I Almost Died Last Year

…and the only people who would have not been surprised were my spouse and my therapist.

Why am I writing about this?

Because until I found myself at my lowest, I truly did not understand what people meant by “check on your strong friends.” I thought I did. I really thought I knew what that meant, and I really thought I was aware of those around me enough to sense if a friend was in dire need.

Turns out, it’s different when it’s you.

Suddenly, I realized that me asking a friend if they were okay wasn’t enough. Don’t get me wrong, it’s definitely better than ignoring the problem and it does show that you care. But if you ask that question in the middle of car line or the grocery aisle, someone who is in the throws of suicidal depression isn’t exactly going to open up right then and there, and for good reason.

We need a safe space. Space without little ears, without strangers, to tell you exactly what is going on. Even then, though, it might take a long time before we say the words out loud. Months, years, even. Or never at all.

You aren’t the issue, you aren’t the reason we’re not opening up when you ask. It’s the setting, and it’s the taboo nature of the topic.

Calling me randomly to check on me — I love that. It really does show that you see me and you know I’m struggling. But if I’m in the middle of cooking dinner or doing math homework, I can’t really confide in you about how my brain keeps telling me my kids would be better off without me in that moment.

How would you know it’s not a good time to call, you ask? You wouldn’t. That’s not on you to predict the “right” time. But please, call again. Call me again and ask if it’s a good time to talk.

Please call me and ask me if I’ve been taking those walks we talked about.

Please call me and ask how therapy went, and if I say I didn’t go, please ask me when I plan to go next.

Please call me and invite me over to sit on your couch, or for you to sit on mine.

Please don’t think you’re reading into it. If you suspect depression to the point of suicidal ideation/intention, then it’s there. We’re just really good at masking it so we can get through the day.

And that’s the thing, isn’t it? We’re masters at pretending everything is okay. Especially mothers battling depression; we have to be okay. If we’re not okay, then our children aren’t okay, and we won’t allow that. A noble idea, but in reality, pretending we’re okay doesn’t actually make anything okay, does it?

Which is why no one in my circle knew how close I was to ending my life last year. From the outside, it looked like I should have been okay. I started a new job in a career I really love, I returned to work full time for the first time since becoming a mom, I was in weekly therapy and I openly spoke about my traumas in order to help others. Friends and family sought my advice on how to manage boundaries and relationships and parenting — you name it, it was brought to me. And I treasured the intimacy and trust required in each of those conversations.

I felt loved, I felt needed, I felt important. I felt like I mattered.

And still, I didn’t feel worthy of living.

I recognize that doesn’t make sense to someone who has never experienced it before. Please understand, it doesn’t make sense because depression is a disorder of the brain.

My brain is disordered.

My depression was caused by horrific childhood trauma that I chose to face head-on last year and the year before that, and I guess it was too much for my brain to handle all at once. I didn’t tell anyone in my circle what I was doing, really, because I didn’t know what I was doing. I just knew it hurt like hell, and no one around me could really understand the depth of that emptiness. And no one could fill it for me.

I still feel that way, but now that I’ve been actively treating my depression with a combination of medication and therapy, I can handle those feelings without wanting to die — usually.

All this to say, check on your friends. All of them. If you suspect something is very wrong, but from the outside, nothing appears wrong, I encourage you to gently prod a bit deeper. I encourage you to hold space for your friend, for however long it takes for them to feel safe enough to speak.

If a friend has never given you a reason to suspect anything is amiss but you know they’re currently enduring/facing traumatic life events, please check on them. I’m not saying you should be worried — I’m saying let them know you have space for them and their experiences. That their trauma isn’t too much for you to hear. That you not only can but want to support them. With that type of support, suicidal tendencies don’t occur as often, and if they do, your friend knows they have a safe space with you.

I’m still here because my spouse never stopped asking me if I was okay every night after the kids fell asleep, when I could honestly answer the question. At the worst of it, he asked me multiple times a day while they were in school and he was at work. Every ask was an opportunity for me to say, “no, I’m not okay, and I need help.”

But I didn’t provide that truthful answer the first time. Nor the second. Not even the third. It took months before I said it out loud.

So please, keep asking. You just might save someone’s life.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here