After You have tried everything else, what next?
As a Physician and Researcher, I believe strongly in the role that science, research, and development has to play in our lives.
But, at the same time, I am also a person of Faith, and believe completely in the Omnipotence, Omniscience, and Omnipresence of God, as well as the infallibility of His Word and the role it also plays in our lives.
For me, Faith and Science are perfectly intertwined, and there is no undermining of either of them. An understanding of where these are interconnected continues to help me live and triumph over situations, that could otherwise have led me to depression.
Which brings me to the crux of this very important discussion.
With the recent unfortunate incidents with Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain (may their souls rest in peace), addressing the issues as well as the stigmas associated with depression and other mental illnesses is better done sooner, rather than later.
And with the recent Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report on increasing suicide rates in the United States, this is obviously a very serious public health issue.
For someone who has never been depressed or closely associated with a depressed person (family member, friend, spouse, loved one, etc.), it might not make a whole lot of sense on why these two incredible people decided to end their lives that way.
In fact, some people may go on to say, “but they had everything- fame, wealth, a robust social media presence and other yardsticks used to judge success, so why then did they decide to cut short their own lives?”
For which I have the perfect response:
“Depression is no respecter of persons. It can afflict anyone regardless of social status, race, age, nationality, religion or gender at any time, in any place and to varying degrees. Depression is like other illnesses such as hypertension, diabetes or heart disease. It can go anywhere and can strike at any time.”
However, even though this unwelcome visitor tends to show up uninvited, with a robust support system and the right information at hand, we stand a greater chance to stop it in its tracks and send it to where it belongs- far out of our lives.
According to science, depression sometimes occurs because of an imbalance in some neurotransmitters (chemicals in the brain that transmit information) in the brain. When there is too little or too much of specific types of these chemicals, it results in the clinical manifestation of depression.
And much of scientific research tries to suggest that one could be more prone to developing depression if a close family member (first, second-degree relative, etc.) has had a diagnosis of depression. Which attempts to suggest that some cases of depression could occur because of genetic vulnerability.
However, there are other people who develop depression spontaneously. These are people with no genetic predispositions. Such people develop depression due to other external causes such as environmental, social, economic or psychosocial stressors.
Regardless however of how someone comes down with depression, the symptoms or signs are basically the same. Symptoms of depression could be easily remembered with a pneumonic: SIGEMCApSS
- Sadness: If you find that you or someone you know continue to be uncontrollably sad despite all attempts to break that cycle
- Interest: If the person suddenly loses interest in the things that they often found pleasurable. For example, someone who previously loved visiting with friends and family or engaging in sports suddenly resents indulging in such activities
- Guilty: You or someone you know is feeling unnecessarily guilty about something and ascribing all possible blames on themselves
- Energy: You find that you or someone you know is unnecessarily tired or too weak to engage in activities that you used to do, including those that require minimal exertion
- Mood: Your mood is excessively down. Nothing excites you and everything in the world just starts feeling and looking bland
- Concentration: You or someone you know are finding it very difficult to concentrate at your job, or other specialized/unspecialized tasks
- Appetite: You or someone you know are having a loss of appetite or beginning to eat way too much than necessary and as a result, you are either gaining too much or losing too much weight
- Sleep: You or someone you know is experiencing distortions in your sleep pattern. You are either finding it difficult to fall or stay asleep, waking up too early in the morning, experiencing narcolepsy or outright insomnia
- Suicidal Thoughts/Actions: You or someone you know have considered, talked about or carried out activities in attempting to take the quick exit from this world, i.e. suicide
If you or anyone you know seem to be experiencing five (5) of these symptoms for two (2) consecutive weeks, it may be time to seek professional help. Talk to a loved one, someone you can confide in and let them assist in getting you the help that you need.
Because I tell you that concrete help is all around us and suicide indeed is not the solution to this problem.
Now, when clinically diagnosed with depression, depending on the severity of the illness- mild, moderate or severe, the doctor may prescribe anti-depressant medications, cognitive behavior therapy (CBT)and in very severe cases, including electroconvulsive therapy (ECT).
And while some people do experience relief from their depressive symptoms with these medical therapies, many others do not.
And these are the people I am dedicating this piece to.
“When you have tried everything else, try God.”
You see, one of the things I realized after thinking a lot about why Kate and Anthony had to take their own lives was the fact that they probably caved into the immense amount of pressure they presumably battled with.
These successful gentleman and lady were probably under intense pressure to make everything look right about their lives when the reality was that they suffered a lot internally.
One can never imagine what it feels like to live with a burning pain for such a long time but feel pressurized to pretend that all is well when indeed, all is not well!
