would have been more successful in my career without depression. For years, especially when I was younger, I wasn’t treated properly. As I got older, I was blamed for the illness that gripped me, as though it was a choice I made. I was called “lazy,” and put on meds that had me gain a ton of weight. People I loved mocked my illness, likely out of discomfort they may have it themselves. (They’re not much in the picture anymore.) In any case, there was not a lot of empathy.

We can’t stop suicide and depression. But we can understand it a lot better. I raise money for Movember, which supports research for men’s cancer and also the depression that can accompany it. This is something tangible I feel I can do. But all of us can do this: we can stop telling people with depression to “cheer up.” We can be more sensitive to this very real, very misunderstood disease.

Those of us with depression do not want to be treated as a protected class. We don’t want special rights or to be treated gently. You can’t make me depressed any more than you can make me a lefty. Empathy and acceptance are an enormous gift to those struggling to ignore the mean messages from their own minds.

Think about Robin Williams. Think about Kate Spade. Think about Anthony Bourdain. Think about the joy they brought you in their unique ways. Think about what you would have said to them, knowing they were going to take their lives. “Don’t do that” would not have worked. Instead of shameful, head-shaking whispers, let’s acknowledge suicide as the growing epidemic it is, and insist health care do more to support mental health.

Depression is not about what we have; it’s about what has us.

683 responses

  1. I was recently diagnosed as suffering from depression but found it so confusing…what really is depression – this is the first article that actually gave me some clarity into understanding what is going on in my head. Thank you.

    • Oh Susan… how scary to not only suffer from the effects of Depression and yet not be given clear information about what that entails. Welcome to the conversation over here. I have learned so much from these generous comments.

  2. I am with you, Britt. I am struggling depression as well. Just like Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain, my rock hero Chris Cornell left this world bec of suicide. Thanks for sharing this. It helps people understand where “depression” is coming from.

  3. Thank you for this enlightening article. I understand we need more than empathy, more than words. But what exactly can we do for loved ones and other members of society who suffer from depression? Thank you

  4. My son/only child died of suicide as an adult 11 yrs ago. People who do this feel absolutely hopeless and do it to get rid of the awful pain they live with. If anyone tells you they feel hopeless….pay attention, get them help immediately ..or they too will be gone forever. But always in our hearts.

  5. Not all depression is a miswired brain. More and more studies show that inflammation plays a part in depression. Just like some types of diabetes is lifestyle, we need to spotlight the affect of lifestyle on depression as the masses are doing incredible damage nutritionally.

    • Do you know how dangerous comments like this are?

      First, the person whose brain is already not nice to tell says, “See, this is all your fault for not eating right/going Keto/going gluten free” or whatever is being pushed.

      As someone with fibromyalgia and quite possibly Lyme disease that is going untreated due to the stigma those diseases have in the rural medical community (I’m fat. So I just need to lose weight and take anti-depressants and my fibro will go away, um no. That’s not how it works.) you just put more stigma on those who are depressed. Another reason for the “normals” to say, “see, I exercise/am gluten free/push essential oils” so I won’t get it.

      If I had a nickle every time someone told me to buy their MLM essential oils, go gluten free, vegan, whatever, and I’d be cured… well I’d be so rich I wouldn’t care how depressed I was or in how much pain I was, because I’d have more money than Warren Buffet and could pay my way to all the best treatments.

      My inflammation levels are off the charts. I’ve had multiple doctors do NOTHING and insist that I take anti-depressants. Please stop pushing harmful ideas that will only lead to more suffering.

      • thanks for your comment Mary, I hear all about you need to eat this way or that, exercise more and all this will go away. People who are NOT trained medical professionals should not offer what is tantamount to medical advice – dangerous!

        • But we are trained by our own research that neurologists and heart doctors have provided for all of us. tons of stuff out there. Many of us have been depressed and fat and learned how to get rid of the hanits in our life that have made us that way. There is a way to get rid of the demons in our heads if we will just be open to learning and being trained ourselves. Isn’t it worth a shot?

          • When you are clinically depressed, you can’t see outside yourself. It’s not a matter of being open to learning and being trained. That’s how it is for me at my low points.

          • All of that “research that neurologists and heart doctors have provided for all of us” – is generalized and non-specific. Some of the most brilliant thinkers & creatives in this world have been plagued by their unique brain wiring that also leaves them suffering with depression and anxiety. If anyone was able to be “open to learning & being trained”, it would have been them.

      • I am the exact person you described. I have a really good naturopath and my anxiety and depression were fairly treatable through lifestyle and supplements for several years. Then something happened. A couple of stressful life events sent my illness into a very dangerous black spiral. I experienced a nightmare that I can scarcely believe even when I think about it now. Besides the physical pain it caused, the nonstop black thoughts and complete absence of sleep was torture (I don’t have to list all the symptoms). Yes, there is absolutely mental illness in my family. Severe depression, anxiety disorders and schizophrenia among my parentage. In fact, my father the health nut is a cyclist who exercises 3 to 4 hours a day and still faces clinical depression.

