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gillian marchenko

Author and Speaker

21

Depression can no longer be the elephant in the room

08.12.14

 Depression can no longer be the elephant in the room

Robin-Williams

Robin Williams died yesterday from his own hand.

Yesterday morning, I sobbed in the shower and fought thoughts in my head that people wouldn’t think I would have, or even allow myself to have as a Christian, a Pastor’s wife, a writer, a speaker, a mother, a wife, a daughter.

But I do have thoughts. And sometimes they are very bad.

Last night I sat at a table in a Mexican restaurant with my sister and her husband, my brother and his wife, and my nephew in Michigan. We were all laughing and cutting up as we often do when we are together. I was trying to keep up. But I think I laughed a little too loud at a few things. My hands shook a little. I hoped no one could tell.

“Hey, I just read a tweet that Robin Williams died,” Ben said.

“Is it true? Is it a hoax?” we all wanted to know.

“This is from CNN. It says it was a suicide.”

The mood of the table changed instantly, all of us thinking about Robin Williams; Mork and Mindy, Mrs. Doubtfire, The Night at the Museum, Dead Poets Society, so many movies, too many to name.

Our conversation, of course, turned towards the sadness of it all. What a loss. What a talent. How terrible. I can’t believe it.

We talked a little bit about suicide too. All very respectful. All of us just spitting out things we were thinking at a time of great shock. Can’t imagine doing it to your kids. So hard that a person is in that much pain that they go to that place, it is importance to stay close to a person who is struggling, and other things.

I listened. I agreed. I chimed in a couple of thoughts. I shifted my weight.

When I got back home later that night, I went on-line to find out more. I read that he had been struggling with severe depression.

Depression. Great.

I stood in the shower at my parent’s house sobbing on Monday morning. No one else was home and I had just finished getting angry with my mom and my daughters about an hour before… I no longer remember why, or what I said, or what they said, I just know that I needed to apologize when I saw them later that day.

Something had been off with me on Sunday, too. I was anxious. Sweat poured down my face. I would laugh at something that was moderately funny until tears streamed down my face. My hands worked a fidget toy around and around, a gadget I had bought for my kids at some point, but now keep in my purse for myself. I cowered and even screamed out a few times in the car as my husband drove his usual way, sure that we were going to flip the car or hit someone.

Yesterday morning in the shower, my mind raced with negative thoughts. If they see who I really am they won’t love me. I am a terrible person. I am losing my mind.

I fought the thoughts with rebukes. No, I’m not. Thank you for sharing. Not listening. Jesus give me your peace that surpasses my understanding. I need it now. I got out of the shower, dried, got dressed and made sure I took my anti-depressant for the day. I slathered the Young Living essential oil Joy over my heart, and Peace and Calming on my neck and shoulders. I bowed my head and prayed. I texted my husband to let him know I was struggling. I took deep breaths; in for five counts, hold for five counts, let out for five counts.

I worked ‘my program.’ The stuff I do to fight the ugly monster of depression that unfortunately exists in my head. At that moment I had a choice: to give in to a depressive episode, or to fight it tooth and nail.

I chose to fight, and I won that day. That’s the deal. You fight depression day by day.

But here’s the thing: I don’t always have a choice to fight. And I want to try to help people understand that others don’t always have a choice either.

Sometimes my depression is just too strong. It is a tsunami wave and I am a toddler. I get knocked down before I even realize what is happening.

Because depression is an illness.

People think and even say things: that person should just snap out of it. That person who committed suicide should have thought about how it would affect his family. That person should have gotten some help.

I understand. I even agree to an extent. Suicide affects everyone who knew and loved the lost life. And depression is tricky. It is an active illness in the sense that one needs to participate in the action of getting better if she is able. And there is help to be had. I read somewhere recently that depression is 95% treatable, as in 95% of those who seek help for depression can find it.

This encourages me. It is true so far for my life.

I’m not cured of depression. But it no longer governs every day of my life.

But when a person who is depressed gets to the point of making a plan to take her own life, she is just as sick as a person in hospice with raging cancer. It is a hidden illness. Imagine seeing depression on a person, imagine hundreds of tumors and ulcers on a body, oozing, and if untreated, causing the person to get sicker and sicker.

When a person who is depressed gets to the point of making a plan to take her own life, she needs help (well, she needs help way before then, but more than ever); a doctor, a family member, an in-patient care facility, a friend, a therapist.

If you are depressed, please, let me say this: reach out to someone. This is not your fault. And you can’t handle this on your own, whether you are a pastor or the Dalai Lama or a regular everyday Joe. ( The National Suicide Prevention Hotline is at 1-800-273-8255.) (Here are warning signs for depression.)

If you love someone who battles depression, if they talk to you about their struggles, don’t blow them off. This is your job. That person may be too sick to bring up their mental illness. If you saw a car accident and a person was trapped inside, would you drive by? How about if the person trapped inside was your mom or your sister or your friend? Watch for clues about suicide: isolation, quirky behavior, verbal signs (I want to die, I don’t want to do this anymore), physical changes…  (Here are other warning signs of suicide.)

