In my post yesterday I made a throw away comment about how I use suicidal thoughts to gauge my depression. I realized long after writing that that most people would have no idea what I meant. So let me explain, from the beginning.
Considering how little the general public seems to understand depression, despite its prevalence, I suspect that most people who don't suffer from it don't realize that depression is something that one can be suffering through without even realizing it. Even a person who has been diagnosed with clinical depression can be suffering through an episode and not realize it.
Depression usually sneaks up slowly, and can hide in the form of fatigue and disinterest. Frequently it is friends and family who are the first to notice the depression, but when they offer their diagnosis, it is met with disdain. After all, wouldn't the person who is depressed know it?
No, no they wouldn't. Depression is an imbalance of brain chemistry. It not only impacts your mood, your sleep, your concentration, your appetite, your temper, your social relationships and your addictions, but it also impacts your perceptions; you can't tell you are depressed because you are depressed.
I went through a severe depression while I was in high school. Despite being an honours student in grade 10 I failed most of my courses in grade 11 (the few I passed were largely because I switch from IB to regular stream mid-year, and that made things very easy on me). I withdrew from school, and eventually from my friends. I am probably alive today because of the school recognizing what was going on and my mother doing everything she could to get me help.
You might think that with so many clues I must have realized something was wrong, but if you did you would be wrong.
Not only did I not realize what was going on while it was happening, but I didn't realize it till I was in my 30s. When I looked back at my high schools years (during my 20s) I saw myself as a failure, and thought of my suicidal state of mind as no big deal. After all I reasoned, I didn't have any specific plans to kill myself, it was just daily musings about how the world would be better without me.
But then Robbie was born. My father committed suicide, I can't do that to him. Unfortunately, its not as simple as deciding not to do it. Depression will blind your reason. I needed a way to protect me for him.
In time I would come to understand that the musings I was having about suicide when I was 16 weren't really that different than the plans (and eventual attempt) I had at 23. Healthy people don't spend time thinking about suicide; when I realized this is when I realized that I need to seek help immediately if I have a suicidal thought.
Unfortunately, by the time I am having suicidal thoughts I am probably well into a depression. But at least so far I have been able to force myself to seek help every time they have come around. After all, while a depression may be well underway by the time that suicide creeps in, it is far from rock bottom.
And that is what I meant by using suicidal thoughts as a gauge. In a way, suicidal thoughts save me from suicide.