        There are people like me. There is something not “normal” about our brains. I spent years not even knowing that a lot of the thoughts I was having were very intrusive and abnormal. I kept telling myself to be more positive, practice more vinyasa and power yoga, hike more, swim more, cut out another inflammatory food, do more reiki…

        I can tell you right now that these things can and do help, and for some they will be more than enough. But it is so so dangerous to tell people that they should not seek medical treatment. I made this near fatal error, telling myself that I have done everything possible without pharma, and I ended up in the E.R. Honestly, all of us who go through these things are so much stronger than many people might ever realize. My naturopath is also happy with the result from the medication. I am so lucky and hope that it will continue to work.

    • Very true words also vitamin B-12 Deficiency will cause many mental problems.it’s also what we eat.as we get older we lack the vitamins or body needs.also depression medications all have side effects some are serious ones that detaches one from the real world some just get tired of those feelings.

    • I speak as a mental health professional, and would like to validate the comment made by Penny, so misunderstood in its essence by Mary and ‘Anonymous’ in their defensive comments. It seems to me pertinent to point out that these days, thanks to the internet, a non medically qualified yet true enthusiast about health matters could be more informed about the latest research than a medically qualified person who does not bother to keep up to date. Granted, not every source on the internet is entirely credible, but I stand by what I just said. Inflammation is recently being implicated as an underlying condition linked to innumerable health issues and diseases. In addition to recent Western medical research, Ayurvedic medicine is thousands of years old (still practiced today in the East and increasingly popular in the West) and has long recognised the relationship between inflammation and innumerable diseases of the body and of the psyche.
      Fault finding and defensiveness are emotional responses to perceived attacks – but no one on this forum is trying to minimise the severity of depression and its impact on the people affected, nor to blame them for their illness. However, one frequent feature of depression is for the ‘sufferer’ to feel shame (about their helplessness and hopelessness): so easily shame can be seen as imposed by others – whether it is true or not. It is a powerful yet unhelpful emotion, since it circles like a black cloud overhead, with nowhere else to go. I am completely in favour of removing stigma from mental health conditions, just as I am in favour of conversations that offer different view points and are respectful of such difference.

      • The above thread of comments are like talking about my kind of cancer or your kind of cancer without being specific about which type of cancer on whom.

      • What exactly is your degree in? Thus these being simply opinions on someone else’s opinion statement it would help to legitimize what you are talking about by providing your credentials or what area besides the general mental health you mentioned? I have heard of these inflammatory plausabilities and that research is showing favor towards it being a cause, it is not necessarily the only cause. There are many causes of why depression happens, and many of them are yet unknown and the mind (not space) seems to be one of the final scientific fronteirs we will face. We understand limited portions of our brains and consciously use less than 50% of our brain’s likely functioning. Yes the brain is responsible for autonomic functions of the body which takes up some area. There are genetic links to depression, chemical imbalances in the brain, traumatic experiences, nutritional and activity related possible causes of depression to rule any one of them out at this point would be rather awful. I have dealt with depression and anxiety for over half of my life, and only being 30 years old that is pretty sad news. I have been on countless medications, though extensive therapy and still go but yet I still deal with this awful disease. It is more like cancer than people realize, there are medications that work for some people, there are therapies that work for some people, and yet others go through countless hours and different therapies hoping this one will help, but like cancer people are still dying every day from this disease and we need to begin to overhaul the bad stigma of mental health. We need more empathy for those who suffer, but we need to start talking and educating the young children about emotional wellness and then they can grow having some tools to deal with some of these problems either because they have the disease or because they care for someone with the disease. The younger we are the more our brains soak in and the more open we are to learning new ideas. For those suffering, know you are not alone. For those trying to understand, know unless you seriously have the disease you do not know half of what we are going through and please dont tell someone to just snap out of it, I assure you if we could we would have already done so.

    • This is an incredibly misinformed viewpoint. No type of diabetes is “lifestyle.” Type 1 diabetes is caused by an autoimmune reaction which destroys the pancreas. Type 2 diabetes is caused by the destruction of the beta cells in the pancreas. It can only happen if a person has the genetic trigger for the disease. It is not caused by “eating too much sugar” or any other such rubbish.
      Depression can be triggered by conditions such as hypothyroidism, but your comment about “lifestyle” shows a serious lack of understanding.

      • Autoimmune reactions are a result of our diet. We live on diet soda and processed food we get sick. We live on greens and EVOO and nuts n small amt of animal protein and fish we get healthy. It’s not rocket science.

        • Thank you Cheryl. There are more people who prefer not to take on any of the responsibility for their health and as an RN, I see this daily.

          • And I see a lot of obese, Happy people…I actually wonder how they cannot be depressed, just looking like that! But the answer is…they don’t have the disease!!!

          • Weird. Anthony Bourdain ate the best food available in the world on a daily basis, was a professionally trained chef, and still killed himself. If only he had talked to you guys!

            STOP IT.

            Yes, diet has some impact on depression. Is it the whole cause or the whole cure? No. Not remotely. People can take impeccable care of themselves and still have depression.

            And on top of that, depression itself often interferes with self care, like the ability to cook beautiful organic anorexia-approved meals every 4 hours, or go to the gym for an hour when you’re sleep deprived, just worked a full day, and literally feel like dying. It’s like telling someone with two broken legs to “just walk to the doctor, what’s your problem, it’s not rocket science”.

            I am a walking success story. I’ve done a lot of therapy. I eat a mostly plant based diet. I have a support group. I am vigilant about getting enough sleep. I don’t drink or smoke and I’ve never done drugs. I track my mood and self care on a daily basis. I drink lots of water. I meditate. I talk about how I’m doing with friends and family. I STILL HAVE DEPRESSION. It’s much more manageable because of all the aforementioned. It all helps. It’s worth it. But am I cured? No. And f*ck you and anyone else who wants to parade around like you have all the answers, like anyone who has depression just isn’t trying hard enough. F*CK. YOU. I promise you, you don’t get it. And until you do, you need to stop pretending to be an expert.

            This reminds me of all the jackasses who say if you just think positively you won’t get cancer. Shut your ignorant poisonous mouth.

    • As someone who has lived with rheumatoid
      Arthritis for 30 years, I just want you how horrible your statement is. Every time (hundreds of times) someone tells me that if only I would go gluten free, or vegan, or eat only grapes, I would feel better. What you are really saying is that I am bringing this ravaging auto immune disorder upon myself. Do you really think that someone who actually lives with a condition like depression (or RA or any chronic illness) needs for you to suggest they make a lifestyle change to be healed? I’ve read the same article as you online and have far more experience in the matter to make these decisions for myself.

    • I agree with Penny. I have suffered with depression for many years. I know it doesn’t work for everyone but I started whole body cryotherapy (which reduces inflammation) and have been 50 – 60 percent better ever since. I am still on a low dose antidepressant and am vigilant to my keep watch on my condition. I do believe depression is a many faceted condition. I do not discount any of the observations in this forum, I’m just giving my experience and hope it helps someone. It is worth a try. I’m also working on looking at anti-inflammatory recipes and trying to eat well. The demons are lurking but I have them at bay.

  6. I have lived with depression most of my life. Could never understand it at all as a kid but couldn’t stand to be around people and could not sit still in a class room so I skipped hundreds of days. In my 30’s I finally sought help only to be diagnosed as Bi-Polar 11 and the medications mad me sick and ever worked and then in my 40’s my psychiatrist said he had it wrong. I have PTSD with depression. In spite I’ve begun again to take an anti-depressant and seen some better days I still have very down days when all I think about is dying. My 3 kitties are the reason I will not check out. I’m estranged from y adult kids who have no empathy, in spite my daughter has a PHD in psychology. They won’t let me see my grandkids now. It’s been since 2010. I never acted weird, just sometimes anxious though I am religious about taking a med for panic attacks and sleep. I have been bullied rather then understood by my adult kids who argeted me for at least 2 decades , with my son physically threatening me. I am better off living alone though I need to rent out a room I’m concerned how it might impact my mental health. Depression is so awful it’s difficult to nderstand much less describe because it simply creeps in and then Whamo I feel like killing myself. I try to always have a few friends and I do make contact when things get out of hand. Depression is that feeling where nothing is right and nothing matters except relief from our thoughts. So far at age 70 I have beat off the suicidal beast and I sense I will continue to find peace and grace by not checking out but understanding I need people in my life who care, understand and do not stigmatize me.

  7. Depression sucks and last thursday afternoon I was extremely don to the point of killing myself felt like a viable option to stop the torture in my head. The only thing that helped me through was putting my running shoes on and listening to the whisper in my head to get out the door and put some miles in and see what happens instead of the screaming ego telling me to just sit in the house and let your thoughts fester. Thankfully I listened to my spirit instead and instead of continuing to fear that first step I put my feet to the pavement and let the more hopeful thoughts enter my mind one #mentalhealthmile at a time. Not everyone has that self talk or that self awareness so please if you are hurting ask for help, seek it out and know that you are to valuable to sit in your own thought and allow them to destroy your sense of self one destructive thought at a time. If you can find 20 seconds of courage to allow yourself past the fear that only exists in your mind then the demons cannot win, once you take action you win! #activebodycalmermind

    A brother in the struggle beside you
    Alan
    Instagram handle if you are interested @alanschererphotographer
    The faith of a mustard seed can move mountains
    everything is possible through GOD who loves us Romans 8:37

    • Alan…comments so close to my heart. I’ve lived with anxiety and depression for so long…I remember episodes as early as kindergarten. With age brings some wisdom. I have been thru it all. Amazed at times that I’m as ” high functioning” as I am. I have taken meds for 20 years and have the best of the best psychiatrist ( I often ruminate on thoughts about what to do when he retires). The one thing that was a constant in helping to make me feel better ( it literally never failed) was to get my ass out the front door and run. It started slow ( walk/jog) and eventually I picked up pace. The amazing clarity and sense of calm I felt after a run helped this become my ” guiding light”. People talk about inflammation, diet, lack of this and too much of that) I am 44 years old and have dealt with this since 5 years old. Do whatever makes you feel better. I don’t mean leaning on illicut drugs) alcohol) but whatever gets your blood pumping….I’m not preaching but I’m also not a novice in this field ( long time psychiatric professional). After trying everything ( ECT was next,) putting on running sneakers and doing a slow jog , I could literally feel the changes in mood happening. This is not to preach, only food for thought. As for the inflammation theory, from what I read, I tend to agree that this is a potentially valid cause. I believe it’s a tiny piece in a large puzzle. As a health Care practitioner, it’s easier to get out and power walk than to convince your Pdoc to prescribe anti-inflammatory meds. For the debate about whether depression is caused by genes, inflammation, diet, messed up circadian rythme, vitamin deficiency…..it’s overwhelming. If someone can find a positive outlet to help with depression, do it!! Inflammation has gained momentum in the past years but actually, no psychiatrist is going to give you an organic reason for your depression ( unless you have a diagnosis that supports it..thyroid for example. Depression is so complex, I would hope that we support each other in whatever outlet offers relief.( I’m talking safe, therapeutic options)

