Tough Times: Actual Sunlight 3D

By John Walker on November 14th, 2013 at 2:00 pm.

I was uncomfortable about posting Actual Sunlight back in February, and I’m just as uncomfortable about it now, now there’s a free 3D version of it. It’s a game about depression and suicide. A morbid, tragic, and ultimately hopeless game. And that’s why it scares me. Because the game’s honesty about those feelings perpetuates a greater lie. Because there is always hope. There is always a better solution than suicide. I’ve seen friends go from terrifying suicide attempts to beautiful lives where they transform the hope of others. I live with a relatively minor anxiety depression that once controlled me, but now I control it. So sharing Actual Sunlight terrifies me. And yet I believe its brutal honesty about depression is something important, something that doesn’t dismiss the overwhelming cruelty of the condition as “feeling a bit down”. I think that matters.

Evan Winter is an overweight man in his late 20s, stuck in a dead-end job that is attempting to have him carry on working for them for no salary. He lives with his parents, is generally masturbating or thinking about masturbating, and hates himself. In fact, he hates almost everything. He’s that most difficult to like of people – overly clever misanthropes. His smartness, and indeed his smart-ass-ness, is portrayed in a volley of extremely well-written missives delivered in white text on a black background. They’re notes, short stories, imagined transcripts, or apparently genuine transcripts from talking to a therapist. Each is witty, but ultimately cruel. And most of all, they’re self-pitying – that place where all of someone’s intelligence seems to be being used to feel sorry for themselves in increasingly imaginative ways.

You play him through his daily routine, struggling to get up in the morning, his miserable idling through work, and then repeating, all the way plagued with thoughts of going to the roof of his building to jump. And what makes this game so tough, and so well crafted, is that Evan is a prick. As I said about it earlier this year, “His is a depression formed of the despising of others’ success, rather than his own failure.” The further you get, the more his wit, talent and way with words begins to grate. You can start to really dislike the guy. And that’s damned good writing, and a painfully good exploration of depression – it’s easy to dislike a depressed person, to write them off as just a piece of crap, and forget how that most spiteful of conditions creates a self-fulfilling prophecy.

The game was originally presented as a top-down 2D JRPG via RPG Maker, and it’s still available for $5 in this form. There’s now a free beta of a 3D version, built in Unity, with exactly the same script, but a very different visual style. It’s been stripped of its colour, give a noir feel, and much more vividly realises the central character’s size and tiredness. As a result, the presentation is far less incongruous with the tone, and yet I think I’d still advocate the original version. The 3D-ness of it adds a clumsiness that is a little too frustrating. Controlled with the arrow keys, Evan rotates on the spot and stumbles about, meaning you have to line him up with highlighted objects in order to interact with Z. It’s fiddly, and is currently a touch crude. However, this is a beta, current in the queue on Greenlight, and creator Will O’Neill is looking for feedback to improve it. And of course it’s free.

At one point the author interrupts his own game with a message. A message that speaks from inside depression, and so is itself twisted and pained. It appeals to any young people playing who think they identify with the story that they must recognise they’re young enough to change. The author’s fear that someone might kill themselves in response to the game is starkly realised, as he utters, “Don’t you fucking dare.” But it’s wrapped up in a self-pitying belief that it’s only if you’re under 25 that this counts – if you’re older, then… Which is such utter nonsense. It’s depression speaking. There is no age where those words don’t count, no point in life where change becomes hopeless. There’s never a time when things can’t begin to slowly, carefully improve. There’s never a point where those words ever become irrelevant: don’t you fucking dare.

There’s always hope. There is, no matter what a depressed mind will shout, always a way for things to get better, for life to offer more hope than death. This game honestly captures the deception that there’s not for this one fat, 30-something man, but it is a deception, and there always is hope. And I say this as a fat, 30-something man with anxiety depression. I appeal to anyone who finds their own feelings echoed in Actual Sunlight to recognise the catharsis of being understood, certainly, but to hear another voice, one saying that hope always exists. If you’re in the UK, the Samaritans can be called, anonymously, at any time on 08457 909090, or emailed at joe@samartians.org. If you’re in the US, the NSPL are at 1-800-273-8255. If you’re anywhere else, this page has links to every nation’s own line.

