It seems the stories of depression and suicide among celebrities and other well-notables are increasing each year. When the tragic suicide of NFL legend Junior Seau occured, his friends and family told media outlets that he did not ‘appear’ to be suffering from depression.
These words are ones that always burden my heart to hear being said by anyone.
As a person who struggled with depression many years ago, I can tell you that the very last thing that someone with depression will do is show it. In fact, oftentimes it is the ones who ‘appear’ to have it all together–who ‘appear’ to be the happiest and full of life and light—that are secretly battling some form of the disorder be it mild, moderate, or severe. Have you heard the saying, “On the outside I’m smiling, but on the inside I’m crying?” That is usually the case with depression sufferers.
Don’t get me wrong, I am not saying that every single happy and smiling person that you meet is depressed—what I am saying is that with those who struggle with it, the number-one priority for them is to conceal it as best as possible from the rest of the world. And not only can this make detection by others very difficult, but it can also fuel the sufferer’s state of denial that they indeed have a serious problem.
During the time of my depression, even those in my home had no indication of what I was truly feeling inside. I never fully let on to it, never told anyone about it. Around others I was my usual happy and joyful self. Correction: I was happy and joyful to a more elevated level to overcompensate for the fact that I was unhappy, hurting, and borderline suicidal. Even as I would mistakenly drop subtle hints during conversations, because of how I said it, no one ever thought to take my statements to heart.
I believe what is happening is as our world becomes more fogged with an overload of things to keep our attention (social media, games, television, events etc.), as a society we are shifting our focus further and further away from our friends and loved ones more than ever before. We don’t “check-in” on each other like we used to; don’t spend enough undivided, face-to-face time with one another to be attentive enough to immediately be able to sense when someone is not at their usual behavior, even if the action is something very slight. We have become such masters at paying great attention to things that along the way we have forgotten how to pay close attention to people.
My point is this: it is extremely important that we start to make more conscious efforts to rediscover the ‘personal’ in personal relationships. Taking the time and care needed to really look beyond the surface of a person’s life status and actions, and becoming more aware when words are spoken that may be of concern when taken out of a joking-like context are the keys to getting depression sufferers the assistance that they need before it’s too late.
I want to give a personal message to everyone who is currently suffering from depression of any level—A life lesson that I learned at the height of my ordeal that proved to be very valuable:
Contrary to belief, the main thing that drives a person to commit suicide is not their thoughts about their life’s current condition, but it is far more the mindset of: “There is no way that my life will ever get any better than what it is right now.” If you find yourself reaching an extreme, I want you to remember the following:
**If you take your life, then you cheat the future out of its chance to prove to you that you are wrong.**
Keep this old saying in mind, and repeat it to yourself whenever you need it:
“I believe that I’ll run on—and see what the end’s gonna be.”
There is hope available to resolve depression, but only if everyone takes the time to look beyond what they see.
If you or someone you know is struggling with depression, I strongly encourage you to please seek help. Here are some professional resources:
National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH)
American Foundation for Suicide Prevention
American Psychiatric Association
American Psychological Association
Center for Mental Health Services
National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI)