Bhayyu Maharaj, Anthony Bourdain and the rising suicide graph: Depression is a silent killer, but what can you do to help?
Depression creeps up silently from corners of your brain you didn't even know existed. It takes over your life before you even realise.
The last few days have been brutal; a generation lost two heroes, and a community its leader. Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain were people we looked up to, people who inspired us. And both of them decided to end their lives. If social media timelines were a sample of how people felt, it was clear that news of their suicides had shaken us all badly. We seem to have a difficulty accepting the fact that lives of our heroes can end like this.
And on Tuesday, 12 May, spiritual leader Bhayyu Maharaj killed himself in Indore.
As the shock started wearing off, confusion started taking over. Because nothing made sense anymore, we humoured ourselves with thoughts. And these majorly fell into the following camps:
Camp 1: Oh, how could these people do this? They had everything, yet they took their lives. How selfish of them to do so.
Camp 2: Lots of advice on how self-care is necessary, on how everyone should take care of themselves. And everyone telling everyone else, if you ever need help, pick up the phone and call.
Camp 3: Probably a set of people feeling wholly dejected and saying there is nothing we can do if someone has decided to kill themselves. That we should quit feeling guilty about this and move on.
As a person who has been at the brink of suicide, as a person who dealt with clinical depression for a better part of life, the things said by all three camps feel like complete bullshit. Depression creeps up silently from corners of your brain you didn't even know existed. It takes over your life before you even realise.
One isn't selfish when one wants to kill oneself; in fact, one is making every effort possible not to think of oneself. Because it is partly the disappointment with oneself which is responsible for this state. Every ounce of one's body is suffering, and the only way out of that suffering at that point seems to be to go deeper down in that well. And the pain is not just ours; we see what it is doing to our relationships; we understand how friends and family feel helpless and wonder what can they do to make us happy. We see the failure and dejection on their faces, and then we see the judgement and the blame.
I once read a piece which called depression a big black dog, and when we are with that big black dog, one part of the problem is that we can't reach out. Nothing but the dog seems to be within reach. In fact, we cannot even reach out to ourselves, and that is partly what makes it so unbearable. The very task of opening one's eyes and doing the most mundane of things seems like a huge burden. And having a conversation about the state of mind is like climbing Mount Everest with a broken leg.
Also, let's be honest — even if we did call you and said we feel like killing ourselves, the deluge of questions that follow will be harder than the act itself. Because 9 out of 10 depression patients are told that they need to snap out of it.
I am sorry if that makes you feel we are selfish, if it makes you think we are shutting you out and there is nothing you can do. Nothing could be further from the truth. It's just that we need help, and we don't know how to get it. We are shutting out everyone because we are confused, afraid, helpless. And that's a feeling we don't know how to deal with. We have been continuously told that strong people know how to handle themselves, but now we are suddenly here, not sure of what we are feeling. Or are we feeling anything at all? That emptiness is what draws one into thinking that maybe taking our own life may be the best way of ending the misery. For us and everyone around.
We want to be saved, from nobody else but ourselves. Yet, when people try to save us, we do everything we are not supposed to. Such is the nature of this beast. But this isn’t an untameable beast; with a little support and help, we can indeed overcome this.
Given this stubborn nature, what can one do? I can think of two critical things: Firstly, get timely and professional help. If you are family and are responsible for the person feeling depressed, this should be easier. But even if you are a friend who feels this is needed, talk to their families about it. Get the stakeholders involved, but get help. They might hate you for doing this, but this is the best thing to do.
Most people in India hesitant when it comes to taking "medicines", and it might be easier to get them to visit a therapist. A good therapist will bring them to a point where they will either acknowledge the need for medication or know how to deal with life without it.
And secondly, and probably this will be harder, but be around us, call us even when we don't call back. Listen to us even when we don't make sense. Hold us when we cry. We will do everything possible to push you away but do stay with us. Because even if we don't say it, even when we don't deserve it, we do need the hugs.
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