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61 Comments »

  1. LogicalDash says:

    Hope’s an emotion, isn’t it? Depression means you can’t feel it. Maybe you wanted to talk about possibilities? Which I’m fairly sure exist for this character but less certain when it comes to… I was going to go on about people who are even worse off but I think it’s better if the comment thread doesn’t contain an Olympics of Misery.

    Suffice it to say: human experience is vast, and if you believe in something “always” or “never” about it, you are excluding any humans for whom that happens not to apply. That’s perhaps closer to dehumanization than you want to go.

    • Asherie says:

      Well put.

    • Longtime Listener says:

      Yeah I’ve worked in a hospice. Sometimes a longer life is the last thing a person wants.

    • pepperfez says:

      No, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with declaring that all people have better options than suicide. That’s not dehumanizing, it’s just a judgment about what people are worth: Enough that there are always better alternatives than dying.

      E: Palliative care isn’t about hastening death, it’s about reducing suffering irrespective of survival. That’s significant.

      • beekay says:

        Don’t be silly. Of course suicide is sometimes the best option. There are plenty of people whose lives will be, on balance, a negative experience for every year until they die. It’s nice that you’re trying to help people, but you shouldn’t distort reality in an attempt to do so.

        • zal says:

          Regardless of whether suicide ever is or is not the best option. I think its important to step away a second from the whole idea of quantifying and the deducing through simple arithmetic, the extent of positives and negatives in living a life, and look at both the enourmous arrogance and the incredible distortion of reality required to give a blanket statement about how other people’s lives will or won’t turn out as a specific value.

          To be able to count and measure this on some sort of cosmic balance sheet, first requires a universal standard of measurement in terms of what constitutes positive and negative, to allow measurement to even occur, something I’ve yet to see a comprehensive and scientifically backed explanation of. Feel free to direct me to the empirical evidence you’ve discovered that tells us exactly how to measure this universal property of all time spent living for all individuals that you use to make that conclusion.

          Each aspect must then distill down to this common discreet unit your describing, in essence commodifying it, to allow for the comparison to occur. I’d like to see the perfected processes and formulas through which you’re able to compute that, and the scientific advances you uncovered that allowed you to unlock these processes, as I also feel it unlikely you have discovered a system of comparison for all life experiences among living beings (or even just human beings).

          If There’s one single, persistent, frustrating truth about the universe present in every direction from every angle we’ve tried to examine it from, its that it is complex beyond comprehension.

          So without a tangible and well proven system of measurement, or a set of derived formula based on concrete measurements outlining comparisons, I’d say claiming “Of course suicide is sometimes the best option” is in fact, entirely silly as well, for the exact same reasons.

          So I ask you to also stop being silly, and jumping to entirely opinionated conclusions based simply on some internal values you’ve decided to haphazardly apply to other peoples lives.

          • beekay says:

            I didn’t claim there was some universal quantity for which a value <0 means you should kill yourself. I hope you were addressing a third party there, because your post is entirely irrelevant to mine.

            Though if I had claimed there was some quantity for that measurement, I'd now say "it's happiness, as measured subjectively by each individual." Simple.

        • chris1479 says:

          I can imagine there might be occasions, *RARE* occasions when suicide *MIGHT* be a preferable option to some event in a person’s life. But as another commenter alluded to, the person debating whether to kill themselves or not is unlikely by virtue of the fact that they are already in such a state that they are contemplating death – to be able to do so rationally.

