Amanda’s Story – What I Know Now
My world stopped turning on October 10, 2006. I was 20 years old. I was interning at a primary school about to head home for fall break when I had a voicemail from my dad to call him. The news was tragic. My mother had taken her own life. The reality of never getting to see her again, or hug her, or kiss her, or tell her how much I loved her began to sink in on my drive home.
My mom, my best friend, was gone.
Mom was diagnosed with depression and fought for about 2 years until she finally succumbed to the pain because she couldn’t tolerate living anymore. A pain at the time I could not understand. A pain that I thought was “faked.” A pain that was so real that she compared it to a leper with open wounds all over her body. Looking back, this illness absolutely transformed her. This is a picture at my high school graduation right before she was diagnosed; the second image is the last one we had taken together about 2 months before she died.
She lost the sparkle in her eye. She stopped smiling. She stopped eating and sleeping. She lost interest in her hobbies, she was in so much pain she couldn’t do them anymore. She stopped going to church. She pleaded with God for healing and had everyone praying the same. She felt like she had no friends and felt as though she was a burden to everyone. She became a pharmaceutical pincushion trying this medicine and that medicine; anything to ease her pain and help her get through the day. She got to the point where she didn’t even have the energy to dry her hair. Countless times I heard, “No one should live like this,” or, “I can’t do this anymore,” or, “Life would be much easier if I wasn’t here.”
The bottom line: depression impacts judgment.
Mom started believing things that weren’t true and death quickly became the easiest fix to her problems. The depression was so deep, that she fixated on death to an unhealthy degree. My sister said it best, “I can appreciate the effort it took to appear strong, to continue fighting. To rest in the Lord and keep pressing on, knowing this world is temporary and we were created for so much more. I can feel her longing for Heaven. For a world without loss, fear, heart break, anxiety and pain. My mom’s eyes were always set on eternity.’
Death consumed her to the point of taking action. After a failed attempt in April 2004, 6 months later she ended her life.
My mom’s depression was triggered when her dad was diagnosed with cancer in 2004. My mom did not have an easy life and even lost her own mom at an early age. Now, her dad, her best friend and only remaining parent, was dying. I was leaving for college and she ended up losing her job as an accountant because of medical leave.
It was a downward spiral from there.
I was so young and didn’t really understand everything she was going through like I do now. It was so easy to see her as a problem. An annoyance. Someone I did not want to be around because she complained and was so negative and I couldn’t stand to be around it. I constantly told her to snap out of it or tried numerous times to get her out and about even if she didn’t want to “because she would see what she was missing and feel better.” This is a common strategy and a misconception around people who are depressed. This does not help.
A person with a mental illness cannot just “snap out of it.”
Granted, each case is different, but one thing is certain: depression is a chemical imbalance in the brain. It is a REAL disease. We as the family and loved ones cannot “fix” the depression, but we can do things to encourage and love the ones going through it.
- Be encouraging and don’t shut them out because they are depressed and hard to be around.
- Be advocates for them in seeking help and help them find a doctor or counselor.
- Patience. Patience.
- Be an active listener, not an enabler.
- Provide encouragement, not advice on how to get better.
- Be available to help out around the house, make meals, etc.
- Encourage exercise and uplifting activities. Often times it’s easy to fall to where they are emotionally and coddle them, but that is not healthy for either party.
- Show compassion.
- Don’t be afraid to ask questions. You never know what they may be going through.
- Pray for and with them constantly. Never give up on them.
Mental illness is real, very real and it doesn’t just happen to people who have experienced loss or heartache. It takes the brain captive and creates a belief in lies to appear as truth, a distorted reality. I know so many of you have either dealt with this or know someone who has. I wish the outcome of my mom’s condition had been different. I wish she could see me now. I wish I knew then what I know now to better help her. I wish she could’ve realized that death was not the answer. But I have to trust that God is using it for good. He is using me to talk to others about it to help save them and bring light to these issues in the church and among His children. Please don’t keep things in. Talk about your hardships…your struggles…and what’s bothering you, or journal your feelings. Keep all this in mind if you suspect yourself or someone you care about is struggling with bouts of depression. It often doesn’t “go away,” but can be managed.
It’s been 12 years. Now, I’m 32. I’m stronger, wiser and continuing to heal. I am now a fighter for this cause. Suicide and mental illness impacts so many lives and is probably one of the most misunderstood illnesses to infiltrate the human race. No one is immune from developing depression. It can hit anyone at anytime and can be triggered after years and years of suppressed feelings. What you can do, though, is be aware of the signs and symptoms and seek help IMMEDIATELY before it spirals out of control:
- Withdrawn/loss of interest in hobbies or people
- Complaining about excessive tiredness/feeling drained
- Apathetic about everything
- Expressing a negative outlook on life
- Becoming uncharacteristically moody, sad, critical, irritable
Find someone you trust to talk to and confide in them to help support you through this.
You CAN overcome.
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