The stigma that depression is just something weak or lazy people can’t get a handle on… of mental illness in general… needs to be abolished.

Depression can no longer be the elephant in the room.

As long as it is; in living rooms, in churches, or out to dinner with friends, it will continue to be a silent killer.

I’m praying for Robin William’s family and friends and all who were touched by his life.

What an incredible loss.

Did you like this? Share it:
  1. jimbaker2012 says:

    Thanks so much for this. I know it is super-timely for many readers. We wanted to leave a pithy or memorable comment… all we can think, Gil, is we love you, we love you, we love you,

  2. Jacqueline says:

    I fight too. Every day. I take my oils, roll them on my family, & pray like crazy that my kids don’t ever feel this way.

  3. Nicole says:

    These words couldn’t be more true.

  4. hollynoel says:

    So true. So beautiful Gill…thank you for writing this. Amen and Amen.

  5. LOVE this post…thank you for your honesty and know you are so loved and respected! Colleen

  6. Frankie says:

    Thank you for writing what so many of us are afraid to write, let alone speak out loud. I battle, too, and yesterday was a big battle. I won and today, I win again. But you are right, there are days you don’t win, but you also don’t lose. Hopefully.

  7. kjomo says:

    I will remember and treasure and Share your words, Gillian. I too, struggle, fight with depression on a daily basis. I have been in that “black place”, the place Robin was in yesterday. But… We Need to talk about it! My heart aches for the loss of this man I only knew on screen. I’ll add you to my prayers, Friend.
    Love, Jo

  8. yumeating says:

    I just found your website, thanks to my friend Nicole up there. I am in MI too! As someone who battles depression for at least 20 years due to sexual abuse, there are also other mental health disorders diagnosed with it. I can related to you comment about telling yourself that you do have a choice. You are so right. I wake up each morning and try my hardest not to let it take over. But sometimes, I am so broken down and weak that I just can’t handle it anymore. I take a day off, stay in bed and just be kind to myself. I do what I can to get by. When I feel those suicidal thoughts trying to take over, I occupy myself. I find a friend to text. I do what I can to get by. Mental health problems are terrible diseases.

    Your post is one of the best I have read all day.

    Thank you.

  9. Liz Tree says:

    Thank you for this. My brother and mother deal with depression every day and I am just begining to understand it. the more folks like you are open about it… there less it will be stigmatized and more healing can happen.

  10. […] Like this post by Gillian Marchenko, Depression Can No Longer Be The Elephant In The Room. […]

  11. […] Gillian Marchenko wrote a piece entitled "Depression Can No Longer Be The Elephant In The Room." […]

  12. drgrcevich says:

    Thanks for your willingness to share your story with us. It’s very important for leaders in the church to see that people of great faith who love God still struggle with depression.

  13. […] Depression Can no Longer be the Elephant in the Room – I chose to fight, and I won that day. That’s the deal. You fight depression day by day.  But here’s the thing: I don’t always have a choice to fight. And I want to try to help people understand that others don’t always have a choice either.  Sometimes my depression is just too strong. It is a tsunami wave and I am a toddler. I get knocked down before I even realize what is happening.  Because depression is an illness. – Gillian Marchenko […]

  14. […] mental illness can no longer remain hidden or cloaked in darkness.  They cannot remain a silent elephant in the room . (I love that link.  It’s from Gillian Marchenko‘s blog.  It’s good stuff!  […]

  15. jolenephilo says:

    Mental illness is as real as a physical illness, even though it can’t be seen. Someday, I hope we can respond to it with the same level of compassion we show to people with cancer or heart disease. Thanks for adding this to the Different Dream Tuesday link up.

  16. […] the recent death of Robin Williams, I have seen many great posts about depression. Like my friend Gillian Marchenko’s post, where she calls depression the elephant in the room, and how we need to talk about it, it is a […]

  17. Michelle Skelton says:

    I just found your site and was happy to hear echo’s of my own voice in your letter. Thank you, I look forward to navigating your site.

  18. Lovely Rita says:

    Thank you for being so honest. I trust it is helping someone RIGHT NOW!!

  19. […] the recent death of Robin Williams, I have seen many great posts about depression. Like my friend Gillian Marchenko’s post, where she calls depression the elephant in the room, and how we need to talk about it, it is a […]

  20. […] My struggle with depression is no longer an elephant in the room. They get that it is an illness. My dad and brother often check in with me to see how I am doing. My sister sees me wilting and steps in and helps where I should be helping. My mom hugs me and offers one hundred percent understanding w/o judgement. Heck, one time my two adult nephews Ben and Will actually came into my room while I was bad off. I was embarrassed but they didn’t care. One joked with me until I laughed and the other actually climbed over the bed to give me a hug and tell me he loved me. During one of Evie’s autism melt downs she and I spent hours in a dark room attempting to help calm her down and keep her safe in different surroundings. My sister-in-law Kris had the brilliant idea to send my brother Justin into the room with a glass of wine for me. That kind gesture reminded me that even when absent, I am missed and cared for. […]

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