The following words were written by a dear friend of mine whose long-term battle with depression makes the wolf who has taken up residence outside my window in recent years seem more like an adorable wiener dog puppy than the snarling, growling, always ready to devour me creature that it is. There aren't adequate words to convey the respect I have for this strong and courageous woman, nor can I begin to describe the amazing and unfailing love and support she receives from her precious family. Those of us who are blessed to know her caring and giving heart and have witnessed her desire to help others even when she's nose-deep in her own struggle know that this gal is a warrior through and through.
National Suicide Prevention Awareness Month is drawing to a close, but the need for compassion and understanding is not. I'm not just asking you to read the words written from the soul of my friend ... I'm asking you to let them create within you a desire to learn more, to ask more, to see more, to say more. I'm asking you to care more, to listen more, to reach out more and to love more. I'm asking you to be kind to one another, friends, for that's what matters most of all. Be kind to each other, dear friends, please just be kind.
"When a person tells you they have cancer, what's your first response? When a person tells you they have depression, is your first response the same? When a person has battled cancer and they tell you it's back, what is your response? What about when a person's depression comes back in full force?
"My experience is that cancer is seen as the enemy and people need outside help to beat it. Depression is the devil and people need to look deep inside to figure out what they need to do to beat him out; pray more, exercise, eat better - whatever but it's the patient's responsibility to fix it.
"Why is it when the cancer is back and is aggressive, the patient has the option to refuse treatment and live life until the cancer takes them? It is definitely not acceptable to give into depression no matter how many times it returns, no matter how fierce it is, no matter what bad side effects that come from the meds that are prescribed to help. The "benefit" is always better than the cost.
"When a cancer patient can't go out or struggles to be social because the chemo is taking its toll, people don't stop trying to reach out. They may bring food or an activity to the patient. When a depressed person goes into hermit mode, people forget about them. No one wants to hear the sad, dark stuff. They just wait for the depressed patient to get over it. It's up to the patient. He or she is only sick as long as they allow it.
"In cancer, healthy cells are attacked by cancerous cells that eventually take over. Depression is a cancer. A brain cancer and people need to stop blaming the patient.
"Twenty years of taking meds. Twenty years of weekly therapy sessions, and often more than that. Twenty years of learning coping skills and putting them into practice. Twenty years of Twenty years of battling the beast makes for a weary patient. People wonder why I'm generous or are simply overwhelmed by it. They wonder how I can focus on others when I battle the shit I do. The truth is, if I take a moment to focus on myself, I won't be here much longer. This shit sucks."