I normally use this space for uplifting posts about the art of quilting and sharing the joy it brings me. But today I need to get real with you.
Last week was a rough week.
Last week we learned about the deaths of Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain. Last week approximately 154 U.S. veterans took their lives – at a rate of nearly one death per hour. Last week 865 Americans took their lives – a rate of nearly 45,000 per year.
We’re getting better at talking about suicide and depression, but we can do more.
While my life is far from irreparably broken, I’ve had my own dark moments. Moments where going on just didn’t seem possible. Moments where “ceasing to exist” – as I called it – seemed like a viable option. One that would be better for me, my family, and my friends. Moments where just getting out of bed to face another day were filled with extreme physical and emotional pain.
And during these times, people would say, “That’s the depression talking. That’s not the truth.” But for someone in that moment, it’s the only truth they know.
Some people say depression is a bully. I get it, but I can stand up to bullies. You generally know exactly where you stand with a bully and what their intentions are. I think depression is more like an abusive partner. It tells you you’re no good, that no one would miss you anyway. Then right when you’re ready to give up, depression flips its script. “You need me. You’re nothing without me. You think this feels bad? Just wait until I’m gone.”
At least that’s what it’s been like for me.
I’m lucky in that I’ve always managed to reach out for help when I need it the most. I’m lucky that when I’ve asked for help, I’ve received it.
With celebrity suicides, we’re quick to point out just how much the person had going for them – how on top of the world they seemed. I’m here to tell you you don’t need to be a celebrity to get that reaction. Most times I’ve reached out to friends or family for help, they were completely shocked that this was something I was dealing with. “But you’re so strong! You’re winning at life right now. I never would have guessed you struggle at all.” Like the other half of an abusive relationship, we can be good at hiding the abuse and putting on a good show.
And while you might mean well to say these things to someone who tells you they’re suffering, tell them instead that’s it’s ok to be weak. Tell them you’ll help be strong enough for the both of you for as long as they need it. Tell them honestly and gently what losing them would mean to you. Be a voice that’s louder than depression.
Through hard work, I’ve been able to surround myself with people and activities that have kept my life in the light for a long time now. My friends who are like family, my daughter, my cat, exercising, and – yes – my quilting keep me going. Through admitting I’m not as strong as the world thinks I am, I’ve been able to find strength in being weak. I’ve found courage in being weak. And today, I’m choosing to be weak in front of you. Because maybe you need someone to show you it’s ok.
If you’re struggling, ask for help. If you truly don’t feel your friends and family would understand, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is there for you. Call them at (800) 273-8255. They’re available 24 hours a day, every day of the year.
If you have a loved one you haven’t heard from for a while, reach out. Be the one who calls or texts. Share some of your strength with someone who thinks weakness is all they have left.
I’ll be back next week with more quilting news. Until then, love each other.