It was with immense sadness that I heard, earlier this week, of the death of Sally Brampton. Sally wrote Shoot the Damn Dog, which was the first book I reviewed on this blog. It is a book that speaks with such unflinching honesty about the struggle of depression that means I, along with numerous other readers, feel a little less alone. It was her willingness to share her experience that educates, inspires and soothes readers of all backgrounds. Sadly, the “damn dog” that Sally wrote about didn’t give up.
For having never had the pleasure of meeting Sally Brampton, I have felt deeply affected by her death. I feel so sad about the immeasurable pain that she must have been feeling. As someone with a number of suicide attempts behind me, I know that suicide isn’t a decision easily made. As Sally, herself wrote, “We don’t kill ourselves. We are simply defeated by the long, hard struggle to stay alive.” Suicide isn’t chosen because death is wanted; it is chosen because life is unbearable. Sadly, there are thousands each year who find life unbearable.
This is the reality of depression. It can take even the most talented of people, those with success, those who are loved, and tell them that they are better off dead. It has the potential to be a terminal diagnosis for vast sums of people. Along with the sadness, I feel for Sally Brampton and for those who knew her, I feel fear. I feel fear because I struggle with my mental health every day. My mood plummets without warning, I can be consumed by self-loathing and death can feel like the only means of escape. I’m afraid that, one day, it will be me.
I have a family that loves me. I am educated, capable and, outwardly, I could pass for fully functional. Unless you saw me in short sleeves, with scars that line the length of my skin. Happiness is an aspect of life that eludes me more than it follows me. A conversation will send me into a panic. I feel as if I’m somehow failing at adulthood. But if that’s true, I’m doing it alongside 25% of the population at any one time.
Mental health has, thankfully, become a subject people are more willing to talk about. There are more understanding and more empathy, which makes an immense difference. But more than 6,000 people in 2014 took their own lives. Depression has a raging voice that can sound out anything else. If I take anything from the last few days, it’s to scream out how much those around me are worth. It’s to help them feel as if they’re not alone, just as Sally Brampton’s words in Shoot the Damn Dog helped me. Mental illness can becan take lives. But we can be there for those who are with us today.