I wrote the following letter as a response to a conversation with a friend I have known since college. She wondered why I used the term “death thoughts” in my writing. But I wanted to publish it for all of the people closest to me, who have never seen me wail from the hollow place in my heart or throw things across the room in rage of this illness. I am writing it for my friends and relatives who wonder why I choose the words I do, if I’m exercising a creative license to keep a reader’s attention. This year my purpose has been made clear—to help people who are tormented by constant death thoughts, just as I am. This will mean rejection from those closest to me who cannot understand what I mean or why I would disclose such ugliness to the public. But it also means I have tapped into the freedom to do what I was born to do.
Thank you for being honest the other day when you told me that you found the words “death thoughts” in my writing to be jarring, that they make you want to stop reading, that they make you think I am different from you, like a Rain Man sort of character.
I appreciate your honesty because I think a lot of people feel that way but never tell me.
I spent some time thinking about how I could soften the phrase “death thoughts,” but there was no way around the reality that I think about death when I am depressed, about ways I can get cancer, or accidents that I can stage, or just calculate over and over again the average lifespans of relatives from both sides of my family to come up with the number of hours that I have to hang in there for.
Thank You, again. I totally know what you are saying, and don’t find the words death thoughts jarring at all. They are a softer version of the reality, in my opinion. And are not trigger activating, for me anyway. The stronger more blunt word is trigger activating for me, so am grateful these are the words you use:) Your articles are so helpful. Thank You!
I am right there with you. I just put 2 and 2 together last week when this was going on with me. Never thought about the anxiety thing, ended up toking med’s. my oil’s where not working. The Ativan helped but i do not want to use them for every little thing. Addiction is in my past.
Oh, how I wish someone would find a cure, a permanent cure. Thanks for being brave enough to share your raw moments and best wishes to you Therese.
You need not prove anything to me, and I submit, nor to anyone in GBB. As truly painful as it is to read your letter and hear and see you talk about a bad day, this brief glimpse of your suffering is simultaneously, ironically and strangely comforting – as are all of your writings – as if you are speaking out for and on behalf of me, as well as to me, sharing our miseries. Yet you speak more clearly, and with more knowledge, authority, and courage.
“Dear Lord, if this is how You treat Your friends, it is no wonder You have so few!”
~ Quote attributed to St. Teresa of Avila, as she was bucked off her horse into a river (according to one version) on the way to visit one of her monasteries.
I’ve heard it said that each of the saints suffered, many of them horribly, and most exhibited grievous failings. Although not everyone who suffers or faults is saintly, your experiences and expressions of pain and personal misgivings, along with your passion and vocation, leave no doubt, in my view, that you are a living saint.
Thank you for the ability to write exactly what I have been thinking and feeling for several years but have never been able to put into words.
I found your blog, yesterday, in a effort to understand why, after 20 years, I still suffer from death thoughts–both passive (wishing for accidents to occur) and active (having formed plans in mind). I’m about to be 31 next month and have lived with these ideations, and acted upon them a few times, since I was 10. It’s been a miserable existence and a heavy burden to bear.
I met with my therapist yesterday, and for the first time ever, I did not feel a sense of panic when speaking about how my ideations have yet to resolve. I am mentally exhausted having to battle them in almost every moment of my waking hours. I am, at this point, ready to face them head on. I have always been afraid of taking medication, for fear of becoming dependent upon them, or going inpatient, for fear of what others would think of me, but if I don’t take drastic measures in treatment for my mood disorders, I will lose the three people in my life that I love most–my husband and my two toddlers. None of them asked for a wife and mother that cycles into and out of depression, and who is, at this point, only a shell of her former self.
I have never liked speaking with others in my life, even to my husband or therapist, about the ruminating death thoughts that offer me tantalizing deals of reprieve, all-the-while masking the true cost of their solace. I’ve only ever felt safe enough to breakdown in complete solitude–in my closet, car, or locked bathroom. After years of stuffing down my overwhelming sadness, I am no longer able to access it at a time when I need it most. I have placed in its spot intense rage that surfaces quickly and uncontrollably explodes out of me. I know that being able to fully and properly access (in the safety of therapy) my sadness again could potentially be the start of healing that I so desperately need. I no longer wish to don the scarlet letter of shame that accompanies my mental illness.
Your letter to your friend is the perfect way of expressing the anguish that I feel to those that do not deal with severe depression, and the demons that accompany it. I also have to wholeheartedly agree with you when you say, “The most difficult thing I will ever do in my lifetime is to not take my life.” Those words ring true for me! Thank you, for everything you are doing to try to end the stigma surrounding mental illness, and for all that you have done to let me know that having death thoughts doesn’t mean I am defective.
Therese-You are so brave. You have been honest and so helpful in your articles. I understand the death thoughts. I just discovered in the last few years that not everyone has these thoughts. I thought they were just part of the human condition. Continue to inspire people. Because of your blogs, I find it easier to share about the depression I’ve experienced for the last 44 years. Joy
Your video really moved me. Thank you so much for being willing to give of yourself to help others even when it seems you don’t have anything left to give. That took so much strength and I felt your pain. I was finally diagnosed correctly with Bipolar Disorder this past summer after years and years of suffering and years and years of incorrect diagnoses and years and years of taking medications that in my particular case were making the condition worse. People should know that this is a very painful, chronic disease. Thank you again for sharing and trying to enlighten others. You’re a wonderful person.
Thank you, Cheryl.
Thank you so much for putting into words how I have felt most of my adult life. I will be reading everything you write and post. You have save my life. I know I am not alone.