contributed by B Davy
I stood outside my friend Billy’s basement suite in the cold winter chill, juggling coffees and snacks. He swung the door open, looking bleary eyed. His hair was ruffled from sleep. He accepted the coffee with a smile and little ‘whoop!’.
The suite was dimly lit and cluttered, yet warm and comfortable. We made room on the edge of a table for our meagre little picnic. I set my phone down and hit record. Billy had agreed to talk to me about mental illness, something he has battled his whole life.
We jumped right into our conversation with ease. Only 22-years-old, Billy is a natural speaker and refreshingly transparent. I hit him with the first question, ‘why is it so much more difficult for males to talk about their feelings?’
“Well, there’s a stigma about it. You gotta be the strong, silent type. You can’t really express your feelings. Anytime you do express your feelings you are looked down upon by others, mostly males, and sometimes women too. They say we are being too feminine, we have to man up.
I think where we are heading right now as a society, as men it is important to loosen up, embrace a more emotional side, and become less violent.”
There was a period of silence as we fiddled with our breakfast sandwiches. A feeling of seriousness settled around us. I asked him to talk about his mental health issues.
“To my understanding, depression is something that forms due to lots of hardship and lack of skills to cope with things. It turns into some kind of chemical imbalance in the brain. You just lose the ability to produce your own serotonin. I had some hardships in my life.
My earliest unbalanced thoughts came at age 11 or 12. I had a suicide attempt back then. I don’t remember much about it.
Depression is an every day thing. I still struggle going to school. I have episodes. I don’t want to get out of bed. I sleep in all the time. When the stress gets really high I will not sleep. Then I will crash and sleep for a really long time. If I could, when I am having a depressive episode, I would love to sleep all day in my own little depressive dungeon.”
I asked Billy how he gets out of his funks.
“I gotta find that kick in the ass to jumpstart myself and get back out there. The small things help. I leave my door unlocked. Got this one best friend who walked in once and slapped me with a stick, telling me to get up, get up, put some clothes on, you done? Where’s my best friend? I miss my friend. Stuff like that is a kickstart that helps me get back out there and be effective again.
I don’t have much money, let alone being able to spend on things for mental health. As far as activities go, you gotta find things that work for you. I got into video games and arts and crafts. I recommend making it social though, not get into things you can do without other people.
Isolation is the worst. It is the cause of most depression.
When I go through an episode I won’t admit it. Not even to myself. By the time I admit it I am so far down the rabbit hole I can’t climb out. If you want to help, keep checking in, be there for your friends. A person with depression will generally lie about it and cover it up. But if you are close to a person, try to see through that.”
There was another silence as I mustered up the courage to ask Billy about his suicide attempt. It happened just over a year ago. He had told me about it once in confidence, but this time I was asking him to share his story publicly. I asked. He let out a big sigh. And agreed to tell his story in the hopes of helping even one person feel less alone. We proceeded carefully with tears in our eyes.
“Well, I was kind of off and on planning it for awhile. I don’t think it’s ever a spur of the moment thing, it is something you always wanted. Just didn’t have the time to figure out when I was going to do it. I was wanting to end it, painlessly or painfully. It feels like it is easier than to just keep on going.
The night I decided to do it was Christmas. I had to take all these anti anxiety pills to go spend time with family for Christmas. I got home and went to my basement. Isolated. By myself. And I decided, ‘you know what? Here’s a gift from me.’ Took an entire bottle of pills and a bunch of pain killers. I intentionally overdosed.
I didn’t plan on waking up but against all odds….. I wrote out my suicide note, one of my better pieces, on facebook, mostly to connections in the states. I thought I was in the clear. It turns out someone read it and messaged a guy in Kamloops with a similar name. This guy happened to know me and happened to live down the street. These are a lot of things that just ‘happened’. This guy happened to be home. He happened to look at his facebook at one o’clock in the morning. He happened to care. He took it from there.
The paramedics came. I don’t remember any of this. I woke up in the hospital. The doctor who was attending me asked, ‘why would you do this? You almost died?’ I just said, ‘hey man, this is what I wanted.’ This is the way a depressive mind thinks.
I remember right before I passed out, overdosed, I was listening to music. And I thought, ‘this is nice’. I was relieved.”
When I asked him how he felt when he woke up after being resuscitated, Billy told me he felt disappointed. He laughed through tears and said, ‘I couldn’t even kill myself properly.’ The worst part for Billy was facing people after the attempt.
I asked him if he was happy his attempt failed.
“I suppose it goes back and forth. I would like to tell you I am super ecstatic to still be here but sometimes I don’t know. I have my goals in life. You gotta set some goals. Try to at least get there, have somewhere to go. Otherwise it all becomes so pointless.
I want to retire on a hobby farm. A few horses. Dogs. A big family, a wife and kids.
My main drive is the easy way out, it is easier to not live than to live.”
Billy will be joining a group of speakers for an upcoming seminar on suicide and depression in Kamloops, BC at the Coast Hotel on February 13th at 7pm. By donation. Please come watch him speak, please share to support our mission to bring awareness to this issue.