He was middle aged and in the prime of life when he killed himself. He had family and children. A prestigious appointment at a respected University – and he had received several awards for his research. Wholesome looking and in good shape, he seemed to have had everything to live for. Do you know what? That’s right; he did have many things to live for, including a promising future.
Yet he went out of town for the weekend, quietly rented a motel room and died there by his own hand.
We all ask why. It seemed like the man had the world by a string. Why does anyone commit suicide?
It doesn’t make sense, does it? No it doesn’t and yet people take their lives every day. WHY?
Nearly always there is an intractable depression pushing the person into despair. Depression lies, and its false thoughts and lies are utterly convincing. Yet to the depressed person these thoughts feel completely real and desperately true. In my experience they are intense, persistent, and severely painful. The person becomes overwhelmed by their depression’s lies.
I’d like to share insights from Amanda Redhead, Mother, Nurse, Writer, and Warrior from her Huffington Post blog entry of Sept 9, 2016: Five Lies Your Depression Tells You When You Are Suicidal.
Here are five lies that depression imbeds in the head of a sufferer:
- YOUR LIFE IS ALREADY OVER. YOU HAVE SCREWED UP BEYOND REPAIR!
- YOUR LOVED ONES ARE BETTER OFF WITHOUT YOU.
- THE PAIN WILL NEVER END, NEVER END.
- YOU ARE NOT WORTHY OF LOVE OR LIFE.
- … THEREFORE, YOU MUST KEEP YOUR THOUGHTS ABOUT HARMING
One: Your life is already over. You have screwed up beyond repair.
Wonderfully, there is no such thing as a life ‘beyond repair.’ Amanda writes “You may have messed up so royally that you believe that no one will ever forgive you. But there is life beyond this pain and there is life beyond whatever mistakes you have made.”
Two: Your loved ones are better off without you.
This empty lie is probably the biggest of them all. Far from removing their pain, suicide only creates an emptiness in your loved one’s hearts. That hole remains. Your loved ones find only sadness and the pain of losing you. “You may be feeling like a failure right now but I cannot imagine a greater mistake than having your last act on earth be one that causes intense pain for each and every person you love.”
Three: The pain will never end.
It feels like a pain that will never end. I remember looking for just a brief reprieve. Silently I bargained for relief in minute increments. The pain of depression felt very catastrophic and chaotic to me. I couldn’t believe that the rest of the world would or could go on functioning with my pain in it. A moment in this pain feels like a year.
But there IS an end to the pain, unlikely as it seems now. As Amanda said, “I cannot tell you when that end will happen, but I can tell you that the end is somewhere.” You may have to work for it, your may have to get help or take medication or reach out when you want to stay silent, but the end of the pain is out there on the horizon.
Four: You are not worthy of life or love.
Another big lie. This lie and others like it are invasive and seem so accurate. Everyone is worthy of love, no matter the mistakes they have committed. Everyone is worth living! You are only seeing the negative things about yourself right now. Remember depression colors your thoughts. You are a valuable human being and deserve to be alive and loved.
Five: …You must keep your thoughts about harming yourself quiet.
#5 is the ultimate lie: Yes, your depression wants you to stay silent. Depression wants you to take your life. There is great shame around depression, anxiety and suicidality. When we talk about the depression, we erase some of that shame and stigma.
Please believe me: There is no need to suffer in silence.
Pick up the phone and call one person and tell them what you’re struggling with. This may be the hardest thing you will ever do, but it gives life – your life – another chance.
Here I must add a word of hope:
Yes, depression distorts the depressed person’s thoughts. And depression’s thoughts can be deadly. The five lies illustrate various cognitive distortions. And forms of cognitive therapy can assist depression suffers to learn to recognize and combat false and irrational thought patterns – depression’s lies. Today recognizing and analyzing distorted thoughts that feed depression is called cognitive behavior therapy (CBT). There is a promise of hope for recovery.
Psychiatrist Dr Aaron T. Beck laid the groundwork for the study of these distortions. His student, David D Burns, MD, continued research on the topic. Dr Burns’ book, Feeling Good: The New Mood Therapy, was first given to me in the mid-eighties by my psychiatrist. I glanced at it and rejected it, thinking that my doctor was telling me I should learn ‘positive thinking.’ I knew depression was a disease more serious than superficially thinking right. But in the 1990’s I was able to accept the book and its premises. Soon I underwent a group therapy session during which some of the basics of CBT were taught. I was able to learn those basic principles and asked for a therapist to do CBT regularly with me. The short of the story is that I did find a therapist, who had a PhD in psychology and had done significant graduate work specifically with CBT. He was willing to take me on weekly for several months. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy became one of the essential pillars undergirding my recovery from suicidal depression.
Depression now sometimes gets a grip on me. But with medication that works for me, with the practice of cognitive behavioral therapy, with a supportive family, and with a doctor’s ongoing psychiatric care I no longer develop full-blown depressions. Depression occasionally gets a start, but CBT’s corrective is powerful, and negative thinking doesn’t get a hold on me for long.
Thanks for reading,