    • Thank you. The word I most identified with in this article was EXHAUSTED. If you’ve been living with depression all your life it seems clear why , at 56 someone might just be to exhausted to go on.
      Walking has also helped me many a day.
      Thank you again for your comments

  8. I really like your post. And it is refreshing to read that someone has a less judgmental view of depression and suicide. The reason they don’t ask for help, is because they don’t want anyone’s input. It is nobody’s business but their own. People who are ready to die, want to die with dignity, on their own terms, and they don’t want to be talked out of it. As someone who has been there, I can say with 100% certainty, I would have never sought anyone’s help because if I chose to go, I wouldn’t want anyone’s opinion nor anyone who can’t possibly understand me, to talk me out of it.

  9. Thank you for writing this article. As someone who had and have family members with mental illness, this article gave me a better insight into depression than anything else I have read

  10. Agree it has us we dont have a choice all we want is to be at peace with ourselves but when life twists u in the gut no matter the lifelines or life u make depression can take u when it really wants to i know this only too well how ive survived so long because i was found in time 9 times the 10th was postnatally i died 3 times over night i survived because it was not my time and someone fought for me willed me back that was not just a nurse but a mother who could easily have been staring at her own daughter so stayed with me she could have just gone home she had no personal connections no bond but she had earth angel in her she was mine since then ive battled many demons ive almost lost but then i remember its good to talk its okay u must i will fight against any help because i tell myself its time but i dont want to i let the tears fall then remember those who have lost the battle and i call i cry i rant but after everything im here and im alive and u know life seems calm again that dark place is never far away i never take my moods for granted u cant fight them u just have to find ur way back if u can suicide is not a choice an easy way out it is our demon it has us but we can survive if the right lifeline is there at the right time so i guess im watched over cause i dont know how i am alive just that i am.

  11. First, I am so grateful to have seen and read this article and all the insightful comments following it. I have never understood why people who seemed to have had it all, wealth, family, fame, success, etc.. and who publicly displays how ” Happy, and Perfect” their lives seem, could take their own lives. To me, from reading this article, it seems that depression comes from the purest evil source.. something we cannot see, touch, smell or taste.. but those who have it definitely feel it’s curse every day and every moment. I cannot say I have depression and I have never been diagnosed with depression, but I can say that , for me, in times when I have felt down and hopeless about my life, I turned to my faith in God. As a christian, I learned I am accepted, loved, and treasured by God for exactly who and how I am. God is the purest source of all that is good which helps combat the evil and negative thoughts that creep into my head and heart. My faith is my shield from any internal and external thoughts and feelings that try to destroy my sense of worth and purpose in life. I realize this is not an option for those who do not believe, but something,anything spiritual that uplifts those to a higher and better place ,might be helpful for some. Suicide hotlines, medication, doctors, rehab centers… have not been the solution for too many. If the curse is from within, my hope is that those who suffer can find beauty in and the truth about themselves .. that they are loving, loved, beautiful, special, and have a meaningful purpose in life, that their life is so worth living… through some kind of spiritual discovery or belief.. maybe some hopeful and contrasting thoughts and visions could seep into their minds to make the evil voice inside them less powerful. There is yet a cure for depression, and the medical field is still too terribly limited. Maybe we need to explore other possibilities that are just as mysterious , complex, and powerful as depression itself. I do not have depression but I want to offer something to help those who do .

    • These are beautiful words, Wendy. And as a fellow Churchy kind of girl, I can relate to it. I also know that those in deep Depression may not know God (for any number of reasons) or cannot hear Him (ditto). I’m all for praying, and did quite a lot of it when I had breast cancer. But I never thought it would cure the disease. And I think that also applies here.

    • I think that you are trying to be helpful, but what you are actually doing is blaming the victim for not being “Christian enough” to be well. That not only doesn’t help, it can make things worse for someone who already feels they are useless, unwanted, a nuisance, a waste of space, and better off dead, etc. Telling them that they just need to “be more spiritual” just reinforces their already negative thoughts. Please don’t do it.

  12. My battle didn’t yap with me about me. I always had black skies. Nothing made me happy, although I smiled a lot thinking it would help. Life just sucked…….until meds. I was however, married to a sociopath……and had to dig out of that hole. Life is mostly happy now…..some gray from time to time, but never black.

  13. Everyday I realize how insanely lucky I am that I don’t suffer from a mood disorder. I’m not perfect but I am truly lucky. For my friends with depression, anxiety, bi-polar, I tell them, “What I can give you is the understanding that I don’t fully understand what you are going through.”

      • Ii think it’s fair to say you don’t understand what others feel when depressed. But what about saying you are there for them & believe in them & love them no matter what? No judgement. Depression is pure pain that lurks while trying to take us over. Mental heath professionals might help as does talking things out. But if one feels so much pain that suicide is the only answer another person cannot talk one out of it. Don’t feel guilty you couldn’t change a persons mind. Much love💓

  14. I have been depressed and it is terrifying I wanted to end my life even after having the experience of sitting through a 24 hour period with someone who wanted to end their own life and only wanted me present to save them from that which is a big role to fill … I still struggle …dont want to get out of bed ..go to work ….just want to go back to sleep and never wake up …but i have ambition love and people I could not hurt that way and they save me everyday even if they don’t know it

    • The knee jerk response to this is “keep getting up, keep waking up, keep going.” That isn’t my answer anymore. Get help. Talk about this. Know you are not alone, that others feel very much the same and have found help to make it better. Know it’s OK that you feel this way, that it isn’t some poor choice you’re making. Know there are professionals who can lessen the struggle.