          But you also mention “distorting reality” and this is very relevant… depression has its own ingenious and anaesthetising manner of distorting reality to the point where you can believe that you are being logical when in fact your mental state is so warped, so poor, so detached from reality that your capacity to weigh up the pros and cons of killing yourself is so diminished that it’s unlikely you could do so no matter how intelligent you might otherwise be. So in effect, to whom is your post directed? To be valid it would have to be from the perspective of disinterested third parties, take a doctor for example, that person might be able to say – intelectually – your life is, on balance, not worth living.

          The person in question can almost never do that. So, reflecting on your statement, it’s actually rather insulting to see someone condeming another for what you perceive as sugar-coating the reality of a situation. I would describe this as a merciless, reductive, dispassionate thing to say.

    • nhex says:

      Well said.

    • Lusketrollet says:

      LogicalDash’s got it right.

    • klmx says:

      Suicidal ideation is a mental disease, where you feel like there is no better option than ending it, when in reality your depression is just making you feel that way. I personally have had some problems with that very issue and just knowing this made me strong enough to not do it, so what John said was perfectly fine. Sure, there are situations where it’s a whole different story (euthanasia, long-lasting torture from CIA, etc.), but regarding depression/anxiety there is ALWAYS a better option

      (There’s a reason why suicide support forums and hotlines pretty much say the same thing as what John said, it’s because it’s true)

    • Balanuir says:

      LogicalDash just hit it spot on. The very problem with depression is that you can’t see what’s going right, you can’t see that there’s hope, you don’t even notice when things get better. Talking about hope to someone who is suffering from depression is like describing all the beautiful paintings in the room – when the room has all the lights turned out and it’s pitch black.

  2. Koozer says:

    Hope has no meaning. The universe doesn’t care about you, nor provide nice solutions to our problems if only we’d believe.

    Happy Thursday everyone!

    • Skabooga says:

      The universe cares about me. Why, it sent me a lovely postcard from Antares 5 just the other day. And given how the universe asked about how you were doing in said postcard, I’d wager it cares about you too.

      • Koozer says:

        Oh gosh, really? I feel ever so embarrassed now. Give the universe my best will you?

    • Lone Gunman says:

      You’re correct. But depending how we as human beings behave with regard to each other does have a massive impact on our happiness. We create our own world that we live in. Instead of waiting for some fairy tale heaven to go to we should accept the cold truths about the universe and create as near to as is possible heaven here. IMO.

      Although we are powerless if a giant meteorite smashes into us. But why worry about something you can’t fix :p

      • chris1479 says:

        “We create our own world that we live in. Instead of waiting for some fairy tale heaven to go to we should accept the cold truths about the universe and create as near to as is possible heaven here. IMO.”

        Sure we do… but until you yourself have had some experience of “the cold truths of the universe” – ageing, death, cruelty, murder, for example – I wouldn’t be so hasty in chucking out thousands of years of what you would describe as ‘fairy tales’ and so on. Just because you don’t need them (now, at some point you probably will, after all there are no men in foxholes…) then I would be a little more cautious in throwing people’s sincerely held beliefs and coping mechanisms into the dustbin of history. To be replaced with… what… iPads? Computer games? Politics? No thanks.

        P.S I’m an atheist.

        • Lusketrollet says:

          Just because a belief is “sincerely held”, it doesn’t mean that that belief has a single fiber of actual value to it, or that this in itself is even remotely worth respecting.

    • chris1479 says:

      I’m stumped at why it matters whether the universe cares about us or not. If you don’t like the answers don’t ask the questions.

  3. altum videtur says:

    I’unno, for me the pathetic but understandable self-pity of depression was always very separate from the outright lunacy of my suicidal thoughts. ‘You’re a failure and nobody likes you or will ever like you’ feels markedly different from “TAKE THE KNIFE SLIT YOUR BELLY LET THE GUTS SPILL GET THE LIGHTER FLUID POUR IT ON YOUR HEAD BURN ALIVE GET THE SCISSORS GOUGE YOUR EYES SLIT YOUR WRISTS AND BLEED AND SCREAM NOW AND FOREVER” (just to show the gist of it) I would assume its different for everyone though.

