Compassionate Love: Displaying compassion for those who struggle with mental illness
(c)2014 Nancy Virden
A good mom would never leave her children, right?
If only the story of the young Oregon mom, who was missing for two weeks before being found dead by suicide, fit those descriptions. Truth is, a more applicable response might be, “Again?” The disease of major depression is not choosy. Good men and women can suffer with major depression; loving parents can complete suicide.
I know, because I was once like that Oregon mom.
A common sentiment among those who do not have major depression seems to be a dismissal, a refusal to believe it exists. With the growth of medicine and technology we in this century have experienced, it seems we would be more open to possibilities. We know that what is little understood today may one become household knowledge. We’ve encountered shocking circumstances only to find an answer not too much later. Why then do we often insist that the mental diseases we cannot see or measure must be exaggerated or matters of character defect?
I do not know this Oregon mom. Perhaps details will emerge as to her motive. Honestly, the why is less important to me (although excruciatingly vital to her family) because chances are astronomically high that major depression was the catalyst for her death. Even in my experience, and with suicidal people I’ve known, difficult circumstances can trigger an underlying and possibly undiagnosed mental illness such as depression.
What most people generally experience as depression, or “the blues”, is not the same as those who have the more severe form. Our ability to relate or not never negates the true experiences of others. Never.
So why would a mother of two leave her boys? Wasn’t she just being selfish, weak, ego-centric, lazy, mean, stupid, and rebellious against God? No, that’s not very likely at all. I can only tell you what brought me to that point where major depression defeated reason. Severe depression had me convinced my children would be better off without me, that they would not care. I believed I would be loving them by getting out of their way. Of course I was flat wrong, but I was not in my right mind. Not in my right mind.
I doubt this Oregon mom would, in her right mind, ever leave her sons. An illness in her brain made her act out against who she was in her heart.
Let’s bury assumptions, guesswork, and close-minded interpretations of what we do not know (That’s the media’s job.) You and I can be smarter, and accept there is much we do not yet understand about diseases in general, and mental illnesses especially. By reaching out to support those who are left behind, we can refuse to criticize and instead come alongside as empathetic friends.
Pray for the Oregon Mom’s family. If she felt unimportant as I suspect she did, how amazed would she be to see the impact her legacy of suicide has had on a nation?
Compassionate love accepts and helps those who suffer.
NOTE: I am not a doctor or mental health professional. I speak only from personal experiences with and observations of mental illness. In no way is this website intended to substitute for professional mental health care.
If you are struggling emotionally today or feeling suicidal, or concerned about someone who is, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-TALK (8255). Hope and help can be yours.