  15. I feel so many emotions after reading this. I’ve been diagnosed with depression for well over half of my life. I was diagnosed with anxiety in 2008. I was uneducated and had my meds prescribed to me by a health care physician. In Jan 2016 I was involved in a car accident where I face planted into my steering wheel. A month later I was diagnosed with PTSD. I started to see an actual med doctor who has since tried to monitor my meds with my deteriorating mental health. I tried EMDR therapy which only helped me get behind the wheel again. I’ve tried countless therapists, nothing seems to help with this dark cloud of emotions. In Nov 2016 I had a DNA test done to see what meds work with my body chemistry. There were only 5 meds that came back on the report. 3 had failed in prior, 1 I was on. In Dec 2017 I attempted to end my life twice. My sister caught on to my attempts and had me admitted to the hospital. Fast forward to current day, in 2 weeks I’m starting my venture of TMS therapy. I’m hopeful this will help. I feel like I’m running out of options.

    • Dear Katie, thank you for sharing your story, your treatment of the “dark cloud of emotions.” Your sister saved your life, and I’m praying TMS therapy will sustain it.

  16. Great article! We have a family member that fortunately failed at her attempt, but it is a day by day journey. Thank you for sharing your view.

  17. Great perspective. Thank you for this. As a healthcare professional I will keep this in mind.

    However, mental health care coverage (and education) is severely lacking. There are very few resources available to the patients who often need it most. Lobbying for better insurance coverage of healthcare and laws to protect pre-existing onditions such as depression are vital. We need more counselors that that Medicare and Medicaid. We need more federal funding for mental health care services. If you want to help fight this epidemic pick up the phone and call your representatives in government. There is nothing more frustrating than knowing someone needs professional help and being unable to help them obtain it.

    • I am a mental health outpatient counselor and feel good that there is now more awareness of suicide and the importance of prevention. It effects us all. We need more funding to promote awareness and more funding to help those who fall thru the cracks. I am grateful for this article and hope that it provided increased insight for others.

  18. It’s really all bullshit, most of us are angry at Anthony, Kate and Robin, they are free and we continue with a meaningless life, mostly out of guild. if you think about it we continue in pain so you don’t have to.

  19. My brother took his life 2 years ago. Your description of “depression “ speaks well of his whole life. I don’t think HE wanted to die, but there were times the feelings and thoughts he could not control were just to much to work through. Sometimes I wanted to shake him and say Stop It when his thinking made no sense to me, when all should have been so right!! I know at that moment he just needed peace from his brain. Love his sweet heart.

  20. It’s possible that depressed people are more evolved and inwardly weep for the apparent future of mankind and all its cruelties to itself…..after all isn’t mankind actually slowly commiitting suicide?

    • An existential thought on all of this. I like it. Being an insufferably happy person, I like things tied up with a bow. But Steve’s essay and all of the comments have turned me around. I’m more willing to sit with the reality of depression and what is does to some of our best friends and people rather than attempt to magic it away with optimism, prayer, organic foods, or denial.

  21. Agree that we need a new name for depression that conveys meaning. I am an MD and anxiety expert who has lived with anxiety himself for many years. I don’t have a good suggestion for for a new term for depression but I propose we change the name of anxiety to ALARM. “Anxiety” conveys very little meaning, but everyone has experienced alarm. If someone asks you how you are feeling and you have anxiety, tell them you are feeling “alarmed” and they will have a better understanding.

    Dr Russell Kennedy
    TheanxietyMD.com

    • While I have continued to read many comments some which as a person diagnosed over the years with depression, bipolar, anxiety, and PTSD along with having hypothyroidism and fibromyalgia I could relate to. Before I continue let me add I was also told by other medical professionals that no , I am not bipolar! Clearly, I am a non- working medical professional myself however not in Psychiatry or psychology and I know that despite The label that they want to give me I already know something is very wrong! I was really disturbed earlier to read some remarks made by a medical professional talking about diet and nutrition, to me that was almost insulting even though There may very well be a correlation between inflammation, diet and the chemical misfirings in our brains that has not been proven yet to the best of my knowledge. And it almost does make one feel that they are to blame or at fault for having a disease that they have no control over. I hope others especially the ones who have been newly diagnosed and do not know too much about mental illness do not take that the wrong way and feel as though they are at fault. No one wants to feel that way, first of all we are not crazy, we are ill, just like someone who has diabetes or cardiac condition we may need to take meds or some other type of a regimen in order to keep ourselves as healthy as possible. I was glad to read in that article when he was Warning people about telling someone with depression to just cheer up, oh I’ve heard it all, buck up, Just get up and go out of the house, go see someone go visit someone. I’m sorry but there are many of you who will understand when I say sometimes that is literally impossible when you sit there actually feeling paralyzed or stuck to your couch, when your mind keeps telling you get up go wash your face and brush your teeth and all you can do is sit there and cry or at times the pain is so great that you may not be able to even cry for some kind of release for days weeks or months. The most important thing you can do for anyone is just what someone on this thread admitted that they don’t know what to do and that is to let your loved ones know that but that you are there for them, that you will try to understand as best as you can, to please share with you and let you know what you can do to help them. Mind you, they may or may not know themselves what they need but just to know that you are trying to understand, not to be judge mental, hurtful or degrading is the most important thing that you can do besides getting them professional help and don’t keep trying to get them out of the house but do know badger them. I think everyone who has bothered Who has bothered to write means well so please do not be offended by my words because like I said I struggle with this as well and have for years and I wish I had all the answers or even some of the answers because thinking about taking your life when you know how much it would hurt your loved ones, children or your grandchildren, that is what stops me from doing it. And being a Christian woman I know that God is always right here by my side no matter I feel, whether I can feel his presence or not his promises are true and he promised that he would never leave me or for sake me and I believe him and I trust him. Praying and thinking about all of you.

