Walking our Faith: Yes, it will get better
Walking our Faith
I read it’s suicide prevention month or week or day, but if you’ve ever contemplated what it would be like to take your own life, you know that suicide prevention can be any day of the year.
I almost forgot what it’s like to be depressed because I haven’t had one of my depressive bouts in a while, and then I remember just how thin the ice is between my good days and bad. Because when the depression returns, I will find it nearly as impossible to recall a time when I didn’t not feel this way.
There are little reminders of the balancing act, such as this past weekend when I was deriding myself for not accomplishing enough that day, and then reminded myself that in fact I had accomplished the most important things.
Then there are times I don’t take my antidepressants because the prescription has run out, and I’d rather stay home than run into town. But without my antidepressants it will be only a few days before I feel the effects, but at that point it will be even more difficult to leave the house.
I’m sharing these not-so-pretty insights because I want to talk to you about suicide and depression — not as a mental health worker, because I’m not — as someone who has lived with depression my entire life.
And while I have been feeling good for the past several months, I know depression is something I will manage for the rest of my life. For me, it comes and goes like the seasons of the year. It is always in the background, and I work very hard to keep it at bay.
I have never attempted to end my life, but I understand what a slippery slope it is between a dark bout of depression and the sheer exhaustion of simply wanting the emotional pain to end.
It can be scary to talk about it, but I know it is necessary because there is such a stigma around depression and mental illness. In my own case, I was so ashamed to talk to my doctor about my depression that when he suggested I begin taking an antidepressant to help hot flashes as I entered menopause, I burst into tears. I was so relieved that at least now I had an excuse to take the pills I hoped would help me.
I am grateful to the doctors who have helped me find the right prescription at the right dosage — and yes it has taken more than once or twice or three times to find the right balance. And over the years, I’ve had to change my prescription more than once, sometimes with disastrous effects.
One time, I was in the depths of a terrible depression, and my doctor wanted to try a new medication. I was willing to try anything for relief. Unfortunately, the new medication made things worse. So bad, that I would burst into hysterical tears for no reason, so I couldn’t leave the house. My doctor put me back on my previous medication and ironically it worked again, where before it seemed to have lost its efficacy.
And I am grateful for the friends who reached out when I was in the midst of depression, who called to check in, who insisted I get out of the house and get among friends. I’m grateful for the many phone calls with my mother, who encouraged me and told me it would get better.
And where is faith during these dark times? I will tell you that in the darkest moments, I curled up in a chair and read passages of the psalms and cried, and those passages became my prayers to God. They provided words when I could not. There were other nights when I lay in bed hugging a pillow, and the only words I could say were “please help me, God,” and I repeated those words over and over and over again. And that is where the slippery slope can be found, where the physical and emotional pain of depression feeds you the lie that things will never be different and death would be a relief.
Here is what I want you to know: Life is worth living. And yes, it will get better. If you are depressed, if you feel you cannot go on, I want you to reach out to someone right now. Reach out to a medical professional who can help you. The fight is worth it. Your life matters. There are things you are meant to do that only you can do. Someday, you will help others by your victory. As the Bible says, be strong and of good courage. God loves you. You are not a mistake. Your precious life matters. Be strong, and when you feel you cannot, reach out and ask for help.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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