On a Friday night in 1998, after watching a comedy with friends at a movie theatre, my brother came home, kissed my mom goodnight, went into his room, and hung himself.
We don’t know the exact reasons why Brandon took his life, but we know he wrestled with depression on a daily basis. For the most part, he wrestled alone and in silence.
My brother and I are very much a like, and yet different. I’ve attempted suicide a few times, and have wrestled with depression since high school (or maybe even earlier). I could never go through with everything, mainly because I couldn’t hurt the ones who loved me. The pain and darkness of depression consumed me daily. As the years grew on, I learned how to keep things in order and remain buried within. The excuse, “I’m just having a bad day,” and the need to be funny all the time, shielded the reality of what was going on inside. That is, until, everything collapsed and my depression was exposed for all to see.
In 2006, my counselor and doctor diagnosed me with clinical depression. It’s been a long journey of learning and dealing for my wife and I. It’s also been a long journey of trusting other people and allowing them to enter into my “dark periods.” I’m at a place of openness where I want to tell others, “I’m depressed,” and where I want them to help me through things. However, this openness doesn’t mean that my depression has gotten easier, or that I’m able to bounce back quicker than before. Being open means I’m striving to not face this battle alone, and I’m striving to not let depression win.
The death of Robin Williams, a gifted comic on the outside and a man tormented by depression inside, has once again caused our society to stare depression in the face. People young and old can identify with Williams’ death and struggle with depression. Many of these people are in your church, youth group, and family. (You may be the one dealing with depression.) So in responding well to what’s happening, here are some confessions you need to understand – if you don’t already.
Confession 1 – We are people. Depression has a face and a name. Like mine. Like Robin Williams. Depression is a reality people live in, day to day, but the person with depression is bigger than the illness itself.
Confession 2 – It’s more than a sadness. Depression and “being sad” are two different things. I love how comedian Kevin Breel puts this: Real depression isn’t being sad when things in your life don’t go right. Real depression is being sad when everything in your life is going right.
Confession 3 – It’s more than get over it. Last night I tweeted, “#RobinWilliams’ death shows again how depression is more than a ‘bad day’ and not easily fixed with a ‘happy pill.'” If I could get happy, I would. Each day I hope it’s the last time I take Prozac, but it never is. One can’t get out of depression simply by thinking happy thoughts. Like other things, it’s a journey and a way of life for too many of us.
Confession 4 – My faith isn’t lost. My depression is a constant request I bring before God. But instead of being answered, God uses it to keep me surrendered to Him before the Cross. Depression isn’t a sign of lost faith. Great spiritual warriors for God have dealt with depression. Depression isn’t a sign of weakness. Depression is something which God uses and works through despite my own limitations.
Confession 5 – Community and hope are essential to me. I need people in my life, even when I don’t wanna be bothered by anyone. I need people to connect with when situations arise, even when I’d rather keep this fight private. Community is an essential for someone who is depressed. Community that is authentic, and not filled with stigma. Community that is committed to a journey, rather than a quick fix. Community that is ready to walk in the darkness, while holding high a Light of Hope. Community that embodies faith, hope, and love in the truest forms.
Hope is also essential for someone who is depressed. Too often Christians throw bible passages towards those who are depressed, thinking this is what they need. And while scripture and prayer are good, even more people need hope that is grounded in the Person of Jesus. Our students need to be shown this Hope. Our family members and friends need to be shown this Hope. For in this Hope does life truly exist, does light pierce in the darkness, does the day truly matter.
“Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” Hebrews 10:23-25
Thank you for loving people.
26 thoughts on “Confessions of a Depressed Youth Worker”
Thanks for this.
Thanks for reading this, Rodney.
Depression and I have known each other well through the years. Prayer helps. “Spiritual” people aggrivate so much.. One friend keeps telling me “You need to pray more. I see mine going way back to the 11 years old boy who felt hollow because his father did nothing to encourage him toward anything and always yelled at him for every little offense. 12 years in counseling has helped a lot but I still hide the depression.
Thank you for sharing David.
I am sorry that you have felt “aggravated” by “spiritual” people. I know for most of them, they were simply trying to handle the conversation the best they knew how. While there are others who shouldn’t say anything at all. I too have dealt with both kinds. Know that God is present and that He is comforting you even when you don’t “feel” Him. He never leaves us or forsakes us, a promise I cling to daily.
Thanks for sharing and for your transparency and vulnerability. I love your 5 confessions!!! Brings hope and perspective to my depression that I can share with others. Be blessed brother!!! God is using you in a mighty way!!!
Thank you so much Stephanie for the encouragement. Blessings to you as well as God works with you in sharing this journey with others.
Shawn – yet again you have allowed the world to see the man behind the curtain. In turn, it causes us to recognize the curtains we are all walking around with. Thanks for your sincerity in making sure we don’t just become commentators on others but partakers in carrying one another burdens.
Amen, Tony. Amen.
And thank you for the encouraging words 🙂
Very well said. Have felt with this in family members and my job is to love them and Be there for them
Thanks Lyn. We are better together.
Thank you Ferg.
Thanks so much for writing this. This is an issue that is a daily reality in my home and for so many. Your words are clear and helpful. Thanks again.
Thank you for sharing Jerry.
Shawn, you have revealed more about yourself. Thank you for being so vulnerable and so transparent. I, too, have dealt with depression at times. At one point, if it were not for my four children, I would not be here now. BUT, God has a plan and a purpose for each of us. I thrill to see the ministry you are in and the hearts you are touching. Our love and our prayers to you and your family.
Thanks so much for sharing Nora, and for the encouragement.
Thanks Shawn for being open and candid. The church needs more transparency.
Amen, I totally agree Roger. Thanks for reading and commenting.
Shawn…I am a face. I get more than sad.I can’t only just get over it. My faith is not lost. And i need the right community.
I can’t believe that I get depressed even though I have a beautiful family and Christ in my life
I’m right there with you, Darius. You are not alone. Many Christian “heroes” faced regular depression. Continue to walk in who God called you to be – His identity.
I believe this is the pathway God chose for you Shawn, because He knows you can handle it and show others how to handle it. That’s why it is so important that you be open to others, which you are – seems so many more people than we realize have issues with depression and to so many degrees. You can’t be a champion without going through all you go through and staying on top! Keep up the good work – one would never know you have issues with depression by looking at that great smile!
Amen. Thanks so much for your words of encouragement Paula.
great article on depression. more people need to learn the truth about depression. thanks for getting this out into the open
great article thank you so much, is there a way i can contact you i’m a youth leader at my church and i’d love to ask you some questions and resources please