Serving the Voices Blog

Posts Tagged Depression

A Complicated Matter

Written By: Stacy Knapp (Director of Network Relations) 

Two weeks ago we shared a personal and honest journal entry from an artist who has struggled with depression and suicidal thoughts. As I reflected on what he shared there were a couple of statements he made that helped me see things in a deeper way:

 

“After more than 10 years of dealing with depression in its most extreme forms I’ve come to the conclusion that it is not solely a physical, or emotional problem. For me, it is also a spiritual problem.”

 

It is no wonder that depression is complicated. Chris Cornell and Chester Bennington were complicated just as each of us is in our own way. We are not just physical beings. We are not just emotional beings, nor are we just spiritual beings. We are all of these in one whole person, so we must consider all of these areas when dealing with depression.

 

Along with depression, grieving the loss of someone to suicide can get complicated especially when we’re watching on the outside attempting to figure out why someone would do it. There are all kinds of emotions that rise to the surface when we learn about the suicide of someone we know or even someone we admire or respect like Cornell and Bennington. To some of us their lyrics pierced our soul because it felt like they knew exactly what we were going through. There are many facets of grief: disbelief, sadness, anger, envy, helplessness, emptiness, fear and the list goes on. Then there are the unanswered questions of “Why did she do that?” or “What was so bad that he couldn’t cope?” And then there are the questions about ourselves of “Is there something wrong with me that I’m crying for the loss of someone I didn’t even personally know?” or “Am I weird that I don’t feel anything?” Whatever the questions we ask, grief is a personal thing and we express it in different ways. It is complicated.

 

“Reaching out for help is not a sign of weakness. It’s a sign of strength. I want to stop the mental health stigma and start being authentic. There is healing power in non judgmental community, and we need to break down those barriers and just be real with each other, because love is all we have.”

 

Whether you’re questioning your mental health or walking through grief, reaching out to a professional therapist or counselor is a good step. If you’re not ready to do that, then finding a “safe person” for help is an option. You may be asking, “How do I know if someone is a safe person?”

 


Important characteristics to look for in a safe person

Trusted – Do others trust them? Think about who has been a trusted help in the lives of others.

Present/Good listener – Not only being physically present to listen to you, but are they able to focus on being in the moment with you without distractions? Sometimes you just need to know that someone is available, but there are other times when you need a listening ear.

Peaceful – Are they the type of person that brings peace to what may seem to be chaotic situations? They may not be able to change the situation but they may be a person who makes everyone feel at peace when they are around.

Compassionate – Are they sympathetic, caring and understanding? Your feelings are real and this is not the time for someone to act judgmental towards you, but it’s the time for your feelings to be validated.


Perhaps as you’ve read through this list you recognize these characteristics in yourself. If so, please consider looking out for people who may need a safe person. It can be just reaching out with a phone call or just a text message saying “I’m here.” It could be the offering to just sit quietly across from the person and “just be.”

As a licensed Chaplain I consider it a blessing to care for the unique spiritual, emotional and physical needs of anyone God connects me to. From being available for someone who is dealing with depression, to sitting with someone in the midst of their grieving, I know God has called me to be a safe person. If there’s anything you’ve read in this post that you’d like to discuss further, please don’t hesitate to contact me: Stacy@ryfo.org. If you would like to respond to this post anonymously you can send RYFO a message via Sarahah.


Reflection:

When you ​have been ​depressed or ​grieved the loss of someone, was there a person in your life who was a safe person​? If yes, how so?

How can you ​be a safe person to someone who is grieving?


Struggling with Suicidal Thoughts

Written by: Anonymous // Shared with permission by: Simeon Lohrmann

The following journal entry was sent to me by an artist friend of mine as he was processing through the recent suicides that have shaken the music community. After reading my friend’s reflections I asked if he would be comfortable with his story being shared anonymously with the RYFO network.


“[It was] sad to hear about the deaths of both Chris Cornell, and Chester Bennington. Even more sad to hear they were suicides. 

I’ve struggled with severe depression for more than 10 years, and there have been times where I feel like I’m desperate, out of control and have absolutely no hope. I’ve never acted on any of the suicidal thoughts, but I know that their are a lot of people struggling with the same issues and feel the same burden of constant pain and overwhelming sadness. 

