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I think I’m truly depressed for the first time in my life and I don’t know what to do.
It’s not fair that you have gotten the illness that we call depression. It’s not fair that all sorts of people will give you all sorts of unhelpful advice about how to manage your illness; as well-intentioned as those friends and family members and colleagues may be, the reality is that going to a romantic comedy or spending more time outdoors or listening to music or just deciding to cheer up probably won’t your illness go away. It’s not fair that there isn’t a reliable way of making your illness go away. And it’s really not fair that you have a disease that lies to you.
Depression lies like hell.
Depression tells you that you are without value; it tells you that you’re not worth the money and the time for therapy (the therapist will just think that you have stupid, petty problems); it tells you that the people who love you would be better off if you were gone, no matter what they may say to the contrary; it tells you you’re correct to be horrifyingly anxious all the time; it tells you that you’re not actually all that sick, that you have the tools to objectively judge your life and find it pathetic and wanting.
There is good news, Pat: lots of people before you have called BS on depression’s lies. They have found remission from their disease, and in doing so, they have found reengagement with life. Some have done so through therapy and medication. Others have been surprised at how big a difference exercise or meditation or prayer can make. Still others have found freedom through a combination of experiences or practices that are unusual or even unique to them. Regardless of the method of recovery in question, what is important for you to know is that people can and do get better.
How will you find the things will help you get better? Well, begin by exploring the resources that are available. The internet is a great place to start. If you’re in an academic mood, check out the studies which found that those who survive a suicide attempt — people who, in other words, were profoundly depressed or otherwise in a state of psychic distress — overwhelmingly do not attempt suicide a second time.
Even in the deepest darkness, in other words, people do recover. For something a little more playful, have a look at Allie Brosh’s charming and wise cartoons about her depression and Matthew Johnstone’s beautiful short, “I Had A Black Dog.” If nothing else, these resources will assure you that you are not alone. And then find out how to get professional help. Spending some time with a therapist may well yield the insight and the strategy through which you can manage your illness.
If you are thinking at all about suicide, Pat, then go get that help this instant. Type “suicide hotline” into Google and call the number that appears on your screen right away.
Know this, Pat: The people who love you need you here. They need you healthy and well. They would be devastated if you left or if you disappeared into a nonfunctioning grey distance. If the work of finding a therapist sounds like too much for you to take on right now, then ask a trusted friend to make that first difficult call.
Don’t be afraid to shop around for a therapist whom you get along with. It’s OK if you don’t know what to say to him or her. It’s okay if you spend the whole first session crying.
Ask for help. Because you need it. Because you deserve it. Because everyone who loves you and cares about you wants to help.
Last of all, in the darkness of this time, remember the promise of the Gospel and of the Incarnation in particular. There we find testimony that God knows the joys and the hardships of this life, that God knows love and loss alike, that God knows firsthand what it is to suffer, what it is to be alone, even what it is to die. There we find the assurance that God is with us always, even in the depths of depression. The Gospel invites us to say with confidence, “God, you know what this is like.”
As hard as the path that you are on may be, as unfair as it may be, as full of lies as it may be, you are not the first one to walk upon it. You are not alone upon it. May you know that all sorts of people who love you walk this path with you. May you know that God walks with this path you. May you join the many, Pat, who have walked through the big shadow of depression and have found their way back into life and joy and light.