11 years ago, when I was 12, I sat down with my dad and told him that I wanted to commit suicide. I knew something was wrong but I didn’t know enough words to properly describe it. I knew that I was feeling something that the other kids my age weren’t. But that was the problem. I knew I was feeling something but I didn’t know what that feeling was. In fact, as I got older, I learned that what I was feeling was nothing. And this “nothing” is not something a kid knows or understands. They just know that it sucks. They know enough to grasp that no one else would understand it because they don’t even understand it.
My dad didn’t ask me why I felt that way. He didn’t ask me if I was getting bullied or if something happened at school. Instead, he began to tell me of the day when I was born and how he would hold me against his chest every night because that would be the only way he could get me to fall asleep. I understood a little of why he answered me in the way he did. He was obviously hurt that the baby girl he carried home all those years ago - the baby he and my mother bought into this world - now decided she longer wanted to be a part of this world. It was shocking. I agree. Any parent would be devastated and not know the first thing to say.
I don’t quite remember how that conversation ended however, the next morning my mother had this to say to me: “How could you say that to him? How could you do that to him?” Not, “Why are you having suicidal thoughts before you even started puberty.” Not, “Do you want to talk about this?” But, “What made you say those words to your father?”
Now my parents are not monsters. They love me very much. Nonetheless, they grew up in a culture where mental illness was and still continues to be a taboo. A child with suicidal thoughts was a sick child. A diseased child. A crazy child who will grow up into a crazy adult. My parents didn’t know any better. When I was 12, mental illness was barely scratching the surface even in Calgary! My parents didn’t have the knowledge or the information behind mental illness. Unfortunately, they still don’t.
In their minds, same as many others who think similarly, people have depression if and only if something terrible happened to them. However, that is not always the case. Depression is not just about trauma, death of loved ones, hurtful break ups. Depression is feeling lost when you are at home. It’s trying to find answers to questions you don’t know. It’s that constant emptiness that’s so empty that it becomes your heaviest burden. You might feel like each day you’re trying to climb a mountain without a rope but the other problem is, that mountain never seems to end. You either keep going for a destination that may never come or you let go. Depression is when you are existing instead of living. And yet, depression is the most difficult illness to explain because how do you explain something that doesn’t make any sense? How do you even begin to start your story when there was never a beginning? Just an endless circle.
To all the parents out there, if your kid goes up to you and tells you that they are depressed, don’t laugh at them and shove it off as some silly phase. Because what is so silly about a kid trying to tell you he or she stopped feeling happy? What is silly about a young person telling you that they want to kill themself? Take your kids seriously because otherwise, they will never learn to take themselves seriously.
Years later I realized I may have had suicidal ideation but I would never have acted on it. My parents acted as if nothing had happened. Life went back to normal. Except for the fact that I began experiencing depression and had absolutely nowhere to turn. Not until I was a full adult anyway and learned about something called psychology and people who make a living from helping you with mental illness. But no one should have to wait that long. In fact, no one should have to wait at all. Especially if their life is at risk and a minute too long could mean a minute too late.
Anyone young or old, if you have depression, keep in mind this one quote that I read that always helps me get through another day: “Suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem.”
Take care. Stay safe.