I was looking for some information over the internet for a book I am writing when I somehow landed on an article about a young, 19-year-old Stanford University student who died after attempting suicide.
The article said that the parents were not saying what, exactly, caused her death, but the same article said that in a memorial statement, the family acknowledged that she had attempted suicide. The writer of the article said that even though it appeared the actual act of attempted suicide didn’t kill her, it appeared that after that attempt, from whatever injuries she sustained, the attempt ended up causing her to die.
I am not using her name, because she could be so many of us women, who are depressed but who will not face our depression, or talk about it, and because the communities that surround us really do not have patience for those of us who suffer from depression.
After my divorce, I realize now that I was depressed – for years. I could not and would not admit it, nor talk about it. After all, I was a single mother; my children were small and I had to hold it together for them…and to add insult to injury, I was a new pastor. I figured that the congregation was probably already struggling to deal with the imperfect woman who could not and did not hold her marriage together; had I let on that I was depressed, I am not sure they would have kept me on as their pastor.
And so I suffered silently. I am sure I was not nearly as effective as I could have been – either as a mother or a pastor. I remember thinking that my own mother had told me that she had once suffered from a nervous breakdown. I didn’t know what that was exactly, but I wondered if it was hereditary.
My mother never talked about that time of her life, and she certainly never discussed it with me, except for one time when she got angry that I had put on an application that she had once suffered from the nervous breakdown. She was furious, and yelled at me for being so “stupid.” I didn’t know it was a sin to have a nervous breakdown, and a bigger sin to tell someone about it.
I did wonder, though, during my post-divorce years,what I was going to do, what a nervous breakdown felt like. I didn’t go to a doctor; I didn’t take medication. Only once I began to come out of the fog, years after the divorce, did I sit down a few times and talk to a counselor.
I call denying our emotional pain fear of facing our spirits. Our spirits really do a good job of telling us when something is wrong and when our spirits tell us that, it is a cry from within to do something before it’s too late, but there’s still such a stigma about mental illness, and still such a stigma about admitting that emotionally, we just don’t feel so good. I cannot understand why we are allowed to feel bad physically, to be ill, sometimes terminally, physically, but are expected to be on our jobs continually when it comes to our emotional and spiritual health.
I thought about this young Stanford student, who was apparently a good student and a well-respected athlete. She grew up in Santa Barbara, an amazingly beautiful place, so I assume she didn’t have much economic hardship to worry about. Her case reminded me of another Stanford student I read about some days ago who had never bounced back after her mother committed suicide. Within two years, this young woman was dead as well; she had taken some time off after her mother’s death to recuperate, and had recently returned to school, and was now…dead.
Ironically, this girl was a proponent for mental health education.
I guess all people need to face their spirits, but we as women are so good at ignoring ours while we try to take care of everyone else. We are good at dressing up and pretending we have it all together, when that’s not even close to being the truth. And in the end, we suffer, as do those around us who love and care for us.
Was I mentally ill post-divorce? I can say, now, that yes, I was. I am fortunate that there was something enough inside me (maybe my spirit working overtime to save me in spite of myself) so that I didn’t commit suicide. I never considered it, but that doesn’t mean that I couldn’t have considered it. Whenever someone is depressed, the capacity to go to a place that is scary and cold is there.
I hope that the family of both these Stanford students will recuperate well, but will also become unafraid to talk about this menace called mental illness, or, more specifically, depression. We are not required to have it together all of the time. If we would listen to our spirits, and do what we need to do to effect spiritual balance inside of us, perhaps there would be fewer suicides, and fewer people living lives of absolute hell.
A candid observation …
3 thoughts on “Girl Talk: Being Unafraid to Face our Spirits”
depression is something we as black americans really do not want to talk about…i was recognized as being depressed by friends who sent me to someone to talk with and that was the best thing that could have happened to me
Depression is probably more of a problem than we realize, and it’s unfortunate that there is such a stigma attached to it. Women, especially mothers, are definitely expected to hold it together. But the ones that actually have it all together are probably far and few in between.
Begin forwarded message:
From: Paula Slaughter
Date: May 13, 2012 10:57:58 PM EDT
Someone I know, who after her long fought battle of denial of an illness, and after trying so desperately to run from this particular illness, due to its stereotype. An illness, which had the maternal grand-mother surrender a daughter, this someones mother I know, to strangers. Strangers who believed the illness to be taboo. The mother of this someone I know, committed suicide one day, presumably from the same illness of her own mother, this someones great-grandmother. Ironically leaving her, this someone I know, to the same strangers hands and heart.
Someone I know, decided one day enough is enough; time to stop the cycle, time to break the chains, time to stop running. She decided that her life warranted enough to seek peace and understanding about why she was the way she was and what could be done about it.
This is the information she gathered; Bi-polar depression is what she needed to understand. And as far as why she was the way she was, well, she believes that God made her with His hands, and it was by his permission. She knew that God does not make any junk, nor does He give us more than we can bare.
What could she do about it? Use it! Use it to praise the Lord; praise the Lord because of it, permitting it to be part of her life. Praise the Lord because it has become a mental strength when it was perceived as a mental weakness. Praise the Lord because it was perceived as a financial burden but now accepted as a blessing rich in love, patience, understanding and kindness. Praise the Lord for what her praise was and is going to do for good and because of it. Praising the Lord for the humility to see that it was not permitted so that it could be used as a crutch to lean against but a podium to stand atop.
My name is Paula, I am bi-polar, I am “someone I know. ” I have listened to my spirit(s), and have chosen to do what is needed to gain spiritual balance. In the spirit of the book THE DREAM GIVER, by Bruce Wilkinson, what can be perceived with x-ray vision as a wasteland, may very well be a blind man’s milk and honey. I’m Praising God and hoping that my praise will help break the silence of depression kept by someone unfamiliar and someone I know.