Ashley Peterson, LPC
It gets better;
Depression can be elusive, it’s very sneaky. It can present so trusting and will affirm all of your worst fears and thoughts by manipulating the facts of your life. It will only play the reel highlight of when you disappointed someone, of when you failed at something, everytime you weren’t respected, every time you cried and felt alone while surrounded by people. Depression is as effective in its destruction as a natural disaster. Those are the facts.
Whenever someone loses their life to depression, by way of suicide, the first conversation that generally comes about is “check on your strong friends”. Then the conversation shifts to reflection in grief as people recount recent interactions with that person, and speak of how bubbly and outgoing that person was. It is very challenging for people to understand how a person that makes other people feel so good, and so seen and so valued could not see how much they are loved, or how much they are valued. People tend to respond in this way because they lack the full comprehension of how multi-faceted, deceptive and challenging depression can be to live with every day.
As a therapist, I’ve heard so many different stories and peoples backgrounds, and at times I question how certain people have survived and continue to choose to live every day with what they have faced and continue to experience. Some of the things that I’ve heard, the fact that those children or adults are still alive after facing what they have faced is nothing short of a miracle. Some traumas are so inconceivable that it makes no logical sense how one person could survive their memories. Often time, it’s not that they overcome those traumas, it’s that they learn to live with it - they, accept it as apart of their life, but in that acceptance, they no longer allow themselves to believe that there is good in the world, or there is good that should, and deserves to come to them.
Usually during peoples first couple of sessions, I will listen to their story and get to know them as we build rapport and then at some point, depending on what I see in that person, I will speak to what I see or hear in their voice. I remember when I first started working, I had a client that I saw weekly and every time we met they said “everything was fine” and they would talk about little things that were going on in their lives but generally everything was fine. One day I shared with them that they looked sad and that they’ve looked sad for a while. This person was so taken aback and said to me no one’s ever said that- I didn’t think that people could see it to which I replied it may just be more obvious to me- I know what to look for, I hear everything that you’re not saying, and I feel what’s not being shared in our conversations. It took me a while as a therapist to speak to my perception of someone else, because I was concerned about alienating them, making them generally feel uncomfortable, and to be quite frank it is a super power that is not always appreciated in my personal life. It can be very unnerving for people when you see them, especially when they’re working really hard to mask and project a very specific version of themselves.
Depression will always encourage people to mask, depression will remind you that if someone finds out you’re gonna get in trouble, you’re going to lose something, possibly you’ll end up in the hospital. None of those things are 100% true 100% of the time. But because depression is so loud, it is a force, and it’s also spoken to you in a voice that you trust- because the voice is your own. While the voice and the thoughts and the memories are yours, it does not mean that they are accurate or true.
Depression often is given the space to grow and gain strength because of the silence it encourages you to keep. If you speak with a friend or family member about having dark thoughts, troubling thoughts, they may respond with fear, and that fear, then scares you and teaches you (unintentionally), that you should keep this burden to yourself because you see that it burdens other people. When you speak to a mental health professional about depression, we get it, we can listen without reacting. Having suicidal ideations does not mean you want to commit suicide. Experiencing thoughts of self harm, or not wanting to be here on this planet does not mean that you had an action plan. Thoughts, get to be thoughts, but when you don’t share those thoughts that are concerning or troubling to you, you don’t allow yourself the opportunity to have any perspective or gain clarity into where these thoughts are coming from and what these thoughts mean and what way we should be responding to these thoughts.
I want people to understand that Depression is just as scary as any severe psychological disorder . It’s not cured by someone checking on you and checking on someone won’t keep them alive.
Depression is a relentless disorder where your thoughts corrupt your feelings, where your deepest fears can find a space to thrive peacefully because it has worked to wear down and ultimately remove your defense. Depression can appear in many forms, (major depression, persistent depressive disorder, bipolar disorder, seasonal affective disorder, psychotic depression, postpartum depression (in parents regardless of gender), premenstrual dysphoric disorder, situational depression. With all of these different types there are different levels of severity thus the treatment options vary as well. There is no one size fits all, so just because working out and changing your diet worked for you, that does not mean that it would work for someone else because you simply don’t have enough information to make that type of assessment or develop a treatment plan solely based on personal experience. Mental health is a behavioral science, it deserves to be treated and respected as such.
Often times people think that mental health workers are overly eager to push psychotropic medication, but on the contrary, because we have such a deep understanding, and have been witness to how destructive depression can be, how quickly it can grab someone and take them to depths of hell they’ve never experienced. Because we know this, we take it seriously and are equipped to respond to it with the intensity of the real threat that it is. There are cures, treatments and coping skills. Working out doesn’t cure depression, checking on your strong friends doesn't cure depression, taking vacations or having money won’t cure depression, having faith and giving it over to a higher power won’t cure it. Knowing that people love you, that they count on you won’t cure it. Knowing that you have a family that loves you, a job you enjoy or plans for the weekend won’t cure it. Depression is less about the cure and more about the fight. Suicide happens when there is no fight left.
Typically when someone commits suicide, people tend to associate that with a selfish act because they’re thinking about how it negatively impacts them, sometimes even referring to it as sinful. Questioning and feeling frustrated at the fact that somebody would do that to them, that they would remove themselves from the lives of people who love and care about them thus making it a selfish act. Often times people that commit suicide are doing it as a selfless act, because their thoughts have convinced them that everyone around them would be so much better if they no longer existed (this is not true). That belief alone tells you, or at least it should tell you that that person's mind has been warped and they are clearly not in control of their thoughts, they are responding to how those thoughts have made them feel and that feeling is so strong that it’s creating a false reality that only exists in their mind, but it feels so real and so true. Feelings are not facts, and this is why we have to help people understand how to decipher between the two.
I believe that psychoeducation is what can bring about a more insightful, meaningful and honest conversation about how suicide leads to depression. To reduce the risk and attempt of suicide we have to understand that it is a direct result from depression. Reducing the stigma around mental health isn’t just sharing your story or your journey with mental health. It’s early education and intervention with mental health support from childhood. Nothing has to be wrong with you to go to therapy. You can go to therapy to learn about your mind and your behaviors, to learn how to challenge negative thoughts, to gain more clarity and awareness into how you became you. You can literally go just because you are curious. The better we understand something the better we can treat it.
Typically most people don’t like to talk about their depressive thoughts, oftentimes refer to it as “dark”, and are embarrassed by some of the intrusive, and repetitive thoughts and thinking patterns they become trapped in. Psychoeducation serves to provide a better understanding of how your mind works, what these disorders look like, prevention if/where possible, as well as meaningful person centered treatment options.
Suicide is depressions final act. Our feelings are temporary, suicide is permanent.
It gets better, everyone deserves to experience the better;