You Are Not the Storm

A few weeks ago, someone I was close to committed suicide. She was a former student, friend of my daughter’s, and a beautiful person in so many ways.

I’ve talked about depression on this blog before, and I’ve been candid about my own battle with it. The truth is that I often feel like the world would be a better place without me. There are many days that I make myself go through the motions of appearing “normal” because I am afraid that I would be locked up forever in a rubber room if anyone knew the level of self-hatred that engulfs my brain.

Sadly, when I have medical issues that can be explained using x-rays or blood tests, I am relieved that there is a socially acceptable reason for my pain or discomfort. But when I experience extreme sadness or complete contempt for myself, I feel that I can only attribute it to my own failure.

Though we will never know for certain, I imagine that is what this incredible child of 19 years old must have felt – the hopelessness, the aloneness, the conviction that she could never be “enough,” the fear that admitting these feelings to anyone would horrify them or, worse, make them act differently around you in a clumsy attempt to pity something they just don’t understand.

I have been so fortunate to have the means, the awareness, and the resources to get professional help. Many do not. And that’s a tragedy. But the far larger problem in our society is that even the attempt to get help for mental illness is often viewed as a weakness or failure. Unlike an appendix that bursts or a cancerous tumor on the brain, depression is too often portrayed as the fault of the one suffering from it.

In 2018, I published a post on another blog about the sobering statistics of teenage depression. It also includes suggestions for parents on signs to watch for and ways to discuss depression with their children. And while it’s important for parents and students to be educated about depression, I want to make it clear that it is not the fault of any survivor if a loved one decides to take their own life. Our society as a whole needs to destigmatize this disease and offer resources for coping and living with depression. We don’t want your pity, fear, or accusations. Just accept that we are fighting a battle that you don’t quite understand but are willing to support.

September is Suicide Prevention Awareness Month. Here are some ways you can help.

Here is the National Suicide Prevention Hotline for the United States: (1-800-273-8255)

And if you are someone who has difficulty getting up in the morning because it’s hard to imagine any reason worth leaving bed, here is a lovely thread I found on Twitter with good suggestions:

I want all of you to know that the world is a better place because of you. Your contributions, no matter the size, make a difference. We lost an incredible soul this month, who — perhaps for just an excruciating moment — forgot the positive impact she made on this planet. Please don’t lose sight of that, no matter how much your brain tries to persuade you to the contrary. Consider the quote below from one of my favorite authors who also deals with depression, Matt Haig.

2 thoughts on “You Are Not the Storm”

  1. Good post. I suffer from anxiety and some depression. I see a psychiatrist and take medication, and it helps, but doesn’t banish it. A friend of my daughter has been treated for compulsive intrusive thoughts (bad, evil unbidden thoughts), which I hadn’t even heard of before her case, and she’s leading a normal life now. The mind is a wonderful, but sometimes treacherous place. It helps to have people around you can confide in. Really being alone is no place to be. The point is, this would be a good topic for people to talk about more — perhaps in high schools. I even heard a priest in a town where we were visiting friends address quite clearly the problem of anxiety, its reality, and its prevalence. Hearing that helps. Having insurance that pays more for mental health care would help, too, for a lot of people — and substance abuse problems. Often they exist together — anything to escape. My 4 children all have anxiety issues (sadly genetic), and we pool ideas for dealing with it, so we all expand our “toolboxes”.. Cognitive therapy and knowledge about what ails you can be useful. (I love your posts and ideas.)

  2. Dearest Val,

    Thank you so much for your comment. I, too, see a psychiatrist and take medicine, and I also agree that this these actions have helped but not completely solved my issues. It helps to have people to confide in, but, quite honestly, I only do it now because I feel that we need to be more open about these things and not because I am expecting advice or help. You can tell immediately when people have been in that same place, and understand, or when they haven’t. Most I’ve discussed it with have not, and either try to give suggestions or feel guilty that they can’t help. I think this is part of the reason, aside from the general stigma surrounding mental illness, that makes people feel alone — especially teens who already feel like no one quite understands what they are going through. I wish high schools would address this in depth, but I’ve heard many adults fear that having these discussions will “put ideas” into students’ heads. I disagree. And insurance… well, that is definitely ridiculously and woefully unsatisfactory in our country.

    It sounds like your family is very supportive of each other, which is great! I know that mean seem like small compensation for what, in essence, is a lifelong disability, but having family members who really “get it” can make a difference for sure.

    Thanks for reading and reaching out!

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