February 14, 2009

A few thoughts, on "Night Falls Fast"

Well I've been wading my way through the book "Night Falls Fast" by Kay Redfield Jamison. It's not the most happy book (about suicide) but I feel it's in my interest to read. In the chapter about depression she writes that perhaps, and it is highly likely in fact that depression takes away ones flexibility in dealing with problems. In the chapter entitled "Take off the amber put out the light" she writes

".. Depression shatters that capacity. When the mind's flexibility and ability to adapt are undermined by mental illness, alcohol or drug abuse, or other psychiatric disorders, its defenses are put at jeopardy. Much as a compromised immune system is vulnerable to opportunistic infection, so too a diseased brain is made assailable by the eventualities of life. The quickness and flexibility of a well mind, a belief or hope that things will eventually sort themselves out - these are the resources lost to a person when the brain is ill.

We know that the brain's inablitiy to think fluently, reason clearly, or perceive the future with hope creates a defining constellation of depression. We also know that depression is at the heart of most suicides."

Yes, I'd say that untreated bipolar where I was rapid cycling was pretty bad. A feeling of wanting to curl under the covers and not come out at all, all day. And then the next day feeling euphoric, like I could conquer learning French in a day. I recall describing my depression as a black whirlpool into which I didn't want to fall, but at times did. Struggling to reach the shore, and not wanting to truly give in. And feeling good that I somehow got out of those depressions. I'm truly glad I've never had the total depths of despair she goes on to describe using a few case studies. No, I can honestly say I've never lost the hope that tomorrow will be a better day. Thank God for that.

I go on, in my mind to think of suicides I've heard about. The young 20 year old in my neighbourhood who killed herself. I said to her mum, "I'm so sorry, but I guess she was sick" and the mum agreed, she was. I don't know the story of why however. And then the father of some of mine, and my brother's friends. He had schizophrenia which is such a horrible disease. At the funeral I recall his daughter saying "my father as I knew him was gone long ago. This man that died, he was a person in pain and I'm glad he found release". My young internet friend who lost his dad recently. So sad to hear his pain expressed in typed words. The question of "why?" And of course mothers who've stepped in front of trains. Post-partum depression can be deadly. I'm glad I didn't have it badly. But do recall feeling very blue after Victoria's birth.

The terribly sad thing is that people can hide it very well. Teenagers can shock their parents in the most tragic way, never knowing how bad it was, for them. Suicide, I gather from reading, is seen as the cure, the release.

If only we could get the message across: suicide is the most selfish thing you'll ever do in your life. That's my feeling. The ultimate way of escaping your troubles and throwing them all onto others. And the burden will be very very very painful, for many. The close family, the extended one, the friends, and even people in outlying circles. It will ripple out as a shockwave, to all.

I want to reassure people who read this, no, suicide isn't on my mind. I'm simply wanting to talk about it. It's a sad fact of life that it kills just as many as cancer does, likely. Not exactly sure, but it's high up on the list of "causes of death".

I think the best thing we can do is to listen to those who are depressed. Whom we know are depressed. Reassure them we love them, support them, tell them any time, day or night, and it is not a bother to have them call. Many say, I think, "oh people are so tired of my depression and they don't want to hear me". That's a diseased brain that can't reason. The sane have to be ready to step and remind them "I WILL listen, any time, to you".

"Yesterday is gone, tomorrow is a dream, and today is the present so treat it like the gift it is". Line from Kung-Fu Panda, my kids current fave movie.

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