After more than 10 years of dealing with depression in its most extreme forms – I’ve come to the conclusion that it is not solely a physical, or emotional problem. For me, it is also a spiritual problem. It’s really the only aspect of my life that I haven’t considered fully enough up until more recently.

They said it’s a chemical imbalance:

I’ve tried probably more than 20+ medications. Anti depressants, anti anxiety, muscle relaxers, anti psychotics, pain pills, even depakote – which is typically used to treat seizures. I don’t have seizures, it’s just another thing to try since nothing was working. 

They said it was physical:

I’ve tried changing my diet, exercising, yoga, mental exercises, natural remedies – nothing even came close to helping. 

I was hospitalized many times, the longest period was for a week. That was the worst week of my life, and really caused me to go backwards in my healing. 

I struggled with eating. I was stuck in a loop in my head where I felt like “if I eat, I’m going to choke and die. If I don’t eat, I’m going to starve to death.” I weighed 115 lbs at one point.

I’ve had suicidal thoughts. Wanting to throw myself down flights of stairs, or jump out of moving cars. I’ve tried to fill the emptiness and void in my life with other things, and nothing seemed to work. 

I know there are things that I need to change about myself. And I also know that I can’t do those things in my own power… Literally… I’ve tried. It doesn’t work. Sometimes I feel like I’ve tried everything. Other times It feels like I’m living the same way year after year – not changing anything – and expecting different results.

I’ve gotten to the point where I’m out of options except to turn completely to God. I’ve felt overwhelming sadness and pain night and day. It’s like Job in scripture where he says my tears are my food day and night. I can’t sleep most nights, I have no appetite, I feel like I’m being attacked from all sides by the enemy. I have extreme night terrors to the point where I feel like I’m literally losing my mind.

Year after year, I have the thought in my head that I’m not going to make it to the next year. I always am afraid I’m going to have a heart attack. I have panic attacks when I drive, back pain so bad that it affects me at work, and at home (I resigned from my job just the other day because of the issues). I feel overwhelmed some days with the thought of taking care of my son. 

I’ve tried escaping the pain by watching movies, getting lost in music, and turning to other unhealthy ways of dealing with these issues, but it always leaves me feeling empty. 

So, I’ve chosen to trust God.

Trust has been the theme for my life lately. I’m tired of worrying to the point of mental and physical exhaustion. I’m tired of not facing my issues and practicing escapism to try and “medicate” my pain. The only lasting peace I’ve ever found has been when I’m in relationship with God. Not religion. But an actual – crazy in love with Jesus sort of relationship.

The more I’m in scripture and prayer, the more I can hear the whisper of God. Because sometimes, with all of the chaos and busyness of life – with all of the brokenness, poverty, cancer, depression and war, It may seem like darkness is winning. It may feel like Satan shouts, and God whispers. 

So I have to slow down and remind myself of how God directs us. He says “Be still and know I am God.” Psalm 46:10. 

The last few months or so I’ve experienced some of the worst symptoms I’ve ever had to deal with. And at the same time I’m experiencing community, peace and transformation in my heart. I feel like I’m moving towards freedom, and the overwhelming darkness and fog that has been floating over me for the past 10+ years is starting to lift.

Over the years, I’ve realized that the picture of good mental health is multi-dimensional. It’s not just physical, or chemical. Although, for some – medication may help on a short term basis. It just never worked for me. I could never just pop a pill and expect all of my core issues to suddenly disappear. 

I believe there are so many aspects to consider in order to heal properly. For me, it’s: Physical, Emotional, Relational, and Spiritual.

The biggest factor in my healing though, has been the spiritual. I constantly have to remind myself not to neglect the other areas though. I’ve seen the absolute worst of it, but I know if I can experience freedom – anyone can. You are never too far gone to move towards light and life again. 

I’m still on the journey, but I’ve had a taste of freedom and I want more. In the words of Jon Foreman, “I want to thrive, not just survive.” And also, “we were meant to live for so much more.” Man, I love Jon Foreman’s music. It’s been so healing to my soul. 

It’s sad to think that some people get to the point where they feel they have no options. Reaching out for help is not a sign of weakness. It’s a sign of strength. I want to stop the mental health stigma and start being authentic. There is healing power in non judgmental community, and we need to break down those barriers and just be real with each other, because love is all we have.”