Understanding A Depressed State Of Mind (2 OF 4): How We Reach (Suicide) Bottom

I really hope that I can help others with my past experience, as a suicide survivor.

If you are undergoing depression, my hope is for you to start seeing your life under a brighter, more positive light. And, If you are a family member or friend of a suicide victim, I hope that all of my posts can take away your guilt, and give you some peace within, somehow.

On my previous post, I summarized my take on suicide, and how it happened for me so that you could try to understand my state of mind at that time, and how much hate and self-despair I was under. On this post, I will go further on that subject and try to explain to you how I think suicide victims become depressed, then clinically depressed – enough to reach a bottom that only some come out of it alive.

I have never called myself a “Suicide Survivor” until I wrote the first sentence of this post. In fact, I’ve never been open about this subject until this series of posts – so I had never really called myself anything related to “living”.  It’s so hard to do this! As my fingertips touch my keyboard, I feel ashamed and embarrassed to share this about me with you, afraid that I will be misunderstood, but even more afraid to hurt my family members and loved ones…(I hope you guys won’t take anything the wrong way). Anyway, this is a part of my past and of who I am today so I shouldn’t be ashamed of it at all.

“Some live and learn,
Some live to learn,
Some learn to live,
Others learn by surviving.”
— Gabi Brandao

After surviving, I have learned to always make decisions out of love, not fear. So, even though I am scared of how others may interpret things, or how uncomfortable I may feel, the right thing to do is to talk about it, out of love for the people who are going through the same things that I have, and how much I want to help them.

I don’t think of myself as suicide-survivor, but as a “self-survivor”. I survived my worst self: my very sick mind. How do I know now that I had a sick mind? Because right after attempting suicide, I felt even more like a failure. Believe it or not, my depression didn’t end there, even though I didn’t try to end myself again. “Why?”, you may ask. I’ve tried to understand, but I really don’t know. Maybe the thought of suffering kept me alive. (Like I explained in my first post of this series, clinically depressed people feed off pain and negativity, so the thought of having attempted suicide may have fed that part of me for a while after).

THE MOMENT I JUMPED

I never lost consciousness during and after I jumped off the 3rd floor of that local public parking lot building, at around 3 am.  The first thing that came to my mind when I realized that I was still alive was: “I can’t f***ing believe this!” And I started to cry. Before leaving the apartment where I lived in, I hadn’t planned on doing it, neither had t left a letter to anyone. I was simply walking down the boardwalk in total despair, like I used to do every time my ex-husband and I would get into a fight, and killing myself sounded like a good idea to me, at the moment. Just like that.

During the fall, nothing, and I mean, “nothing” went through my mind since I felt nothing but anger and self-despair. All I wanted was to “feel at peace again” and find relief when I hit the floor, shutting my mind off, but I didn’t succeed. So I just gathered together all of the scratches, scabs, and bruises from that awful event with the ones I had from the domestic violence, and nobody even noticed them (by then I was a pro at hiding marks on my body); I did have to call in sick at work for a while though because of pain, and had a limp that lasted about 3 months.

Different than many people think, I don’t think people who commit suicide are cowards because “they don’t want to deal with their problems, so suicide is an easy way out”. I also don’t think that they are selfish, “leaving behind their loved ones”. The thing is, suicidal people don’t even think of those things. They FEEL NUMB. The only way they see a solution is to end their lives… that’s the only solution that actually makes sense to them, because they hate and despise themselves so much. They think that the world (which includes their loved ones) would be better off without them in it. See, in their heads, that’s like an act of self-sacrifice for the world and their loved ones.

I lived with a very depressed mind for about 3 years. Then I became clinically depressed – suicidal -and attempted, a year later. On the 5th year, I decided (for the first time) to tell my family that I was in an abusive relationship and that I was tired of living. I only got out of that dark hole because my family forced me to move back to Brazil. Everything during those years is a big blur, but I remember very well what my older brother said to me over the phone, which my mom reassured me was true. He said: “You either come back by free-will, or I will personally go there, beat the sh** out of him, and drag your a** back to Brazil with me. It’s your choice.”

I will go more into detail about how my family intervened in my depression in my next post, because I literally owe my life to them. To my mom, I owe it twice.

HOW (I THINK) WE REACH (SUICIDE) BOTTOM

Fact: Clinical depression is caused by a chemical imbalance within the brain.
Fact: The chemical imbalance is the consequence of an outside source since depression is non-biological
Fact: Depression is the side effect of an unhealthy brain chemistry.

So how do we go from being mentally healthy to a state of a suicide attempt?

I believe it all starts at a very young age as our brains develop. As children, we feel the need to feel loved, safe, accepted. We will do anything and everything for the love of our parents and to have the certainty that they love us and that we are safe.

