What I want you to know about Depression and Suicide.

I’ve been fighting this post.

Every time I read about another precious person who took his/her own life, which has happened far too often lately, I fight it.  My heart begs me to write it, but I don’t want to be a downer. And I just don’t know how to put words to the depth of my feelings on this particular topic.

And then, yesterday.

What I want you to know about depression and suicide. RIP Robin Williams

I wept at learning of the death of Robin Williams. I read a status that referred to suicide and my heart beat faster and I felt panic as I did a google search, begging that information to be incorrect. But, that seems to be the case for now.

Heartbreaking doesn’t begin to describe it.

Depression doesn’t always look like you think.

Even as open as I am about the fact that I suffer from severe, chronic depression, people still don’t get it.  Even those closest to me. I’m sure a part of it is that I don’t want to be a downer. I want to be uplifting. So when I do mention depression, the comments are always the same…

“Really? You suffer from depression? I would never have guessed it.”

“You seem like such a happy person.”

This is scary for me. I feel like there is an unspoken conclusion-it must not be that bad. If you seem happy and you say you’re depressed, then it must not be that bad.

And while I won’t get into details, I want to say, unequivocally… you’re right. It’s not “that bad.” It’s worse. If you don’t suffer from depression, I can say with some certainty that depression is worse than you think. Because there are no words to accurately describe it.

Depression is more than feeling down

So often I hear people make comments against depression and say you should “focus on the positives.” Depression is so much more than just a bad day. There are physical symptoms, and it can be completely debilitating. 

Here are just a few of the symptoms of this medical illness:

  • sadness or depressed mood, almost every day.
  • loss of pleasure in things you once enjoyed.
  • Major change in weight or appetite–can lead to eating disorders.
  • Insomnia
  • Physically restless or rundown
  • Fatigue/loss of energy, almost every day
  • Feelings of hopelessness, worthlessness, or excessive guilt almost every day
  • Problems with concentration or making decisions almost every day
  • Recurring thoughts of death/suicide (I haven’t considered suicide, but this manifests in anxiety/panic attacks and other thoughts of death

I suffer from every single one of these symptoms on a daily basis.

I have read over and over about the awesome power of the human spirit. People who are severely disabled go on to do amazing things because of the power of the human spirit.

There is a great poem about cancer and how it can destroy everything but the human spirit.

That spirit is exactly what depression attacks. 

The same drive that allows people to overcome obstacles is the very thing that is attacked by depression.

My friend, Michelle, wrote a beautiful piece about why she cried at hearing of Robin Williams’ death. In it, she shares with a lot of accuracy some of the thoughts a depressed person battles.

It’s not about being sad. It’s about never being happy. Literally. Never.

It’s about not having energy to do the most basic of things because you just physically can’t.

It’s about a dark, oppressive cloud of sadness hanging over you every second of every day, even when you look around and you KNOW that you are so very blessed.  Because that’s the thing with clinical depression–there isn’t always a reason for it. I can look around and see how blessed I am. I count those blessings every day. There is no reason for me to be depressed and that’s one of the most frustrating things about it.

It’s about the lies in your head telling you every second of every day that you are worthless and that the world would be a better place if you weren’t in it.

But even with all that, it’s more.

Suicide is Not {Necessarily} a Selfish Act

I know to outsiders, it appears that suicide is entirely a selfish act, and I get that. I really do. I can’t imagine the pain of having a loved one take their own life .

But just try to imagine for one second, living in the pain of your worst day ever…every single day. But above that, it’s not always about escaping the pain.

Sometimes, it’s about the idea that your family would be better off without you. I have been in that place. I am not trying to elicit sympathy, but just to inspire understanding.

I have literally had times where I felt that the best thing I could do for my family would be to remove myself from the picture. If I were gone, my husband could find a better wife. The boys could have a mom who wasn’t depressed. Who wasn’t sick. Who would be so much better for them.

I have been there.

And that’s why it absolutely breaks my heart every time I hear of someone taking their own life. Because I know that pain.

