Wednesday, August 13, 2014

I Can See the Sunlight Ahead

My children wouldn't have been born.

That's the thought that haunts me when I think about a few terrifying days in the darkest hole of my depression. If I had acted on the notion that the world would be better off without me, the world might have been without me, and without my four beautiful babies. As I listen to their quiet breathing tonight, and as I read the flood of confessions and calls to action following the tragic suicide of Robin Williams, I pray that the other lives teetering on the edge of despair find their way back to solid ground.

Days such as this shock us into movement, and throughout the last 24 hours, people around the world have begged us to seek help and to help others. Inevitably, focus on this issue will fade when the next human tragedy occurs, but I implore you to be vigilant. The dismantling of a human because of depression is not something that can be casually or intermittently patched. It is silent and dark and omnipresent, and to me, it felt like someone dangerous was following me down quiet, black alleys.

I have come out safely on the other side. I still fight some demons, as many of us do, but every single day is no longer a struggle. I have learned to wrestle self-loathing to the ground, to ask for help, and to understand that I am not actually a burden to the world.

But (and here's the really important part that all of us, those who fight depression and those who don't, need to know) I did not do it alone. In college, there were two friends in particular who did not take "I'm fine" for an answer. My family rose up like a great and mighty wall, to offer support and protection at any cost. And my parents, whose fear rattled me, stood armed and ready to combat my depression with love, time, prayer, and listening.

I see my own children, and I worry that hiding in their genetic code is a little of what drove me to desperation. What will be, will be, and no amount of self-love and pride and confidence that I can soak them in will be enough to overwhelm depression, if it appears. I will try to inoculate my kids against it, but must remember that it can hit even those who seem the most collected, the most even. If it comes, I have to unleash the weapons my loved ones used for my sake.

There is much good advice circulating today about preventing suicide and treating depression, and we should sit up and pay attention, and not just for the week or month. We can never know what is inside a person's head, what private struggles cloud their thoughts, but we can be compassionate observers and listeners. I can say with certainty that the road to recovery is difficult, and with equal certainty that each life is worth the effort to listen and love.

Please know that this mountain can be climbed. If you are lost inside your own head, put out your hand to someone on the outside, and they will take it. If you see someone stumbling, even someone who you think is fine or who has overcome in the past, watch for their outstretched hand or just go and take it.

Four little people are on this Earth because I climbed that mountain.