When it all gets too much

TV personality Charlotte Dawson has been found dead inside her Sydney home.

Like many Australians I was stunned to read the news yesterday of the passing of celebrity Charlotte Dawson.


Dawson, a stunning and vivacious woman ended her life at the age of 47.
On Friday evening (the same night I was having suicidal thoughts) this beautiful woman was doing exactly the same thing. It wasn’t the first time she had entertained these thoughts but it was certainly the last. In September 2012 her name became headlines after her first suicide attempt. On this occasion she was saved by a tweet showing a handful of pills and the words “You win x”.
There were no tweets to save her life this time. In actual fact it was the absence of tweets that alerted friends to the fact that something may be wrong.
The media is now full of eulogies and stories about the life of this woman who counted celebrities such as Russell Crowe, Jennifer Hawkins and Alex Perry amongst her friends.
They remember her as a vivacious and vibrant person with an acerbic wit. A person who had a genuine love for others. An angel.
She was a champion of social issues and spoke out in the media against cyber bullying and harassment (more so after her first suicide attempt) after becoming a victim of trolls on Twitter some of whom called for her to ‘hang herself, stick her head in a toaster or told her that they were glad people like her didn’t breed’. The things said were vitriolic and horrific and those that wrote these words hid behind the anonymity of their keyboards.
Her blood is now on their hands as calls are being made for social media to create harsher penalties for people who allow their hatred to spill through their fingers.

Charlotte Dawson came out publicly and told the world that she suffered from depression. According to one online newspaper, it is believed  that her depression was brought on by an abortion whilst she was married. Other stories say that it was the breakdown of her marriage to disgraced Olympian Scot Miller that started it all. However by all accounts, she suffered numerous setbacks in her personal and professional life. Unfortunately this all played out on the pages of newspapers and in the general media. Such is the life of a celebrity.
Many are searching for the trigger to her suicide. I wish they wouldn’t, because nobody will ever know. It may have been a passing comment by a stranger or a distorted conversation within her own mind that tipped her over the edge. The mind of a depressive does not function in the same way as that of a person who is whole and ‘well’. The world at large does not realise this. What if they do find the trigger? It’s not as if it will bring her back is it?

By all accounts I identified with this woman. Whilst I don’t have the life she led or the connections she had, I too have suffered setbacks in my life. I too suffer depression. I too believe in social justice. I too am a similar age. I too entertained thoughts of not being good enough for this world on the same night that she did. The difference here is that I woke up on Saturday morning.

On television last night (during an interview) a person was heard to say “I just saw her yesterday and she was laughing and smiling”.
Why is there a common misconception that if you suffer depression you don’t smile and laugh? Laughter and tears are so closely connected after all. They are extreme emotions.
Just because you smile and laugh, it doesn’t mean you are happy. Inside, your heart may be breaking and your soul sinking deeper into a black hole you feel there is no escape from.
The last photo taken of Charlotte Dawson (on Thursday) shows her “carefree and happy” (according to one source) and the photo she posted of herself on Twitter on Friday morning as she was about to appear on a tv show shows a beautiful and poised woman who for all intents and purposes looks perfectly ‘normal’. Let’s get this straight: Depressives don’t walk around with a flashing sign above their heads so that people can identify they have a mental illness. Depressives are normal people who laugh, smile and communicate with others. It’s what is going on inside them that sets them apart – and that can’t be captured by a camera!

Discussion of news is inevitable amongst people and I heard an opinion offered “She should have got help”.
The short answer to this is – she did.
However, therapists are there to assist a person in making choices in their lives. They can’t stop anyone from thinking and feeling the way that they do. They can offer suggestions and alternatives but they can’t fix a person. The person responsible for that is the one suffering the depression.
I also heard the comment “Why didn’t she just close her Twitter account”? Good question. However to put that into a little perspective – social media is the new way to advertise and Charlotte had a public profile. she not only appeared on tv, she was an author. The push these days is toward self promotion. And how do you do that? You maintain social media accounts (including Twitter). Publishing companies encourage you to do this. It’s called ‘building a platform’. Maybe she spent a little too much time on Twitter. Who knows? I certainly don’t. We can’t judge the woman for having a Twitter account.
Celebrity or not, Charlotte Dawson was human. She suffered human emotion and therefore trolls had an impact on her life. I’ve said before that the old rhyme about sticks and stones is completely untrue. Name calling does hurt – especially when you are already vulnerable.

