Depression does not discriminate based on gender or race or occupation or how much money is in the bank. Depression is not restricted to the homeless, the poor, the gay, the divorced, or any other label that is frequently bestowed upon us by society in a derogatory fashion. It can strike any of us at any time. And when it does, it knocks us for six. It’s just as paralysing as any broken limb or virus, only its worse. Why is it worse? Because no one sees it but you. No one feels the pain you’re going through, but you. And society won’t cut you slack even for a minute. Doesn’t that tell you that we’re doing things wrong? Doesn’t that tell you that we need to fight for change?
Chris Cornell’s recent and heart-breaking suicide was one of many that sweep our globe every year. It was a death of desperation. In his final moments, we will never know if he was sick of the pressing numbness or the crushing pain, but my guess is that he was in limbo between the two. He was a voice of reason and understanding to millions, but entirely alone all at the same time, when it mattered most.
I may not be famous, but I know a thing or two about living my days seeing no way out other than through death’s door. I suffered with depression for almost 3 years and it was crippling. But like anyone that made it out the other side, I feel a responsibility at my core to fight for an ecosystem – a society – that helps those who can’t yet help themselves.
If you’ve never been depressed, you are incredibly lucky and I hope from the bottom of my heart that you never have to experience it. But it will also make my job more difficult as I try to explain to you what it feels like. The best way I can describe it is that depression is a bit like lying in the fetal position under the surface of a murky swamp. You are paralysed and can see through the turbid water that there’s some sort of party happening over at the end of the jetty on the water’s edge. It looks like people are having fun, although you can’t see very clearly with the layer of scum above your head. You can’t move. You can’t feel what the party-people are feeling. You’re simply stuck beneath the surface trying every moment to find a way to breathe so you don’t drown. You’re simultaneously hoping that you do drown. You toy with the idea that you do. If the dark depths of the swamp can envelope you, they can put you out of your misery once and for all.
You see, depression is this combination of so desperately wanting happiness, whilst having not the faintest idea of how to get it. But it’s worse; there’s not an ounce of drive or determination within your bones to try to figure out how to get it. You are essentially trapped and stagnant and suffering in the hopelessness of it all. And the worst thing about it? Living in a society that gives no time or help to anyone in the pond. God forbid we even utter the D word for the fear of causing any kind of uncomfortable reaction in others. God forbid.
Cornell hanged himself hours after playing a show to fans and this is what shocked us most. How could we not have seen it coming? Only, this is the problem. Depression causes dissociation. Deep pain hurts us. And our need to survive means that we do what we can to cope with that pain. Talking about it is the difficult thing to do. So instead, we compartmentalise it. We let the pain become buried somewhere so deep within us that the outside world doesn’t even know it’s there. We keep doing life; we go to work, we run errands, we pay bills, but flashes – or ‘triggers’ – take us back to that pain. And they become more and more frequent and jolting until we can’t cope with them anymore. When desperation strikes and we feel that powerless, it’s too overwhelming and impossible to see any way of things working out for the better. It’s much easier to put an end to it all.
So the truth is that no one could see this coming, except him. And maybe not even him. Perhaps that last show caused tipping point. We’ll never know. And the fact that there are whisperings of his decision as being selfish infuriates me. Being in a state of depression is one of ultimate self-loathing. We don’t see any worth in ourselves, any point of us continuing to do life. We feel desperately isolated and alone and suicide is a way of putting the pain to bed for good.
I am thankful that my body, the universe, or whatever else pushed me to seek therapy as a form of coping with depression. My belief is that being listened to – even if the therapist doesn’t offer practical solutions – is the best cure for depression. We are in this current society where everyone is the CEO of their own lives. Everyone wants to feel important and put themselves first and in truth it’s a lonely collective. Loneliness is a plague that has infiltrated every corner of the planet. Our lives revolve around relationships and we seem to have forgotten this somewhere along the way. Without connection and genuine, loving, relationships, there is no point in life. That’s the absolute truth. You can have all the riches of the world, but without someone to share it with, they’re worthless. So why aren’t we listening to and supporting each other?
Obviously I can’t speak for the world, but I can speak for England. We have created this disgusting, unconscious society that has its priorities totally out of whack. And the United States was the same when I lived there and it’s only getting worse. What the fuck are we doing? We are intelligent, incredibly creative, wonderful creatures that have enormous, complicated brains. If their health isn’t up to scratch, everything else suffers negative consequences in a direct chain reaction. We’re telling our children that their priority is to get good grades, rather than to be kind to one other. We’re telling our graduates that their priority is to get a well-paid job, not to use their skills to improve society. And we keep letting the wrong kinds of people run our country, feed us lies and make decisions that mean our certain failure.
We are the people of this planet and we’re unhappy and suffering in silence. If we don’t prioritise our wellbeing, there is absolutely no point in spending time or resources on any other embellishment. If our people can’t function, can’t communicate or trust in one another or be free to flourish and express themselves, what good are we? When I was depressed, I ate, work and slept. I was a robot, though one much less efficient than an artificial alternative would have been. The magnificent thing about being human is that we can feel and we appreciate beauty and we create. Those of us who are struggling with our mental health cannot do those things. The pain is just too much. So it’s really quite simple: fight for a society where putting our health first is prioritised. Privatising our health care system is going to do the exact opposite of that. And that is what a Conservative government believes in. If you vote Conservative, you are voting to give aid to those that don’t need help and disregarding the millions that do. Think about it.
I know you feel small and unimportant, but the truth is that you are a human being and citizen of this country just like anyone else who has a fancier title or bigger house or more notes in their wallet. You count just as much as they do. And your talents should be harnessed, because you are full of them in ways that no one else will ever have. I can’t tell you who to vote for, but I can encourage you to fight for our mental health. We need empathy and compassion now, more than ever. I’ll be voting for Jeremy Corbyn because his belief is to give a voice and distribute resources to those who need it most. If we support all our people, we can create a healthier society. With a healthier society comes a happier society. And with a happier society comes more beauty and creativity and love.
If you haven’t registered to vote already, it takes less than 5 minutes and can be done here. You’ve only got until May 22nd, so do it now. Don’t wait.
If you’re feeling like shit and want someone to talk to, reach out to someone you trust right now and tell them how you feel. If you feel like you don’t have anyone and feel desperate, call the Samaritans now. There are kind, loving souls who want to help you get better. Long term, I highly recommend psychotherapy. It changed my life and it can change yours too. Facing your demons is the hardest thing you can ever do, but it makes space for healing and happiness.
I also have a piece going up on Peaceful Dumpling on Monday 22nd all about perspective on depression and some different ways of thinking about things that helped me immensely in my journey. Take a look over on there on Monday, or have a look on my Facebook or Twitter where I’ll post it when it’s live.
Chris Cornell, you beauty, I am one of millions that is heart-broken to see you go. I’m sorry you felt like you had no way out. We all wish we could have been there to love you and give you kind words of strength when you needed them most. But I hope that out of your death comes a rise in support to those also suffering in silence. May we start looking after our people and help them when they need it, rather than turn them away. May we stop treating depression like it’s ‘just a bad day’ and start taking it seriously. And may you spend the rest of your days full of peace and joy with all the other greats that we’ve lost that were symptoms of a sick society.