I rang the bell and waited, but my friend didn’t open. It was weird, since his car was parked outside his house. I knocked the door three times and called him. After couple of minutes, he opened the door and invited me in.
The curtains were shut and the place had a pungent odor of alcohol and ashtray. He sat and lit a cigarette. He looked pale. It was no wonder since he was dealing with the split of his longtime girlfriend. I avoided the subject and talked about the usual stuff. We took a couple of beers that relaxed the moment and later we went for lunch. After that, I dropped him back home.
Years later, having a drink with him, my friend confessed me that the day I visited him, he was about to commit suicide. The rope was around his neck, and he was waiting for take the leap. But my stubbornness calling at the door prevented him of doing it.
I saved him… without knowing.
With the recent news about the shocking suicide of Robin Williams, concepts like depression and suicide come back to the spot light. “How can someone so lively like him, commit suicide?” I think this phrase pretty much summarizes the thoughts of people about the subject.
Disney released an image as tribute, about “freeing the Genie”—an allusion to the role of Williams as the Genie in Alladin. But is the Genie truly free?
First of all: what is depression? Is physical or psychological?
Depression is a mood disorder—biochemical disorder in our brain—and basically it’s both physical and psychological working like the chiken-or-the-egg dilemma with the stimulus and responses—the line is very thin and almost inexistent at brain level. The problem is that it becomes incremental in a cycle in which one feeds the other. Remember that neurotransmitters (like dopamine) act like drugs released to our body, so basically we are addicts of our own sensations.
Some people is more prone to develop it by physical reasons (heritage, biochemical imbalance, or people with some conditions, for example creative people), and other people develop the habit—conditioning and stimulus-response—to generate depressive thoughts from a traumatic experience, that after infinite repetition, we don’t question our behavior anymore, and believe we are our behavior.
There are a lot of classifications for depression, like that triggered by illness, postpartum or seasonal, but all work in the same way at the lowest level: satisfaction-dissatisfaction gap.
We all know how depression feels, we have suffered it in different degrees, so in a way it’s kind of natural. But then how do you explain it?
Depression works within a construct of the mind.
I like to use the rollercoaster analogy to expose it: If you go to a an amusement park and enter the rollercoaster’s line, you will follow through a path with stairs and ups and downs and zigzags until you arrive to the platform. At that point you don’t really know at which height from ground you are. We can take this as the “default settings” of our life: you born rich or poor, healthy or sick, handsome or ugly, it doesn’t matter, because from that platform the ground can look far or close depending of each one, it’s entirely subjective. Our mind establishes that default settings. So when the ride starts we go through ups and downs, and the rule its simple: the higher the top, the fall will shudder more and in the opposite way, a declivitous climb will be slow and difficult. The more time you stay on top, it will be harder to get used to be down and vice versa. Some will experience more difficulties during the ride, some even can enjoy it. Like you can see, the mind is what tells us if we are high or down in the same way we set our expectations in real life.
Then, if we are depressed and ask ourselves, why I am depressed? The mind needs to create a very convincing and solid argument to back up the depression state—and sometimes does—but most of the times, it’s the inability of the mind to understand the impermanence of the things what causes most of the damage. Depression doesn’t last forever, it presents in cycles—more acute periods lasting months—but at the end—like in the roller coaster—we have to go up. But, it’s in the downs that suicide thoughts lurk our mind.
Suicide—jumping from the moving rollercoaster—is a way to put an end to depression?
I don’t think so. Why I’m so sure?
Well, regardless of the religion or beliefs you have, death is like going to sleep—if you die sleeping your transition will be seamless—, but multiplied seven times.
Have you ever had a bad day at the office and go to bed and in your restless dream revise the subject endless times? Sometimes you might find and answer—A-ha! Moment—, and sometimes—most of the times actually—you don’t. So if in the moment of your death, you have thoughts of failure, shame, hate, etc. towards yourself and refuse existence… I’m afraid to tell you that is what your dream will be about. If you are a religious person: I want to ask you, how many times do you dream about your God? Because that can be a good forecast to predict if you are going to see him in the case you kill yourself—and if your answer is very often, do you think he will be of good mood? Odds are that you will see your beloved ones suffering by your fault—depicted feelings of guilt generated by the mind even that the opposite occurs in real life.
Everybody is master of their own fate, and that includes choosing suicide. Some people call them selfish, because of the pain generated to the family, but in the same way I have witnessed families having their clinical dead relatives in ICU fueled by the same selfishness act of not letting them go—it’s easy to point the finger in that subject.
At the end everybody dies. Yesterday, Robin Williams killed himself, or in another scenario could have been ten years later by Parkinson. Some battles seem painless than others, but if we can’t choose our battles, at least we can choose how to face them.
I was able to arrive in the weakest moment of my friend’s will, and now looking back, the episode that seemed the darkest in his life, it’s actually gray.
Robin is now struggling to free himself of his demons in the hereafter—not in the literal sense of the word—, and personally hope that his desire for cherish life will overcome. Like him, we need to understand that no one can set us free, if not ourselves. Because we are who place the shackles around our wrists. And if you choose to fight for it, it’s easier to endure the battle here than in the hereafter (remember the dream analogy.)
Finally, I hope that for everyone outside, living the weakest moment in life, always could be someone knocking at the door…
M. Ch. Landa