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Walking Our Faith: Don’t be afraid to ask for help

Suzanne Elizabeth Anderson
Walking Our Faith
Suzanne Elizabeth Anderson

With the benefit of hindsight, I now realize that bouts of depression have been part of my life since age 11. I was one of those kids who always felt like an outsider and overcompensated by being the class clown or joining the swim team in middle school because that’s where the popular kids were.

I became a very good swimmer but not any more popular. I was tall, broad shouldered, flat chested and looked like a tomboy at a time when I so dearly wanted to look like the other girls in my high school. I wanted to fit in, to be one of the cool kids. But it was impossible for me to overcome my feelings of not being pretty enough, feminine enough or popular enough.

Things got better when I went to college because our swim team at the University of Michigan was close knit. By the time I landed in New York after college, I felt more comfortable in my own skin. But I still lived with debilitating depression.

I didn’t find a lasting solution until I was 50 years old and my doctor prescribed an antidepressant for the treatment of my menopausal hot flashes and mood swings.

I burst into tears with relief that I would finally be able to get treatment for my depression without having to admit to anyone that I needed help, because I thought depression was a sign of weakness.

I would like to think that there is less stigma attached to depression and other mental health issues today, but perhaps that’s not true. So I want to encourage you not to be like me.

Don’t wait 50 years before you ask for help. Be brave, raise your hand, call a hotline, or speak with your doctor. Do whatever it takes to ask for help if you are feeling depressed and overwhelmed.

Right now, there are more than enough good reasons that you might be feeling depressed. People are losing their jobs, we have been socially isolated for nearly two months, the economy is turbulent, and we don’t know if things are going to get better or worse.

Everything we thought we could count on suddenly feels uncertain, and this has created stress for families, for parents, for children, for those who live alone and those who live in crowded homes with little outlet for their feelings.

Our faith communities have been and will continue to be a source of strength and support during these uncertain times. They are offering meals and groceries, and they’re offering community prayer. These are the things we all need right now.

I’m part of a prayer group that meets online every day at 5 o’clock, and it has helped me not to feel isolated. But I also pray on my own in the morning.

This is when I pour out my heart to God. You can do the same. In fact, God wants you to do exactly that. Share everything that is in your heart. God welcomes your honesty and promises to be with you:

It is the Lord who goes before you. He will be with you; he will not leave you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed.” (Deuteronomy 31:8)

Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. (Isaiah 41:10)

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:6-7)

But I also need you to know that you can and should reach out for help from trained medical professionals if you need someone to talk to or if you need medication that will help you feel better. It’s available. You do not need to feel ashamed, and you should not suffer alone. 

Get the help you need. Don’t put it off any longer. The faster you act, the faster you will feel better. This community will support you. You are loved by God and by those around you.

Please do not harm yourself. Do not suffer in silence. Please do not take your life. You can get through this, and your future will be bright because you will be strong.

Where to find help

Emergency

Nonemergency

Suzanne Elizabeth Anderson’s column “Walking our Faith” publishes Saturdays in the Summit Daily News. Anderson is the author of 10 novels and nonfiction books on faith. She has lived in Breckenridge since 2016. Contact her at suzanne@suzanneelizabeths.com.


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