Last week my heart was saddened by the news of Robin Williams’ death. How empty our world will seem without his creativity and his laughter to bless us. We’ve heard and seen so many wonderful tributes to this man who touched the emotions and lives of millions. As a person who has struggled with depression all of my life, it sparked some sad and painful memories and even some unhealthy thoughts. God got me through the week with the love of one of his most special angels here on earth – a golden retriever named Sadie whom I was taking care of for some friends while they were away.
When I was in my early teens, I made the decision to take my own life on my eighteenth birthday. In senior year, while others were looking at colleges or dreaming about the day after graduation, I was making my plan. Back then I drifted between atheism and agnosticism and I figured that if there was a hell, that’s where I was going and I was okay with that because no matter how bad hell was, it had to be better than the life I was living. God gave me something to live for when two months before my 18th birthday, I got pregnant. I was okay with killing myself, but I couldn’t kill my child and by the second trimester, I couldn’t live without him, so I couldn’t give him up for adoption.
Years later when he died in a tragic car accident, I again had to face the decision of whether I was going to live or die. My family kept me under close surveillance those first months after his death and an old friend got me into grief counseling. When that was done, I didn’t want to die anymore, but I didn’t really have a reason to live and grow either. I was moving around and going about the motions of life, but inside I was dead. That’s when Jesus stepped into my life. He gave me a reason to live and grow and thrive. When my husband left me a few years later, Jesus was my comfort, my hope and he was my reason for living. He still is. My husband's leaving hurt a lot, but Jesus held the pieces of my broken heart in his hands until the healing was done.
This doesn’t mean that I no longer have depressive episodes where unhealthy thoughts, attitudes, and habits sneak up on me from some dark corner of my mind. I’m still at risk at certain times in my life. Even after coming to know Jesus, I had a depressive episode that put me in the hospital for a few days. It was like a safety switch went off in my head making the idea of killing myself okay, normal even. I got some rest and my medications were adjusted and after leaving the hospital I continued therapy and working towards good mental health. I’ve since completed the work of learning to accept and leaving behind my past and all the hurt that resides there. I’m living and working an average life and loving God to the fullest of my ability in all I do because I know just how precious each moment is and that each moment is a gift from God. But like a person who has a life-long, sometimes debilitating disease, (like colitis or fibromyalgia or diabetes) I need to take the proper precautions and watch for the signs of an attack because it can hit me again any time. And when it does, I won’t care how precious the next moment is and I will have to make the decision to live for and love God in that moment.
You’ll note that I didn’t mention anything about the many beloved friends and family in my life. I love them all dearly and God has touched me through them often, but I left them out of this post because God is the only one who can change my heart from sadness to praise when I’m at my lowest. Sure, sometimes he gives me a moment of relief through their companionship, but he is the healer. He is the only one who can turn that safety switch back on in my mind when life trips it off.
God wants to bless those around me with my love, my laughter and my sharing. I make a difference because he makes a difference through me. Without me, there would be an empty place in the world for those I know and love. That’s what God reminded me of this week.
If you are suffering with depression and wonder if the world wouldn’t be a little better without you, think again. Tomorrow without you is such a sad thought. I promise that it gets better. Lean into Jesus—give him your pain and your tears. Call the national suicide hotline (1-800-273-8255) or go to the nearest hospital emergency room right now if you think you are going to hurt yourself. Get counseling. Talk to someone. Talk to me. Please hear me when I tell you that you are special—in the entire world, throughout all time, there is only one of you and I would miss you if you weren’t in my tomorrow.
For those of you not suffering from depression, chances are that you know someone who is. Depression is a dark and scary thing—don’t let your loved one go through it alone. Talk to them. Let them know they matter. Let them know it’s okay to be sad for a while, but that you want to celebrate the joy of life with them too. Show them how to not give up on themselves by not giving up on them. There are no guarantees. All you can do is love them and pray.