It seems recently we have been drowned in headlines of tragedy. Every morning I feel like there is a new wave of sadness—racism, natural disasters, chemical war, rape. But headlines that have stirred my heart and shaken my spirit most in recent news have been the ones filled with suicides. What a deep sadness for a person to carry and what a toxic concoction of emotions left behind for the loved ones when a person decides to leave early.
As I read into some of the stories, I began to praise God for pulling me out of the muck of depression several years ago. But I also began to realize the reality that many still feel stuck in it. The tough part is that to many of us, it often doesn’t look like these people are in the mud at all… and in fact they don’t even appear to have dirt on them. Rather, they seem clean, polished, and well put-together.
Each morning toward the end of high school I felt like I started the day ten feet underground. The day was spent fighting to get my nose to the surface just to catch a small breath of air before being pushed back down again, before the earth swallowed me back up. Some days were better than others. Some days I felt I got several good, deep breaths before the earth clogged my airway once more. And… some days were worse than others. Those days it felt like there was no surface at all, like I was never going to make it out alive and my lungs were screaming for oxygen.
I started not being able to handle the worse days anymore because they seemed like they would never end. So, although I had no idea why, I began harming myself. It started small, as little nicks on my wrist. Eventually though there was a self-inflicted wound that wouldn’t stop bleeding. I put butterfly bandages on it. I wrapped it with gauze. But it bled through just about everything for days. If you had asked, I would’ve never been able to tell you why I felt like I needed to harm myself. Still to this day I can’t tell you why I felt like I needed to harm myself. But know friends, I was desperately broken. I was scared and confused and lonely.
However, few knew even relatively how broken I was. Through the hallways of school and on the bleachers of football games I did a pretty decent job of keeping my life together. I “kept up.” I didn’t miss swim practices. I didn’t fail classes—in fact I was still a straight-A student. I smiled when I was supposed to smile, laughed when I was supposed to laugh, worked when I was supposed to work.
So when I once tried to tell someone that I thought I was struggling with depression, they told me I was “too happy” of a person to have depression. Alright friends, I agree that I’m a freakin’ joy-filled person… especially now. But please hear me when I say that mental illness doesn’t discriminate. Vulnerable people do not always “look” vulnerable. Depressed people don’t always “look” depressed. Anxious people don’t always “look” anxious.
We are called friends, to “love each other deeply” (1 Peter 4:8). This includes loving when it’s annoying and difficult and frustrating. This includes loving when the love “looks” like it should be happier than it is, or kinder than it is, or stronger than it is. If we are going to love as we are loved, then we are called to love without limits.
Please note: If you feel like you are struggling in any way with depression, self-harm, anxiety, suicidal thoughts, or another heart-heaviness PLEASE reach out to someone and/or contact the Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-8255. You are so loved.