  22. I lost my father to depression and suicide. Totally agree we need a new term for depression. Our words relay a level of consciousness and inherent meaning and ”depression” has very little inherent meaning to it. I’m not sure what a good substitute would be. My expertise lies in anxiety. I am a medical doctor with an additional degree in neuroscience and my expertise is focussed on anxiety which is also a poor term. I personally have struggled with anxiety most of my life and I have a term that I much prefer because like “depression” the term “anxiety” conveys very little meaning. I use the term ALARM as many people do not have a concept of what anxiety is, but everyone has been in a state of alarm at one time or other. I wish we’d scrap the term anxiety altogether and replace it with alarm, because that exactly what it feels like.

    Dr Russell Kennedy
    TheanxietyMD.com

    • Thank you, Dr. Kennedy. I wonder what would substitute better for Depression. DESPAIR? ALARM is exactly right. When I try to explain anxiety to those who don’t have it, I tell them it’s your own body reacting to being chased by a bear.

  23. I don’t know how to help my loved one. I try to be there when I’m wanted, but even I can spark the trigger of anger. I feel defeated because I can’t help. 😦

    • Missy, trust me, you are doing the right thing just by trying and letting your loved one know that you care and you are there for them. I am sorry that they respond in anger to you but sometimes especially with depressive bipolar a person can get easily angered and it’s not necessarily that you although it is directed at you. Maybe just try to back to off for a little and just listen sometimes that’s all people need is someone else to just listen. I will be praying for you and your loved one. I hope I am not making too many mistakes as I am using my talk to text and sometimes it is not my friend. LOL

  24. I’m a survivor. Of trauma of every possible way but not the worst on the spectrum of abuses, sad to say. I have PTSD and have been on a various combination of psychiatric medications. I have tried different therapies. I’ve tried ignoring it. I can feel and see the change in humanity. The things of the utmost importance are lacking in humanity…respect and integrity. It makes me sad. Emotional pain is unnecessary. Be kind to people. You just never know what someone is going through.

  25. Thank you for this. I do not know what I suffer from. I just know I suffer. My wife of 40 years died 5 years ago. She had Systemic Lupus for over 20 years so our life was difficult but wonderful . I miss her more everyday. My Dad died 10 years ago and he was the greatest. Since they left, nothing is normal anymore. I have two great sons, their wife’s, and 3 grandsons yet still that is not enough. Being lonely is hard. My friends all go places, events, and invite me but I not comfortable going as a single. I fell in love but I wanted more than she could give so it did not last. I do not know what type depression or term I am, I just know I am not happy even when I should be . I am grateful and appreciate being so fortunate to have family and friends who love me so however, when the door closes at night and I am alone….it’s not enough. I find myself lately looking more forward to when this is all over. I don’t think I could commit suicide because I have lost a couple family members and have witnessed the effects, but truthfully, I understand and perhaps secretly envy them. I am tired.

    • I hope you find help, Brad. And in the meantime, come back here for proof that you are not alone in this. I have learned that this disease cannot be fought white-knuckled endurance, but is greatly helped with professional care and sometimes meds. Thank you for your words. xoxo

  26. Psychology and psychiatry are social sciences with few answers, at the mercy of a pharmaceutical industry that is pumping us full of drugs that cause suicidal ideations. I wouldn’t doubt that they are concentrating in public water supplies. Williams, Spade and Bourdain (and a dozen friends) more than likely died from drug side effects. This is a problem we must solve soon or the deaths will continue to pile up.

  27. Just saw this link posted today. Here’s a couple of poems I wrote & posted the other day & a reply to a friend who told me don’t believe everything I think.