With all their fame, wealth and success, they probably thought they would be failing other people’s perceptions of them if they stepped out and sought for help. And that is one of the core symptoms of depression
That guilty feeling that makes one feel concerned about the opinions of others about them or like they owed other people explanations for their actions.
If you or a loved one is battling depression, please know that you owe no one any explanation about your life. Because you know why? We are all mere mortals in this world and would be judged by the same standards.
And to make it worse, the societal stigma surrounding depression and other forms of mental illness often prevents people from seeking the help that they need.
“What would people say? How would I be perceived? How will the internet and social media react to the fact that I have a diagnosis of depression or a mental illness?”
My dear friend, I have got some good news for you. Because, after you have tried everything else, why don’t you try God? Why don’t you at least give Him a chance?
Some people consider themselves atheists and I have had discussions with some of these people. And while we engaged in very respectful discussions, I have always been able to put this point across to them: “I respect your opinions, but God is real. I mean, as real as anything you have ever known!”
The Bible says in Hosea 4:6, that my people are destroyed for lack of knowledge. Imagine! God, already called us His people, even before we ever got to know Him! You are suffering alone because you are not aware that there is a God who wants to go on that depressive ride with you.
We all have a non-judgmental Father who wants to wrap His arms around us and tell us that we can beat this thing called depression and that everything would be OK.
Depression says you are hated and unloved. Depression says you are responsible for all the unfortunate things that have happened in your life.
Depression tells you that you have done so much bad in the past and do not deserve to live. It constantly speaks lies in your head, and that is where many people finally give in to suicide.
But, I am writing to make you aware that all those are lies. You are not the worst person on the block. We all have our dirty pasts. We have all indulged in unwholesome acts.
At different points in our lives, we have struggled to get by. Some of us have known hunger and lack, and the world has sometimes seemed bleak.
But, through it all, we have found the grace to continue to face life’s challenges with strength and courage. We have not allowed the devil-that thief to steal our joy.
He has come to steal your Joy and would never rest until he succeeds. Don’t let him. Jesus says I come that they might have life and have it to the full (John 10:10).
The devil wants you to feel worthless and hopeless. He wants you to believe that taking your own life by committing suicide is the easier way out. Whoever told you that when you take your life by suicide all the pains would be over?
Do you know the route of your journey after committing suicide? Do you know where you would be headed? Do you even know whether the journey at the other side is even more burdensome?
So, why embark on a journey that has no guide or route? Why embark on a journey that has no GPS to guide you?
People assume that after taking their own lives, that would be the end of their pain and problem. Whoever told you that there might not be another hurdle to cross at the other side?
So why commit yourself to something that science has no explanation for? Yes, science stops at death. Science has no explanation for what happens thereafter.
You can beat this my dear friend. Do not get deceived and believe the lies that suicide is the easier way out because it might only just be the start of another gruesome journey.
You do not have to walk this path alone. Try God, the One who loves you with an everlasting love. He wants to calm your soul and heal your pain. But you must be willing to allow Him in.
It doesn’t matter what the world thinks, feels or says about you. What matters most is you and your wellbeing. That is why Jesus Himself said in Matthew 11:28, “Come unto me all you that labor and are heavy laden and I will give you rest.”
God wants to give you rest from all that pain. He alone can truly flood your heart with joy that is greater than all the torments and heartaches and that this world has to offer.
That is the life I live. I live in perpetual joy regardless of situations, circumstances or what my fellow occupants in this world have to offer. And my Joy comes from an unending stream because I am connected to the Source that loves me more than anything else I have ever known.
My past doesn’t define me. My mistakes do not define me. My ancestry, circumstances surrounding my birth, material goods, social media presence, job title, wealth or fame, none of those define me.
What defines me is my identity in Christ. The One who loves me with an everlasting love (Jeremiah 31:3).
A man/woman may write me off or condemn me. I may be tagged and characterized by different standards. But, I know that none of those things matter so long as I continue to remain friends with the person that doesn’t give a hoot about those things (Jesus Christ)!
I know I am free to live life like the victor that I know I am because the Bible says in Romans 8:1 that, “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”
So, chin up my friend and square your shoulders. You can beat this thing.
For emphasis sake, please note that suicide might not be the easiest way out, because you never know what is on the other side of the divide. It may just be the start of another lethal experience.
Like they say, “the devil you know is better than the angel you don’t.” At least you know that you are dealing with something that has a name attached to it- depression, what about journeying to the other side and discovering an entirely new and grueling situation?
Help is closer than you think. You will be amazed at how many people are willing to support you and help you out of that situation.
So, yes, I am confident to say that after you have tried everything else, try God! Because, I am absolutely convinced that He would give you the joy that nothing in this world can ever give you.
God bless you, my dear friend!!!
*If you or someone you know is in danger and considering suicide, please reach out to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255).