Being linked to the medical profession by my husband, I saw a lot of sick people, injured people, and people struggling with mental illness come through our clinic. They all had one thing in common–if the injury or illness was bad enough, they could have died. Emotional and physical pain are both debilitating. I’ve endured and seen both, and my heart breaks especially for those suffering with mental illness. Depression is a devastation. I’m addressing this subject because some people I love have been hit hard by a suicide recently.
Ever since the back-to-back suicides of three friends when I was a teenager, I have believed that death from suicide is the result of a mental illness, not of human action. That illness invades the mind and controls the thoughts until a person is blind to logic and to love. I’ve seen a depressed mother shut out her own child and turn a deaf ear to her cries. That woman was not in control of her actions. If she’d been in her right mind and not fighting depression, she would never have hurt her child in that way. I’m convinced that mental illness is as debilitating as a heart attack or stroke or cancer. It’s a literal illness of the brain, not a weakness of personal will. One would not blame an Alzheimer’s victim for losing his memory, or an accident victim for his injuries. I believe this with all my heart, and would never say otherwise to someone who has lost a loved one to suicide. My hope today is to offer comfort to those affected by suicide.
Depression runs in my family. I have had periods of depression so dark that heaven seemed to be calling me. Honestly, when a person’s final destination is heaven, it might seem logical to go ahead and get there as soon as possible, right? Who wouldn’t prefer heaven to the suffering we have here on earth? All I can say is that God is the only One with the right to decide the day of my death. I belong to Him. Sometimes it has been my love for those who loved me here on earth that kept me from committing that final act. I don’t believe I’ve suffered the depth of depression that others have endured, but I cannot imagine anything more painful.
After moving to the wild west last year, I noticed billboards along the roadsides with suicide hotline numbers. The problem is addressed here much more than it was where we used to live. I don’t know why. There are fewer people here in the Panhandle. I wouldn’t expect to see as many suicides here as in a more populated area. There is such a strong sense of community in this place that I wouldn’t expect to see people drop through the cracks quite so often, but someone obviously saw fit to address the problem. Maybe those billboards will be instrumental in saving some lives.
Do you suffer from depression? You are not alone, it just feels as if you are. Depression can raise its ugly head in a multitude of ways, and it can catch you or a loved one unaware. Sadness might be a symptom of depression, but I’ve found that it often it asserts itself in rage, paranoia, self-loathing. Any negative emotion you might imagine, from fear to hopelessness, can be a sign of depression.
Uncountable books have been written on this many-pronged mental illness, and there’s no room to delve deeply here. I can only write about what I’ve experienced. Depression can combine with PTSD and destroy relationships. The heroes who have fought for our country, the police, the firemen, emergency workers, all are more prone to attacks of PTSD and depression than the general population, but certain personality types are also more prone. If you or a loved one struggle with these issues, I would strongly suggest seeking a counselor who can help you.
I found a surprisingly helpful treatment for PTSD, depression, and several other mental illnesses, and it doesn’t take years to see the results. The initials for this treatment are EMDR and it involves eye movement. I was a total skeptic when I first read about EMDR, but I called a Christian friend of mine who operates a mental health system, and he assured me that EMDR has been helpful for many patients. A few years later, when PTSD popped up in my own life, I decided to seek help through EMDR.
The therapist I met with was compassionate and understanding. She assured me I wasn’t “going crazy” and that she could help. She had been studying EMDR, and I asked her to use me as a guinea pig. She did some basic walk-throughs, and I realized this was something I could use on myself at any time when I had trouble. Within a few weeks I was much better and was equipped to help myself. Of course, I’m not on the front lines of emergency services or war; I’m simply someone who witnessed too many deaths in a short period of time.
I’ve sought out several ways to address depression, and each time I find something that helps me, I want to share it. When you are in the middle of depression it’s hard to see a way out. That’s the hopelessness. But there is hope.
I have prayed for God to take me home. He did not. Please know that there is hope no matter how helpless you feel. There are drug therapies, wild green oat supplements (yep, using it now), behavioral therapies, and there should always be someone who will listen to you. Call for help. Seek it until you find it. God is your first line of defense against depression and mental illness. He has given many gifted people the ability to help you. Let them.