You are not an authority on suicide. You do not get to theorize or make statements about why or how people you do not know choose to end their lives. You do not get to claim whether or not another human being is a “coward” because they have succumbed to an illness for which there is no known cure.
So before you take to social media, to your blog, to your bar stool pulpit, to your editorial column or to your news program, be sure to remind yourself that you are not an authority on what it is to be anyone other than yourself.
But please do talk (and loudly) about your experience with depression. Please share what it is to live with this stifling thing that constantly forces you to be silent. I truly believe that the more we talk about this thing, the less power it will have, and the more understanding there will be.
There is nothing shameful about depression. The truly shameful thing is how we treat people WITH depression. We glorify the “tragic artist” (see Van Gogh, Kurt Cobain, Sylvia Plath, etc), and we quarantine the rest because they “bum us out”.
Depression doesn’t make any sense. It doesn’t make any sense at all that I took two hours to get dressed in order to go around the corner to buy a slice of pizza today. What did I think was going to happen to me if I didn’t look the “right” way? I have no clue. Why am I telling you this in a very public way? Because part of me thinks that it is funny. People are weird. I AM VERY WEIRD. This is a strange way to be, so please laugh, because I am OK! I am, aside from the fact that I have some messed up chemicals that tell me that everyone hates me (on the real, I KNOW they don’t, but nature of the beast when you have the winning combination of depression AND anxiety). I am OK because I have an incredibly supportive network of friends, and parents who have always spoken openly about depression and anxiety. I am OK because I know that I am loved, and that no matter how shitty things look right now, there’s always something better. Also: I can laugh at the absurd aspects of my particular affliction. Maybe me telling you about my pizza struggles will remind you of your experience, and you’ll feel more like the human being you are.
I wish that this was enough for other people, that a supportive and loving community was the magic cure-all. But it isn’t. Not always. I lost someone to this disease that we can’t find with an x-ray or a blood test. It took me a long time to get to a place where I could see them as something other than “selfish”. Seeing someone who chooses the path my friend did as “selfish” is (in my opinion, please note the emphasis because it is very important) myopic. It has been IMPOSSIBLE not to think of my friend and my own personal experience with depression for the past 24 hours. For me, it is a relief to see so many people speaking openly about topics that are generally taboo. I know that many prefer not to talk about this for personal reasons, and that is valid and should be respected.
In closing, many of us feel a connection to this that we can’t fully explain. But we are only an authority on our own experiences.