Today, we hear from someone who has felt the effects of depression and suicide because of a family member. These are words that we need to hear. Words that everyone needs to hear. They prove that we can learn the signs and help save lives. As Lindsay said in her email to me, she’s honored to “shar[e] a piece of my story in hopes it helps someone be brave in their own life or the life of their friend/family member.”
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He was 29 years old when he took his own life, exactly 11 months to the day from his 30th birthday. It was a bitter cold, Sunday afternoon. February 9, 2014, in a small town in Oklahoma. His death rocked my family down to the bones of who we were as a unit. We were shocked.
The truth is we shouldn’t have been surprised.
Signs had been blowing up in our faces for years. My brother’s diagnosis with depression was well documented by his doctors. After a brain injury, following a car accident at 18, the signs were all around those who claimed to love him the most. He had multiple attempts to take his own life and the treatment plans we sought out were meant to “bring him out of it” or “helping him get better.”
We were focusing on the “problem” and not his person. We did not educate ourselves with enough knowledge to know how to help him. But depression doesn’t want to be seen. It grows stronger in the dark, isolated from the world and undiscussed in most all social circles.
Except if you are paying close attention. My family and I were obviously not paying attention. Not even close.
After his death, I was struck by the amount of hashtags and accounts devoted to nothing but depression, anxiety and self harm. I wrote about it on my own blog. While a lot of the world wants to connect, there are those that are simply longing to be seen in their “IRLs” (in real lives).
It was naivety to believe depression could be cured. What my brother needed was understanding and bravery to fight for himself. He needed to see he was worthy. Depression lied to him and made him believe something opposite.
He was struggling and yet he fought off seeking further help. He didn’t want the world to focus on what he saw as “issues”. He would have much rather talked about you and what was going on in your life. Or he would desperately try to make you laugh. He was hilariously funny.
I met a woman after his death who had been at an inpatient facility with my brother several years before. While she had met with several physicians and had been prescribed varying medications, it was over sharing sodas with my brother did she have enough courage to challenge her diagnosis. She eventually found a doctor who would listen and prescribed her the appropriate medication to correlate with the symptoms she was having.
This woman says my brother helped save her life.
He was brave for her, even when he couldn’t be for himself. That thought stays with me all the time. He was so much more concerned with this woman’s health he barely knew, than he ever was for himself. He was being brave for her. He was continuing to teach me things, even though he was no longer here.
People in agony recognize one another. They can sense it even if no words are spoken. It’s a quiet acceptance of pain between two parties.
There’s a trademark of depression and only those who are suffering with it can see it. I wondered why I was never in tune enough with his depression to help him in such a way. Why I never offered to be brave for him, even if it was only for a little while?
I believe if more people saw each other instead of their circumstances or situations, there wouldn’t be the cloud of loneliness that often times comes with being human. Most of all depression is not a disease looking for a treatment; it is a person needing to be understood.
But I never offered him my bravery. I suppose I never thought about it. Maybe it would have made all the difference. I suppose I’ll wonder that until I see him again.
If you are wrestling with depression, self harm or thoughts of suicide, search for someone who will be brave for you. Their bravery may look like counseling, seeking a physician’s medication or perhaps even a treatment facility. Make sure they are worthy of your trust and that they have your ultimate interests in mind.
If you love someone who is suffering with the issues we’ve discussed here, please be brave for them. This may mean some hard conversations and the possibility of losing a friendship. Be brave for them anyway. It is important to see the person and not the symptoms. You know how to love those you love well, so use your best judgment. Remember, always begin from a place of love.
Lindsey Andrews is a writer, blogger, attorney & advocate, helping people live a legacy of love. You can find her at http://www.lindseyandrewswriter.com and on Twitter @ethiopiabound Her writer Facebook page and Instagram accounts are also where she wastes time she should be writing. Also, check out her Pin Board dedicated to Depression and Grief.