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.