The barrel of a shotgun tastes even worse than you'd imagine. I remember fishing it out of my parents' closet, and figuring out where the safety was. I turned it off, and set the stock on the ground. I sat on my parents' bed and had a moment of regret–this was really going to make a mess.
But I couldn't hesitate or I'd falter. I knew that some part of me would always want to live, the animal part that would stop at nothing. That part seemed weak and distant in the miserable fog of my life. Every day was exquisite agony, until finally I started to feel nothing at all.
I put the barrel in my mouth and tasted an awful metallic punched up with a smokey-oily undertone. I wretched and clacked my teeth on the metal. Ouch.
Of course, I couldn't reach the trigger. I had to take off my shoe and put my toe on the lever. I closed my eyes and said "I'm sorry."
Click. I felt it through my teeth even more than I heard it.
It wasn't loaded. I didn't know how to put ammo in this thing, and I lost my nerve with that sound anyway. So, I crumpled up on the floor and sobbed instead.
That was the first time I'd try to take my own life. It was not my last. Thank God Mom found my journal one morning, or I wouldn't be here to write these words.
I'm a succesful, outgoing person. I married my best friend, and we remain deeply in love. I have two delightful daughters–everyone remarks how wonderful they are. I'm close to my parents. I've got great friends who I am open and vulnerable with. I'm a member of a Church that loves and supports me, and where I feel a deep sense of belonging. I'm a corporate Vice President and also Science Mike.
Few people would suspect that I once struggled with depression and suicide. Why would they? I can be the life of the party. I am often overjoyed in the presence of other people. Every moment of beauty moves me to tears, and I can speak with eloquence about the wonder and majesty of living.
I could do all those things when I wanted to die too.
There have been times in my life where a fog of desparation surrounded me. There have been times when I just wanted life to stop. It's bad enough to want to end your life, to believe that whatever happens after that final curtain must be–has to be–better than the pain. But even worse is the shame, the unshakeable belief that you are broken somehow, and that you are letting everyone down.
For someone in the deepest shadows of depression, when help is most needed, there is too much shame to reach for a helping hand. It's tragic.
Every time I hear about a beloved celebrity who chose to end their life while seemingly on top of life's Pyramid of Accomplishment, I understand. When I get emails from complete strangers across the Internet telling me that they just don't want to live anymore, I understand.
I've walked that dark road. I know all about feeling like a burden on others. I know about feeling like my life has no meaning. And I know what it's like to not fear death anymore, and instead to beckon the Reaper, asking for release from this mortal coil.
Depression is real and it's powerful. It's a thick fog that never burns off no matter how bright the sun shines. It washes a colorful world into shades of gray, and it obscures the beauty that surrounds us all the time. There is nothing I can write that can lift that fog for someone inside it. I won't try.
But, I will tell you that the shame you feel, the fear that you will let those you love down by admitting your pain is not real. It's a snare of this darkness, and it's there to keep you from rising out. Depression is there, rooted in your experiences and your neurochemistry. But the shame is a sham.
Shame is a liar. Shame says it loves you, and that it's protecting you, but it's a selfish lover. Shame wants to keep you all to itself. Shame wants you alone and powerless. Shame whispers in your ear saying, "If they only knew the REAL you, they'd never talk to you again." Shame tells you to hide, hide, hide, and to run from the light.
You are loved. There are people in your life who can't imagine losing you. If you are lost in a fog, and believe that you'll find relief in suicide, don't listen to shame. Stretch your hand out into the cold and the dark. Take the hand of a loved one and pull them close. Tell them you are lost and you don't want to live anymore.
Tell them all about the brokenness and the fear. Tell them the plans you have, and how close you've come to letting go. As soon as you've done this, stretch out another hand and pull someone else close.
Because if you don't, if you try to carry this weight alone in some misguided sense of nobility, we will lose you. That song that only you can sing will be silenced forever, and it will be a tragedy. It will be a senseless, stupid waste of the spark of life–a dry exhalation of God's Own Image.
Depression is in my past. I still pass it on the street sometimes, and it's like seeing an abusive old lover. I'm lucky–these little bouts are over as quickly as they come for me. But, I know that for a lot of people Depression is a constant companion.
You'll never survive that fog alone. Reach out.