Those of us who are lucky enough not to have our brain biology be out of whack, only experience a piece of the anguish. We hear the lies all the time from our own minds and from the advertising and culture around us. We don't have everything, everything we do have can be better. We aren't successful enough, we don't have enough followers, no one cares, for us, no one knows who we are, we aren't making a difference, what we do doesn't matter. Those thoughts gnaw at the back of our minds, threatening to take over, and sometimes they do. Sometimes. Sometimes we can't be satisfied, we see what others have and we feel like we have failed, for not having the same. We wonder where we went wrong. We give into those lies, and we get depressed. But soon enough, we are reminded of our blessings, we are encouraged, we are pulled out of our self pity, our anxiety, our failures and reminded of our successes. We see the truth, that our lives our good, what we do does make a difference and we are loved. And that is enough, at least for a little while to keep the lies at bay. We are the lucky ones.
For those that suffer with major depression, it's not so easy. The lies crowd out the truth, they are relentless and unforgiving. They overcome, and they sap what little strength they have left. Just as cancer eats away at the body, the lies of the brain's whacked out chemistry eat away at their souls. They pray, but feel God is not there, or he hates them. They struggle to get out of bed, to walk into work, to make it through a conversation. They try to find joy in others, but just end up feeling irritated with them and even more upset with themselves. They hurt the ones closest to them, and believe a lie that says they need to distance themselves, and spare their loved ones more pain. Everything turns into another lie, another awful feeling and it compounds, until the only joy they can find, is in putting it all to rest, and removing themselves, unburdening others even from the pain they might cause by continuing to live. The lies overtake them, they block out any possibility of truth.
It seems too hopeless and helpless. So what can we do? In the wake of one tragedy after the other a young mother and a gifted artist, how do we move forward and try and prevent more? I wish there was a simple answer. How do you combat the lies in someone's head, or in your own?
I think, and i am by no means an expert, part of the answer lies in some simple things. I think it starts with all of us suspending our judgement of others and ourselves. Quit measuring our value and their value on the have and have not, the did and did not, and find the beauty in everyone. Celebrate and encourage the people around you. Even if they look like they have it all together, I think we have seen, that often they do not, they may be hurting too. The Bible is pretty great at giving wisdom on how we should interact with others and it says, "Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful to others to build them up according to their needs." Ephesians 4:29. I think sometimes we need our own inner monologue to follow this advice, as well as what we say to others. We need to quit beating ourselves up and focus on being an encouragement to others. We need to remind those we love, just how much we appreciate and love them. When we start believing the lies around us, we need to call ourselves on it, and then remember that someone else is probably struggling with the same thing, and reach out with encouragement. With social media we have all of our friends literally at our fingertips, it only takes a minute to reach out and message someone, and let them know how much you value them, and love them. You can build them up, even if it's just a little bit, you have no idea the impact it might have.
If someone tells us they are struggling with mental illness of any form we need to be very liberal with our listening and compassion. It may not make any sense to us, what they are doing, or how these things are manifesting in their lives, but we need to understand that it is hard for them and they are trying their best to live "normally". Encourage them to share the lies they are hearing, and don't necessarily jump in with the truth, listen first. Try and understand where they are coming from, the battles they are struggling through. Encourage them not to hide those things or feel ashamed, but let them out. We all have something we struggle with, and there is no shame in that, that's reality. So let's be open about those struggles. Hiding those things is very dangerous.
We need to have compassion, and we also really need to support them in getting help. We can't just offer to pray it away, we need to help connect them with counseling, we need to support them if they need to use medication. We need to help them see that self medicating is not the way to go, and that seeking professional help is not a sign of spiritual, physical or mental weakness, it's a strength. We need to compassionately hold them accountable in that process too, making sure they are following through, finding ways to be an encouragement. Unlike with other physical illnesses they have a lot of responsibility for choosing to continue treatment and choosing to make healthy choices, but like cancer, sometimes treatment is not enough. So we need to be there to bring encouragement, accountability and love as they get the help they need.
We who are battling the littler lies, need to make it easier for those in a death match with the big ones. We need to make the world a safer place to express the pain of their illness. A place where talking about mental illness is as safe as talking about your sore throat. Where you can share your real feelings, doubts and insecurities, and not have to worry that you look like less of a person. We need to make treatment for mental illness as normal and noble as treatment for cancer or diabetes. Those things are awful, but we often, look at people battling through them and think, how strong, how brave, and we readily hand out encouragement (or at least I hope we do). So why can't we do the same for those people who struggle to go to therapy, who take medications for mental illness?
We can't save them, but we can help. Let's all do our best to clear away the lies...