This week we learned about the death of Robin Williams, a gifted, talented actor and comedian. His comedic timing and delivery is genius! As the story unfolded, we learned about the underlying depression and struggles he suffered for many years.
And my heart broke.
In spite of all the recent talk about depression, unless you’ve lived with it, you can’t really understand the enormity of this ugly disease.
And, yes, it is a disease, not simply a state of mind.
Depression robs you of so many things in life.
It corrupts your sleep. It steals your joy. It lies to your mind. It dulls the colors of your world. It is silent, yet unmercilessly loud at the same time. It is misunderstood by so many.
In Awakenings, one of Robin Williams’ dramatic films, we see people who are locked inside their bodies – frozen in time – unable to communicate to the world around them because of a physical malfunction. They are alive, but trapped. We sympathized and grieved with these people. “How awful to be trapped in your own body and not be able to communicate,” we say.
Depression hijacks your mind.
You are alive, but trapped in the lies and pain in your mind. Yet, when it comes to depression, that same sympathy just isn’t there – most of the time.
Ann Voskamp, author of the book One Thousand Gifts, stated in her recent blog post, “That — depression is like a room engulfed in flames and you can’t breathe for the sooty smoke smothering you limp — and suicide is deciding there is no way but to jump straight out of the burning building.”
Listening to people who have suffered with or are suffering from depression, you realize their stories are different yet similar.
There are the condemning voices in your head. The secrets of the past so horrific you’re afraid if you speak of them your world will shatter into a million putrid shards. The deeply held belief that if people really knew what you’d done, they would reject you completely.
And so, you hide the pain.
In my case, depression took me to a very dark hole where there was no light.
- It was cold and silent, yet my mind screamed with past secrets and voices of condemnation
- I couldn’t hear and yet my ears were overwhelmed with noise
- I couldn’t feel yet the pain was excruciating
- I couldn’t see yet the hidden secrets were constantly magnified before my eyes
And the hole deepened, swallowing me further, burying me alive. When you get that deep in the pit, you just want to GET OUT. Just MAKE IT STOP.
When that hideous hole was the deepest, I thought about choosing the path Robin Williams chose. But, my husband and some dear friends who were “Jesus with skin on” reached out, grabbed on, and
- Extended me grace and unconditional love
- Didn’t try to simplify the depression or give trite, pat answers
- Didn’t try to explain away the depression
- They helped me process the hidden pain and bring into light the things that I thought would destroy me…and my world didn’t shatter
- They spoke Truth into my mind, heart, and soul that began to quiet the condemning voices
- They reminded me that Jesus said, “You will know the Truth, and the Truth will set you free.” (John 8:32 capitalization mine)
- They prayed over, and for, me shedding light into the darkness
- They loved me with all my messiness
- They held onto my hands and eventually helped me crawl out of that hole
- They reminded me that, while the hole is always there ready to swallow me again, they are still holding my hands, life is still worth living each day
And so, my heart broke for Robin Williams, another fellow human, who believed there was no other choice. The depression won again.
Fellow humans, if you are hiding the pain of the past, believing you must keep it hidden, I encourage you to take the risk and reach out to a safe person to bring the pain into the sunlight. Pain exposed to Truth cannot hold you captive any longer. If you are struggling with depression in any form, get help.
Depression isn’t shameful. It is a real disease. While there are no simple answers, there is help and hope.
If you know someone who is struggling with depression, have the courage to sit with that person, to listen to their heart cries, to stamp down the urge to explain it away, to love this messy person with abandon and enter into their pain. Be Jesus with skin on.
Each new day holds a simple, extraordinary moment for you. Search for it as I am.
Kirsten D. Samuel
Aftershock Recovery Coach
8-week Program, Custom-paced Coaching, Remote, or In-person Sessions