    • BTAxis says:

      Yeah okay. I suffer from the former, but you have me recoiling from the latter.

      • altum videtur says:

        Actually, I think in a way I’m lucky with that because so far I haven’t acted on said lunacy and the sheer insanity of it helps me stay clear of it. It’s very brutal and obtrusive and violent, so I can clearly define it as “wrong” and as such not act on it.

        • h0fst4dt3r says:

          Interesting, I guess it is different for different people. The one time that I got close to suicide (years ago I’m okay now!), it seemed very logical and I planned it out well in advance. Painless death, no stupid suicide note blaming other people. Dunno if I was ever really going to do it, but I thought I was and it never seemed insane, just inevitable.
          Also I am not going to play this game thank you.

  4. djbriandamage says:

    This is a heavy game where you begin by controlling some computerized persona but end by asking yourself hard questions about the things you’ve just been nodding about. It’s a game you wish wasn’t about you. It’s way more convincing of its dire perspective than you wish it was.

    Play this thing. It will teach you something about yourself.

  5. gravity_spoon says:

    The protagonist is me from an year ago. Or so I tell myself. No. It is me right now. I’ve stopped all attempts at taking my life. Dying wouldn’t have made anyone sad, but it would also not have given me any pleasure. What is happiness to a dead man. But now I am apathetic about dying. I honestly don’t care when I wake up. But I do not attempt to kill myself either. Is it because of fear or hope or both ?

    • John Walker says:

      I really do encourage you to get in touch with one of those phone lines. Not because they’re going to save your life or anything, but because they can put you in touch with someone who can talk this stuff through with you, start making something different.

      • gravity_spoon says:

        Will do. Thanks. Although, I don’t think that it will help any. Why would a complete stranger want to help me ? What have they got to gain or lose from it ? I know. Pretty defeatist and idiotic sounding. But, I will at least try it. Sometimes I think I could do something better with myself and then I see a lot of talented people than me doing it way better. So I stay in my dead-end job. But before all of that, I will play this game.

        • Trillby says:

          As someone who has been on both sides of the spectrum (clinically depressed for many years, now a practicing psychologist), I can maybe put things in perspective a tiny bit. Without wanting to sound overbearing, which these types of “perspective-givings” tend to do…

          The reason I enjoy helping “strangers”, is because I feel the kind of satisfaction in the task that I never did while studying, or in any phase of my life except for now. I can relate to the people I talk to, I can understand them, and that in a sense gives me a sense of a task well done. Secondly, the minute and incremental developments that they usually end up making of their own accord once they are able to organise their thoughts – the building up of confidence in both themselves and the world around them – is something that is intrinsically very satisfying for me. I don’t ever feel like it is my “success” that they do so, but I enjoy the incredible bravery that these people show, because it reminds me of how scared I was then, and how brave my therapy made me feel.

          In that sense, it isn’t an altruistic act – even when I do it for free. It is something that is inherently of worth to me and something that, in the crudest possible terms, I get a kick out of.

          I urge you to talk to someone. It’s worth it on all the levels.

        • klmx says:

          Depression has completely destroyed my life. I have no education, no expectation of a job that suits me, nor do I have any hope of changing that. But I went to a psychiatrist, and after a few years of struggling around, they finally came to a conclusion that made sense to me, and made everything that much easier: I’m autistic. In a very slight way that no one even notices, but just enough that it has blocked me from functioning like a normal person. A lot of times depression is not even the problem, but rather the result from a deeper-rooted issue. And if not, then you’re just lucky because you can actually become a normal person.

