I’m just getting back to “real” life after another lengthy stay in the hospital. It’s funny, because my reaction to being in the hospital is embarrassment and shame. Why in the world is that?! Is there something wrong with being sick and needing extra care? No! But despite my talk about depression being and illness, I still feel like I have to justify my hospitalization. Even though I say that mental illness is no different than physical illness, my reaction to being in hospital betrays me.
So, this is truth. I have a chronic illness. I have a disease that requires that I take medication daily and that I go to hospital for outpatient treatment bi-weekly. It is similar to someone who lives with a physical chronic illness, the only difference is that my disease is in my brain and you can’t see it. It isn’t just a case of feeling sad sometimes. We have all had times that we could say we are depressed. We’ve all had periods of feeling “low”. The difference for me is that the chemicals in my brain don’t work the way that they are supposed to; it is more than just feeling sad or low.
I want to set the record straight… even though I have attempted suicide on more than one occasion and even though I have spent months upon months in the hospital does NOT mean that I don’t love Jesus. My illness doesn’t make me less of a Christian. Would I like a miraculous healing from this depression? You bet! Do I believe that I’ve somehow failed as a Christian because I haven’t been healed yet? Not at all! I am a grateful believer who happens to live with a chronic illness. That’s it.
I was having a conversation with my dear friend the other day about suicide. We were talking about chronic suicidality and that it is actually a thing. Wait, what?! Yes. There are those who are chronically suicidal. Do these people have a death wish? No. Do these people constantly think about death and how to end it all? No. How do I know this? I am one of those people. I do not want to die. I do not spend my time thinking about how I’m going to do myself in. What I do want is for the suffering to stop.
I have three beautiful children whom I love with all of my heart. I want to be their mom. I want to see them grow up. BUT! I have attempted to take my own life more than once. I live with chronic feelings/thoughts of suicide. I want so badly to escape sometimes that I lose sight of what is right in front of me. I don’t love my kids less in those moments, but my illness twists my vision at those times.
What is it that I am trying to say? I am just asking for you to take a look at yourself and the way you view mental illness and suicide. I am asking that we all work together to reduce and eliminate the stigma. Let’s start to recognize this for what it actually is; a chronic illness that requires medical treatment not just positive thinking. What will I do about it? I will take my medication as directed and not be ashamed if there comes a time when I need to go back into the hospital for more intensive treatment. What are you going to do about it?