A PAPER WRITTEN FOR DEPRESSED AND SUICIDAL PEOPLE
It wasn’t until I lost my son to suicide that I began to learn lots and lots about suicide and depression. There are a few things that, by now, you probably know but I want to tell you (again?). Maybe this will help to put things in perspective.
First, we have to learn to accept our past and know that we can’t change it. We have to come to terms with it and get past any guilt or shame. It can be done. Just because something bad has happened, or because we have done something wrong, does not make us bad. Frequently, we have disproportionately built those things up in our own minds. When we can put the past behind us, we can go on with our lives. That’s “accepting the things that we cannot change”.
To live our lives in the present, we must stop doing things that cause us guilt or shame. Guilt and shame are like vampires. When they are exposed to the sunlight of truth and openness, they burn away to nothing. This means we must be honest with ourselves and in our dealings with others; but we still must use caution when dealing with some people.
A life that is satisfactory also includes all of the good character traits that we can think of. The Boy Scout oath comes to mind, but this really depends on our own personal definitions and which traits you can take pride in. You and I can do, or be, anything that we (not someone else) can comfortably live with. We have that choice, that ability, and that much power over our lives.
Secondly, we have to take charge, and face our lives with boldness and be responsible and active (as opposed to passive) in our lives. We must stand up for what we think and believe, make our position clear, and not let people walk on us figuratively or literally. That empowers us to be leaders (someone has to be in charge), to make our own way in the world, and gives us self-pride where there would otherwise be shame, self-blame, and surrender.
Mahatma Ghandi said “A no uttered from deepest conviction is greater than a yes mearly uttered to please, or what is worse, to avoid trouble”. I must caution you though, to start with small decisions and progress slowly, because that will give you a successful history to draw on. This is “changing the things we can change”.
Thirdly, I was a member of a social/civic organization that opened each and every meeting with a creed, part of which was:
“We believe that faith in God gives meaning and purpose to human life …”
I believe it does, and that faith can carry us when things are tough. Now this statement is not to make people go right out and join up, but we humans need faith in something, if only because it is our nature to do so. If you had faith in God, and depression has caused you to feel so bad as to lose it, remember that God has not moved, He is just where you left Him.
The Alcoholics Anonymous (A.A.) organization uses a prayer for it’s members. I think they only use the first verse, but here is the whole prayer:
GOD, grant me the
to accept the things
I cannot change
to change the
things I can
to know the difference.
Living ONE DAY AT A TIME;
Enjoying one moment at a time;
Accepting hardship as the
pathway to peace.
Taking, as He did, this
sinful world as it is,
not as I would have it.
Trusting that He will make
all things right if I
surrender to His Will;
That I may be reasonably happy
in this life, and supremely
happy with Him forever in
By Reinhold Neibuhr
Fourth, there are better ways of handling all of our feelings than turning them inward. If we turn the feelings inward (bottle them up), they will consume us from within. We must feel them and deal with them to get rid of them.
We can learn to express those feelings in a variety of ways. For instance, anger can be expressed by telling someone about it, by taking a tennis racket and beating (violently) on the seat of a stuffed chair, and by writing and expressing the anger. Also, we could express our feelings in painting, music, acting, dance, or other arts. And, of course, if we’re going to point that anger at someone, we should point it towards the people that caused and deserve it. We should never direct it at innocent people.
Fifth, exercise is vital to healthy living. I can’t tell you how important this is to our well-being. If you think that you can do nothing (and I know how depression can paralyze people) and be happy, you are wrong. Exercise is the most effective way to feel better right now. If you will do some exercise daily, you will feel better and sleep better. If you make it a regimen, you can do it from habit even if you have a “bad” day or several bad days.
This is a very concentrated version of things that have made me able to live a better life in the last few years than I have ever had before. I have suffered depression all of my life, and I know the desolate feelings that were in Edgar Allen Poe’s poems, in Van Gogh’s paintings, and the feelings that make us think the world will be better off without us, that we are burdens to other people; and the self-hate that makes us want to die. Those are false and distorted thoughts that uselessly cost thousands of people their lives every year from suicide. The loss of those lives to the world is incalculable.
I hope this helps to put things in better order for you, and I pray that you will never be one of those people. This is a total package and should be interpreted as an overall view of what is going on with your depression. It is as good of a summary as I could muster.
It has taken me years to understand these things, and be able to put them in a form that I could communicate to other people. With these tools, you can start to see the way things really are, and start to rebuild your life if it is out of control. Being out of our control make us feel worthless. This should also change your approach to fighting depression and suicidal thinking to fighting the source of the disease (To change, so that we are in charge of our lives, and we decide and we control how we live) instead of unsuccessfully trying to fight the symptoms.
It may not “cure” you, but it will help you to live a more successful and a happier life, even with depression. Remember that you are the person to decide your wants and needs and you determine how you will live. Learn by starting small, to decide and take responsibility for your life, then progress slowly.