If you know me at all, even if only through reading and following my books, you know that depression is a deep topic for me. In the writing, you'll have seen (and felt, according to the reviews -- so go me on doing a good job) the true depth of depression in Fat Chance, the first book in the Kingsley Series (which is now free, if you didn't know; click here for download links). In that book, there's an emphasis on body positivity and learning to love yourself, but there's a deeper message a lot of people don't pick up on.
There's a scene in that book where the main female character, Cass, is so sad and in such a dark place (because of her body image and interactions with certain people who were once close to her) that she finds herself in the bathroom at her job, debating the merits of various eating disorders -- and suicide.
"I'd rather be dead than be fat."
Would I? Would I rather be dead than be fat? I'm a healthy woman. Large as I am, my body is actually rather fit and I am pretty strong. I'm not likely to die of natural causes anytime soon. Still ...
Standing there in a stall in the bathroom, I feel a tear slip down my cheek as the old urge rises up. Growing up as a foster kid bullied about my status and my weight, I'd always battled feelings of worthlessness and depression. I'd always battled the idea of suicide, the idea that if I were simply to stop living, no one would care.
Once, I'd stolen a page from Janet's proverbial notebook, and I'd listed all the possible routes of suicide that I could think of. I'd listed the pros and cons of each method. Ultimately, it had been the thought of hurting Janet that had stopped me. I couldn’t thumb my nose at her in that way, not after she had worked so hard to provide a life for me.
When I was fifteen, in the foster home before I was placed with Janet and her husband Jim, I'd chosen an over-the-counter painkiller and taken three quarters of a bottle with a glass of vodka from my foster father's desk drawer. He came home early that day and found me, so here I am. Still alive. Still fat. Still miserable. And because someone loves me, unable to try it again.
I would try again, maybe, if not for Janet and the twins. But I’m not alone anymore – I don't have a ton of friends because I don't go out, my insecurities don't allow that; but I do have a family now, and aside from Rick, they love me. And I'm standing here staring at that floating toilet that always terrifies me, and I'm thinking again of suicide. I can't believe myself.
"I'd rather be dead than be fat."
I don't know that I'd rather be dead. What I do know is that something has to give. I can't walk that path again; it would tear Janet apart to think that she's failed me somehow, even though she hasn't. It would kill my sisters, for them to realize that as close as we are, there are just some times when I can't turn to them. It isn’t their responsibility to save me – or fix me – and I know that. But I can’t leave them with the burden of feeling like they couldn’t. I know they would think they should have.
Almost immediately following this episode, Cass called a therapist. She made an appointment, and she went to it. She showed up, incredibly sad, embarrassed and ashamed, to ask for help from someone else -- because she had reached a point where she was afraid of her own self. Afraid of how she might handle her pain. Afraid of what she might do -- and what that might do to the people she loved.
Being an author who wants to seem accessible to my readers, I spend a lot of time on social media, and recently my news feeds -- particularly on Facebook -- have been dominated by posts about being depressed, depression awareness, and how to conquer depression. Maybe this is organic, since Depression truly is much more than a keyword to me, or maybe it's because finally, awareness is spreading. Stigma is fading. Now, people like me can step out into the world and say that they've struggled with the demon we call Depression. People like me can do what Cass did -- and we can do it without shame. We can find support. We can find others who fight the battle, too.
Awareness still hasn't reached the deepest, darkest parts of our society though. It hasn't reached every person, it hasn't opened every heart to feel compassion, it hasn't opened every mind to understand.
Depressed people are still seen as "negative," "pessimistic," "irritable," "moody." Your depressed friend calls you, and you roll your eyes and ignore the call because you just can't listen to it anymore. They bring you down. They kill your buzz. Party poopers.
But for today, try to remember how much you might be bringing that person up. Remember how much you mean to them, particularly in those moments when your personal "Wendy Whiner" is reaching out to you ... again. If you've got a "Debbie Downer" or a "Negative Ned" in your life, call them today. Reach out to them, ask them if they're alright, and offer to stand beside them as they work their way through the struggles of life. Do it tomorrow, too. And the day after. Because let me tell you from experience -- you might be the one thing that holds that person back from a precipice you didn't even realize they were standing on.
Be an advocate. Be aware. Love Louder.
And in the meantime, Happy Reading.