Depression, Suicide, and a Better Way Out

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I’ve been a journalist, a college teacher in Hong Kong, and—for 22 years—a pediatrician. I was chief of staff and a trustee at a 700-plus bed medical center with 2 campuses and 400 doctors. I am a dedicated Christian, a Presbyterian elder, and a veteran of medical mission trips to the Amazon. I speak fluent Spanish, some Portuguese, a little German, and a bit of Cantonese. When I am thinking rationally, I can see that I am intelligent, witty, well-liked and respected.
I also have battled depression for more than 40 years, and when I am depressed, I do think I am a complete loser.

Elizabeth J. Griffin, MD

Does depression mystify you?  I mean, how can successful people feel so badly about their lives?  How can Christians remain so negative?  Griffin, writing for Psychiatric Times, recalls the responses she heard after two of her acquaintances committed suicide on the same day:

“But he was such a strong Christian! How could he do this?”
“I guess he took the easy (or, ‘the coward’s’) way out.”
“He wasn’t thinking about his family at all, that’s for sure!”
“Well, I always thought only losers had depression, like people living on the street, or alcoholics and drug addicts – nobody but losers!”

In her article, “What Depression Does to Our Minds When It Attacks,” Griffin explains how she responded to her own severe depression.  She feared losing her job, feared public humiliation, and feared she would never work again.  She hated herself and tried to hide her affliction as much as possible.  When told by her employer she had two weeks to “fix whatever is wrong with you” or lose her job, she could only see one way out of her pain.  She bought a gun.

The only thing preventing her from using the gun that day was a promise made to her father.  “I am alive now,” she wrote, “only because 2 months earlier my father had stood in front of my car and refused to let me leave his home until I promised not to kill myself. Somehow, on that day in the gun store parking lot, I managed to try one more time to keep that promise.”

Griffin points out that people don’t know how to talk about depression and often remain silent – the person who suffers is too ashamed to speak, and the people who know the person suffering are too uncertain to say anything. She has two suggestions:

If you have depression, tell someone you can trust and seek professional help. It is available—and it can help. Depression does not have to last forever; you really can get better with time and treatment.
If someone you care about is depressed, tell him you do care, that you love him, and that you want to understand and help. Tell her how important she is to you and what you admire about her. Tell him you want him and need him in your life, and that things will get better. Ask her to hang on until they do. Beg him to promise that he won’t do anything to hurt himself, that he will not commit suicide.

Griffin’s father saved a life by daring to step in the path of his daughter instead of staying silent. He might not have understood what was going on in her mind but he dared to act in the moment of crisis.  She never forgot that action.

Griffin acknowledges that people who know her cannot comprehend how destructive and irrational her thoughts become, or how the idea of suicide seductively offers “a bridge home to God.”

“I believed that everyone felt and thought this way to some extent,” she wrote, explaining her self -hatred and belief that everyone she knew would be better off if she was dead. “I once explained some of this to one friend, a compassionate and extremely intelligent physician. He looked at me in amazement and said, ‘You do know, don’t you, how completely foreign everything you just said is to me?’
In fact, learning just that was a real eye-opener for me, ‘a light-bulb moment.’”

I hope you will read this article and have a light-bulb moment, too.

No, friends and family are not familiar with a thought process that spirals so deeply into a hateful self-destructive hole. An unreasonable, unmerciful, unforgiving, hole.

No, they don’t grasp the idea that you’ve ruined everyone else’s life and need to leave them.  They have a reasonable estimation of what “damage” you’ve supposedly caused and they want you to stay.

They want you to show mercy to yourself and them by explaining the woes of your heart to others, with all the difficult humility it takes, because you desperately need help. No one wins well who fights alone.

They want you to forgive the people who have hurt you so much, and they want you to believe they forgive you, too. (Yes, hurt goes in both directions.) That’s a hard one, I know, but it’s the heart of the gospel, the gospel of peace.

“Come unto me….learn of me… for I am meek and lowly in heart…and ye shall find rest unto your souls.”  from Mtt. 11:29

- See Dr. Griffin’s 04/03/2014  article at: http://www.psychiatrictimes.com/major-depressive-disorder/what-depression-does-our-minds-when-it-attacks/page/0/1?GUID=4EDD48DC-EB6E-4A5B-A452-B31972C1220B&rememberme=1&ts=05042014