When you live with depression and anxiety is seems suicide is a four-letter word.
In the past week amid the tragic death of celebrity Charlotte Dawson I wondered why our culture has lost the ability to utter the word “suicide”. Every time I heard a news report about the circumstances of Charlotte’s death they made note of the fact that there were no suspicious circumstances but never did they raise the possibility (that most people guessed anyway) she committed suicide.
Now, I’m no expert in sociology, but it appeared to me that there were too many suspicious circumstances. And, most of them seemed to lay in the fact that Charlotte was clearly suffering from a terminal illness to which no-one responded appropriately. And, in spite of our society’s ability to tolerate the many behaviours represented by our entertainments, it seems that it cannot find a way to tolerate suicide. In-fact suicide seems so abhorrent that use of the word has been unofficially banished from our vocabulary.
Because I’m a wordy person, I understand the power of words and their ability to engender a response from the recipient. Just ask Mr. Wonderful! But I’m confused about why we seem unwilling to even whisper “suicide”, as if it will create an unacceptable response.
Frankly, from time to time I’ve been willing to consider death as an alternative to the seemingly interminable emotional agony I’ve suffered. The confusion about my identity, my purpose and my ability all seem to conspire to create a sense of hopelessness that cannot be quieted by glib statements about my value. The sense of dread I feel at the thought of confronting another day (yes it’s like confronting a knife wielding maniac) can be enough to keep me prisoner in my own home. But NEVER have I been inspired by someone else’s suicide to go and do likewise.
So when Charlotte’s illness and life came to a tragic end, the suspicious circumstances by their absence were significant. The fact that there appeared to be no effective treatment to manage her illness and it’s symptoms. The fact that she wasn’t able to find relief. The fact in spite of her professional success it appears she felt like a failure. And of course, the community’s complete lack of understanding about dealing with emotional illness.
What would have happened to Charlotte if she’d been found wandering the streets having tried to self medicate? What would have happened if she’d had a public “melt down”? What would have happened if we, as a community, had to admit that her illness was due, in part to the culture we’ve created. A culture that won’t allow a person to admit that satisfying the world’s expectations is a burden that none of us can be expected to meet, but are compelled to try anyway.
I’m firmly committed to the concept that depression and anxiety are, in most cases, linked to a body’s inability to produce the chemical controls required to stimulate the correct neural pathways. However, thanks to our society’s belief that depression is the result of a person’s unwillingness to see the glass half full, we in fact leave those living with depression, anxiety and other emotional illnesses to manage their illness in their own way.
Frankly, if you are depressed or anxious for ANY reason, or if you’re feeling that life isn’t worth the fight, you MUST keeping seeking medical help that understands your condition. It may mean trialing a variety of doctors and medications before you find the right one. It may mean putting up with side effects that are unpleasant but manageable. However, it is part and parcel of living with a condition that is poorly understood and steeped in the past stigma of insanity and irrationality.
In this current day, you will find yourself constantly battling against those (even in the medical profession) who believe your illness is your fault! And, if your doctor prescribes medication it’s your responsibility to take it. Simply because they believe it will be in your best interests to do so. If you think they’re wrong, seek a second opinion – not your own – but NEVER believe that because you need medication you’re weak. Diabetics, don’t believe their reliance on insulin make them weak and neither should you.
For me, I’m an intelligent, successful person who has an illness like any other. Sometimes it limits me but it never defines me; unless of course the community I’m a part of lets it!
Anderson Cooper says: That’s the thing about suicide. Try as you might to remember how a person lived his life, you always end up thinking about how he ended it.
Deb Shugg is an awarded business woman, wife & mother, author and a sufferer of depression and anxiety. To contact Deb click here.
If you need help to deal with your symptoms see your doctor. If you need to talk to someone NOW call Lifeline on 13 11 14.
(Abuse of another person is NEVER okay. If you are being abused or, if you are an abuser please seek help.)