09 November 2010

Day 227: The Amber Spyglass

The Amber Spyglass by Philip Pullman.  ISBN: 9780375846731.

Some of the characters (I won't say who or why to avoid spoilers) visit the "suburb of the dead."  In this world, people can see their deaths and consider them companions.  They like having them close and always knowing that they are there.  This is obviously a strange and nearly abhorrent idea for most people in our world, since we spend so much of our lives not wanting to die.  But I think people like me can understand it.

For those of you who don't know, I suffer from a mild case of depression which gets kicked up to a less than mild case of depression during times of extreme stress (like being unemployed) or difficult times of the year (such as the anniversary of my room mate's death).  The truth is, I find a great deal of comfort in knowing that my death is nearby.  I also find comfort in knowing that I could easily reach out and grab its hand and just be done with it.  In fact, having that comfort is the only thing that keeps me going some days.  On particularly bad days I will say to myself, "Today is a bad day, and if tomorrow is a bad day and the day after that and the day after that is a bad day, I can have no more days."

Some of you who are shaking your head and saying the ever-so-popular "suicide is a permanent solution" line, I have something to say about that.  Sometimes death is the only solution and the only reason you say that line is because you do not fully understand what people with truly debilitating mental illness are going through.  Even as a mild sufferer there is always a looming worry that I will once again be caught up in a bout of depression, and there is always a fear that it will be deeper and darker and last longer than the one before it.

People who are unfortunate enough to have much more severe cases of depression than mine also have to worry about when their medical cocktails don't work anymore.  I am not talking about people who are on a small dose of Zoloft for their postpartum or because Dad passed away, I am talking about people who have to be medicated and have been medicated ever since they were diagnosed.  I think it is more difficult for them because, sure, they feel good now, but what about next year?  They know bad times are coming again and sometimes there's that urge to go out when you're on top of your game, when you feel good, knowing that you will at least die happy.

These are obviously things that I have thought about at my most depressed.  I don't regret continuing to live, but on some level I do wonder if maybe it would have been the right thing to do.  There are certainly people who care about me in this world, and I would feel bad about leaving them behind, but if it came to a point where I was in so much emotional anguish and pain that I could not stand it anymore and could not conceive a way out for myself, even with the support of my family and friends and doctors and medicine, I would hope that the people closest to me would have the compassion to forgive me and realize that it really was the only way out for me.

I am happy to say that I am not currently depressed.  My life is going pretty well and I'm doing creative things while job hunting.  In fact I try not to think about the job hunting part at all if I can help it, because not thinking about does help to some degree.  If you are concerned about me, please don't be, I have no intention of committing suicide and I doubt that I would be able to go through with it even if I did.  I am not currently medicated and I am about 95% sure that I am afflicted enough for it to actually be helpful.

I'm not advocating suicide.  Not at.  But I do think it is and should be recognized as a last option for people who have long term illnesses, and mental illness in most cases is a lifelong illness.  I think if we openly recognize it as an option, it will remove the stigma of saying, "I want to die and I need help so that I don't want to die."  Telling people that they are weak and taking the coward's way out for wanting to die, does the exact opposite of preventing deaths and does absolutely nothing to relieve the anguish associated with the disease. 

A fabulous summary of the book is over at Book Dweeb and a micro-review over at Books for Breakfast.

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