          Could take more time to write this, but I’m just trying to say that a stranger helping you can turn everything around. I currently work in retail, which is way below my/anyone’s level, and I’m just happy that I can walk through my life without much issue. Once you know how, it’s really easy to change

          P.s There aren’t many communities that I’d feel comfortable sharing these things. Love this site

    • Lamb Chop says:

      Hi all, I work with folks who are responsible for getting the word out about the Veterans Crisis Line, the NSPL for Veterans in the US, and it’s worth noting that you don’t have to feel actively suicidal to make use of a “suicide prevention hotline”. These resources are here to help anyone who feels as if they are in crisis or has a friend or family member who is in crisis, and that could mean you feel depressed, pressured about your job or caring for your family, are struggling with substance use, or anything else. If you feel like you’re in crisis, give them a call, and you can talk with a qualified, caring responder who can help give you the support to get through a tough situation.

  6. Reapy says:

    I often worry a bit for the serious trolls we find in gaming communities. For the ones that seem astute, but cloth themselves in hostility like racial slurs for a name every time, lashing out at everyone around them, trying to pick fights constantly. I think they sort of live in this depressed world.

    I have seen it a lot where you armor yourself with contempt and anger at people around you, usually brought on by a long period of not getting what you want out of people, and rather than realizing you have to change, or going on to find other people, or any other number of solutions, they just dwell in misery and start to have this hate for everyone around them and anything their ‘community’ values.

    I’ve seen people go through this, where the world doesn’t give out to them the things other people might get for free, like companionship or just basic respect. It does often end in this social armor that you never let other people through.

    As people it is very hard to get out of our reality and see how the world looks different to people. Have you ever seen an extremely attractive man/woman enter an area full of ‘normals’? It is like this little bubble follows them where people just act completely different. Then they leave and all returns to normal, but to that person, their normal is that bubble, and my normal is what happens when they leave. Imagine the flip if the bubble causes people to actively dislike or avoid you.

    It would become quite a bleak reality, and offers a chance for even those on the ‘low rungs’ to have someone ‘below’ them.

    Anyway really interesting game and topic, I have a feeling that us older gamer types all have had some experience with this as our hobby in the past threw us right into this negative category. The other day I saw a comment how some high school LoL pros are ‘rock stars’ at their school. Such a shocking phrase to see to me, as my “warcraft 2′ skills labeled me a freak. But it is proof at least we are moving forward.

    • tobias says:

      Good post, salient points.

      The mention of the destructive attitude where one despises the success of others touched a chord with me. I consider myself a generally happy person, but that has been an unfortunate part of my character, especially in the last few years when friends have had successes that I, through the fault of no-one but myself, have been missing. It’s a part of me that I really find troubling, though it’s not hard to understand. I suspect that everyone feels some form of introspection, often negative, when others achieve successes they themselves have failed to grasp (yet!). That said, I wish the feeling wasn’t so visceral in me sometimes.

      Thanks for the article John.

      • CookPassBabtridge says:

        I don’t think its something that should be attacked within oneself, and I would give yourself a break. For example Alice Miller talks a lot about, and depathologises, how grandiosity is often a part of depression, and how it forms that self perpetuating loop. Her book “The drama of being a child” was quite a freeing and helpful read. Would highly recommend.

        This may not be the course of it for you, but one potential source of that pattern is learning that success brings “love”, and particularly if being compared with others is something you have frequently experienced. To be repeatedly on the receiving end of “why can’t you be more like ‘x’ ” leads to a tendency to resent ‘x’ and their success, because now it means your failure. The final kicker in the vicious cycle is being told what an unpleasant individual you now are for that resentment.

        However these emotions are of course now there for a reason, and to quote Jung – “condemnation does not liberate, it oppresses”. Self-condemnation of unwanted character flaws does not free you from them. Of course other’s may condemn you for having them, and that’s the challenge: Striking the balance between respecting others, whilst also embracing the right for your imperfection to exist. That is so often hard to do when a sense of worthlessness underlies it all, but even as a lifelong depression sufferer and at the age of 35, I tend to look towards people like Mr Jung and Ms Miller and take hope from them that these movements are possible.

