This is a serious issue which certainly requires professionals, but that doesn’t mean that us regulars can’t talk about it. Share our stories and our tips. You might feel the fear that I feel too: of trying to help-what if I make it worse? It seems like you need to be a superhero to have the proper ability to handle something such as the prevention of suicide.
The topic of depression is buried deep in the roots of the tree from which grow all that I am and do in this life. Every green leaf that I sprout has been fed and touched by depression. I think it is like this for a lot of people, and that is why I will spend my life talking about it.
But today, I just want to give you some brief tips and thoughts. I am not a professional, and I am drawing solely on my own personal experience and opinions for this article. I hope they might be of help…
IF you are depressed:
I would like you to know one very important thing first: There are no depression qualifications or criteria.
There are no specific traumatic events or losses that you have to check off to deserve feeling depressed. Over the years I have heard many people tell me that they didn’t feel they deserved to call themselves depressed because nothing in their lives had gone wrong. No child abuse or bullying, no bad parents or experiences with loss. Please hear me when I say that you cannot earn depression! There is no price you must pay to deserve feeling sad. If you feel like the world is ending, then it is.
Secondly: Now is not the time to worry about appearances.
I know it would be easier if people didn’t know, or if you could appear “fine” so that you won’t get pity or shame. The effort that it takes to appear different then you are is draining your body of the energy that it needs to heal you. And the truth is that depression will surface on its own anyways. The more that I suppressed it, the higher the pressure in my volcano climbed. The resulting explosion was so great that it removed me of all the dignity and appearances that I had thought were so important. And the relief of not having to pretend was something that allowed me to gradually feel better.
The quicker you tell someone the quicker they can help you.
Here’s the truth: Some people can make your depression worse.
This is the reason why you don’t want to tell people right? There are people who will react exactly how you fear they will. People might see the weight of depression crushing your body down, and decide to take the weights of guilt, shame, humiliation, and isolation and pile those on top of you too. Why do they do this? How can you know who to trust and who not to?
You know who to trust. And if not, what do you have to lose at this point?
In this process you will realize precisely who it is that you can trust with your whole heart and soul. The people who are afraid of your depression, who don’t understand it and don’t want to see it are the ones with the weights. They are likely only setting them on you because they are exhausted from having carried them themselves. You will forgive them later. But more importantly, there is nothing like personal tragedy to clearly show you the essence of your relationships. It will surprise you how much love and patience your friends are willing and eager to give. Your gratitude for them will grow so big. Your friends can save your life.
Finally: Forgive yourself.
Forgive yourself for feeling this way. Forgive yourself for acting on your feelings or for causing pain to yourself and others. Forgive yourself for not having the energy to “fix” things, or to change your perspective. Forgive yourself for being small. And forgive yourself for everything that happens as a result of the depression that is in your life.
IF you see someone who is depressed:
A plea from all of us: Don’t pull out your checklist.
Every form of depression is different. I’m not talking symptoms so much as causes-some people can feel “real” depression from something that to you appears totally normal and undeserving of such a reaction. Now is not the time for logic. You can’t rationalize someone out of depression.
Also: Take everyone seriously.
It is nearly impossible for most people to ask for help, or admit that they are feeling depressed. If someone has come to you, then you must respect the effort that that took. Unfortunately, asking for help is sometimes the last resort. It is very important that you put aside your discomfort and take the situation seriously. Now.
Regardless of the circumstance: Find a way to be there.
I realize that you are in a very difficult situation. It is traumatic and terrifying to see someone who is depressed and to feel the responsibility that they have given you. They may not respond to what you are saying, and it may not seem like you can talk any sense into them. They may even get angry with you and make you want to leave them.
It is utterly exhausting! How can your heart beat for two?
This is a test-they want to prove their world view…that they are not deserving of people or life, that they are too damaged for this world, that they are all alone, life isn’t worth living, or that their problems and feelings are too great to conquer.
As much as you can, try not to give in. Just sit beside them. I mean literally just sit beside them. Ask for help, and go to a hospital if you need to, but if nothing else just be beside them.
If someone is seriously suicidal then they need to be around people as much as possible…around the clock.
Finally: Forgive yourself.
Sometimes nothing you do will work. You may not be able to prevent suicide. You might feel angry or irritated with someone for being depressed. You might not have enough energy to give them the help you know they need.
Life is yours to live as well. Love is yours to have as well. And in a situation where depression is involved, guilt and shame have NO place. This is life and death we are talking about. We are all here together, and it is difficult. Please forgive yourself for all that unfolds.
What is your experience with depression? What do you think needs to be done? Why are so many young people feeling depressed? What do the statistics mean?
Talk about it. Don’t be afraid of people who love to criticize you for not being politically correct (should I have written “If you are feeling depressed”, instead of “If you are depressed”?). The fear and discomfort that you feel right before you start to talk about it is precisely what is preventing us from living in a world where we remember that we are connected.
“I wish I could show you, when you are lonely or in darkness, the astonishing light of your own being.”
Thank you, my friends for sitting with me. For looking for me when I was lost. Listening to me and giving me your energy. This World Suicide Prevention Day is a day where we should celebrate the energy and love that you give so freely. You changed the world-and you save mine over and over again.