Walking Our Faith: A letter to friends in need (column)
August 1, 2016
Two weeks ago, one of the members of our idyllic mountain community could bear his pain no longer and chose to end his life.
This tragic event made me think of you, and the pain you have lived with for so many years. I know there have been moments when the endless despair was more than you could endure. You too, have heard a dark whisper that you should end your life, some nights louder than others.
But wait, please. Don't go yet. First, let me share my story.
I live with depression every day; I understand how someone can reach the point of wanting to take their own life. I have had moments when I asked God what the point of living was when the sadness was so great that even my bones ached.
I am writing this to show you what my darkness feels like, so that you know you are not alone. But then, I want to encourage you to embrace life, to know you are loved, and that your life matters.
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I hope this helps…
Two years ago, I went to see my doctor after I had a breast lumpectomy. I'd been plagued with relentless hot flashes, insomnia, and frightening mood swings. I had been taking hormone replacements to help, but after that brush with cancer, they were no longer an option.
My doctor asked if I would be willing to take an anti-depressant which had a side-effect of subduing hot flashes. I nodded 'yes', because if I spoke, I would have cried.
I knew I needed this support, but for fifty years, I was too ashamed to ask for help. I was grateful and yet for two years afterwards, if anyone asked what the little pink pill was, I told them it was for hot flashes, not depression.
A stigma still surrounds mental illness. Yet, if I had a broken leg, I'd be first in line at the doctor's office to get a cast. But why, then when my spirit is broken, do I feel as if it's my fault? That I must hide my depression because to admit it to anyone else would label me as defective.
Dear friend, don't be like me. Don't wait to get help. If you are hurting, go see your doctor now. If you are afraid that your desire to end your life is stronger than your will to live … please call the National Suicide Prevention Hot Line: 1-800-273-8255.
You are worthwhile, take care of yourself. There are several treatments for depression: medication, talk therapy, cognitive therapy. Each strategy works in its own way. Work with your doctor to find the best path for your health. And keep trying if the first one doesn't work.
Even with all of these strategies, you may still find yourself confronted with periods of depression that come and go for no reason. As I described to my doctor, on the surface my life is happier than it's ever been. But underneath, there is a lake of sadness and sometimes I feel as if I am swimming through its dark depths.
But there is hope. Each day you must resolve to live in the moment, to promise you will take one step forward. To reach out for help.
Repeat these words to yourself each day, several times a day: I am not alone. My life is worth living. I am loved. There is hope. My life matters. God loves me.
Pastor Rick Warren listed Five Truths that anyone living with mental illness should consider. I would like to share those truths with you, as well as my own experience, in hope that you will find comfort.
YOU ARE LOVED – You find this impossible to believe. When you look in the mirror what you see is unlovable. When you look at your life, you only see what has gone wrong. You are surrounded by beauty but as St. Paul said, you see through a glass darkly.
What you cannot see are all the people who love you. You cannot see what they see, your kindness, your sensitive spirit, your one-of-a-kind genius. You deserve to live.
Get out of bed. Go out into the world. It is vital that you don't isolate yourself. I speak with my mother every day. Sometimes we just chat for ten minutes. Sometimes she is the raft that keeps my head above water. Find someone you can speak with every day.
YOU HAVE A PURPOSE – A purpose? When your life has been filled with failure? Yes, my friend, you have work to do.
Fifty-years from today, you will look back on all of your failures with gratitude, because you will understand that they were necessary to peel away the layers of other people's expectations to reveal your true self.
You are a diamond in the rough. But thanks to your courage, you pushed through every painful failure, shameful days of being broke, and certain you'd fallen so far behind you might as well quit. Yet, you persevered. And now, all these years in the future…you will thank God, because you have become the person you were meant to be…because you didn't give up.
YOU BELONG – And yet, you feel so alone, even in the middle of a crowd.
Go out and talk to one other person today, even if it's only to remark on the weather with the person scanning your groceries. See that you are connected to others. You have a voice. You can make someone else smile.
Volunteer! When you are among other people you will understand that your talents are needed in our community. Sign up to serve dinner at Father Dyer's or St. John's. Volunteer at the FIRC Thrift Store. Find a charity that shares your beliefs and join them. Share yourself with others and realize that your talents are needed and you make our community better.
YOU HAVE A CHOICE – This is your secret weapon. You have more courage than you realize. Each day you choose to get up, take another step forward, take another breath, look up and outward. You choose to do all of this despite a spirit and mind that hurt so much. But you are stronger, so you get up.
This is your strength. Each morning is fresh with hope and possibility. The darkness that hounded you will grow weaker, because you grow stronger. And when it comes again, you will be ready. You are tougher today than yesterday. Take another step. Just one. That's enough. Tomorrow you will take another.
YOU ARE NEEDED – You have a purpose here, now, don't leave us before you have finished the full length of your days. God created you with a special talent and purpose that only you can fulfill. We need you here to fight through the darkness, come out the other side and share what you have learned to help us as a community. We need your special strength that only comes because of all that you have been through.
Don't go, my friend. Stay here with me, with all of us who love you. Stay and fight the good fight. Your future is brighter than you could ever imagine.
Tonight, go outside and look up at the stars. See how they shine for you?
God has strewn the night sky with this reminder that you are as unique as each of them. Tonight and each night, you are covered with a blanket of their promise: You are not alone. Each of those stars represents someone who loves you. Someone who needs you here to love them, too.
You are not alone. Right next to you, God is sitting with you, reaching out to you. Jesus says, "Here I am. Take my strength. I have enough for you." He will say that every day for the rest of your life. You are never alone, because he will never leave you. You are loved beyond measure. You are stronger than you know because his strength is your strength.
My friend, you have a purpose and that gives you hope and courage. Stay and embrace the promise of a new day. We love you. Your life has meaning. Even the darkness will serve you, to show you how beautiful the morning can be. We need you here. Stay, please.
Your Friend Suzanne
May the Lord answer you
When you are in distress;
May the name of the God of
Jacob protect you.
May he send you help from
And grant you support from Zion.
May he give you the desire of
And make all your plans succeed.
We will shout for joy when
You are victorious
And will lift up our banners
In the name of our God.
May the Lord grant all your
Psalm 20: 1-2,4-5
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