September is Suicide Prevention Month. This is a good time to discuss a Dark Companion that attaches itself to many people and never leaves: Depression.
Many people (like myself) who have attempted suicide live with chronic depression. Many people who never attempt to harm themselves also live with this unwanted guest. This Dark Companion might have come to us at adolescence and never left (like my experience). It might have settled into our emotional homes following a traumatic event or events (which only heightens the problem for those of us who experienced its beginnings in adolescence).
Either way, it is a companion that saps energy, renders bright days into hollow shades of gray, and generally generates a sense of meaninglessness to life.
It’s easy to sympathize with a person walking on an artificial leg. We may not understand their difficulties, but we can SEE the problems they contend with. No one can see inside the mind of someone who’s lifelong lover is a Dark Companion leeching the hope out of their lives. Many people with depression live a life that looks fine on the outside, but the inner reality is wrapped around an unending sense of despair:
Eyes That Seem So Bright
Nathanael Miller, 5 September 2016
Torn and broken
‘Neath the skin so right;
Bleeding, hollow, hidden behind
Eyes that seem so bright.
Darkness creeps by
That no one sees,
Eclipsed, beshadowed by
The projection of me.
Oh, for one person to see
Into this black soul I bear
Obscured by the fragile fluid
Of pretending not a care.
But the happy smile goes
No deeper than lips stretched
Forth in false gaiety. Yet now
To despair my spirit is fetched.
Many of us wrestling with depression do not put it on a billboard and wallow in victimhood day after day. No. We smile. We do what we can to be cheerful. We move on and do our best to just live as responsible people like everyone else. But this Dark Companion is never far from us, and it will often overwhelm us at the oddest times.
I challenge anyone reading this to consider how they would approach someone who suffers depression as Suicide Prevention month goes on. Don’t be quick to tell them to “cheer up.” Sometimes all the person needs is a friend to listen. You don’t have to have the answers; often just being heard IS the answer. If you encounter those who can’t seem to get over the darkness, don’t belittle them. You cannot see what is going on within their soul. Be a friend to them and encourage them to seek professional help. You might just save their life.
If you know someone living with chronic depression, don’t assume they are wallowing in misery. This is a Dark Companion who has rooted itself in their life. They can no more shake it off than you can shake off the color of your eyes.