Today in Ottawa we are celebrating the life of a young girl that few of of us knew and trying to understand why a fourteen year old would take her own life with no warning and apparently no reason.
At first I questioned the decision to have a public memorial, not sure that her family was involved, but it has become apparent that they are trying to use the tragedy of their daughter’s death as an example . I am amazed by the Richardsons, both as a mother who can’t imagine losing her daughter by her own hand, and as a former suicidal teenager.
This morning on a local breakfast show they were talking about what signs people can look for to recognize depression, so I thought I might share the signs that I have learned to recognize in myself, and how I know it’s time to ask for help:
- I lose my appetite almost completely. I don’t eat meals and when I do I don’t eat much of them.
- I don’t sleep. I won’t go to bed until I absolutely can’t keep my eyes open and once I do go to sleep it will be some time before I get up again. I spend a lot of time in bed doing nothing. Most often I start getting my days and nights reversed.
- I am very bored but won’t do anything with myself, actually can’t think of anything to do to occupy myself, so I just lie there. Even when other people come up with suggestions I usually hem and haw about having to get dressed.
- I cry, a lot. Usually when there’s no one around to see me. I remember a very specific occasion when I was a recent graduate, unemployed and living back at home, collapsing on to the kitchen floor and weeping, feeling completely useless.
- I fight a voice in my head that tells me everything bad about myself. I have, honestly, had screaming fights with this voice that tells me that I’m just not good enough, not smart enough, that I’m the problem, and sometimes the voice wins. This is the voice that starts to tell me that everyone would be better off if they didn’t have to worry about me.
The biggest thing that I remember is that my mother didn’t see it. Or maybe she saw it but didn’t realize how bad it was. But my father knew.
One day after my sister and I had dinner at his house my father asked me point blank how long it had been since the last time I thought about killing myself.
He also told me that if I didn’t tell my mother he would.
And that’s when I went to my doctor and was prescribed anti-depressants for the first time.
It is an ongoing battle. I have been on and off the pills since I was 17. I have had low points since then, but because I sought help, because I was pushed to seek help, I was treated, I’ve had some great experiences. I’m married to a wonderful man who still deals with my highs and lows, I have a beautiful daughter and my midwives and my doctor watched me for signs of postpartum depression – which I am still dealing with.
I hope that if my daughter faces depression when she’s a teenager I will see it, and I hope that I will be able to explain that it does get better. High school can be the darkest point in your life, but you escape it and you grow.