"There’s happiness and love and life all around you. Right now you can’t see it."
September 13, 2012 11:43 AM   Subscribe

"Always remember that beautiful experiences and massive amounts of love are on their way. If you are able to feel pain and sadness this profoundly, more than most people can ever imagine, remind yourself that you can feel happiness and joy and love this profoundly as well, and that’s our little reward as depressed people. We feel things harder than other people do, and when those things are negative they are complete and total torture. But while we feel pain harder than other people have to, we feel beauty and joy and love harder than anyone else gets to, and that’s the victory that’s waiting on the other side of this pain for you. Hang on. Be tough. Better times are coming. Beautiful things and loving people are already out there, and when this cloud passes you get to experience them all so, so deeply." -Comedian Chris Gethard addresses an anonymous fan contemplating suicide (Trigger warning: discussion of suicide)

Gethard, who has been open before about his battles with depression and anxiety, wrote to a fan who anonymously asked him about it on his tumblr. The result is something that represents someone truly being humane and caring to a total stranger.
posted by inturnaround (27 comments total) 38 users marked this as a favorite
And every single word of that is true.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 11:51 AM on September 13, 2012

Maybe. But, in my experience, some of us are born to endless night.
posted by SPrintF at 11:52 AM on September 13, 2012 [12 favorites]

Right. If you have an inborn tendency to despair, and maybe also some other issues that make it hard for you to function as people generally do, you will have a harder life than anyone else in the same overall circumstances.
posted by orange swan at 11:54 AM on September 13, 2012 [1 favorite]

SPrintF, I know what that pitchblack night feels like. You have to have hope that isn't all there is in able to even have the capacity to escape it, and you have to have someone who has been there tell you there's hope or you will never know it.

I remember what it feel like to not even be able to imagine heaven as a happy place. I'm alive literally by the grace of God.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 12:06 PM on September 13, 2012

[this is good]

[this is an example of the goodness inherent in humankind]

[please, more like this, internet]
posted by infinitewindow at 12:12 PM on September 13, 2012 [6 favorites]

I can't get to tumblr at work to 'heart' this and reshare. But goddamn, Chris. You deserve a backpat, a beer, and every kudo that's going to be thrown your way for this.
posted by DigDoug at 12:35 PM on September 13, 2012

Being a person who suffers from both depression and anxiety (and had a really bad episode this week), I would have loved to read this. However, we have blocked social media from our access. What is depressing is I'm on the social media team. Maybe this is why I had a really bad episode lately?

Somehow I think Chris would find this situation ironic.
posted by stormpooper at 12:38 PM on September 13, 2012

Complete bullshit and nonsense. Chronic depression can be just that, there is not necessarily any counterbalance, and to claim so is offensive and belittling.
posted by Blackanvil at 12:46 PM on September 13, 2012 [17 favorites]

And thus another life was saved from reading this. I don't know who you are, Chris Gethard, but thank you. Thank you.
posted by X | ANA | X at 1:07 PM on September 13, 2012 [1 favorite]

That's a pretty bad excerpt ("If you are depressed then you are SPECIAL because you FEEL SO MUCH MORE than the rest of the world") of what is actually a pretty awesome post.
posted by jeather at 1:39 PM on September 13, 2012 [4 favorites]

This was so wonderful. Not because someone was suffering, of course, but because someone, a stranger, took the time to recognize it. What a special, thoughtful human.
posted by youandiandaflame at 2:15 PM on September 13, 2012

I told my cardiologist on Tuesday that I'm using the gift he gave me, that I'm not taking it for granted, that I am giving love to others, hard as I know how to do. This is what we are here to do; I'm convinced of that. I thank that man every year for what he gave me, I tell him what I am using it for, and who I am giving it to, I tell him that the ripples from his help still move out.
posted by dancestoblue at 2:19 PM on September 13, 2012 [6 favorites]

So, basically, lie your head off to someone suffering, so they don't off themselves.

Yeah, right, whatever.
posted by Malor at 2:35 PM on September 13, 2012 [2 favorites]

what if he tried to do this via twitter
posted by This, of course, alludes to you at 2:45 PM on September 13, 2012 [1 favorite]

This is the sort of emotive, greeting card anti-suicide response that elicits tears and hugs from people who have never been there.. and does absolutely nothing for people that are there. I've been on the receiving end of scripted prevention hotline patter like this too many times to count at this point in my life. Mostly in my teenage years when I bothered reaching out at times like that. These days I just remember that I am a coward, and no matter how empty I am or no matter how much I know that I have absolutely nothing left of value to offer.. When the moment comes I won't have the courage to write myself out of the story before the ravages of time and entropy rob me of any editorial control over the matter.. unlike pretty much all my heroes, Brautigan, Berryman, Thompson, Boye, Hemmingway, Gray, Wallace, the list goes on and on..
posted by mediocre at 2:56 PM on September 13, 2012 [7 favorites]

I have been on the receiving end of sincere OMG BEAUTIFUL MASSIVE LOVE during depressive episodes and it simply does not penetrate the bubble. I sort of wish it would, but it just doesn't.
posted by moonbiter at 3:16 PM on September 13, 2012 [5 favorites]

I appreciate the sentiment, but in my experience, most severely depressed people I've known live on for those who depend on them; those who love and need them. It's a strange kind of guilt, I suppose, that deep down is nothing but love misconstrued as such.

