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On Suicide and Depression

This week, the media has been flooded with stories about the most recent celebrity whose life ended in suicide. On social media, people have been speaking up and speaking out; expressing shock, sorrow, and an urgency to prevent more loss of life.

There are plenty of voices speaking in without me sharing my two cents. But here, on my tiny corner of the internet, I would like to say a few things.

In many ways, it is a surprise that I didn't lose my husband to suicide. We came so close. Close enough that I regularly spoke with my counselor about my terror that he would end his life and my utter helplessness to stop him.

One of the things that shocks people when someone ends their life is that they have so much to live for. This is especially true when it is a celebrity - someone we view as having all the things that we ourselves might be living for: success, beauty, notoriety, material possessions, a loving family, respect of others, etc.

I can only speak from my experience, but I can say with confidence that having things to live for was not the antidote to my husband's deep depression. And a lack of things to live for wasn't the cause.

He loved so much about his life. Most importantly he loved me and our son immensely. Sacrificially. He was willing to give up anything and everything for us to be whole, well, healthy and happy.

When his depression was at his worst, and suicidal ideations were tormenting him, he believed the lie that he was the problem. He wasn't looking for an escape from his pain, he was looking for a way to ease ours. He thought (and said many times over) that we would be better off without him. Chronic pain and health trouble prevented him from being the father and husband he wanted to be. He thought that his presence made our lives hard. He worried that he wasn't able to care for us in all the ways he should. He thought that he didn't deserve to enjoy our love and admiration.

There was a brokenness inside of him that couldn't receive love. He couldn't receive the truth. He couldn't believe that he was precious, worthy, and lovable. He couldn't see how desperately we loved and needed him or imagine how much worse our lives would be without him.

The reasons and causes for that brokenness are myriad - some that I understand, and many that I never will. But at no time, ever, did he think that we weren't worth living for. It's just that he thought maybe we were worth dying for so that we could have what he thought was a better life without him. It wasn't true but it felt true. Depression cannot be reasoned with.

This season of deep depression and suicidal ideations passed. On a terrible, horrible day, I got to him before he was able to act on his ideations and he agreed to get help. He spent a week in a mental institution and was able to get the help and resources he needed. The dark thoughts were forced into the light. His therapist that he met with weekly was shocked to find out the depths of his depression. Out of shame, he had hid the darkness inside so well that even an expert couldn't detect it. We made change upon change upon change and slowly, with lots of ups and downs, suicidal ideations became a thing of the past - though depression was a life-long battle.

Why do I share this? Because it is easy to subtly levy blame. It is easy to call someone who takes their life "selfish" or to say that they "took the easy way out". It is easy to tell people that they should check on their loved ones without having a clue what its like to be the loved one and the desperate lengths they often go to in an attempt to try to prevent what they cannot control. It's easy to assume that you would've done better or that you wouldn't have missed the signs. In reality, you probably would've. People are very good at hiding the things they are ashamed of.

Let's be careful and tender in how we respond to the tragic loss of life. There are unseen battles in minds and in homes that we know nothing about.

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