Suicide means different things to different people. It is always a tragic loss. It can be an annoying thought at the back of your brain. Sometimes it's a romanticised story. For me, the suicidal thoughts/depression tag team is the killer of a friend and a visitor who comes to stay in my brain occasionally.
For a long time, I was stuck flipping back and forth between two states of existence. When my depression lifted, it was an appreciated breath of fresh air where everything was literally brighter. When the tag team settled in, I was completely alone in a comfortable and warm dark cavern. I never knew which of these realities were true. Was depression opening my eyes to the truth, or constantly feeding lies to me? On the worst days, being asleep was better than being awake.
A lot of people don't realise how comfortable depression is when you've been in it for such a long time. It is kind of similar to how a great but really awful song from your childhood is comforting. It's so familiar and predictable. You know all the words by heart. After a few years, it is easy for depression to become a core part of your identity. It makes it harder to commit to recovery when it means reconstructing who you are.
That's not to say it is not hell, because it is. It's just a confusing sort of hell.
There is no right way to be depressed.
There are actually quite a lot of misconceptions about suicide. For many people, the face of suicide is a teenage girl. However, for every woman who dies by suicide, three men do. Men over 85 have the highest rates of suicide followed by middle-aged men. And not everyone who dies by suicide has a mental illness. Financial stress and divorce are other common factors. When situations feel inescapable, it is easy to feel like suicide is the only solution.
It is important to know that the tag team affects everyone differently, and some people won't look the way you might imagine. There is no right way to be depressed. It can be someone who doesn't leave bed and disengages from all activities, and it can be someone who is very involved in their community and is juggling many different things at once. The people who seem like they 'have it all' can be the ones who slip through the cracks.
And for those who might have the tag team playing with their brain now, try to remember it gets better.
Depression and suicidal thoughts allow for a cycle of isolation, but for someone in your life, you might be the one who can break that.
I used to hate it when people said that to me. All those little lines that doctors and psychologists and parents and friends would repeat over and over again... they meant absolutely nothing to me. It's only now that I'm out the other side that I know they are true. There is nothing that makes me happier than to be on this side and to be able to tell you that it does, indeed, get better. The process is slow, probably much slower than you thought it would be. It's been five years since it started for me, and the tag team still shows up from time to time, but it's not a big deal anymore. I know how to talk about it, and I know what I can do so they quiet to a whisper.
And one last misconception for you. Talking about suicide with someone you're worried about won't put the idea in their head. Being able to talk about it out loud takes the power away from the thoughts, which are so very powerful. It is a relief to know that someone else knows and cares enough to ask. Depression and suicidal thoughts allow for a cycle of isolation, but for someone in your life, you might be the one who can break that.
Most of the time, people who die by suicide don't want to actually die. They just don't want to be alive, and there is a huge difference.
Lifeline is exploring Australia's suicide emergency with business and community leaders. The #StopSuicideSummit was held on May 1 in partnership with HuffPost Australia and Twitter.
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