I think that it is a tragedy that Charlotte Dawson took her own life. I think that it is a tragedy that the general public have a distorted view of what they believe depression is. I think that it is a tragedy that social media can be held responsible for the part it played in this outcome.
But the biggest tragedy of all is that this sort of thing happens every day however it doesn’t make the news because those it happens to are ordinary, every day people like you and me that don’t live their lives in the public eye.

Depression sucks for anyone who suffers from it – regardless of your status in life.

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61 thoughts on “When it all gets too much

  1. Hi Sue,

    I feel so badly for this woman who was loved and admired but didn’t see that as reason enough to keep going.

    I hope you do whatever is necessary to keep yourself as whole and wholly present to prevent yourself from acting on your depression. I admit though I have been at times seriously depressed, I don’t suffer from this as a constant malady. All I can say is that not only is the person who has committed suicide missed – she is also missing so much now. I am so entertained and informed by your blog, please stay with us.

    Shari

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    1. Oh Shari, thankyou.
      Yes, I entertained those thoughts (as I have done in the past) but I work on moving past them. As much as I think life may be better off without me, I also know that my family needs me.
      Since my blog is part journal, I needed to put it out there. I know that there are others who think that they are the only ones going through something and it helps to know that there are others.
      Thank you for caring.

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      1. Sue,
        So glad that you seem to have moved past the crisis.
        I just read an article about meditation and its benefits. I don’t suffer from depression but from extreme stress (conditions I won’t explain) What I read described why and how this ancient practice works. I plan to give it a try. You might want to look into this as well. Maybe it will help you get over the problems that make you feel that temporary misery is permanent. I’ll let you know how it works for me.
        KIT

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  2. Love to you Sue. You contribute so much to the thoughts and lives of your blog followers and I urge you to take comfort from this. It is true that our society doesn’t know enough about helping people overcome mental illness. Maybe you could write a blog on how people can effectively help others. Love to you from Jenna 🙂

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  3. I do love the comment about fitting your own oxygen mask first. I hope you are looking after yourself in the best way possible, Sue. Life is a bit of a mysterious journey, but when we are buoyant, a worthy one. Take care. 🙂

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  4. It is sad, when anyone end their lives in this way. Depression can end this way, but it doesn’t need to. There are light somewhere, even it might be difficult to see it right now.
    I do remember, when I were there. It could easy go that way.
    I’m happy, that you have your family and supporters in here too. We all wish you the best Sue.
    Take very and extra good care of yourself, when you feel like now. Do something every day, just for you and for your joy. It helps.
    Irene

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  5. I am so very glad you woke up on Saturday. I didn’t know you suffered depression to this degree. I suppose it must be odd to have woken up having worked through your thoughts, and now face the aftermath of one who didn’t. I think for the one who does die by suicide it is the end, and for many possibly a relief, but for those left behind they gift them endless days of sadness, anger and hurt.
    Look after yourself and keep talking and journalling xxxx

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    1. My depression hits highs and lows. The other night was one of those lows unfortunately.
      I agree that those left behind are the ones who are left to suffer. It is a difficult situation for all involved.

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  6. Such an important post, and brave of you to share so openly. I hope you can always find the strength to know and remember how important you are to the people around you. How your being here matters. Hugs to you Sue.

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  7. That was a great way to start a discussion to show what the non-sufferers of depression just don’t understand. You also said something that I’ve been trying to convey through my blogging. Doctors, therapists, or medication has to be used in conjunction with the effort we put forth to maintaining a healthy mind. We are a major part of the equation.

    I hope you have that person you can reach immediately should you find yourself in that darkest of places again.

    Love and hugs to you, my friend.

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      1. I have to admit, I can’t do it without the medications. I have tried for 30 years going off of my medication only to return before the year is out. The only thing I always neglected the therapy. I may have to take medication for life, but I’m okay with that. It is what keeps me cognizant of what I have to do to maintain my health.

