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On depression, and asking people things

I’ve never tried to kill myself. I’ve suffered from depression and I used to self-harm, but I guess that’s true of a lot of people. I also didn’t know games journalist Matt Hughes, who sadly died this week, even slightly. I barely even recognised the name. I had to check who he wrote for. Seems he was a talented guy, not that that makes a difference.

When people commit suicide, people’s response is generally to gasp at how there were no warning signs, that it doesn’t make sense, that the person always seemed so happy. “He was full of life,” people say. “It’s just so out of character.”

When people kill themselves, they’re not doing so out of character. They do it because they’ve exhausted every other option they can possibly comprehend, and things have become so overwhelming that putting a stop to everything now is the only sensible option, for everyone’s sake.

You could say that the main symptom of depression is a feeling of remarkable sadness, but it’s more than that. It’s a feeling of isolation. A feeling of self-loathing. A sense that you’ll never have the ability to separate yourself from the ills of the world, and as such will never be able to construct a coping mechanism or reason yourself out of a low mood with logic.

And it’s a feeling that you’re all alone in this world; those healthy, happy masses go about their daily lives with barely a stumble, while every single split-second of your own life is a hammer-blow to the head. Those people don’t care. Why should they? If they cared, and let themselves into your mind, they’d be depressed too.

The truth is, nobody really takes the time to think about what goes on in the minds of others. Not really. We all have our own lives to lead, and that’s difficult enough as it is. But I like to think that, as people, as the human race, we do care. Even just a little bit.

I’m one of the lucky ones. I’m mostly okay now, aside from the occasional off-day. I put a lot of that down to my re-discovery of writing, and my decision to apply myself to a goal. But I also put a lot of it down to the fact that I had people who really took the time to understand how I was feeling.

When was the last time you asked somebody if they were okay and really meant it? We say it trivially every time we meet someone, and the correct response is, “I’m fine, thanks. How are you?” You must not deviate from the script. To do so is social suicide. If you’ll excuse the metaphor.

But really, we’re all human, and we all get sad sometimes, and we all ultimately care when we find out that other people are suffering. So the next time you see your friend, ask them if they’re okay. Really ask it, and push them for a real answer. They’re probably fine. But it might just turn out that your friend needs an ear, and they’ll be grateful for that question for the rest of their life.

And if they think you’re being weird, or take the mick out of you, then they’re a cunt.

3 responses »

  1. Nicely put.

    I know I’m terrible for pretending everything is fine to someone. While I wouldn’t say many people ask me how I am on a regular basis (which is a bit of a sad thought alone!), I know I always say ‘I’m fine’ without thinking about it. Even to my Mum who would much prefer to hear the truth! It’s always been my way, regardless of whether I’m happy or sad in life. Something that I know is less than ideal.

    I’ve come to realise over the past year that yup, things aren’t quite right for me. I’d probably be more inclined to say that I have big problems with anxiety and worrying about stuff that I really shouldn’t be stressing over (either because it’s not very important in the grand scheme of things or because worrying doesn’t achieve anything!). It sucks.

    It’s ridiculous though that I’d feel ok talking about a physical ailment not a mental one. It really shouldn’t be like that at all.

    Hmm, that comment probably served little purpose, but hey, mind dump!

  2. The fact that many of us (including myself) respond so mechanically is indicative of how much we don’t like to reveal our inner struggles. It can come from wanting to feel or look perfect, fear of rejection, or, probably, a number of other reasons I can’t think of off the top of my head.

    As one who does strive for honesty in myself and others, I wonder how people would respond if I told people who I’m really doing. I, maybe, wouldn’t go into details because I don’t think it’s appropriate to share the deep, inner thoughts to everyone, but to those I deem close enough to share, in case they do want to delve deeper. I wonder what that would do for my relationships. I wonder what that would do for society’s relationships, in general.

    Certainly good food for thought.

  3. I didn’t know you wrote about this. I also saw this and really wanted to write something about the whole thing, but instead I just informed everyone about it and went on with my day. Glad you covered it and covered it well.


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