A very common euphemism goes something like “life isn’t beautiful without the pain”.
And while there is some truth in the sentiment that it is “hard to know the good without the bad”, I find this type of thinking to be hogwash.
Suicide proves it, right?
Suicide is probably not the most painful experience known to man, but no one argues that it is pleasant. There is real pain there. So having been to that dark place would make you appreciate the good times more, right? At least, according to this axiom. But that is practically never the case.
Want some proof? People who die by suicide have almost always attempted in the past, estimates range from 40-80%. However, a suicide attempt makes it 200 times more likely that a suicide will be completed within one year.
I’m seeing a lot of pain, but not a lot of beauty here.
In my personal experience, coming out of a suicide attempt, or simply being very depressed, does not include any ‘aha’ moments. There are no revelations, no light shines down on you from the heavens, nothing suddenly clicks, you don’t have a rush to reform yourself, none of that.
That is all Hollywood bullshit.
Coming out of major depression just gradually happens. You wake up one day realizing you don’t feel as bad as a couple weeks ago, and before long you feel pretty normal. But your eye is always backwards. You are always wondering if that thing is sneaking back up on you. Often you are too busy worrying about your next attempt to sit on a bench in the park admiring the birds or some nonsense.
I’m not generally a person that cares what kinds of portrayals of things in media, creative or otherwise, say to people. I think people get in a wad about that stuff far too often. And I don’t care about how a portrayal of a bipolar person will make other people feel about me. But what does bother me is when a common stereotype looks like reality, to the effect that when you are experiencing it, and it isn’t going the way you think it should because of what you learned from movies, you feel worse about it.
What is so wrong with accurately portraying something? Why do we have to romanticize everything? Why does everything need to fit into stereotype or an archetype so readily?
A suicide attempt will probably not change your life. But, if it happens to, it most certainly won’t make you start appreciating the “little things” in life, or help you find beauty in the cracks, or starting bird watching or video-recording plastic bags flying around.
Just think of a rollercoaster. When you are at the highest peaks, you are filled with excitement and joy and anticipation, when you are at the lowest lows you are simply trying to keep your head on straight and when you are anywhere in between you are just trying to experience it as it happens. Thinking about the highs when you are in the lows doesn’t make them less scary. When you are going down or coming up it is hard to think of anything other than what is happening. But if you have had an unpleasant experience, you always worry about what the next low will feel like. The biggest difference is that on a rollercoaster, you can see a dip coming.
That is very much like being bipolar. There is nothing special or romantic about it. Your pain does not make you a deeper, more experienced or interesting person. Your suffering does not mean you can more acutely experience pleasure.
So if you are reading this and about to dip into your first depressive cycle, don’t worry, you won’t have an incredible new perspective come morning.