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        1. April, you do what you have to do to get through each day. I haven’t been on my meds since just before Christmas. I am learning new coping strategies.
          But that is me. You are you. And although we share similarities with our depression, we are both on different journeys.
          Hugs to you today.

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          1. Okay, this may be due to the oversensitive nature of my depression, but I hope I wasn’t sounding judgmental. There is one thing I have learned through my journey. The monster is the same. It does the same damage. But the monster is also unique to each person through the way we deal with it, which is an individual choice. What works for one, may not work for another. But our journeys are the same – we are both striving to live a fulfilled life, it’s our approach in reaching this is where we differ.

            I’m learning to accept something that I have fought against for decades. The only way to keep my mind from the desire to disappear, or death, is to take the medications to get my mind to a place where I can use the coping strategies my therapist is doing such a great job teaching me. I would give anything to be able to do this without medications, and I admire you for your ability to do this. I’m a failure without my medications.

            I simply want to accept, be happy, and compassionate with myself. I want to live a life free from fear that I will return to the place I was before.

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              1. You know—I blabber too much on here. In real life, I’m reserved and speak very little, I mostly listen. Other than to my husband and therapist, I don’t speak about my insecurities or depression aloud. I sometimes feel as if I’m on a mission to fix everybody’s hurt, and that makes me blabber. Just ignore me, it’s easier that way. 🙂

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  8. It is such a tragedy that little is know and understood about depression. There is depression in my family and I am continually gobsmacked at the reactions of people. From not wanting to know or feigning sympathy, to brush offs, changes of the subject, and glib offers of help or total silence. It frightens people, they don’t know how to react. And the truth is, they don’t. They cannot conceivable imagine what it would be like, to have depression, or live with someone who has depression, because their neural pathways are not built in the same way. And depression affects those who live with a sufferer as they are also vulnerable. It is important to spread the word about depression so that it can become a subject more easily spoken about and in the long term, accepted. My thoughts go out to Charlotte and her family. Thanks for posting.

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  9. Hi Suz,
    “I just saw her yesterday and she was laughing and smiling”. If only it were as easy to see as an unhappy face in a photo or at a group table. I guess people ‘look for the trigger’ trying to understand that which makes no apparent sense. With respect ,the knee jerk reaction is to wish she ( or other sufferers) could just see how loved they are by others when (my interpretation only , based on a close friend suffering) its the internal judgements that are the ones being heard and not the thoughts of others around. Strength and love to you as you fight those demons Suz xxx

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    1. When suffering depression, you don’t see yourself as others see you or you take a little flaw and magnify it until it becomes all encompassing and that is all you see.
      That is what happened to me. Something was pointed out to me and all I could see was the flaw – not how it is something that can be fixed.
      Hence I became a flawed human being that really has not right to share the universe with others.
      Thanks LA for your kind words.

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  10. Thank you, Sue, for sharing these observations about depression. As I read through the comments, I was reminded of one other thing that happens when one is battling depression. It’s not just that people don’t know what to say, or that they are frightened by it. Sometimes, there is a total disconnect to where they think that a depressed person should just “snap out of it.” As if.

    The other thing that can be frustrating if you’re just trying to put one foot in front of the other is to have someone try to figure out what “caused” the depression, or to discount the person’s feelings because there is nothing that the person can see that is “wrong.” That attitude is usually manifested with the lovely sentiment, “You have so much to be thankful for.” What people don’t realize is that someone who is depressed already knows that and torments themselves with that same thought.

    If you know someone who is depressed, just be there. Someone who is depressed isn’t looking for you to solve their problems; they just need to know that someone cares, even if they aren’t always adept at showing it.

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    1. Thank you Deborah for your insight.
      I spent the day on Saturday with a friend who just listened and reaffirmed that no matter what I told her it would not affect the way she feels about me.
      She offered some solutions but they are ones I already know. When I told her that she acknowledged that she knows how hard it is. But mostly, she just listened. And I in turn listened to her.

