A Look at Depression & Suicide

A few days ago, I was on an online chat forum. Often times, people will just spout out random things and tidbits. That day, a friend said, “A girl from my university tried to commit suicide by stabbing herself in the head. But she lived. LOL, so stupid.”

And thus commenced the eruption.

I was horrified. Why would he ever joke about that? I can understand making a joke privately to a friend you know well, but saying that online is horrible. I told him that. A girl who publicly made it known to everyone that she was chronically depressed jumped in to say she found his comment offensive. Another guy jumped in and supported the OP.

They kept saying stuff like, “Suicide is selfish,” “Killing yourself is cowardly,” “It’s stupid to off yourself.” I kept defending my opinion until I was exhausted. “These people are mentally ill, they need your support.” I got in the shower, and looked at my phone again after I got out.

DXXX: Depression is the latest fad (w/link)

Unbidden, all these horrible thoughts and feelings came back, and I started crying. He had posted that link long after people had told him to stop talking about the subject. How could people be so cruel? Where was the empathy?

The truth is that I am not an unbiased person at all. I come from a family full of unhappy people, spanning generations. My grandmother ate and smoked herself to death, threatened to commit suicide, tried to kill a family member, and was bipolar. My parents have had their share of unhappiness, which I am not permitted to discuss because they are still living and would be mad at me. And I myself was put on anti-depressants when I was 4 or 5, and have never fully been taken off. I was committed to a psychiatric facility for a week when I was 14 because I wanted to kill myself.

“Suicide is selfish, yada yada yada” argument

Even though I feel much better now, I find something lurking in that edge of my mind sometimes. That’s why their words really hurt me. Their argument was the same argument my leading doctor used in the psych ward. The thing is, it worked beautifully—at first. What the “suicide is selfish and you’re a coward and a wimp” does is instill enough guilt to prevent you from killing yourself. But as you think about it, you become so ashamed that you confirm your worst fears—that you are a horrible, worthless person. And you don’t really want to live after that, do you? It’s really bad for your soul and leads you to destructive thoughts. If you’ve ever said this to someone, shame on you! Unless they’re about to jump from a roof, try a different approach.

All that damn sympathy

I once went to a shrink that always, always, always had a puppy-dog look on his face. “And that must have hurt,” he would say after I told him something. Goodness, he was a lovely person but a dim bulb, I would say. He never questioned my judgment or implied I was at fault. Please, if you are ever in a therapist’s room (and I hope you go once) and they do this to you, walk away. Your money has been ill spent. Don’t get me wrong, sympathy is lovely. It’s needed. But not all the time. Don’t be friends with your therapist or call them by their first name. You are a buyer of a service. Most importantly, don’t play the victim. This constant “pat-on-the-back” nonsense only victimizes people more, and makes them feel like they are not responsible for their behavior, that it’s always someone else’s fault.

It’s a tricky road

Be careful when dealing with someone suffering from depression and/or suicidal thoughts. Even though I think the term is cliché, it is apt. They really do suffer, and what you say may help. It might hurt as well, but don’t blame yourself if something turns sour. Depressed people are people are people. Don’t put them on a victimized pedestal; they are often pretty smart, manipulative, desperate for affection or attention, and highly sensitive. They can lash out. Don’t take it personal.

Some tips:

  1. Try to talk to them about their feelings/behaviors. If they admit to feeling down or engaging in destructive behaviors such as cutting themselves, they are ready to get help. If not, a good thing to do would be talking to someone close to them (IF THEY ARE PHYSICALLY IN DANGER. If they’re feeling a little blue, maybe let it be.)
  2. Listen. Just hear what they are saying. Letting them discuss problems and issues may take a weight off their shoulders. And if you don’t know what to say, ask the 5 W’s + H. For instance, “Why do you feel that way? When did this happen? What are you doing to fight this?”
  3. Suggest that they join activities or support groups, or see a psychiatrist. Exercise is really great for alleviating stress and sadness. Here are some exercise tips.
  4. Don’t let a friend’s depression engulf your life and time. You can’t always be there for them, and you have to take care of yourself. There is only so much you can do—the rest is up to them.