    With Kate Spade & Anthony Bourdain making headlines let’s not forget the high schoolers, veterans, musicians, strangers, friends, loved ones & all those we lost who succumbed to the voluntary, self-inflicted physical intervention of mortality.
    S.U.I.C.I.D.E.
    S.atan’s
    U.nrelenting
    I.nsanity
    C.reating
    I.nescapable
    D.emonic
    E.ntrapment
    In memoriam:
    THE LIGHTS GONE OUT
    We look around & we see, that the lights gone out
    They had it all but were filled, with such a dreadful doubt
    What was to be next & what was meant to be
    A part of life & a future, that they just couldn’t see
    All the love & the joy, that they had to share
    Was no match, for the pain, that they had to bare
    Trapped in the silence, surely they felt, that they had no voice
    All hope was gone & so they felt, that they had no choice
    No one knows exactly, what was going on inside
    Their show was over, their curtain’s drawn, they had no place left to hide
    They couldn’t escape a sadness, that was buried oh so deep
    Life made a promise, it made a vow, that it couldn’t keep
    Living in a hell, that they just couldn’t figure out
    A cry from within, that we just couldn’t hear them shout
    To them there’s one way out, it’s the only door they know
    They’ve reached the chasms of despair, now there’s nowhere left to go
    Theirs was an inward struggle, that they just couldn’t seem to win
    They only had peace in mind, not that they were caving in
    No one saw it coming, or the writing on the wall
    In the end, when all was lost, the devil came to call
    Caught in the whirlwind, twisted by the ego mind
    They won’t be here, to see the sorrow, that is left behind
    Those of us who carry on, share their loving memory
    Have no way to reconcile, what we had no way to see
    Here in the present darkness, we will be filled with doubt
    Their future was bright but sadly, now the lights gone out
    RTG 6/10/2018

    An afterthought from a personal perspective;

    No one can comprehend, the demons deadly grip
    When the devil wants to send you, on that fatal trip
    If you haven’t been there & haven’t worn my shoes
    Then there’s no way for you to know, how hard it is to choose
    To make it one more minute, one more hour, one more day
    To keep it bottled up inside, or to find another way
    We struggle to get out of bed, each & every morning
    Knowing anxiety will attack us, without nary a warning
    The pills the doctor gives us, don’t seem to do the trick
    Some folks just don’t believe, that we’re even sick
    They say it’s in our head, we’re just being paranoid
    As we battle with the demons, that we just can’t avoid
    When everything feels empty & there’s no place left to turn
    We don’t really care about, the bridges that we burn
    Every day’s an uphill climb, that seems to go nowhere
    It’s so goddamn exhausting, that we no longer care
    Buried by the darkness, that smothers us in fear
    We grow cold & distant, to all those we hold dear
    We put on a facade & put our best foot forward
    But we shrivel up inside & feel just like a coward
    The whole world is watching, but we can’t run away
    Ridicule & judgement, are the price we have to pay
    The deck is stacked against us, there’s so much we have to lose
    You can’t solve the riddle, if we don’t leave you any clues
    When we have no way to silence, all the noise that’s in our head
    The only option left, is the one where we are dead
    It’s hard to understand, the depths of our sorrow
    It’s harder to try to fathom, that there will be no tomorrow
    Some say it’s a selfish act, that it’s the easy way out
    But it takes guts & courage, on that there is no doubt
    We fight the urge with all our strength, in order to survive
    We call upon the grace of god, just to stay alive
    We must resist the devils call, to take that fatal trip
    With a higher power, we can break the demons grip
    RTG 6/12/18

    Richard Genovese Thanks Becky! I don’t, or at least try not to but sometimes it’s difficult when the ego mind wants to take over. By personal perspective I meant one garnered from personal experience. The words I wrote were not my perspective as an observer but rather my experience as a participant & I know they don’t even cover everything. I lived many years buried by the darkness & what at times felt like insurmountable obstacles to a happy & joyful life, (drugs, alcohol, marital, legal, financial, health & family issues). It was a time when my experience formed my beliefs & this is a reflection of that. Fortunately, the struggles were not in vain & with the help of loved ones & the powers that be I survived. Those days are long gone now. I have transitioned to letting my beliefs form my experiences & always try to keep things in perspective relative to the world we live in. It’s much better this way.

  28. Pingback: Depression Isn’t Sadness… by Steve Safran | simple lines

  29. I agree entirely with this assessment of depression and suicide. I have been diagnosed with severe depression and think it is caused by a couple of things…one being mood altering chemicals in my brain, and secondly by being a constant thinker. I can drive myself absolutely nuts by thinking too much. Sometimes I see to have an overabundance of empathy but it is never for fellow humans, it is always for animals. I feel some kind of special connection with them. On a personal level, I think humans are pathetic and I prefer not to interact with them. We are the lowest form of life on the planet – considering what we can do and what we actually do. I am disturbed by animal suffering and it is constantly something that picks at me. That’s what I overthink about and it makes me nuts. I have already decided that I will commit suicide. Not sure when because I haven’t decided how. I just don’t want it to be painful, nor do I want to fail in the act, but I think it will happen soon. I fear my attempt might fail and leave me a vegetable. I must actually die. I have been able to make this a rational choice and my firm belief is that not all people are meant to be on the planet. If you don’t want to be here anymore you should be able to leave of your own terms and with help if you ask for it. This world is not for everyone. I absolutely despise being here. It’s not the world I want to live in.

  30. Pingback: Depression and Happy Art Moving Beyond The Awful Back Into the Light

  31. I am a psychotherapist and just this week I have had so many clients struggling with these issues, even a new client who came in because she found herself researching how Kay Spade suicided. Thank you for an insightful and real perspective on suicide and on the complicated nature of depression. I have shared it with others. I am absolutely convinced that depression is a physical illness! The conversation about suicide and about mental illness needs to be more open.

