Read Part One here!
How can you help someone who is struggling with depression and/or suicidal thoughts?
I won’t pretend to have all the answers on this one and it may be different from person to person so I’m going to tell you from my own experience what has helped me and what has not. There are many websites with tons of information. One of the first steps you can take is to educate yourself. Learn what depression is and what it isn’t. Try to understand how it affects a person, physically, mentally, and emotionally. Take a stand to know more and then take what you learn, apply it and share it!
For me personally, it has been difficult for anyone to come along and “save me.” This was never an option. I simply do not allow others into my darkness…until now. I will say, the only reason I am sharing this now is because the good that can come from this far exceeds any fears I have of rejection and judgement. I simply have to be a voice for all of those who cannot find their own voices.
Friends have come and gone. Many never knew just how clouded my thoughts were. Only this year, have I really started inviting people in. Even when I let the walls down enough to let someone in, this depression, the darkness, the thoughts of dying, are things that continue to be locked tightly away, even from my closest friends, including my husband. This just isn’t something you want to share with those you love. You don’t want to burden them with these fears, worries, or pain. You don’t want to create panic in them. You don’t want to cause turmoil or upset in their lives. So it stays hidden, deep inside.
I think what I am learning is that if the day comes when my irrational thinking wins the battle, there will be nothing anyone can do. I don’t say that to scare you even more or to turn you away, I say that to let you know that it is never your fault if someone makes the choice to take their own life. So many survivors left behind from suicide take on this guilt, wondering if they should have noticed more, done more, or been a better friend. Don’t carry those burdens. Just don’t.
Keep in mind these are written from my own perspective but let’s assume they apply to anyone suffering with depression. If you have a friend who is battling this fight, ask them…really ask them what they need. They may not be able to answer you right away. Encourage them to really think about what is helpful and what isn’t and ask them to share that with you!
So, what can you really do?
You may not be able to prevent suicide. What you can do is extend love, compassion, try to understand – even if you really can’t – simply try. Be there for me, let me know I am not too much for you, that you can’t carry my burdens but that doesn’t mean you can’t be there for me. Tell me how much I mean to you, how important I am to you and others. Just knowing that someone truly cares may be all it takes. Believing that may not come easy for me. My mind is filled with lies and all that clouded judgement. I may not believe that you really care. I may not even want to believe it. Keep telling me. You might get frustrated and feel like nothing you’re doing is working or helping. You may want to give up on me. DON’T! Be patient wit me. Encourage me to keep fighting. Keep telling me over and over, that you are there, that you love me, that you know I am hurting, that you see my pain. I may get angry with you. I may try to push you away. I may pull away and try to shut you out. This is not because I don’t trust you or because I am actually angry with you. It may simply be my defenses that long ago helped me to survive but now, keep me very alone. This darkness has invaded so much of me and it will take time. I may try to avoid you. Don’t let me. Due to the depression and the irrational thoughts, I may not be able to make all the right choices, but you can help me by choosing not to give up on me and not letting me give up on you.
From my own experience, what I don’t need is preachy. I know Scripture. I know how to read my Bible and I do. I know God loves me. I know and believe He has a plan for me. I have no doubt that God can heal me. What I need is a friend. Sometimes all I really need is a person to be there, so that in those moments when I feel so alone and so invisible, someone can remind me I am not alone. Someone can say, “I am here.” That’s a hard step for me, to admit I need anyone, and it’s even harder for me to let them in. In my mind, I feel like too much of a burden. I feel like I am wasting someone’s time, that they’d rather be doing something else or that everything else in their lives is more important than me. Don’t let me carry that. Sure, you have things that are important, but let me know I am just as important and that there is nothing you wouldn’t do to let me know I am not alone. On the flip side, some may not know all of this. Some may need to hear God’s word. You need to get to know your loved ones well enough to know their needs. Ask them. If they can’t tell you, keep asking until they can. But please, please don’t be offended if they are not ready or in a place to hear God’s Word. You can pray for them and let God work in them through the love your share with them and the light you shine in their life.
I can’t get over it. Telling me to “Just get over it,” “Let it go,” or “Snap out of it,” does not help. In fact, what I hear is my problems are nothing, that I shouldn’t be struggling like I am. Or maybe I hear you don’t have time for me and we both just need to move on. I take on guilt and shame for being too broken. I began to question, even more, what is wrong with me. I know that’s not your intentions. I realize your intentions are most likely good, that you are trying to be helpful. If you don’t know what to say, that’s okay, you don’t even have to say anything. You could offer a hand. You can pray for me. You can put me in touch with someone you think would understand. Please don’t expect me to just get over it. It simply does not work that way.
