Depression, anxiety, and suicide... OH MY!

If you, or a loved one, are having thoughts of suicide - please get help! You can call the crisis lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 - I’ve called this number before and they can help. Or text one word (talk or home) to 741-741. Both these options offer free and confidential 24/7 support for you, or your loved ones.

As you read this blog post please note the intent has been to explain my own chronic depression and suicidal thoughts. What is written may not be applicable to everyone, even for someone who has depression - everyone’s experience is unique Perhaps you may also notice sometimes (not always) the words of depression and suicide I've used fairly interchangeably. This might be confusing - please know that depression is real, and can often lead to suicide. Then to throw another wrench into the mix, there is also anxiety - but won’t really be talking about that. One more thing - because I am very well aware not everyone (like me) is a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Please know that my faith is important to me - so I have tried in this post to put links should further information be desired. If you have questions about anything I have written, please do not hesitate to ask me!

If you've ever read my blog, you already know that I deal with depression, hence so many posts about that topic. What you may, or may not, realize is depression has been in my life for decades, since childhood. To be honest I was not aware, until well into adulthood, that other people did not have those kind of thoughts, and have lived much of my time in depression's darkness. Think I've posted before that thoughts of suicide began in my teenage years. Again, used to believe everyone had similar thoughts - and that I was "normal".

It is almost impossible for someone to understand what depression really is - especially if they have never been there, or have only briefly touched it. For me it has been way more than just sadness (what most people believe depression to be). No, depression for me is where I have often been taken to an unbelievable level of darkness which can be seemingly endless - driving away the hope of ever seeing any light. That’s when I’ve asked myself questions like, “what is wrong with me - what should I be doing different - is it worth all this pain”.

Having suicidal thoughts does not mean that you are in any way broken - or that you deep down honestly want to die. Most people mistakenly believe that suicide is all about death and dying - or that acting on those thoughts is a selfish decision. Instead the reality is you are thinking about other people - wanting to release them from the burden that you feel is brought by you. It is a sincere desire to not drag someone else into the pit - believing that everyone will be better off and their life will be easier if you’re not there. Even if a person has never acted on thoughts, please do not assume they are okay and there is nothing to worry about.

There are a multitude of thoughts and opinions about depression and suicide which can be summed up in two words: DEPRESSION LIES. The adversary is very practiced at using these lies, masquerading them as truth, and can be very convincing. Depression or anxiety also takes away all hope and there are thoughts of - if tomorrow is darker than today, then what’s the point. A counter to this is when there is someone who really sees me and has empathy - doing that can give back a little hope, something to cling to in the darkness. You will not be able to "fix" anything, and I may not appear to accept compassion from other people - please do not stop or become discouraged!

Studies have shown that one reason some seek suicide as a solution, is to bring an end to the pain they are experiencing. Be aware you may not understand how very real the pain may be, and that's okay. There have been times (and still are) when I've prayed asking God to let me come home to Him, because I can't take it anymore. Suicidal thoughts for me can last a few minutes (or even a few hours) - but often in the moment feel like they will be there forever. It's those times when I feel wounded, very alone, and am so very tired of the constant battle - that's when I am not able to see any light through the darkness.

Remember you cannot take on another person's pain, there is only one Savior who can do that (and none of us are Him). Have learned an uncomfortable lesson lately that as much as healing is desired - it is not possible to simply pray away depression. Nor is it a viable option to bless depression away by asking someone with the priesthood to give a blessing and do that. To use an analogy: if your house was burning down, you would not call priesthood leaders to put out the fire. They may support you through the experience, maybe gather others around to help you - but are not able to put out the fire. For that you will need someone with professional training. This is not to put any limitations on the Atonement of Jesus Christ - you “could” be healed (and many people are) - but God allows us to experience hard things. Sometimes I really wonder why that is. Know that God will not interfere with agency here on earth - that of our own, or that of others. A few good friends helped me with this when they said (among many things) - that by God allowing us to experience hard things it helps us; learn compassion and empathy for others, to prioritize what is of most value, and to learn more than we would another way. One example I thought of is: if you try to make life easier by helping a struggling baby bird to escape it's shell - the bird would miss out on the crucial and needed strengthening experience, and likely would not have what is needed to survive.

