Being depressed and suicidal can become a habit
Whenever I feel the need to engage in death-worship, there’s always a church.
With relentless, indifferent cruelty, the commercial dynamics of the Internet has fostered the development of countless niche sites for venting dark feelings. I can visit TheMighty.com, or MyDepression.com or even come here and lay it all out. There’s not just an app for that; there are dozens, each with their own community.
Boy, I would have loved all of this when I was a freaked-out teenager. Me and my few friends would talk about the depths of our emotions non-stop and dwell solemnly on the emotional dangers we faced. It felt right. Somehow, telling each other that we were at death’s door was a way of taking ourselves seriously.
When my teenage crush Alec ended up in a psych ward with deeply slashed wrists, I was still a novice in the world of crushing moods. So I was shocked. But the waves of sadness, fear and nausea, even then, were mixed with an odd exhilaration. Even a bit of awe. Somehow, Alec had managed to convince the world that we were serious about our suffering, and the palpable risk he took seemed almost noble. (I recently learned that he died several years ago after a stay in hospice which, though hardly a pleasant ending probably offered more dignity than ending your own life due to sadness, self-loathing or frustration.)
Now that I’m an adult with kids of my own, and I’d like to think that they don’t marinate in melancholy or scream silently to be heard. My college-aged son seems to have some dark moments, but he vents, vows anarchy and grumbles often. Perhaps he’s healthier than me. Dear Lord, I hope so.
Meanwhile, the world hasn’t changed much where feelings are concerned, and the endless parade of social media posts and websites amp it all up further. As always, it’s full of little corners where people who are struggling congregate. While such things didn’t always have names, there’s always been depression and anxiety and PTSD and substance abuse and domestic violence.
Without a doubt, sharing some of the misery can drain it almost completely away at times.
I’m glad that people now have access to SuperBetter app and Inspire.com. I really truly appreciate that I can share my struggles with chronic pain in a Facebook group and be straight-up as suicidal as I need to be on MyDepression.
But I keep asking myself whether visiting sites that thrive on mental collapse is therapeutic or harmful. Visiting with other suffers can create a terrible feedback loop that starts when you identify too strongly with what hurts.
Maybe I’m being too hard on the groups, or myself, but in a strange way being in despair makes you something of a hero. To some degree it’s justified — when you’re fighting for good depression treatment it’s usually a battle — but for me, at least, it can be dangerous to identify too much with the struggle.
We’re struggling, it’s true. We’re exquisitely sensitive and troubled and sometimes “lights out” sounds oh so good. For me, though, I don’t want to read only from the book of the damned. Let this writing be my testimony; I want to save myself.