There isn’t always help

Some people will say they should have got help. That’s so much easier said than done, and here are just some of the reasons why:

  1. It doesn’t always work. That’s the sad truth. For some people there is not enough counseling or meds to pull them out of that dark place. My friend Holly writes more about that here.
  2. Finances. Some people just can’t afford the help that they need. Counseling is expensive and meds are expensive, especially when it usually requires a lot of visits and experimenting with treatments and meds to get the right combination.
  3. Some meds can increase risk of suicide. Yep. The sad, ironic truth is that most medicines prescribed for depression can actually increase the risk of suicidal thoughts.

And sometimes, the help just isn’t there. When people do reach out from their pain, they are judged. I have been told that my depression is a sin against God, that it is proof that I am ungrateful, that if I really appreciated my children or my life I wouldn’t be depressed.  I’ve been told if I loved God more or had more faith, or prayed harder I wouldn’t be depressed.

That is not the kind of “help” that anyone needs.

When someone reaches out

I’m planning to write a couple more posts about this, with some things that you should not say to a depressed person, and some things that you can do to help.

But for now, if there is one thing I can leave you with it is this:  if someone reaches out to you about depression, please take it seriously.

Most of the people I have known who suffer from depression want to hide it. They don’t want to bring others down. They don’t think they deserve your help. They are deeply ashamed because of all the things our culture has taught them about mental illness.

If they are reaching out to you at all, it’s because they feel very desperate. Take it seriously.

If YOU are suffering

If you are one of the people suffering, please know that you are not alone. You are not worthless. No matter what the illness tells you. There is hope.  Light is more powerful than darkness. I pray that you will find someone in your life to speak that truth to you.

Crystal Paine shares about that hope in her post about her own struggle with post-partum depression.

Photo Credit: By Eva Rinaldi  [CC-BY-SA-2.0 ], via Wikimedia Commons

 

Comments

  1. says

    Thank you for posting this, you have said a lot of what I want to say. I am in the process of writing out what I want to say in response to the stuff I am seeing posted on Twitter in particular about this whole subject. I am very upset how "Christians" are responding to this.

    • Crystal Brothers says

      I agree with you Rachel! I am very saddened at how some big-name Christians have responded to it :( Feel free to come back and share a link to your thoughts when you’re finished.

  2. Gabby says

    Yes, yes, yes. Absolutely. Until you’ve been there, you just can’t understand. I didn’t get it, not for a long time. And because mine was for such a short duration (a few months), it’s hard for me to fathom the day to day battle that others go through. But I can try.

    Praying for you today in your battle, Crystal.

    • Crystal Brothers says

      Gabby, I love that you allow the Lord to use that pain you endured as a way for you to empathize with others. Thank you for your prayers and kindness.

  3. says

    Thank you so much! This is so meaningful and your words will reach many. I have painfully watched my sister and daughter be tormented with suicidal ideations for years. My daughter is currently doing well, my sister resides with her Father God in heaven. I was raised in a home where "weaknesses" were hidden. There is little hope for healing with this mentality. We are a family of believers. My daughter believes that Jesus died for her sins and it is through this that she accepts her salvation. Her hope is in the Lord and her medication is in the kitchen cabinet…she NEEDS both. May God continue to strengthen you on your darkest of days and thank you again for sharing. I will be sharing this post with others!

    • Crystal Brothers says

      Jeanne, thank you for your kind words. I am so very sorry to hear of the suffering your sister and daughter have endured by this illness. I completely agree with you about it being a medical issue that should be given the respect of a medical illness and not treated as a weakness. Praying that your daughter will have peace and joy in her life.

  4. says

    Sweet Friend! Thank you for writing this brave, honest post! Praying for you. Praying for the William's Family… I went through severe depression after the loss of our first child… and I remember sweet "church ladies" telling me if I had Jesus I wouldn't be depressed! I have never felt more angry at the church than I did in those months. So, thank you for speaking truth.

