When you hear a powerful story of someone’s struggle with depression and suicide, what do you think? Maybe you wonder what that would be like, and feel sorry for the person. Maybe you feel uncomfortable, and wish they’d kept it to themselves, because it’s difficult to process or know how to help. Or maybe it’s just like your own story, and hearing it makes you feel a little less alone, a little more part of something. Sharing our stories is powerful. When we share our experiences with each other, we are taking a part in breaking down the stigma around mental health and opening a space for people to say, “I’ve been there too.”
In January, P2C – Students staff member Sana’ shared her story as a part of Bell Let’s Talk, an initiative to raise awareness and reduce stigma around mental health. She took that step of reaching out and letting her experiences speak to others. If you didn’t see it earlier, here is a summary of her story.
In June 2012, after two years of fighting depression, Sana’ was planning to end her life. Only a few days before her planned date, her mother felt convicted by God to tell Sana’, “Don’t do it.” Sana’s mother didn’t know that Sana’ was battling depression or that she was planning to end her life. These words changed the trajectory of Sana’s life. She realized that up until this point, she’d believed that God’s love had to be earned. Thanks to Jesus, that wasn’t true. Ephesians 1:4 showed her that God had chosen her before the foundation of the world, and that she could have a true, genuine, passionate, and intimate relationship with the creator of the universe.
Sana’s story impacted me profoundly because I’ve been there, and it made me realize how dangerous silence can be. When I prepared to end my life in October 2011, I felt utterly alone. Though I knew rationally that there were other people like me, that they had similar struggles and fears, I didn’t know those people. I hadn’t heard their stories or had the chance to gain strength from their survival. I was afraid that, should I speak up and ask for help, I would be seen as weak, or not “Christian enough” because I hadn’t been able to pray my way out of mental illness.
If not for Jesus, that fear and silence would have killed me. Like Sana’, Jesus reached into my life at that crucial moment and changed my trajectory. He blessed me with the means to educate myself on depression and get the help I needed. He gave me a loving community to share my experiences with and friends who supported me. In the years since that time, I’ve learned two important things.
Healing takes time.
Sana’ wasn’t instantly “better,” and neither was I. Depression is a hole, and each day can feel like a fight to claw your way out. Some days are easier, and some days feel like all the progress is gone, even with a support network and faith in God. Even with my powerful experience with Jesus, I didn’t have a switch flicked in my brain and instantly become un-depressed. It took several years and lots of patience with myself. I had to learn to forgive, to open my heart again, and to reclaim joy after so long of shutting it away.
Every story helps.
Every time I hear about someone else who survived, I feel stronger. These stories help me remember how I made it through and build a sense of community where we can encourage and affirm one another. I’ve spoken with people who thought that their experience wasn’t “good enough,” or that it wouldn’t impact anyone enough to be worthwhile sharing. But what I’ve seen over and over is that each person has their own specific experiences and way of expressing themselves. The way you tell a story might get through to someone in a way that no other story has.
The only thing silence accomplishes is more isolation. Silence creates more people who feel alone, who feel that they have nothing to live for. Our ability to share with one another is powerful — let’s engage it. Keep sharing our stories. You don’t know who will need to hear it that day or what they’re going through. There are plenty of people struggling with depression who hide it so well that no one realizes what they’re going through, like Sana’ with her mother. Each time we speak up, we can spread awareness and educate those who haven’t experienced depression, and support those who have. Let’s open up a little more, together, and be honest about where we are and what we’re going through.
If you’re there right now, please reach out. You are not alone.
To speak with a mentor, visit https://issuesiface.com/talk.