People want you here. People need you to be here.
posted by flippant at 3:53 PM on September 13, 2012 [2 favorites]

I submit that there's no one way for depressed people to get to suicide. There are those for whom this means nothing and others for whom this does get through.

Gethard is speaking from his own experience. So he's speaking his truth as he's lived it. Your mileage, of course, may vary.
posted by inturnaround at 3:59 PM on September 13, 2012 [1 favorite]

You can't tell just anyone. Mostly you're going to be best heard by others who've been through it, and for a couple of reasons, or probably more but here's a couple: 1) They're not coming at you from some high and mighty land of judgment, sniggering behind their hand as they "help" you and 2) even people who sincerely want to help just don't mostly have to tools to do so.

Most important tool that I know of is to not try to change someone, not try to force your solution upon someone, not try to tell another how they should act, and when; in short, not trying to shut them up. It's very, very difficult to sit and listen to a person in pain, just to be there, with them. You'll enter into the pain also, you just sortof have to be willing to do so, and most people just get to the very beginning of that and they're like "Nunh-unh, not gonna go there" and they begin to try to fix, and any chance for healing, for help, is gone. Is this a conscious choice on their part, are they aware they're doing it? Mostly not, that I can see. But -- is it intentional, are they doing this with purpose? You're goddamn right they are. They don't want to sit with you. It hurts. They think they want to help, they'll say they want to help. But they don't.

So who can help, and how can they help? TONS of people who've walked the road, they'll know intuitively how to help. They know whereof you speak. Lots of therapists. Psych nurses, a lot of them, most especially those who are or who have worked on heavy psych floors, and/or emergency room psych wards, they've got these knowing eyes, mostly they're much more understanding than the shrinks, some of whom have compassion and some that don't. Which isn't always a bad thing, a certain detachment for some docs, it's just their style, it's how they operate, and I think about how life guards are trained, that the first thing they do is spin a drowning person around so that the guard doesn't get jerked down by the flailing, dying person.

Some preachers or priests or what-have-you can help you, and they all say they want to do so, but some of them just want to jam Jesus or Leviticus or whatever other jive down your throat or up your ass or both and rare is the person willing to accept that sort of help; plenty of homeless people die on the streets rather than live in a salvation army joint, where they have to sing and praise our lord sweet jebus before they get a lousy fucking sandwich and a cot, and homeless and/or broken or not they still have enough integrity that they're not going to live a lie; they are admirable, absolutely.
posted by dancestoblue at 4:34 PM on September 13, 2012 [6 favorites]

In my experience, the best time to see if a person is willing and able to help is at like four AM, even hard-hearted shrinks will show up sometimes, they'll drop that shield, enter the human race. It's a hell of a time, 4AM, everything is different, it even sounds different, a different kind of quiet, probably this doesn't make sense unless you've been there, it makes plenty of sense to me.
posted by dancestoblue at 5:13 PM on September 13, 2012 [4 favorites]

I started my "adventure in depression" on Metafilter here. Since I wrote that, I've been to two different counselors (both of whom have been wonderful) and have had life kick the shit out of my a couple times (lost both of my cats in the past seven weeks, my job has gotten progressively worse, etc. Not to complain, just creating context here).

The main two things I've learned are that:

1) Constantly thinking about suicide is not normal.

You would think that would be pretty obvious, but really it wasn't to me. Its still hard for me to accept that everyone doesn't spend a portion of their days planning on how they're going to do themselves in. I am starting to believe that most people don't think this way, but part of my brain keeps saying "of course everyone thinks this all the time."

2) Everyone who experiences depression experiences it differently.

My depression is "moderately severe," but both of my counselors feel that talk therapy and some specific changes in the way I live my life will help me manage it (note that "manage" is not "fix." For me at least, there is only management of different kinds). Other people benefit from medication. Other people (and this is not meant to belittle what they experience at all) need a hug and a fun night out every now and then.

This is something that most people don't understand about depression. Its not a thing like getting hit by a rock. There's a kind of bleak rainbow of possible depressions. Mine is my own and nobody elses and I can't assume that the things that are going to work for me will work for anybody else (at the moment, I find great solace in updating my c.v. whenever I start imagining hanging myself in the stairwell - but that's quite possibly literally a technique for just me).

I appreciated what Gethard wrote here. I recognize that its not going to help everyone, but reading it is affirming because it does touch on some of my specific issues. I liked it, in some ways, to "The Rainbow Bridge" pet loss poem (maudlin and arguably poorly written but it makes me feel better every time I read it right now). Its genuinely not useful for everyone, but for the people it is useful for, it can be very useful.