I don’t need anyone to fix me, nor do I believe they can. I don’t need all the answers. I don’t need you to right the wrongs. Sometimes, I may just need you to listen, to let me tell you what I am thinking and why I am thinking it without the worry that it will scare you away. I may need to share the thoughts or memories that flood my mind, without fearing my pain will hurt you. I may need to scream, or cry. I may need to just sit and hold your hand. I may need a hug. At different times, there may be different needs but I never need you to fix it all or carry it for me.
Take care of yourself. That’s what I want most. In doing that, don’t leave me hanging. I know your family and obligations are important but I need you to remind me that my life is just as important. If I call you at an inconvenient time, I’m sorry, but if I’m taking the step to call you, then trust me, it’s really important. Depressed people, remember, pull away, shut others out, withdraw. So if I have taken that step to call, please know my intention is not to inconvenience you or cause disruption in your life. If I call, it’s because I am in a desperate moment and am very much in need. In saying that, if you can’t be that person who drops everything in a moment of need, say so. Hopefully, I can find someone who will be that go to person. Encourage me to find two or three people who I can call on at anytime. Remind me I am loved and cared for and that you’re not bailing on me. Tell me I am not too much for you but that you also have to take care of yourself. I will try to understand. Remember, I don’t want bring pain or suffering to anyone else, but I do need honesty. And if you are that person, who is willing to accept a call at any given time, take care of yourself. Have your own support system in place. If you begin to feel weighed down, don’t shut me out, but seek out support for yourself. I don’t want you do carry this burden alone just as you don’t want me to carry my burdens alone.
Most importantly, give hope. Tell me reasons to live, why I am important. Point out good things in my life. Remind me of good times. I may not always hear you. I may brush you off and not believe you. I may try to ignore you. Those are all my defenses. Those are lies that have filled my mind. Tell me anyway. Give hope to the hopeless!
And if you are the person who is walking in my shoes…
Please know, you are not alone. Yes, I know you feel so very alone.
I know the pain is often unbearable. I know that sometimes it feels like the weight never lets up. I realize the fears and worries are overwhelming. I know it’s hard to believe anyone cares or could possibly care. I know everything in you wants to run away. I know your heart aches with every beat. But you are not alone.
You may not feel supported. You may have hundreds who love you or you may have none. Somewhere out there is someone who will take the time to help you. Please call a friend. If you don’t know anyone to call, call a support line, a therapist, a doctor. Go somewhere and make a friend. Go to a church. Go to a hospital. Go to the police station if you have to. Just don’t walk this road alone. Tell someone how you are feeling. If they won’t listen, tell someone else. Keep telling until someone hears you. Someone will listen!
You are not crazy! You are hurting. You are lonely. You are in a dark place and you need light. You are suffocating and you need air.
It really is okay to need and there are people in your life who will help you find that light. You may have to seek them out. I know that can be extremely difficult…do it anyway! Don’t let your light fade out without trying everything you can to get out of the darkness. You are worth it. You are loved. You are amazing and God can do something with all the garbage you carry.
If you can’t bear your heart to another soul, know that God is always with you. Even if you are angry at Him. Even if you don’t want to believe in Him. Even if you are like I was, that little eleven year old girl who believed her God could never love her or want her, who prayed for Him to save her and never heard her prayers answered, who begged for him to protect her and felt so abandoned, I want you to know, He never left me … not once. I have run so far from Him, turned my back on Him, been furious with Him, and yet each day, He reminds me that I am loved, He offers me peace and comfort, He extends His grace, and He never lets go. You are worth it! You are not alone!
Take off the mask. You don’t have to be okay. One of my favorite pastors once said, “It’s okay to not be okay!” That was a message that I have needed to hear over and over. It’s okay to not be okay! Let the tears flow. Be a mess. Let others in, let them see the brokenness. If they truly care and love you, they will love you along with all your imperfections and broken pieces and even more than that, they will want to be there, along side of you, to help you, to be there for you, to listen and to love you. Let them!
I know this is difficult. I know this is easier said than done but know I am speaking this as I am going through it with you. I am facing this just as you are. I am walking this road with you. I know it’s not an easy journey but doing it alone only makes it harder and more painful. I would love to hear from you. Please know that my heart aches for you. If you want to send me a message, feel free to do so. I read every comment and I try to comment back. I may not be your go to person, but I can encourage you to find one :) Don’t give up! There is hope!
Suicide Hotline – 1-800-273-8255