Yesterday I revisited Virginia Woolf’s suicide. Her sad yet loving note to her husband and the visuals from a documentary based on her life brought back memories of my twenty eight years old self writing two lengthy notes to my mother and my husband explaining my decision and asking for forgiveness.
The eighty page journal had notes for my husband, who helped me battle depression throughout our marriage, asking for forgiveness for leaving him so early into our marriage and telling him how much I would miss him. The notes for my mother too had pleas for forgiveness for giving her so much pain at her old age and regrets that I would not be able to support when she can’t carry the weight of life all by herself. The last note was to my then one year old son trying to explain how much I loved him and wanted to see him grow up.
Sitting next to Dissas, my son, who I would have breast fed to sleep I would struggle to complete my journal, which carried minute details and instructions to my husband and mom about my son. I penned details about his diet, vaccinations, favourite toys and bath time in my journal preparing an easy transition to my toddler son I was going to leave forever.
Unlike Woolf, who embraced suicide at the age of 59, I was just 28 years old, three years a wife and just one year a mother. But just like Woolf I too have been struggling with depression with the help of parents and friends.
Living at my husband’s ancestral home away from parents and friends, getting used to the responsibilities of motherhood and having to give up my work in journalism and advertising created sense of isolation while the daily psychological abuse of my father in law casted an ever increasing shadow of gloom around me.
It was my son’s dependency on me for life giving milk that kept me away from embracing a full break down. I woke up each day to fight my gloom till I fall asleep, until one day I threw my shield down. Again and again I told myself that my son could survive without me and I readied to end my life by writing a journal.
I bade goodbye to my husband, my mother and my son and prepared myself to the last two days as a family with my son and my husband, when my husband found my journal. He had been clearing the dressing table drawers looking for a lost key when he discovered a tear soaked, dog eared book among my hair brushes.
Thus ended my preparation for suicide, my husband true to his versatile self, helped me to revive myself, seek help and find myself again and I lived to see my son attend school.
While Woolf suffered from manic depression and I was suffering from dysthymia, which is treatable and easy to manage than manic depression, my experience left me with a bleak view of the general attitude the human society has towards its members suffering from depression.
Many tend to treat depression as a situation, which the suffering can shake him/herself off, although many of my friends and family helped to me manage depression without medication the sudden awareness of my condition made my in-laws and some other treat me as a person unfit to take care of my son. Suicide or attempts at suicide are interpreted as acts weakness or escapism while many including medical practitioners showed a tendency to misunderstand dysthymia with other diseases.
The support and courage shown by individuals like Leonard Woolf and my husband towards the victims is overshadowed by over simplifications and misdiagnosis of a society, which are ready to condemn its’ depressed members.
The support and courage shown by individuals like Leonard Woolfe and my husband towards the victims is overshadowed by over simplifications and misdiagnosis of a society, which are ready to condemn its depressed members.