Compassionate Love: Displaying compassion for those who struggle with mental illness
(c)2015 Nancy Virden
Samuel* was having trouble sleeping. “Why don’t you take something for that?” his wife said. He did, and sleep was sweet. His morose attitude went away, energy returned, and a positive outlook lit his eyes.
Callie* had been feeling low. Days passed while she couldn’t shake a sense of discouragement and lack of purpose. Tomorrow seemed too much; it would be okay with her not to wake up in the morning. Remembering exercise is rumored to restore a good mood, off Callie went to the gym. On her way home, she sang along with her favorite CD.
Carl* had lost his job, and his wife was threatening to leave. In the past few months he had grown listless and said he felt as if he had something heavy on his chest. One day he decided to check out the vitamin section at the local drugstore. There, he found Ginseng, tried it, and began to experience a lift of his spirits.
Janice* had been reprimanded by her boss. She felt angry, and humiliated. Worse though, was the fear of losing her job. With little children to raise as a single mother, she already had an uphill battle. This was too much; for days her feet dragged as if tied to bricks. At work, she did her best to appear as if everything was normal. Her heavy feelings faded within a few weeks.
Sharon* didn’t believe she had any reason to continue her life. Her small children would be better off without her, she figured. Everything she had tried to make life work had failed. Failure and loser repeated in her thoughts. For months, Sharon had been fighting despair and now was ready to end the struggle permanently.
Repeatedly on this website and in each Compassionate Love blog post it is clarified that I am not a mental health professional. I have no diagnostic skills. These stories are people I know or have heard about. None of these scenarios can represent the scope of depression; they are not intended (or backed by enough knowledge) to be used as a type of self-diagnosis or plan of treatment.
With that said, depression runs the gamut. People can experience depression at varying levels and throughout a lifetime. One man I knew who felt he maybe had SAD (Seasonal Affect Disorder), criticized those who take anti-depressants due to his ability to overcome negative emotions. In his imagination, everyone should do the same. Judgments like that are unfair.
We’ve heard the controversies – vitamins, exercise, “natural” remedies, positive thinking, faith, theories, and so on. A voice is loud one moment, and the next an opposing opinion screams from the headlines. As long as we assume depression = depression, hurting people may be discouraged from finding help. What if Samuel told Janice to “just get a good night’s sleep”? Is Ginseng going to protect Sharon from a major depression episode?
God has, in his graciousness, given us options for healing. Therapy, doctors, hospitals, medications, exercise, diet… all have helped individuals in differing physical conditions gain a foothold against depression. In comparison, most of us have stubbed a toe, many have broken a leg. No one would argue that each has pain. The extent of that pain and measure of need for support is not the same. It would be ridiculous for the one with a stubbed toe to tell the one with a broken leg to “just shake it off.”
It is unhelpful at best to apply a one-size-fits-all solution to depression. At worst, it is dangerous to try.
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 is yours.
*not real names; some stories are composites
*picture from qualitystockphotos.com