What it’s Like When The Pain is Too Overwhelming

Some suicidal people are experts at hiding their affliction.

Photo by Pagie Page on Unsplash

You can’t always spot a suicidal person — she’s walking on the California sand holding a surfboard, with wet hair and post-exercise endorphins. She still loves her husband and he adores her. She still smiles at acquaintances and texts her friends and makes plans to go on walks with them. She still volunteers at homeless shelters and wears mascara and attends behavioral therapy groups on Zoom, joking with the facilitators and offering the wisdom of her 51 years. She still consults regularly with her psychiatrist so she can adjust her medication and supplements. She asks questions of naturopaths and other experts so her mental and physical health can be optimal.

You’d never think she was suicidal.

Anthony Bourdain surprised the entire world with his suicide. She is Anthony Bourdain. She has a good life that many would envy. She cannot stand the pain any longer. She has tried everything, the anguish won’t end. The only way out is death. Many will not understand, but if you’ve ever been like her, it’s elementary. She’s tried everything. She’s not a quitter. But the fortitude of depression overpowers even the strongest, most stubborn women.

Even so, she still posts encouraging sayings on Facebook and Instagram, cheers her friends and acquaintances with comments like, “You look great!” “Much love to you!” “What a nice family!”

But in the laconic state between nightmare-induced but still welcomed sleep and waking to the horrid dawn, a suicidal person’s mind obsesses over why she can’t feel better even with meaningful work and good friends and fresh food in the fridge.

She wonders if it’s menopause, or Trump, or police brutality and systemic racism that this country is seeped in.

Maybe if Trump loses (he won’t, but it’s a hope almost worth holding on to, if you’re optimistic enough; she isn’t), maybe if the police get defunded (they won’t; they are too powerful and people in power don’t care enough about Black Lives), maybe if she takes supplements to get through menopause, or clinical depression, or whatever is wrong this time, maybe she can make it a few more months.

But why? She may live a few more months. She’ll play soccer and do yoga and drink wine with her friends. But she’ll continue waking up in the morning like this. She’ll keep making her husband cry because he loves her so much and he cannot stand to see her like this but she cannot hide it from him, no matter how hard she tries.

She can text encouraging words to her friends and make them laugh. She can help foster children, homeless people, but none of that will erase the hole in her chest, the grief over a world she once thought worth living in. She can’t say she hasn’t tried. She was not a quitter.

But the pain still persevered, and finally, she let go.

Maybe after she’s gone you’ll see a dolphin jumping out of the sea. She believed in re-incarnation, naive soul that she was. She was told it was a sin to kill oneself. But maybe her spirit will be alive in that dolphin and you’ll see how hard she tried to stay alive and you’ll forgive her for giving up.

Post-Script:

“That’s the thing about depression: A human being can survive almost anything, as long as she sees the end in sight. But depression is so insidious, and it compounds daily, that it’s impossible to ever see the end. The fog is like a cage without a key.”-Elizabeth Wurtzel, Prozac Nation

Elizabeth Wurtzel is dead. She was the ultimate fighter, but lost to cancer. She’s gone, like so much of my generation. Deceased with Prince and Michael Jackson and David Bowie and Monica Lewinsky’s navy blue dress and mornings-after and the nights before that made the mornings-after worth suffering through, she is gone. She can never write another novel about depression. She gave me hope, Prozac gave me hope. We are all once upon a time.

Writer. Advocate. Truth seeker. Perpetually curious over-analyzer.

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