“For a long time I’ve felt certain that my life is simply not worth what it costs to keep going, but I’m staying here to fulfill what I see as my obligations.”
These were my closing words to an unsent letter I wrote a few years ago. The “obligations” that the letter refers to were to never put the people I care about through the pain of my suicide. I had survived a suicide attempt in college, but over time I had resolved to never kill myself no matter how much I wanted to.
Re-reading my letter now I’m not surprised that I wrote what I did, since I’ve felt like a burden for nearly all my life and have had chronic depression with recurrent suicidal desires.
What does surprise me, though, is the context in which I wrote this.
First, I wrote this in the early months of a depressive episode that eventually became so extremely severe that I guess I had forgotten just how bad it had been even the year before.
But more than that: I wrote this letter on the day that I got my job as a college professor, a job I had been working towards for two decades. Most of the letter describes how the job offer was wonderful and far exceeded my greatest hopes. But as a person who has suffered from depression since childhood and who was several months deep into a depressive episode at the time of my job interview, even having such a clear cause for celebration could not stop me from feeling that I’d rather be dead.
When you’re living with depression, in the whole thick mess of depression, you know your own depression but can’t really see it — because it becomes a part of you and a part of your vision. Looking at this letter now, I actually see it.