    • CookPassBabtridge says:

      I like how you put all that Reapy. Cheers

  7. Unclepauly says:

    I was once in a deep depression and kind of just slogged my way through life. My stubborn attitude shielded me from most of the worst thoughts I guess. Not too sure how it went away but a healthy diet, exercise, and a sense of wonder in games that I’ve missed since childhood helped me pull out out of it. It kind of just faded away through the years. I never had a moment where the clouds parted or anything like that, depression just sort of dissipated. Anytime I get those moods to just vegetate on the couch and binge on junk food I avoid like the plague though. Whenever I indulge in that behavior I can feel it creeping back in.

    • P7uen says:

      Yes! Those moods where all you want to do is shut yourself away and eat junk food, because you know that will make you feel better. And it does, at the time. I suppose that’s why it takes so long to figure out that it really makes it worse in the long run.

    • chris1479 says:

      That’s exactly what I’ve been struggling with the last 2 or 3 years. The urge to slam the front door shut, triple lock it, draw the curtains and just cease to be is overwhelming and I haven’t beaten it yet. I only hold it back for periods of time, it feels like the game is mine to lose so to speak – i.e I can only stay out of that for so long before I make one slip-up and I’m right back there again as if there were no progress at all.

  8. Goodtwist says:

    Does someone remember the other 2 or 3 games in the recent 1 or 2 years that were dealing with depression, too?

    • Trillby says:

      Depression quest was a very well-written and free text game dealing with some similar themes. Can’t remember any others off the bat.

      • Phoibos Delphi says:

        Inner Vision, a flash game about hopelessness and suicide. Has great music by Takenobu!

        http://sunil-rao.com/wp-content/uploads/Inner-Vision.swf

      • burth says:

        Depression Quest was really good…. if that’s the right word for it. It certainly made me ask some serious questions about my own life and gave me greater understanding of what some of my friends must have gone through. I recommend trying to play it “realistically”, i.e. pick the things you might actually do instead of going for the “best” choice (or doing the worst stuff on purpose).

  9. Phoibos Delphi says:

    As somebody who knows first hand about depression (and is over 25) I wish the Designer would remove that “…if you are 25 or younger…”-note. It´s a) utter nonsense, just as John wrote and b) could be absolutely discouraging for anybody over 25 playing the game and suffering from depression, depressive people tend to seek for confirmations for their hopelessness and this note just says to them: “See, I told you, you´re to broken, to old, go on with your depressive routine and hope to die early”. What would it take away from the game if the note just said: “You are not the guy in the game, he gave in, he does not fight anymore. But the fact of you playing this game shows that you are still fighting to get out of the cesspit that is called depression. And as long as you fight, there is hope!”

    • chris1479 says:

      Sometimes fighting isn’t the answer… “Fighting” will be interpreted by different and more or less depressed people in different ways. For me I think battling on even though you feel terrible every day is not the answer. Sometimes life circumstances have to change, sometimes depression might just be trying to tell you something that is just hard to accept. For example, there is too much pathologising of depression: I think I do suffer from depression and I’ve had it a long time so it’s just part of my mental furniture now, BUT, I know a big part of why I feel like I do is simply because my life circumstances are not congruent with what I can or could do, job, living conditions, etc etc. So that depression could very well be the spur to someone out there at least, to change themselves or change their living conditions for the better. Sometimes more pills and therapy isn’t the answer.

      • Phoibos Delphi says:

        Maybe “fight” is the wrong word. But from my own experience I know that it is vital to take every glimpse of hope that makes it into your shuttered cave and use it to get better. I see my depression as a beast, that lures me into his cave with false promises of warmth and familiarity and my fight is with myself. Do I go to that warm, mind-numbing sadness that lets the hours fly by or do I work on getting out of the mess I am obviously in. I oppose to pills but therapy (which includes the therapy you do with yourself or in talks with friends by rationally analyzing your situation – work, love, dreams,etc.) is always a good thing, I think.