The following is a quote from a book that has helped me - Silent Souls Weeping, written by Jane Clayson Johnson. It is about the struggle with depression, hers and many others. In it she talks about her own experience and struggle with depression...
"Perhaps most distressing was what was happening to my testimony. For long stretches of time, I couldn’t feel the Spirit. I did the right things: said my prayers, read my scriptures, and went to the temple. But I didn’t feel anything. It was as if the most important part of my soul had been carved out of me. Why would God do that to me? Why would He allow it? ... But in this time of torment, He seemed unresponsive to my pleadings. Why had He abandoned me? … I felt broken and worthless."

When I have been doing everything I know how to do - yet feel like I have been cut off and am unable to feel love from God - or from other people (even when they say they care about me). Feeling that way is seen as proof that I must have done something wrong - and no one can or should love me because I am not worthy. The worst part of depression is the isolation it engenders - not just from the Spirit of God, but from other living souls. Keep reading… I will talk about the “why” behind my isolation.

There are a number of reasons for my chronic mental health issues - not everything will be addressed in this blog post, these are only a few examples from my life. One is a genetic component, found on both sides of my family. Many in my family from the present and going back multiple generations have dealt with depression and suicidal thoughts. There have been suicide attempts, and know of one family member who did die from depression based suicide a number of years ago.

Another contributor can be my health issue of Multiple Sclerosis (MS). Depression is very common among people with an autoimmune disease - those with MS are 7.5 times more likely to die from suicide than others with depression. That is a sobering statistic, which should be taken seriously.

Finally there is early childhood trauma which can and does play a large role in this for me. Am currently working on a blog post which will talk more about that trauma.

One help has been a video watched countless times. It is called: Sitting on the Bench: Thoughts of Suicide Awareness and Prevention. In it Dr. David S. Wood, PhD, Licensed Psychologist says this…
The most common sources of pain for a person who is having suicidal thoughts include: feeling disconnected from others, feeling alienated from others, or feeling that relationships have never materialized. The other common source of pain is feeling like a burden to others, that people would be better off without me. When those are combined with hopelessness, that this is not going to change - that is where suicidal thoughts become risky.

This has been a powerful video for me, and has helped in many ways. However must also admit that often I do feel like a burden to people, that they and pretty much everyone would be better off without me. This is one of my big “whys” behind isolating from others. Rarely anymore do I want to reach out when feelings of depression, anxiety, or loneliness happen. This means I've stopped most texting, sending emails, making phone calls, or talking to another person. Logically I know that isolation is probably not the best choice - then that thought is fairly quickly overshadowed by the dark mists and sincerely believe the answer is to isolate. This is done with the hope that by retreating someone else will not become “infected” - nor will they be unintentionally pulled into the pit of despair. True or not, my perception is that people have become tired of my expressing similar thoughts, and walking again down the same path into a pit. Perhaps they do not recognize that chronic depression is a lot like grief - there is no healing timeline, and steps may be repeated multiple times. So to cope I tell myself what I have for decades that - I deserve it, or I don’t care.

For those like me in the battle trenches - we need to remember that we are not alone, even when it feels that way. I've had to learn about, and pay attention to, signs and symptoms of depression and suicide. Knowing what to look for does not always help, especially when I'm in the pit. However that is the time I need to open my toolbox and pull out something else for support, because the tools being used are not enough. For some people depression and thoughts of suicide are temporary, then gone. For me that condition and those thoughts have been a more constant ebb and flow long-term companion - which I'm never sure when depression will show up, nor how long it will stay. That is one nature of a chronic mental health issue.

Recently I wrote this on social media…
   We don’t need to get in the pit with other people to help. You can be the one to simply lower a ladder - to offer compassion and connection, to empathize and give encouragement so they can find strength and know how to climb.
   Even if all they can do is climb up only a few ladder rungs, that is okay. It is not necessary to know the “perfect” words to say - just the connection attempt is enough - doing that is lowering a ladder.

What you may see and believe about another person is not always the real or whole story. Remember that what you say does not need to be “perfect” - say something anyways. The fact that you said anything shows you have empathy to let another person know that you see them - you hear them - that they matter. Sit on the bench and be with them (even if no words are spoken). The theme from one of my favorite podcasts is so true… Compassion + Connection Save Lives.

The following was borrowed from the internet, or social media, or somewhere.