  32. Very discouraging, call to get mental help.!!!
    Theres WAITING lists, facilities FULL Or INSURANCE issues
    Never easy….stressful qnd turned away.
    Louisville, Ky

  33. The thing I find worst about depression is: that even when you think it’s gone. It comes back with a vengeance, tearing you in 2. Unbarable pain and an entanglement of emotions. But I found just talking helps, when I want to.

  34. Pingback: Weekly Round-Up: The Father’s Day Edition | Journeying Beyond Breast Cancer

  35. One of my God fearing relatives says depression is demonic and you just need to rebuke the demons and you won’t have depression anymore. I’ve rebuked, rebuked, rebuked, to no avail. I’ve prayed and been prayed over and for. If there really is a life after death, it sounds much more appealing than life on this earth! I’ve done the meds, the counseling, and all it’s done is repress it for awhile. It may sound silly, but the ONLY thing that keeps me going every day is the responsibility I have to my rescue dogs – if I take my life, where will they end up? I believe people who have committed suicide have been brave for a long time before they take their own lives. Depression is real and it can affect anybody!

  36. Reblogged this on Walk the Goats and commented:
    I talk about personas and characters that chime in in my head about how I’m doing things. Often saying I’m doing things wrong. Depression takes that to levels that cripple and can destroy. I appreciate this blog and how it talks about it.

    “Depression is exhausting. And it’s cruel. It tells you terrible things about yourself. That’s why Ms. Spade and Mr. Bourdain died. I can’t speak for their experiences, but I can speak for my own and what I know to be true from many other patients with depression: our minds become ruthless bullies. They tell us the meanest things about ourselves. They stockpile ammunition and open fire. And we have to sit there and take it because, well, it’s coming from our own brains.”

  37. I appreciate reminders that telling someone they should “change their attitude” when dealing with depression is as effective as telling a color-blind person they should just work harder and they’d see those missing colors. With the color-blind person, we understand and accept the physical nature of their situation. With mental-health issues, we seem to have a much harder time doing that. I hadn’t considered the left-handed/right-handed concept; equally useful. Thank you for your post and your openness. It clearly triggered comments.

  38. I truly love the message of this article. All I have ever wanted from those around me is to be empathetic to my disease. I don’t need you to understand it, what causes it, nor teach me how to cure it. I just need you to be supportive and listen if I’m willing to share. The best way to describe it is if you thought I had a type of cancer that can be life threatening at any moment, what would be your reaction and response? I have asked people to think of my mental illness just like cancer but the general reaction is that this is something I can cure and ‘get over it’ if I want to. Most people know & believe for a fact that some cancers are incurable no matter what a person does. We know this for a fact and we empathize with complete strangers when we hear that so and so has cancer. Think about the last time you found out that someone you knew discovered they have cancer. What was your reaction? What did you say? What did you do?

    My husband was diagnosed with stage 3C melanoma last fall. It is a very rare form of melanoma. When our friends & Family were told about this, we received huge amounts of support and empathy. People offered to help with our kids, make us dinner, and help us with many other ways to show their support. We felt very loved & supported and truly felt that they cared. These people also continue to ask about his progress and how his treatments are going and letting us know that we are in their prayers for a speedy recovery.

    I can honestly say that this is not the response I get when people learn about my mental illness. I get strange looks and comments like, ‘stop thinking negative’. The general attitude is that people let me know that I am not doing what I need to do to make myself feel better. I get questions wondering if I’m doing x as if they know what will fix me. Do you give advice and ask the person with Lymphoma, if they have gone to see an Oncologist? Do you tell them they need to take medication? They need to change their diet? They need to go exercise? No one does this because this is not appropriate. We know that a person with cancer would be doing what they’re able to treat their disease. They don’t need to be told by those around them. But why is it that people treat depression and mental illness this way? As if you know my illness better than me and you know how to fix it? I’m not going to try to educate here about what depression is or is not, but I just want to show you my perspective about how you can respond & support those you know and love about this subject.

    • I am in no way an expert in this field nor a sufferer. I have however seen close friends go through this devistating illness. One of these friends was successful at ending their life.
      My observations lead me to think that the victims of this condition must feel so lonely and totally helpless in their struggles.

      As mentioned earlier and from recent dealings, I have noticed what seems to look like a version of slight improvement when empathy and in some cases a hug without terms and conditions is offered. The feeling of someone being there and attempting to ‘offer their strength’ on some level may bring the loneliness to manageable level.

  39. Thanks so much for this story I am one living with depression this hit home so hard that it’s unbelievable I am a left-handed living in the right-hand the world I tried to adapt I do the best I can but I do struggle daily I used to fight my depression but now I take my medicine when I can I go for counseling I had to accept that this is who I am it’s hard it’s but this is life for me I thank you thank you so much for you taking the time to to write this story thank you thank you thank you.. sincerely Carolyn

  40. This article is an eye-opener to me, and hopefully, many others who had no understanding about depression. It helps, too, that I am left-handed and can relate to the analogy the author used.

  41. I contemplate suicide every day. Somedays, I am a feather away from tipping the scale. I dont want to inflict pain on my oarents. Therfore, I’ll wait until they pass to finally pull the trigger. Ironically, think I care about their inheritance. I live very minimally and am financially sound.
    I am successful in masking my mental torture.

  42. I don’t think I’ve had a happy day in my life, I’ve never been quite human. Combined with ADHD life is just one long day dream. I never will amount to anything and there is no solution. Still, I’ll do it again tomorrow.

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