depression comix #307

Unfortunately true tale. I’m finding a lot of survivors have a version of “The Plan” and it’s something just never goes away. It follows you and reminds you it’s there on your darker days, making you feel that you’re never quite recovered.

In 1993, I was taking a course in University for Abnormal Psychology. In one class on depression and suicidal behavior, we had a video of our professor talking to a suicidal patient. What really surprised me was, this patient was sitting in a chair wearing a neck and tie, and talked calmly as if he were discussing gardening techniques.

He was talking about his Plan, in the same way as if he were talking about a vacation plan that he was thinking about taking someday. He had every detail planned out. He would shoot himself in the head, and to help people out, he would do it on a matress surrounded by blue sheets; this would prevent getting blood everywhere. All the people had to do would dispose of the body, mattress, and the sheets, no other cleaning would be required. He even planned to leave a few hundred dollars on the table, a “tip” and a way of saying “sorry for the trouble.”

This left an impression on me. Not that I could ever do this, but, I had always thought of suicide as a sprur of the moment kind of thing. A moment of weakness. A spontaneous event no one could predict like a lightning strike. The result of a bad day. Not the kind of thing people would consider for a long time, and plan out every single detail over the period of months or even years. And all the while, he would put on his tie and go to work, fooling everyone into thinking that he was living his life normally when everything in his head was everything but.

Later that year, I would be diagnosed for depression myself. But I was not like that. I didn’t have a plan, I just had bad mood swings.

In 1995, I abused sleeping pills. Not to kill myself, but to keep myself from the pain of being awake. I thought that if enough time had passed I could sleep the pain away. It didn’t work. I was told by my therapist to never do that again, even though I wasn’t suicidal. It was just the beginning of a slippery slope.

A decade later, depression had put me deeply in the pit. I was feeling my very life slip away from under me. I couldn’t get a plan together, I couldn’t see a future. I was living entirely for the moment, and every moment was just mental pain. By that time I managed to alienate all my friends and had no support. I wanted it to end.

It was at that point I developed my Plan. It was different from that one I had heard many years ago, I had no stomach for blood and guns were hard to come by. But while I was trying to sleep, while I was driving to work, while I was eating lunch, I would deeply fantasize about how I would end it and worked out many of the details, like getting the time to do it and a schedule for getting rid of everything I owned in the apartment. It had to be done in a logical manner, and done fitting the garbage schedule I had to live by (in Japan certain things could only be thrown out certain days of the week and month).

And thus I had The Plan.

I’ve long since abandoned the idea of actually carrying it out. But during those days when it gets darker, when I have stressful days, it comes back. It tells me, you already worked it out. It would be so easy to do again. I have to shake it off but The Plan will always be there, and there’s nothing I can do to erase it, although I wish I could.

You can read the strip here:

1 comment

    The Plan is something that never seems to leave. Once one thinks it, it is impossible to ever make it go away. It even adapts to circumstances. My plan has changed several times over the years, I had one plan when I was single and living by myself, then it changed when I got married and changed again after having a son. People who haven't been there cannot imagine how much time and effort goes into planning one's own demise. It is surprising the variety of methods involved in planning. When I first got married and got a job at a large bank. At one point I was working in deceased accounts for a few years. In retrospect, it was probably not good for me to be reading death certificates every day for years. The first thing I noticed was how many suicides there were, It was rare that I could go an entire day without seeing at least one. Many days I would see 6 to 10 suicides. I would berate myself with thoughts like, "what is wrong with you, all these people did it, quit putting it off and just get it over with." The other thing that struck me was how many of them showed a great deal of careful planning in the brief descriptions on the death certificates. I know you have covered the problems that make the planning more difficult. I particularly relate to #230 and #117. My doctor commented to me about the obstacles is planning on specifically mentioned the ones covered in those strips. I had to tell her that I unfortunately don't have that excuse anymore That is the bad part about being from a family of engineers, problems have to be solved. I finally solved the foolproof and painless problem. One other important criteria was to not leave a mess for others to deal with. I won't say what my plan is because I don't want to inadvertently encourage anyone else, but when I told my doctor she said, "you have put way too much thought into this." I have deliberately not purchased one key part of my plan specifically to not make it easier on a bad day to do it. I really don't want to kill myself, but it is something that feels inevitable. To me, it literally feels like someone is standing behind me and pushing me in a direction I don't want to go. I try hard to push back and resist, but that destination seems to keep getting a little closer. I am doing better lately, but as you have so cleverly depicted, The Plan does not give up. It haunts us for the rest of our lives. #307 and it's follow up, #313 are two very well done strips. A serious subject taken seriously but with the plan depicted as a more more lighthearted comic character it allows one to find some humor in our lives. Thanks again, Clay. Your insights and your ability to express them in comic form is very impressive.

    FML | 9 months ago Reply

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