First the overwhelming statistics of depression and suicide.
- More Americans suffer from depression than coronary heart disease (17 million), cancer (12 million) and HIV/AIDS (1 million).
- About 15% of the population will suffer from clinical depression at some time during their lifetime. 30% of all clinically depressed patients attempt suicide; half of them ultimately die by suicide.
- Depression is among the most treatable of psychiatric illnesses. Between 80% and 90% of people with depression respond positively to treatment, and almost all patients gain some relief from their symptoms. But first, depression has to be recognized.
Since my husband’s completion of suicide, I’ve realized that I had no choice and no control over the suicide, but I do have a choice to survive and live through it. It may be the hardest task I’ll ever have to perform, but I will survive!
I have been learning and would like to share with you how to be good to yourself in this process. When feelings are uncomfortable, it’s normal to want them to go away. Trying to ignore emotional discomfort or distress is one way to do this. This solution, however, is only temporary and will likely cause bigger problems later. Just as it is best to care for a cold so it doesn’t turn into pneumonia, it is best to care for emotional distress before it creates bigger disruptions in your life.
Self-nurturing happens normally when you love yourself. Here are some ways you can express self-love.
- Trust your heart. You know what you want and need.
- Put yourself first. You cannot be there for anyone else unless you take care of yourself.
- Let your feelings be known. They are important.
- Value your thoughts and let your opinions be known.
- Let yourself feel anger. Decide what you want to do. Just feel it, express it, or take some action.
- When you want something, ask. You’ll be OK if they say no. Asking is being true to yourself.
- When harassing yourself, stop. You do it when you need something. Figure out what you need and get it.
- When you feel harried, slow down. Slow breathing and take deep breaths. Slow speech and movements.
- Feel like crying and it’s not a safe place to cry? Promise yourself a good cry later. Keep your promise!
- When somebody gives you a gift, say “thank you.” That’s all you need to do. A gift is not an obligation.
Although most depressed people are not suicidal, most suicidal people are depressed. Serious depression can be manifested in obvious sadness, but often it is rather expressed as a loss of pleasure or withdrawal from activities that had been enjoyable.
There is no map on this path to healing. It is the most painful of journeys – full of twists and turns, broken hearts and misunderstandings. Small wonders appear on this path but we may be too sore or fragile to recognize them. But, I am told, there will be a day when we can look back and know that they were there.
We know and share loneliness, sorrow and questions. We honor those we love who have been lost to suicide. May the radiance and beauty of their lives never be defined by their deaths.
Truth: Survivors are the most courageous of people.
Be well, be peaceful, be hopeful.