A well loved man, a Principal, recently took his own life in our Minnesota community.
Read the story here.
Family, the Wayzata community, and the tender hearted children at his school are left with more questions than answers. My children heard the story on the news as well.
They asked, as we all ask…Why?
My heart aches for those asking “the why” and my mind knows where he was. In the dark suffocating arms of depression.
I have been there, and not only have I been there, but I have gone back to the edges of it its grip many times. It makes no sense to those on the outside looking in. Why would someone who appears so successful, so happy, so normal, be depressed? Why?
Because depression is a disease. And if you struggle or have struggled with it, you understand.
If you haven’t I would encourage you to think of it more like a cancer that has no source, except a body that produces it. A diagnosable depression is not fixed by a better relationship, a full bank account, or a happy job.
It is like a cloak that you can’t get off.
Like a heavy blanket that you want to rid yourself of; because you are sweating and it is hundred degress outside, and it itches, but you can’t squirm out of it. You can feel it behind the smile, you can feel it in your toes, it creeps on the edges of your mind whenever you are awake. The only place where it goes away is during sleep. If you can go to sleep. And when you do, you find relief. There is no heaviness, there is not palpable pain that is tapping incessantly on your heart. There is no wakeful wonder of asking why you can’t step out of this heaviness. And when you can’t crawl out it, when the itching and the pain becomes too much, depression whispers in your ear with sweet tender words, that it will be better to end it all. And the person in depression, the person who can’t push through another day belives it’s lies and succumbs.
And a community, a family, a city, is left in shock. In terrible horrible pain of asking, “why?”
I have been there and have written about my struggle through depression in my book, Table In The Darkness – A Healing Journey Through an Eating Disorder. Not only have I been there, but depression pokes it’s bony finger at me still when I least expect it. It ebbs and flows, but there are times when it tries to cover me. Times when despite my circumstances, it is there, in my mind, in my soul and in my bones. I know it’s tricks now, I know it well enough to scream out for help when it gets close. But, it isn’t easy.
Because people don’t understand it like they do cancer. There is a stigma that says it is a way of thinking, or you just need to pull yourself up by your bootstraps, or you just need to look around and be grateful. Don’t say that to someone struggling ok? (I wrote more on this here, or check out this great article here.)
Do you know someone struggling with depression?
Be a listener. Be a friend who sits with them.
Then encourage them to get professional help. Encourage them as you would if they broke their arm, to see someone who can help. When the brain isn’t working, and the mood is sending a warning light to the body saying something is wrong, we need to get help.
Asking for help isn’t weakness, it is courage, and it is strength.
And we need each other to have the courage to do so, we need community to help us feel safe, vulnerable, and to share our pain.
There can be no vulnerability without risk; there can be no community without vulnerability; there can be no peace, and ultimately no life, without community.” – M. Scott Peck
Yes, it takes courage. Going to see someone and tell them you are depressed takes courage. It is scary, but it is worth it. It allows someone else to help you get that wool and itchy cloak off of you. It is the hand pulling you out of the pit. You can’t think your way out of it. You can’t pray your way out of it, ask for help.
Another teacher who knew this man, wrote this on Facebook, and I agree.
I would like to propose that instead of saying “s/he killed himself” we instead name the disease that killed someone. So the answer to “how did they die?” would become “depression” or “mental illness”. – Stacy Sullwold
He died of depression. Not of suicide. But, by the disease of depression. Which is real.
If you or someone is struggling, please get help. Please.
Compassion asks us to go where it hurts, to enter into the places of pain, to share in brokenness, fear, confusion, and anguish. Compassion challenges us to cry out with those in misery, to mourn with those who are lonely, to weep with those in tears. Compassion requires us to be weak with the weak, vulnerable with the vulnerable, and powerless with the powerless. Compassion means full immersion in the condition of being human.” ― Henri J.M. Nouwen