Maybe you think me a little contradictory, harsh, etc… However, I think it’s important to be a wide-eyed sympathetic. In other words, don’t be blind. If someone keeps making excuses, they aren’t ready to get better. If they keep making destructive choices despite everything, they don’t care about themselves—and you need to let them come to a decision on their own. But if they ask for help, it’s your moral duty to try.

My Last Day; Or, Reflections of a Glorified Babysitter

Friday was my final shift at the Catholic lower school, where I have worked at for six months. And now I can breathe. It’s not that the work was very difficult (though it tried my patience quite a few times). It’s that when you work with children, your viewpoint of the world shifts dramatically, and you begin to reevaluate your whole life. Working with kids can be stressful, joyous, agonizing and freeing. But most importantly, that position of caretaker will open your eyes.

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Becoming a Glorified Babysitter

I first started in September, when–after arriving for an interview–I was hired on the spot and asked to help right then and there. I had this wonderful, beautiful idea about how children behaved, and though I didn’t kid myself about their less-than-angelic dispositions, I was not quite aware of their capacities. I quickly learned how draining it could be. A certain group of boys would always hit and berate other children, and some girls just couldn’t stop teasing their fellow classmates. A five-year-old once said to me, “I like getting hurt.” Even from a young age, children can develop startling characteristics.

“Princesses” and “Villains”

It is often said that boys are the troublemakers in the classroom, and I certainly understand how it seems that way. Boys are often the villains–rambunctious, bossy, aggressive, and rebellious. By contrast, the girls mainly keep to themselves; they are “perfect princesses.” But it is simply not true that boys are harder to raise or teach than girls. I think the reason young girls seem so docile is that they have so many role models. The lower education system is run by females, and a majority of boys don’t relate to them on the same level. Female teachers actively engage in the same activities girls in their class participate. If they had more male teachers in primary schools, perhaps boys would feel they could channel their negative emotions into more productive outlets.

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Bullies are Being Bullied

I used to jokingly call this little boy the Anti-Christ to my family and friends. He was always hitting and shoving and calling people names. One day he was in a particularly bad mood, and he hit two people within five minutes. The teacher sent him to time-out, and then left with the other kids to go outside. And this little boy, no more than eight years old, balled his eyes out. I was astonished.

Kneeling down to speak to him, I said, “What’s wrong? Why did you hit that boy? I didn’t see what happened.”

He wouldn’t look at me for a long time, but finally said, “He made fun of me because of my beanie hat. They all said it was stupid, and it was a girl’s hat.” He added, “And you never see them making fun of me, you only see me, and then I get in trouble and it’s unfair!”

It wasn’t stupid, I said, and they shouldn’t have made fun of him. I promised I would look out for him. And since then, he has always treated me and others better.

A common viewpoint stemming from the Nature versus Nurture debate is that people are born bad. This is the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever heard, and if you are around children long enough, you’ll realize this is so. Though true evil is very rare, the ones that are evil have gone through such horrible abuse and trauma as to make them almost irreparable. Evil is not biological, it is learned. Young children are incredibly vulnerable, and it is a teacher’s job to staunch their wounds instead of causing them.

Bittersweet

I was in the campus Starbucks with my mom one day, and the cashier commented on her being with me. “I’m here for my daughter,” she said. “She is my little girl. There’s nothing like children.”

“I don’t like children,” he said.

My mother couldn’t understand this. “But a child will always love you. It is the greatest thing you can have. You don’t understand what love is, how deeply you can feel, until you have a child.”

Hispanic Mom Baby

As I don’t have children, I cannot fathom this love. But I can tell you that the first part is true; I don’t think I could ever stop loving my parents. There isn’t a day that I don’t feel deeply about them, whether I’m happy or upset or amused. I think what people mean when they say they dislike children is that they dislike the relationship parents and children have. They only see:

  • the responsibility
  • the stinking diapers
  • the money
  • the problems

They don’t see:

  • the hugging
  • the stories
  • the devotion
  • the love

They’re manipulative, they’re quirky, they’re angry, they’re insightful, they are human. As I leave this job and go to the next, I will remember this. Children are just adults in fun-sized disguise.