If even a few people who read Gethard's response find some solace in it, I'm glad he wrote it and am glad its getting linked around right now. At the same time, I understand why it also comes across as a bunch of useless affirmations (or, worse, an insult) to some. As I said, every case of depression is different. Words (even Hallmark-card-esque words) help me, but they don't help everyone. I wish they did work for everyone.
posted by Joey Michaels at 5:20 PM on September 13, 2012 [3 favorites]

I didn't mean to infer that I think that "my way" as it were is the ONLY way. Hell, my self preservation strategy basically boils down to survival out of self loathing, but hell.. it's worked so far. I can't even say that the OMG BEAUTIFUL MASSIVE LOVE explosion that sometimes occurs (particularly online) when a member of the community comes out honestly about their suicidal thoughts/intentions hasn't worked on me in the past. Anyone who has been around long enough/happened to be there at the time knows that much about me.. I don't care to link to it, and frankly wish it could just be deleted at this point since for me it's like someone taking a picture of something embarrassing you did while blacked out drunk and being forced to look at it the next day.. but anyone who was there knows that I was in a bad place, and the OMG BEAUTIFUL MASSIVE LOVE explosion worked for me in that instance, though to be fair it was a minor incident for me on my personal scale that ranges from "1 - I'm feeling blue to 10 - I have turned on the gas oven and shut the windows."

Many friends, people who I considered very close, people I would honestly take a bullet for (I know the 'I'd die for you' thing isn't so powerful in a suicide discussion.. but you get the idea) have told me that even though they have been friends with me for over a decade. Even though I have spent more time in soul baring sessions of tears and emotional disclosure that can only occur when things like cocaine are involved. Even though we got a group tattoo just so I could always look down and know that even if they weren't around at that moment, they are there. These people have told me that I am "impossible to really feel like I know you." That between my substance issues, tendency towards adopting facades and alternate personalities to best fit whatever social situation I may be in, and old fashioned cryptic "I'm-so-damaged" type letters I am known to write people when pen and paper correspondence is evoked.. that they rarely ever felt that they really knew me. They might feel that they are my friend, and value me and the relationship we do have, but never really know where I stand from moment to moment. One of the people who told me this was especially heartbreaking, since I have had a barely-kept-secret crush on her since the first time we met. She takes the willful ignorance route around the issue, since we are both aware that were it to be addressed directly it would be a friendship ruiner.. and I just value the moments we do have and let myself fantasize about a future that will never happen where we are Edith and Archie Bunker. May seem like an odd choice for analogy, but if you knew her and heard her accent you would get it..

Anyways.. why did I start writing this again? I don't even remember, just saying that obviously Your Mileage May Vary, sometimes the outpouring of love even if it is of dubious honesty will be enough.. but sometimes nothing will ever be enough. Most people I know tell me that they are certain I will one day kill myself whether its an immediate act or a slow decline from self abuse. So they don't really try to bring me back anymore, just know that my cowardice will keep me from pulling the trigger as it were. My survival-via-self-hatred method may seem morbid or unhealthy, but it works for me.

Sort of reminds me of how when people ask me how I am doing.. I used to simply say "I am.", or "I'm doing." or some similar pseudo-existential teenage "intellectualism". These days I smile, usually genuinely, and say "I can't complain. Well, not going to complain." and that's good enough for me.
posted by mediocre at 6:34 PM on September 13, 2012 [3 favorites]

Gethard sounds lucky to me. I get the black tar feelings without the bennies of greater lovey feelings. What he describes sounds rather bipolar to me.
posted by five fresh fish at 6:48 PM on September 13, 2012

I didn't mean to infer that I think that "my way" as it were is the ONLY way.

I, for one, didn't take it that way at all. I could tell you understand.
posted by Joey Michaels at 6:50 PM on September 13, 2012

That was... impressive. Not what I was expecting from the excerpt or the criticism. What's armour-piercing is different for different people, absolutely, but what made this meaningful to me is that Gethard dug deep into his own instances of pain. However, he also seemed to have resources when he needed them. Lucky man (of which I think he is fully aware).
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 7:35 PM on September 13, 2012

What he describes sounds rather bipolar to me.

No, that's not mania he's describing, IMO. He's just describing intermittent success at treatment. At least, my encounters with mania have been nothing like, "let's pull over and cry at how beautiful the world is," and more like, "every idea i have is amazing and i am hyperactive".
posted by neuromodulator at 10:13 AM on September 14, 2012 [1 favorite]

At least, my encounters with mania have been nothing like, "let's pull over and cry at how beautiful the world is," and more like, "every idea i have is amazing and i am hyperactive".

I think there is more than one way to experience mania. My encounters with mania are typically, "The world is terrifying and/or beautiful and I'm so lucky to be able to see it...blah, blah, blah." I can't recall ever having what I consider an amazing idea without first seeing the world around me as beautiful and amazing and/or terrifying.
posted by katherant at 1:14 AM on September 15, 2012 [1 favorite]

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