It’s real, guys. So let’s talk about it.

A year ago this week, I was incredibly depressed and having suicidal thoughts. I had to go to the hospital to see if I needed to be admitted. I had to take a couple of days off school to go home and reset to make it through to the end of the semester. I had to go to counseling a lot, and I took medications for a while. It’s was really hard and long. [For context, the spring semester, when I took freaking COMPS felt like a breeze compared to the end of fall semester. Depression is not for the faint of heart, man.]

And I’m doing so much better now, and it’s a Really Good Thing.
I get that my experience definitely doesn’t make me an expert on depression or suicide or anything, but I wanted to say a couple of things anyways.
1. I wanted to talk about it publicly because I don’t think it should be a shameful, secret thing. Yes, it’s scary and personal, but so is any illness/accident/stressor that’s affecting your life that much, and we’re not as scared to talk about things like cancer or break ups or car accidents or other stuff. So I just wanted to say: depression and suicidal thoughts are real and they happen to lots of people in your life (and/or to you), so let’s not pretend that they’re not or that they don’t.
2. To people who are in that awful spot: I’m sorry. It is the worst. Please tell someone that you aren’t doing okay. You might think you deserve to feel this bad. You don’t. Even if your friend or sibling had done the exact same things you hate yourself for or were facing the exact same things you want to escape from that seem overwhelming, you would never think that they deserved to feel this bad. You would do everything you could to get them help and start not hating themselves again. So, give that a try on yourself. Tell somebody. Tell me. (Seriously. I will listen, and I will care. I promise.) It’s not your fault that this is happening, you don’t deserve to feel this way, and the “pile on the self-hate until you actually fix the things you hate about yourself” method doesn’t work. I have tried it. For a long time. And eventually I’m learning that it doesn’t work and there are other ways to go through life and make changes. So, first, tell someone you’re not doing okay.
3. To people whose friends have come to them in that spot: I know it’s scary, and you should definitely take this stuff seriously, but please don’t panic and freak out and make your friend have to take care of you at this moment. Take a deep breath, and tell your friend you love her. Sit with her until she’s told you everything she wants to; don’t jump to “Solve Everything Mode” before you’ve actually heard everything, and sat there, letting her know that her pain is real and you feel it too and it matters.
Then talk with her about some next steps to get help, not as a way to Fix Whatever She’s Doing Wrong, but because your friend is a person who is loved and the way things are going right now is unbearable, and things can be another way.
It’s your job to be the person who has a tiny bit more perspective, who can see that this isn’t the way it always was for your friend, and it’s not the way it always has to be, because (for me at least) that is the number one thing depression adds to any negative emotion: “Not only do you feel this negative emotion, but you’ve always felt this way, and you will always feel this way. Give up trying the stupid things that might help you feel another way.” You need to be the hopeful one. Not obnoxiously perky in a way that denies the reality of the issues. But someone who sees that there could be another, better way to exist. This is not the way it will always be.
It’s also your job to be the pursuer. If someone is suicidal, I’d rather be obnoxiously present and the person be really annoyed at me, than give the person space to spiral further. And finally, get help from people who know more than you. Call the Suicide Prevention Hotline, if you can’t think of anyone else to give you advice on how to help your friend. (Here’s their number:  1-800-273-8255)
I guess none of those things are new news to anyone. I’m glad that you’ve heard all that before. But now you’ve heard it from me. If you have any questions at all, ask me. Seriously. I am totally open about what lead up to my depression, what it was like, and what it took to help me get through it. Ask me, and we can talk about it.
Edit: Also, a reminder: Depression doesn’t necessarily mean you’re sad all the time. It can mean you’re angry all the time (that’s what it mostly feels like for me). Or that you don’t-can’t-care about anything.  Or other

3 Comments on “It’s real, guys. So let’s talk about it.”

  1. Grandma says:

    I am SO sorry you had to go through this. I’d like to know more about how you feel now. It would be encouraging to people to see the other side more vividly. Have you learned the steps “downward” so you can take preventive measures? This is a helpful article.
    As you say, we may all have been through some pretty negative times in our emotional, physical, and/or spiritual lives. I took medicine for depression at one time in my life. Thankfully, only had to for 6 weeks. I changed my life in some ways that took some of the stress off, but it was necessary to finally ask a dr. about what could be done…kind of like so I could say to those around me, “now will you believe that I have too much stress and give me some slack?” I’ve had a couple of other bad times, but came through them without the med. Old age has its potential for depression too…what am I good for?
    You are a wonderful person who will be a blessing to all around your life. Never doubt that.
    I love you. Grandma

  2. Kathy/Mom says:

    Small note: The two bold phrases in the last paragraph are links to Hypbole and a Half posts on depression which are excellent.

  3. Karen,

    You are an incredibly courageous and beautiful young woman! Thank you for sharing your heart and experience! I know the Lord has and will continue to use the victories and trials in your life to spur you on in faith, hope, and love to continue to bless and inspire his people.

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