Weathering the Storm of Depression

Jacob Jardel
Voices Editor
@JJardel_Writing

“There’s no light anywhere and nothing left to burn.”

This line comes from the end of the second verse to “Autoclave,” a song from indie folk band The Mountain Goats. Lead singer and primary songwriter John Darnielle explained that the song itself comes from personal reading about an organism that thrives in a situation fatal to other life forms.

“This got me to thinking about people whose hearts involuntarily pulverize any good feelings that come within a city block of them,” he said in the song’s description.

The rest of the lyrics fit in with this theme of desolation and instability. As a whole, the song acts as a very telling – and very real – story of what it’s like to live with depression.

Many other tracks in The Mountain Goats’ library address similar themes of despair and isolation. That’s the biggest reason I took to the band’s music during some of my biggest depressive breakdowns in my life.

September is Suicide Prevention Awareness Month. For many, it’s another month to take into account a faraway malady that affects a population of individuals in this country. For others, it’s a time to remember a late family member or friend who died from suicide.

For still others, like me, it’s a reminder of where we were and how far we’ve come.

My story with suicide started as far back as high school, where depression and mental illness were just part of the culture of my friend group.

Alongside the angst that comes with adolescence and emerging adulthood, many of us had a variety of other things in our life that seemed insurmountable at the time. Breakups, parental divorces, family emergencies and a cavalcade of other personal crises compounded with the storm and stress of high school to make for a group of friends who either self-harmed or contemplated similar behavior.

I never really did any of that. But I was around it enough to know what it was when I had a couple of friends who attempted suicide since we graduated.
Yet when I was going through my depressive breaks, I had no idea I was going through it until I finished my bachelor’s degree.

It all came to a head early in my Master’s degree track, particularly one night while I was still trying to finish up some work on the newspaper. It was some time in the late night/early morning while layout was still happening. Small misfortunes piled on top of each other until I finally broke. I took a walk. I went fetal in the back seat of my car. I stopped myself from doing anything that could have abated these thoughts and feelings because it felt like there was no point.

I barely made it through that night because I had never felt so alone.

I had a long talk with my mother the next day which equally helped and worsened what I was feeling. By the end of it, I couldn’t stand the thought of being or feeling alone when I went to sleep. So I stayed with some friends in town before visiting my best friend in Missouri during one of our breaks.

I came home feeling different. I knew what I needed to do. I needed to have some real talks with my counselor and get to the root of what was going on with everything.

Today, things aren’t nearly as bad. Years of personal work changed that. The depression isn’t gone – frankly, it will never be fully gone. But working through it helped weather the storm. It played an integral part in getting me to the point where I feel like a semi-functioning human once again.

But this column isn’t about me. It’s about those of us who still struggle with depression and suicidal thoughts. It’s about people close to me and people I’ve never met.

It’s about anyone who has ever dealt with the tumultuous circumstances of depression.

Recently, colleague Savanna Sanders hosted an episode of her CUTV show “Savanna Says” about the topic of suicide awareness. She opened up about the unfortunate passing of her cousin by way of suicide and how she has since asked herself questions of “what if” regarding the situation. In the end, the main conclusion is that the best way to avoid anybody’s “what ifs” with “hows.”

“The most important part of suicide prevention is talking about it,” Sanders said. “Too many people are afraid to open up when they’re in a dark place or when they know of someone who is.”

There is a fog that comes along whenever the topics of suicide and depression arise in conversation. Stigmas about mental health and constant utterances of “just get over it” make for an even cloudier outlook when someone reaches out for help. Even encouragement can seem like a hindrance, with genuine sentiment sounding trite and frankly insincere.

All of these reactions have one common root: misunderstanding of how depression works and affects those suffering from it.

It’s not something someone controls at a whim, nor is it working on a binary on/off mechanism. Different forms come in diverse styles.

But the best way to get to a point of understanding is to bring up that conversation. It will be difficult. But if you provide a safe space for yourself or for someone going through the depression, it will continue a trend Sanders urges everyone to progress.

“I miss my cousin everyday,” she said. “But I keep going. I keep listening. I keep talking.

“Let someone know you’re there for them. If you’re the one struggling, let someone know you need help.

“Continue the conversation this month and every day after that.”

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