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  11. This is such an important post. What a dreadful thing that so many people feel they can solve another person’s problems. You have done a great job here of demonstrating just how complex depression is — in fact, how complex life is. And how awful that people feel free to castigate another with cruelty based on ignorance. Most probably it’s fear displayed by the insecure who need life to be simple in order to survive themselves.

    And have you noticed how often it is the people with the most sensitivity to the needs of others, as well as themselves, who ultimately can’t stand the pain? Far from being a selfish illness as perceived by the ignorant, it is often the illness of those who care too much.

    I do want to testify, however, that one is not necessarily condemned to a life of depression. I spent two years in psychotherapy, supported by minimal meds to help with sleep. At times I longed to jump headfirst out a third story window, stopped only by my concern for my children and others who loved me. I never missed a day on the job, but I was grateful that my work was in a phase where I didn’t have to be particularly creative, because my thoughts, like my body, moved slowly. I truly walked around all day in pain. And that’s something people don’t understand who haven’t experienced depression. It is physically painful.

    I “terminated” therapy after two years, because i was no longer in depressed pain and I had energy I wanted to spend on other things. Yes, I had also made changes in the external aspects of my life. My therapist said in our last session, “It’s like peeling an onion, getting eventually to the core,” and I disagreed. No, it was like pulling out barbed wire one excruciatingly painful bit at a time until, in the end, my body and I felt flexible and ready to live.

    Sure, there are times when a trigger will cause me some days of pain (or, more likely, nights) but I now know the three rules that work for me. Know that I need to take back control. How? realize three things: (1) It won’t last forever; (2) it has not always been that way; and (3) find a way to take control of the “trigger” situation. But no ill-advised, uninvited advice can do that for me.

    I believe strongly in the effectiveness of psychotherapy.I also believe medication has its use, but is not sufficient for getting to the core of the — usually gentle, caring — soul within.

    And if suicide happens, I believe no one can say “why” for any particular person, but those who have harassed, scolded, and unthinkingly criticized are the lesser for not appreciating the gentle soul that’s been lost.

    And, as you have so well pointed out, folks who have never been there are in no better position to understand what it’s really like than to understand Lou Gehrig’s disease if you or someone you love hasn’t suffered it.

    Thank you so much for your beautifully rendered description and challenge.

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    1. Thank you so much Mona for your detailed and painfully correct words.
      My body suffers a lot of physical pain and there is no rhyme or reason for it (except maybe that I am unfit). The other day my hips began to ache. There is absolutely no reason for this.
      When you suffer from physical pain and there are unsolved medical issues it only exacerbates the depression.
      I agree that you are able to move in and out of depression. For the greater part of last year, I was in a good place however all it takes sometimes is a word for the world to come crashing down once more.
      I am learning to control my mind. It is a difficult process but one that I believe can be done.

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  12. A very powerful post. I don’t know this person (maybe I have my head in the sand or maybe it’s just because of where I live), but social media, in my opinion, has caused much more depression than there was before. People don’t realize how damaging it can be and how much more it affects people with depression. I struggle with depression too and have pretty much vanished from Facebook because it’s not a REAL conversation with people. It’s all surface and mostly about oneself…a “look at me!” syndrome. And you’re right, we don’t have a sign above our heads. I’m an expert at masking my depression. I’ve written dark poetry that my friends would be shocked came out of my mind. Unlike Charlotte Dawson, I’ve been able to get the help I needed and have stopped myself before I became that deep into it. I’m sorry also Sue for the thoughts you’ve been having. We love you here and I look forward to reading your raw posts and how you show your bravery by doing so. Because that IS brave and honest and we need more of that in our lives. HUGS

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    1. You may not have heard of Charlotte as she is a celebrity here in Australia. She was a voice for others and she was passionate about what she believed in.
      Now that she is gone, others will have to pick up where she left off.
      Don’t be sorry for my thoughts. They come and they go. I blog about them because people need to know that they are not alone – and I need to know that I am not alone either.
      If I can help one person through my writing then I have achieved something worthwhile in my life.

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      1. Well….personally, I think empathy is something we all need more of. I understand how you may have interpreted me saying “I’m sorry” but I meant it only in a good way to let you know that someone understands. Sometimes it’s hard accepting these things. I dunno…just my thoughts.

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