  10. vrittis says:

    Typo on the Samaritans email address

    I like the post and comments so far, thank you

    • hotmaildidntwork says:

      I was hoping somebody would point that out. I could be wrong but I’m pretty sure that @samartians is a misspelling.

      • lautalocos says:

        sa-martians. okay, i know this is a serious thing, but i find that very funny.

  11. psulli says:

    It is fascinating to me that this article of this game picks this game’s plot and play-style as the thing not to … while this site has brought many other games into the field of play that are so violent and gruesome … yet the editors don’t (or I haven’t noticed) tell people not to crouch behind chest-high walls and fire weapons at people shooting-gallery-style with hopes for a headshot. Or remind us to not actually car-jack people for fun or any reason, really.

    There is the precious individual, I suppose, that has value and reality where as the group of people most games have us kill are nothing but clay pigeons waiting for a turn.

    • Urthman says:

      Almost nobody actually grabs a gun and starts shooting people (or any of the other sociopathic stuff we do in video games).

      Lots of people kill themselves or attempt to. Pretty significant difference.

      • CookPassBabtridge says:

        There is also an unwritten rule in news agencies that suicides should go unreported, or if truly necessary, covered in ways likely to maximise the best possible outcomes. This is because of an observed link between reporting of suicide and the increase of others doing so: http://reportingonsuicide.org/ and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Copycat_suicide#Factors_in_suicide_reporting

        Its also the reason why ‘Trigger Warnings’ are so frequently requested on forums connected with depression

      • SuicideKing says:

        Yup, pretty much the same logic for wanting a lack of sexism/misogyny in games, translates more easily to real world behaviour.

        EDIT: My username has nothing to do with suicide, it’s based on the 242nd Suicide Kings, a squad in FreeSpace 2 that played the role of bomber interceptors and neutralized capital ship turrets.

        • CookPassBabtridge says:

          I think comparing the tendency to abuse other people because you saw someone else do it in a game, and the feeling that its finally OK to take a radical step to escape interminable pain because someone you relate to just did it, is pretty disappointing.

  12. melnificent says:

    Depression spirals and sets off a rapid chain of events for me. Something that is fine one day can really push me over the next.

    An unkind word. Sending you scurrying for shelter feeling a thousand eyes watching your every move until you are safe inside your sanctuary.
    Away from everyone and everything. Turning off the internet, phones and everything. Just for a minute of silence from everyone.
    Then you hear them, a small voice telling you that they were right, why don’t you just die already?
    You put the on kettle it’s loud and gives you something to do, make a cup of tea…. how very upright
    Maybe that insult is true. Have you seen yourself lately? Why would anyone love you? It raises in volume and tempo, more doubt on top of more hatred and loathing, shouting for attention, for release. Different ideas of how to carry it out, when to carry it out, how about a fork through the eye, that’d be cool. No the hose in the car, Oi bitch just do it already, stop thinking. Making another cup of tea how very fu-, fork do the fork, overdose…. SO much noise, no chance to breathe.
    The voices become indistinguishable from the tinnitus, another voice you’re so old your hearing is failing. It won’t be long now. Then it’s lost in the sea of noise.
    You’re clenching your ears, when did that happen? The noise is deafening, it’s making you cry and rage. Guilt joins in, every bad decision you’ve ever made comes back in seconds, staggering from the emotional blows you collapse on the floor (seat if you were quick), why bother, why go on? Why even try and kill yourself, if you stay here with the noise it’ll happen eventually. The worst is still yet to come, you know it’s coming and you can’t stop it….A voice rises above the volume… it screams at you “You’ve killed before, what’s the difference between you and them?” Fear and doubt, and that self-preservation crap. Why can you end someone elses life and not your own?

