Mental health is currently vogue in politics. Perhaps it’s because of the large suicide numbers recorded during COVID-19 and the others we may have missed.
There is a destructive gene in my family that combines major depression with general anxiety disorder. There are millions of families like mine. Unlike people with epilepsy or cerebral palsy, we display no physical symptoms.
There are many strains of this disease. I will share my experience and why people like me may choose suicide.
Ironically, most major belief systems or religions promise a better life after this one, so logic would assume that if we are miserable, death is the answer. Extreme cases like mine often view life and death differently than others. I am a member of the Final Exit Network and believe in the right to die for adults capable of making that decision. Family and close friends are aware of this, and my legal paperwork reflects my wishes.
My earliest memories of wanting to die started in late grade school and intensified during ages 13 through 21. The home I was raised in did not include two happily married people, and that is always a negative for folks like me. I loved my low-income, working-class neighborhood and my friends, but looking back, I know there was alcoholism, domestic abuse, and some poverty around me. It seemed natural to me, sad at times for those suffering, but I never had a feeling of not being safe.
When depression lies heavily on me, it feels like a large, weighty velvet curtain falling off a rod and knocking me to the ground, suffocating me. There is no one near who can help. It doesn’t seem important to try to lift the weight and live. It seems easier and more inviting to simply lay down until my breath is gone. Death is a calming invitation; it’s not a threat to people like me.
Folks ask, “Is there a ‘trigger’ that sets us off?” That is a simple way to explain it. If we are in a deep depression, the push we feel to die can come from someone who shames us, from being unreasonably judged or cast out, or from a friend who betrays us.
I spent most of 2020 with weekly suicidal thoughts and am lucky to be alive. I am on medication and am happily married; I have friends close by. The COVID-19-recommended isolation would have killed me if I lived alone. The media circus of the election brought to me constant headaches and physical tremors that I could not control. It also caused a pre-ulcer condition in my stomach. It was a struggle to want to live.
I have had excellent primary doctors along the way and several wonderful therapists who have aided me in living this long. I am 71. But the day will come when I am done with this life.
I know that living with someone like me can be a challenge. If anyone reading this is sincerely interested in discussing this disease, you may call me at 218-625-8292. It is not my intent to expose myself to readers who may judge me or wish to “save me,” but I am eager to help if I can.
Nancy Lanthier Carroll of Duluth is a freelance writer and editor.