Feeling guilty about friend's suicide
I'm not sure I have a specific question to be answered but I am definitely interested in comments from a specialist on my situation. I lost a friend to suicide when I was 17 years old. I was severely depressed for a very long time (approx. 2 years). I went for help because I knew I'd take my life otherwise. I couldn't care less about myself but I had to keep on living so as to not put my family through the pain I was suffering. I knew that I'd be put on meds and hoped that these would help me get by. They were my last hope. Sure enough I was given anti-depressant medication but it didn't help. They tried several brands but other then the hellish nightmares, nothing changed. I tried my hardest to find reasons to get up for myself in the mornings because I knew I'd never survive if I stayed alive just for others. In fact, on many occasions, I caught myself trying to get my family and friends to hate me so that I'd have an excuse to go.
To make a long story short, I've been living my life with bouts of depression for almost 10 years now. Although not severely depressed at this point, my downs are very rough and I never seem to experience much joy. I would never take my life because I know all to well what it's like to be left behind so I carry on day by day never really content. I don't consciously beat myself up over my friend's death anymore but I certainly have never forgiven myself for who I was back then. I could never do that. Any attempt just makes me think that much less of myself. I've had plenty of friends, counsellors, and doctors tell me the suicide wasn't my fault but they don't understand. I KNOW I wasn't the sole cause but.. I didn't help when it was obvious that my friend needed someone. I didn't open my heart to him. I gave the last push.
My sense of self is messed up. I lack the confidence needed to make things change, to make things good for myself. I worry about not ever being good enough. Whether it be in academics, at work, or in my relationships, I feel inadequate all the time and, whether I'm too hard on myself or not, it's true -it's fair to say that I AM pretty much inadequate in alot of areas. I look around and it seems to me, most people don't have to put much energy into feeling upbeat, confident, and ready to tackle life's challenges. Everyone I know is GREAT at something or many things. Me? Nope! I wish there was something I could do.
I wish I could find a way to build myself up, to live life to the fullest, ya know. I don't need self-help books. I've studied sociology & psychology and find self-help books to be altogether way too simplistic. I read the works of persons such as Erich Fromm and Rollo May. Their work is comprehensive and I admire them for it. But, in the end, they don't help. I've considered psychotherapy. Maybe a specialist, in allowing me to dig deep and let things out (maybe through hypnosis) might help. Although I'm not sure letting someone else in on my pain can do much good. I'm also always afraid I'll feel worse because I'll end up with some other doctor who wants to tell me it wasn't my fault again. I just wish I had the confidence needed to make it in this world -the confidence that will allow me to act in ways that will boost me, naturally. I just don't have it in me. There are times when I feel good about myself, but these are short lived and I inevitably come to realize that the issue I praised myself for was really quite meaningless. Thanks for reading.
Dear Guil T,
Perhaps you are right that you contributed to your friend's suicide. If you have been struggling with this knowing while professionals have tried to convince you otherwise, you may need to, in a sense, be "tried by a jury of your peers and sentenced if convicted". I'm thinking more of a healing ritual, perhaps private or with a few friends or family that you trust. In the Catholic Church there is "the sacrament of confession"; in AA there is "telling your story". But even more important is the penance or atonement that follows the ritual acknowledgement of your failure. I don't believe pain is helpful, although sometimes unavoidable, in developing ourselves. So I don't think you should punish yourself in some physical or emotional way. Rather, you may need to volunteer at a suicide-prevention hotline or help the homeless or the elderly and others prone to despair.
You are obviously a very strong person to have withstood the years of punishment you've suffered since your friend's death. If you had been sentenced to jail back then, do you think it would have been fair to sentence you to this many years of depression and low self-esteem? Have you perhaps been overly penalized? If not, when do you think is a fair date to free you from the imprisonment of depression? What length of time would match the crimes you committed? "I didn't help when it was obvious that my friend needed someone. I didn't open my heart to him. I gave the last push."
Do you deserve depression for the rest of your life? That seems a bit strong, doesn't it? You were a friend who didn't see the warning signs, just like everyone else who knew your friend. This person was so good at fooling people that even family members could not see what was coming. Should you be the person who is sentenced to the most time in depression? Are you posting your question at "Queendom" because you're starting to suspect that someone lost the key, that you should have been released by now? Perhaps you're considering a jail break. Good luck in "tunneling under the wall"! (PS - Many therapists are excellent tunnel diggers.)
This question was answered by Michael Mesmer, MFT. Michael is familiar with several therapeutic approaches, including brief, holistic, transpersonal, narrative, and body-oriented therapies. He works with issues of domestic violence, grief and loss, relationship and phase-of-life challenges, teenage concerns and parenting skills. For more information visit his site or his compact information page on QueenDom. For more information visit: http://www.therapyalternatives.org/