    Then you scream, and grab the only happy thoughts you know, your children…. always one less to hold, one less to kiss and hug. You think you keep going because you have to, because you need to…. because you cannot put them through the hurt of losing a parent like you lost their sibling. It wasn’t your fault, the wall of voices is subsiding now, thoughts come to you slowly. It was never about you, the pain and suffering is for you to bear so they don’t have to. If you give up why do what you had to back then? Why let those that live suffer?

    The scream ends. All is quiet, you get up and make your cup of tea.

    It’s still under control…..for now.

    edit: I have never killed anyone like you think I have. It was an unavoidable death, that the act of switching off lifesupport sped up by a factor of weeks, but gave him the comfort he deserved. It is something I bear every day, for him.

    • chris1479 says:

      And people wonder why so many depressed people sink into a morass of drink and drugs to forget.

      • melnificent says:

        Well when you seek help they just medicate and zombie-fy you, if they work. All spontaneous thought and emotion just gone. With side-effects such as visual disturbances (which are very worse than “just” the voices and thoughts). You are trading one problem for another far larger one. Counselling is a last resort of the NHS, even though it is the most beneficial.

        Alcohol is a depressant, but it is good for me in small doses, far more then any thing else. It helps to control the volume level. Not blocking them out, nothing does, but turning it down to an almost manageable level. Due to other medication I’ve had to stop this though… liver can’t process both.

  13. craigdolphin says:

    Depression has negatively impacted my life in many ways. Firsthand and….bad…in the past. In my early 20′s was a bad time in my life. Also lost my mum to it. It is a sickness and it claims lives. It’s not easy to understand if you’ve never been affected by it personally. And the weirdest thing is how it shapes the way you think to eliminate hope or purpose, and forms this self-reinforcing spiral of despair. Strangely enough, the thing that turned it around for me was a throwaway sentence from an older friend of mine. All he said was ‘It’s okay to have fun, it doesn’t invalidate how you feel about these things that are dragging you down’. And it took me months of thinking on that to realize he was right. Somehow my stupid brain had convinced itself that I had to perpetually dwell on the crap in my life, that if someone saw me laugh and have fun then somehow they’d dismiss the seriousness of all this other stuff to my life. Why that should matter I dunno now. But back then it mattered.

    And so I gave myself permission to take a break from feeling bad about everything. I got into gaming…especially western RPG’s from Bioware and RTS games. Over time, I spent more of my time enjoying life and less of it focused inward. Now, I’m happily married and have an interesting and creatively satisfying job (some of the time it is at least). I consider myself in remission although I suspect I will carry the dark seeds of depression within me all my life. But I will never forget the lifeline my friend gave to me all those years ago.

    I post this in hopes that, maybe, the same thing that helped me might help someone else. It is ok to have fun: no one will stop taking your issues seriously if they sometimes see you enjoy something in spite of them.

    And yes, things can always get better no matter how bleak they seem. Take it from someone who managed to come back from the brink, and who has helplessly watched people they loved fall into that same abyss.

    Good on you John for posting about this.

  14. Jakkar says:

    This is why this remains my most visited website other than my email and Facebook accounts.

  15. psepho says:

    This is a wonderful thread that made me feel quite emotional. Thank you to everyone who has felt able to share personal experiences. I have had difficult times in the past and my heart goes out to everyone who is struggling now.

    I found that sharing really helped, as did exercise, long SF and fantasy series, and St John’s Wort. My GP was also really helpful at the time — there is no shame in going to the doc if you think something’s not right. It’s what they are there for.

  16. hypercrisis says:

    The ‘under 25′ comment is strange indeed. Guess I better kill myself?

    Being depressed doesn’t make you an expert on depression, which I feel many of the internet generation fail to realise.

  17. crinkles esq. says:

    “…no time or money left to change or undo any of those things.” What utter drivel. A person in their 30s has all the time in the world, barring unfortunate fates, to change the outcome of their life. Yes, there is a growing obsession with youth out there, but that’s just society’s collective insecurity banging a desperate drum.