I find it interesting the number of blog posts and news articles regarding depression have come across my feed this week. If you've never given depression a second thought, the sudden passing of beloved actor and comedian, Robin Williams, surely has caused you to consider it at least for a moment.
I'm not a doctor. I'm no expert. I am just a person. A person who has suffered with depression.
The passing of Robin Williams struck me, as it did many people around the world. How could one of the funniest men on the planet end his own life?
It struck me because I just shared in my "Thankful Thursday" post how I have been struggling with depression and had just gone through a few weeks of anti-depressant medication withdrawal. I just shared that post on August 7th. The post wasn't written to garner attention, nor did it. Four days later, on August 11th, we were shocked by the death of Robin Williams. We were shocked to learn that he'd allegedly died at his own hand.
Addiction and depression. Whatever Mr. Williams dealt with on this earth, it is not mine to discuss. That is between him, his loved ones, his friends, and anyone with whom he sought help. It is not for me to judge how he lived his life or how he ended it. It's not my place.
But what I can offer is this. Encouragement.
I've dealt with depression for years. Tomorrow - August 14th - is the 13th anniversary of the passing of my first child. My son, Jeffrey, who was stillborn. I have words to share on that tomorrow, but I struggled with many demons after that date back in 2001. I am not going to say that you need to get right with God because I don't know you and I don't know your relationship. I do know that for me, it is in the lenses of hindsight that I can see a vast difference between how I have handled that loss compared with the illness and death of my almost seven year old daughter in May of 2013. For me, I know that difference is my relationship with Christ.
Depression is real. Depression isn't simply being sad or unhappy. It's a controlling force that threatens every single day to consume all of your being. The extent and depths of my depression may be nothing compared with Mr. Williams' or even someone reading this right now. That doesn't make it any less real or any less a part of what I have been through these past several years.
I'm not a doctor, so I am not going to get into statistics and medical references, but I know that depression affects your brain chemistry. It's not a "choice". As much as I didn't choose to lose my son, I did not choose to wind up in the "depths of despair", a phrase Anne Shirley used in the book Anne of Green Gables to describe her feelings. She was being over-dramatic, but those words capture the feeling.
I was on anti-depressant medication until recently. For me, personally, I decided I wanted to try to resume a "normal" life without medication to treat my depression. I want to try a more natural approach through essential oils. I'm tired of being on chemicals to treat my depression. I felt like I was at a point where I could manage without meds. I quit cold-turkey - accidentally. Don't do that! Do it properly. I went through side effects that had me feeling worse - had me feeling more depressed than I had felt in ages, with horrible thoughts running through my head. I'm on the other side of that now and, while I can't say I feel "amazing", I feel like - for now - I made the right decision. That said, in the past few weeks, I've seen two doctors who both expressed concern, who both were ok with my decision, but who both encouraged me to seek their help if I felt like I couldn't function normally without the meds.
I am not suggesting to anyone that they quit cold-turkey. That is just to illustrate what's been going on with me. The sudden passing of Robin Williams came on the heels of this withdrawal phase for me. It was shocking and it made me remember things. His death made me cry. The feelings I had caused me to search high and low from the registry book from the funeral home that so many loved ones and friends had signed when Peytonpassed away. In that moment, I needed to feel, in some way, the love of those people in a tangible way.
Depression is an every day journey that ebbs and flows. It can feel really bad for a season and it can also feel manageable for another. I am not out of my season of depression. It's just a little more manageable right now. I am surrounded by people who love me; this I know. I also know that I've got God with me through it all - even on the days when I will fail to recognize His existence in my life.
And so I encourage you. If you are suffering through depression, please know that you are not going through it alone. I think more people than you realize are walking a similar journey and you don't even know. I think it's time to break the stigma of depression and let people know that it's ok to be depressed. You aren't alone. There is help for you. A family member or friend. Your pastor. Professional counseling. Medical intervention. In-patient resources. Out-patient resources. Even medications if you need it. Just don't go through it alone.