I don’t know about you, but I have come to accept, sometimes life gives one more than they bargained for.
A long lost friend: our paths crossed in the early years of childhood. We clicked after a few interactions and became great pals— creating fond memories. Then, life got in the way, and we went separate ways. Typically, we lost touch.
He seemed to have things going on pretty well from his online life and was ever beaming with joy. Then, one evening, I received a long disquieting text from him.
How he doesn’t feel like his life had turned out the way he would have wanted it to; that he has moments when living feels pointless: now a recurrent feeling.
Going by his online persona, I had always assumed that he was doing well!
Apprehensively, I responded the best way I could, trying to cheer him on, to keep pushing. Not yet ready to face a time when the moments shared and bond built over the years could become a faded memory.
Most of our lives have intertwined that she is more like family to me. The good, the bad: we’ve braved it all.
She has always been the bold one between the two of us and had her way of getting me back on track when I faltered or was close to giving up.
As usual, life got in the way too. Unlike him, we kept in touch regularly. She always told me that she was okay, and I took her word for it. That okay meant she was doing fine.
She also had noteworthy achievements that I wouldn’t have given a second thought to trading places with her: not until now.
Worlds apart, she opens up about her suicidal thoughts. I beat myself up for not knowing or even sensing that she had been struggling.
Most of our conversations nowadays is a tug of war. With me trying my best to get her back to her optimistic self. Even now unsure whether my actions are just pushing her to the edge or not.
To her, no matter the plans one has, you cannot change what life has in store for you. And thus, living has little meaning when one has no control over what happens to them.
How does life go on when she is not around? I can’t consider that reality; no, not really. It cannot be!
Afraid that my efforts were to no avail, I urged her to speak to her guardians about it. Considering all the investment and sacrifices made to get her to where she is now, she is scared to open up to them about her feeling of despair.
“A big part of depression is feeling really lonely, even if you’re in a room full of a million people.”
Hesitantly, she once hinted at it; the advice she got was to continue focusing on what she has to do— in the present. Well, they don’t have an in-depth understanding of what she is going through.
The next possible solution was to consider counseling, but opening up to strangers is a challenge for an introvert.
I strive to be in regular communication with her, sending random texts and calling at odd hours, looking for confirmation that she hasn’t given up on life yet. That she is still fighting.
Panic sets in when there’s no response. I think of all the possible things that could have happened. Then one tick turns to two, and I see the indication that she is typing back; that’s when my heart stops palpitating.
A different generation: she’s more like a mother figure. She had noticed that I was distancing myself from others, more than was typical—
It was a time when I was still grappling with the realities of life. I had grown up believing some things to be true and that things would work out as I had planned. Still and all, life had something different in store for me.
In adulting, she also faced a similar reality; her expectations were brutally and unexpectedly dashed: to the point of giving up.
To put a stop to her misery—of aimless and fruitless toil—the nearby busy highway, beckoned; urging her to step into it without regard for oncoming traffic.
Steadfast in her resolve, first foot forward, about to land on the dark luring pavement, unperturbed by the buzz of the fast-moving cars— her phone rings.
It was the call she had long been waiting for, and with just the message that would cause her to step back into the pedestrian lane.
“It is very hard to explain to people who have never known serious depression or anxiety the sheer continuous intensity of it. There is no off switch. I was overwhelmed by something I did not understand – my own brain.”
Statistics show that more than 200 million people are affected by depression worldwide. It doesn’t discriminate against status, gender, or age.
In the worst case, depression leads to suicide, which is the second cause of death among 15-29-year-olds. Losing about 800000 lives to suicide every year.
We’ve already lost notable personalities to suicide in the past two years, from Chester to Avicii. People who were young and supposedly doing well— in the eyes of society. Role models and icons for many of us. Not knowing they were fighting inner demons.
We cannot ignore the gravity of depression and its toll on humanity. To raise awareness about it and take action against it: First, let’s encourage those who are suffering to speak out. We also need to stop the stigma around it: depression isn’t a choice.
“It’s often difficult for those who are lucky enough to have never experienced what true depression is to imagine a life of complete hopelessness, emptiness and fear.”
Susan Polis Schutz
There are effective treatments for depression: therapy to medication. Though few people seek and receive such therapies.
That said, I am confident that: I don’t want to lose the ones I love to suicide. No one can fill the gap they will leave behind. And I cannot picture a time in life when they are only but a memory.
The time is now to talk about our mental health!
“Although the world is full of suffering, it is also full of the overcoming of it.”