Thoughts on depression, suicide and being a Christian.
Content warning: Suicide
My particular method was going to be a deadly concoction of narcotic pain pills. I had about 50 or so of them, all different types, all different shapes, all bright white. Some of them piled up and over each other, some of them stuck to the sweaty skin of my hand, some nestled into the crevices of my cupped palm. But they were all there. I didn't count how many were in my hand, but it was enough.
I had my back against the side of the bathtub, I could feel the cold tile through the seat of my pajama pants. My newborn son slept soundly in his bassinet on the other side of the bathroom door - he was snuggled in tightly with a new baby blanket. I had bought it not long ago, knowing it would be a bit colder at night next to the glass of the bedroom window.
I believed all the lies that depression was whispering violently in my ears - it's better this way. I'm a burden on everyone around me. Rowan was better off with a different mother, one who could handle it. Erik wouldn't have to deal with his crazy wife anymore.
I believed every single one of those things. Because that's what depression does - it corners you at times when you are most vulnerable, it waits until you're alone with nothing but your own thoughts and it is merciless in its attack on you. It locks you up in the dark and makes sure you can't see the light.
Depression is a clinically-diagnosed mental illness. It's also a relentless and evil sonofabitch. It's not selfish to struggle with depression. It's not a lack of understanding about God and his creation. It's not something to be ashamed of.
Call it what you want - God's grace, luck, fate - but when I was sitting on the tile in my bathroom almost 5 years ago, I saw just a small sliver of light. Just enough to make me take a breath and look at the pills in my hand. It was enough for me to drop them and watch them scatter all over the cold floor. I still don't know what it was that opened my eyes and mind that night, but it was enough for me to not go through with swallowing them all.
But, there are so many people, like the brilliant Robin Williams this week, who aren't granted that little sliver of light. The darkness enveloped them so tightly, the only way out was death. The only release was the loss of life altogether. The pain was too much, too unrelenting, too dark. When all you can see is complete and utter despair, there is no choosing. There's only one choice: Make it stop by whatever means necessary. And, like so many have seen, heard, witnessed and testified, when you've been swallowed into the vortex of depression for years and there's never been a relenting, there's never been a letting up of the pain? There's only one option.
Those who don't struggle with depression, who don't feel the ongoing darkness, or even those who struggle with depression yet still get the occasional bursts of joy or light, they try to understand and make sense of it. Label it as selfish and the easy way out. Call the suicidal "cowards." But that's not the mind of a person in the grips of unrelenting darkness. When depression corners you like that, it makes you believe that suicide is joy. Suicide is relief. And in some instances, it makes you think that suicide is a blessing or a gift to others. It can feel like the brave and noble thing to do.
Like I said, depression is evil.
But there's another kind of evil lurking around the halls of the depressed, and it's the belief that those who are stricken with depression (or any mental illness) are suffering because of their lack of faith in Jesus. "If only you'd pray for more joy," people say. "If only you'd ask God to take the pain." Or, "Is there unresolved sin in your life?" Or how about this one, "If you'd just meditate more on God's Word..."
Folks, saying someone is depressed or suicidal because they aren't praying enough, are self-absorbed, sinful, or don't have a deep enough faith? It's abusive. And it needs to stop. Now.
God does heal, absolutely He does. But sometimes, healing happens through good doctors, counselors, practitioners, and yes, medicine. God's grace can look like a sliver of light on the bathroom floor, but it can also look like a life-changing counseling session or the right combination of drugs to regulate your brain chemistry.
Prayer and a deepening faith have helped many along the road to depression. But it doesn't always work out that way. It didn't for me. And you know what? That's okay. It doesn't make us any less of a Christian believer. It doesn't diminish our value in the eyes of God if we find His grace in our name printed on a pill bottle.
And finally, as Christians, we should never be pointing our fingers at the hurting and calling them selfish.
Rather, we should be looking at them with our eyes wide open and saying, "I'm here. You're not alone. Let's get help, together."