Tuesday, August 12, 2014

lies, lies, everywhere the lies, blocking out the scenery...

My heart is broken today and my stomach in knots, like so many, as we mourn yet another death to mental illness, another person that seemed to have it all, and seemed so happy to those on the outside. Another family left grieving and heart broken, alone, with thoughts of the overwhelming sadness that this loved one felt, and the despair and loneliness that filled their last moments. I have sat with those families. I have loved those friends, and I live with the threat of mental illness. Everytime my husband who suffers with major depression fails to return a text for too long, or comes home too late, I see those families. I wonder if the faces of those children will match the faces of my own kids. I worry about how much despair he might be feeling, what he might be doing. I worry that his body might succumb to the very real disease, that threatens him. Like those that have recently passed from mental illness, people look at my husband, and have no idea the torture he lives through. He is so fun, so creative, he lights up a room. His art has inspired and brought joy to many. They don't know the depth of pain that fuels that creativity. They don't know how his mind lies to him over and over again, telling him he is worthless, and the world is better off without him. They don't know the chemistry in his brain that makes it impossible sometimes to turn those negative thoughts off. They don't understand how the lies crowd his brain, and make rational thought a struggle.

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...


  1. Well written. You've clearly shared many of the aspects of depression which make it so difficult to battle. I have recently come out of a nearly four year depression. Over the course of the depression I was on antidepressants, saw therapists, journaled, took vitamins, and even bought a "sun"light to help combat Seasonal Affect Disorder. All of these helped some. But the depression did not go into remission with any of them. I am grateful to be in remission for roughly six months now. And grateful that people are talking about depression, it is oppressive, energy and life sapping. It is only by God's mercy that I survived the many attacks of suicidal ideation. And I would guess that almost no one other than my therapist knew when the days were the darkest. Please keep speaking out for those who are unable to tell what depression is doing to them now.

    1. Thank you for your kind words, and thank you for being a brave voice about depression. The more who suffer and are willing to speak out, the more "normal" it will be and more people will be helped!

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