  5. says

    Sweet Friend! Thank you for writing this brave, honest post! Praying for you. Praying for the William’s Family… I went through severe depression after the loss of our first child… and I remember sweet “church ladies” telling me if I had Jesus I wouldn’t be depressed! I have never felt more angry at the church than I did in those months. So, thank you for speaking truth.

    • Crystal Brothers says

      Darby, I am so sorry for your loss, and sorry that people responded to you in that way. I think that is such a harmful and hurtful idea.

  6. says

    Crystal, I’m glad you wrote this post. If it helps you, write it. I’m taking my own advice. I’ve hidden too long. I do not suffer this myself, but as you’re well aware, my children suffer from bipolar disorder. I know the pain. I watch the pain and I live with fear every day. I’m glad we’re both opening up about the problem.

    • Crystal Brothers says

      Michelle, it seems like your daughter is very fortunate that you are supportive and at least try to understand. That is so important!

  7. says

    Crystal, I am so sorry for the deep pain I hear in your post. What a horrible place to be, what a horrible place to live… like a prison sentence with no hope of release. I have been praying for you for several weeks now and I will continue. Have you checked into alternative methods for help – like supplements? No, I am not saying there is an easy answer… please don’t hear that… not what I am saying.. but I have known of amazing results in many ailments – including depression, by addressing deficiencies in the body or using supplements. It might be something to check into. Regardless, I will be praying for you.

    • Crystal Brothers says

      Thank you so much for your sweet words and your prayers! I so appreciate it. I am very open to natural remedies, and am currently focusing all my efforts on my diet–ridding my diet of processed foods, and focusing on whole foods instead. We had a few hiccups with this but are trying to get back on track.

  8. nikki says

    This paragraph: Sometimes, it’s about the idea that your family would be better off without you. I have been in that place. I am not trying to elicit sympathy, but just to inspire understanding. I have literally felt that the best thing I could do for my family would be to remove myself from the picture. If I were gone, my husband could find a better wife. The boys could have a mom who wasn’t depressed. Who wasn’t sick. Who would be so much better for them.
    These are thoughts I struggle with often. This was a good post.

  9. says

    So much truth in this – the believing that everyone else is better off without you. Believing that you are doing them a favor. I’ve been there, too, and narrowly escaped being Robin (posted about it, today, actually). Thank you for being a solid voice out there – helping folks to grasp this terrible illness.

  10. says

    Thank you for sharing your heart through this post and your personal experiences. I’m learning much about depression, and I appreciate your honest and first-hand perspective. Keep sharing it with others. God is using you. So glad I came over today.

  11. says

    Bless you for these words. I’ve only had a taste of depression myself, but I’ve seen it wreak havoc in people’s lives that I love. I know it’s real and it’s really, really bad. Thank you for linking up today. I hope to see you back soon…glad to find you! xoxo, mb

  12. Kathy says

    I read this post early this morning and you and it have been on my heart all day. I’ve suffered for over 25 yrs with at times, very severe depression. It’s gotten bad again these past few months as my daughter has turned her back on me and in doing so taken my 7 yr old granddaughter away. There is no easy answer and no easy solution to depression. Through a antidepressant, a great counselor, my hubby (truly wonderful, patient man), my Bible study group and of course the King of Kings, I’m making it. Some days it’s truly a struggle, but I know this would not be a better place without me in it.

    There will never be a better wife for your husband and a Mommy to those wonderful boys than the one they have now! I can guarantee that.

    I too have also cleaned up my diet and recently started using essential oils.

    Keep writing Crystal, keep reaching out for help and let others help you. You are worth it!

    Thanks for all you do in this blog, it’s truly a worthwhile effort.

    • Crystal Brothers says

      Thank you so much for your encouragement, Kathy! I am so sorry that you have struggled as well, and sorry to hear about what you and your family are going through :(

      I am working on cleaning up my diet as well. It is so hard when the sugar, junkfood, etc. has such an addictive pull, but I am trying because I truly believe it can help.

I love to hear your feedback and value your thoughts! All I ask is that we remain respectful and civil, even when we disagree. Thanks so much for reading. I appreciate you!

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