A study on the University of Rochester Medical Center website explains that “The rational part of a teen’s brain isn’t fully developed and won’t be until age 25 or so. In fact, recent research has found that adult and teen brains work differently. Adults think with the prefrontal cortex, the brain’s rational part. This is the part of the brain that responds to situations with good judgment and an awareness of long-term consequences. Teens process information with the amygdala. This is the emotional part. In teen’s brains, the connections between the emotional part of the brain and the decision-making center are still developing—and not necessarily at the same rate. That’s why when teens experience overwhelming emotional input, they can’t explain later what they were thinking. They weren’t thinking as much as they were feeling.”

In my opinion (and from my personal experience and studies on this subject), I really think that if we don’t feel worth it, validated, and believed as kids and young adults, we have a bigger chance to be triggered by those emotions later on in life, as adults, becoming suicidal. That is why we can’t explain our actions with reasons or words, only emotions. That’s why our actions end up not making sense (to those who aren’t or have never been clinically depressed).

For a long period of time, after I became mentally healthy and continued to see a therapist, I believed that my clinical depression had to do with my abusive ex-husband. But no: like I said in my previous post, that relationship was just feeding a “comfortable sadness” that accompanied me since I was 10 years old, triggering a feeling that was formed in my brain chemistry, as a child.

When I was 10, I went through a very traumatic event. My father didn’t believe me, and for that reason I felt very unsafe, alone, and ashamed growing up: to the point that I started to doubt my own 5 senses, thinking that maybe he was right and that “I was making things up in my head” like he once said.

See, when we are in pain, the natural reaction of people who love us is to protect us. When we don’t get what we need (protection, in my case as a 10-year-old kid), we start thinking that maybe there is something wrong with how WE feel, and we stop trusting ourselves. The same happened to me when my ex-husband would hit me. Most of the times he would not apologize and I would start believing that maybe I deserved that because if I didn’t, he would have apologized. (I think that’s why many people get trapped into abusive relationships).

My whole life I tried to put my memories under the rug, but that unworthy/sad feeling was always there, wanting to come out… and I would keep trying to prove myself to others, like that was my day and nighttime jobs…

After learning, researching, and going to therapy, I do believe that my brain was developed with an imbalanced chemistry (lack of dopamine and norepinephrine – the feel-good hormones).  Because of that, I now understand why anti-depressants work for me long-term (because they stimulate those hormones to be released into my bloodstream). I also understand that I am more sensitive to becoming addicted to substances that will release those hormones into my bloodstream, such as alcohol, drugs, chocolate, comfort foods, etc. And finally, I also understand why my body is so sensitive to stress, and why stress affects my gastrointestinal tract so much! (here is when I start writing in nerd language, so I’ll stop, for your sake. Lol)

Anyway, when our brains develop with a chemical imbalance, we try to go back to what’s comfortable but, in the case of someone with depression, what’s comfortable is a dangerous place… it’s a dark, sad, lonely, toxic place. The more we feed into it and believe that voice in our heads, the more we are drawn to it and, the more we are drawn to it, the more comfortable we become. That’s how it all becomes a downward spiral, very quickly.

Nowadays I still suffer from depression and PTSD. I also take meds to help balance my brain chemistry, as well as see a therapist once/month. — meds alone aren’t enough to cure depression and I’ll explain why that is in the last post of this series.

Today, the energy I spend is into living a healthy and happy life (I never pretend to be happy anymore). I like to think that I’m playing catch-up and that’s why I have to keep up with doing my best at it!

If you are severely depressed, please, please, please don’t wait to seek for help.
Meanwhile:

  • Try to remember a time in your childhood when you became misunderstood; a time when you started to doubt your own feelings.
  • Write down your memories and feelings of that time.
  • Spend your energy only with things and people who make you feel good.
  • Always make decisions out of LOVE.
  • Contact the Suicide Hotline, for support:  1800-273-8255.

By doing these things, you will start to at least understand that how you feel now is not the product of your imagination. How you feel now has been real for a very long time, for a good reason! The good news is that real things can be fixed; I promise you, they can! Don’t waste any more time… Life, on the other side, is worth living!

In 2014, after Robin Williams committed suicide,  I put up a video about depression on YouTube. Even though I didn’t share my personal story in-depth, I shared some things that may help someone. So, if you feel inclined to do so, check it out some time.

Wishing you health from the inside out during your positive journey,

Gabi Brandao
Disease Prevention Advocate, Blogger, Author, Speaker, Certified Holistic Health and Wellness Coach by the Institute of Integrative Nutrition, Board Certified by the American Association of Drugless Practitioners, and Licensed Medical Massage Practitioner by the Virginia Board of Nursing

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