Tuesday, August 12, 2014

On Suicide and Depression (and a Confession)

As most of you know, when I was nine I lost my mom to suicide. All of this discussion about Robin Williams has me kind of sad and frustrated with where we are with mental illness in this world. My heart was DEEPLY saddened when I heard of his death yesterday. I have always loved him. While I obviously don't "know" him, it hit close to home. My mind raced thinking about his family. In suicide, the ones left behind have so much to work through. I am still working through my suicide junk from my mom.

I have read articles today about how depression isn't really a disease, how it isn't a medical matter but one of joy and gratitude or lack thereof and I have to tell you I couldn't DISagree more. Depression isn't a choice. Truthfully...in most cases suicide isn't a choice. I feel compelled to share with you my personal journey with this topic. So here goes.

In the years following my own mom's suicide, I was so angry, so bitter, so hurt. I was consumed with guilt, grief and shame. No nine year old wants to have to answer questions about his or her parent's death...especially when it is one that is so difficult to understand and so taboo. I would speak of my mother with contempt. I hated her. I thought she was a selfish coward and if you look back in this blog you'll even find my words saying those things even just a few years ago. People would tell me she was sick and needed help....yadda, yadda, yadda. I felt like everyone was glossing it all over and remembering her as some kind of hero when in fact I believed her to be so cowardly. She betrayed me and I felt like she didn't feel I was worth living for. I'd get so angry when people would speak highly of her.

Then one morning I woke up and looked in the mirror. I saw her reflection. I was most of the time either crying or lashing out at the people I loved most. I was aware of how many blessings I had all around me and yet I enjoyed nothing. I put on a brave face and tried not to let on because I believed the term depression was just a cop out. I believed medication was something people used to numb and forget about what would have to be dealt with inevitably anyhow. I thought if I prayed harder, I'd snap out of my funk. Well guess what. All that pressure...just made it worse. The guilt mounted. I sunk deeper and deeper. I was in a fog. I felt like I was swimming and going about the motions of life but I couldn't come up for air. I almost just felt like a spectator. I wasn't really engaging in my own life.

In November of last year, I started counseling. I began to see what my mother was going through. There were times that I truly wondered if my family would be better off without me because I was just no fun. I never ever thought of killing myself, but I credit that largely to the fact that I am far too aware of what that choice my own mom made did to me and I don't want that for my kids. I want them to know that I love them and want to be here for EVERY event in their lives and I think they are worth fighting for. That is what this is...it is a fight. I have cancer. I will fight cancer with everything I have. I also suffer with clinical depression and anxiety as well as PTSD. That my friends is the first time I've admitted that.

It is easy to say, hey, guess what, I am a cancer warrior. People find that noble. No one will fault you for having cancer. They will rally behind you and build you up. It is NOT easy to say, I am a depression warrior. People think you're a debbie downer, or crazy or worse. There is such a stigma attached to mental illness and you know what...it is NO less of a disease or struggle than cancer. In the Christian community it can even be worse. People will say you don't pray hard enough, you don't have enough faith, etc. Those are all lies. If your brain chemicals are such that you can't see past the hurt you deeply feel, you can't see the hope. You can KNOW it is there, but you can't see it...your brain won't allow you.

So here's my confession, even after counseling, I was struggling. My brain would not let me find joy....I fought so hard that it exhausted me. My doctor was able to talk me into taking a tiny pill and within weeks, the fog began to lift. I had feared that tiny pill for so long. I thought it was the "easy" way out, I was adamant that I'd never need it. That little pill, makes my life manageable, it allows my brain to process one thing at a time. It made me a better mom, wife and friend. It helped to give me the boost I needed to deepen my faith and see the hope right in front of me.

I haven't really admitted to many people that I was diagnosed with clinical depression or that I take medication for it. It is time we all have this discussion. It is time we break free from the ridiculous stigma attached to mental illness and treat it like the disease it is. If we hide from it we become part of the problem. Biologically, sometimes we need some help. We need not be ashamed of that. The unfortunate truth is that some people won't get it. They'll still judge and think less of us for it...and that sucks, but truly, that's on them.

We need not glorify suicide, but be real. The people suicide hurts most are those left behind and if our dialogue doesn't honor God and prevent this from happening to others it is worthless. God teaches us to love one another above all else. I really believe IF we did that, this problem would be far more rare. I have come to a place of forgiveness and healing with my own mom through my own struggles with depression. I now know she truly wasn't able to think long term...she was thinking of the intense hurts at that moment and how she knew she wasn't the mom or wife she wanted to be. I truly believe she thought we'd be better off without her.

So, the moral of the story is that it is super easy to judge and have an opinion on this issue, but it is difficult to understand unless you've experienced it. Let's be kind to one another and show love and compassion. Mental illness is real and it affects more people than we realize. In the county I live in, there were EIGHT times more suicides than homicides in 2013. If that doesn't make us realize that this conversation needs to be had, I don't know what will. If you know someone hurting...reach out!

My heart and prayers are with the family of Robin Williams as they deal with this terrible tragedy.


Emily Maurer said...

This is beautiful. Brave. Thanks for sharing. Have battled with depression on and off in life and even that little pill. God tears down and builds up. I pray that God uses this pretty little blog of yours to tear down the ugly things associated with MI and build up the beautiful things He makes out of our ashes!

LeeAnn said...

I can attest to the pain of depression. It hurts so much that it almost becomes tangible and the weight of that pain offers no hope. I am here thanks to intense therapy and the medication I take every day.

jess said...

What a beautifully written, brave, honest post. I admire you so much for writing this.

Priscilla said...

so beautiful. thank you for sharing!!

Priscilla said...
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Karen said...


Thanks so much for sharing your story! God Bless you! I have struggled with some similar things and I understand the stigma attached!Sharing your story will definitely help other people!

r. said...

Thank you for posting this.