Why “YOU ARE NOT ALONE” Is A Lie… #Depression

As the outpouring of grief continues in the death of a hero to many of us, probably the biggest cry I am hearing is for people with mental illness to know that they are…“Not Alone”
“You are not alone”… we chant.
When I am NOT in the midst of a MMA Death Match with Depression…this sounds really comforting.
When I AM in the midst of a MMA Death Match with Depression…this is a lie.

3 weeks ago, as I woke up after an AMAZING few days with my family in Jackson Hole, I could literally feel depression roll in with every centimeter my eyelids opened.
“$#@!@$#. NO. NO. NO. Please make it go away God.”
But of course it stayed.
And it stayed for 3 days this time.
Every morning waking up with the hope the suffocating mask would be gone.
And it wasn’t.

Within those three days my kids sat on my lap more, made me my coffee, my wife told me it will go away soon and answered my emails for me.

I could see that I was not “alone”.
But the truth is…
I WAS ALONE.
Nobody but me was trapped within the confines of my head.
I was alone in my head.

Imagine for a moment…
You are surrounded by every single person in the world who loves you.
There is a celebration of who you are and there is a huge party happening.
Everyone is waiting to talk to YOU and tell you that they love you and you are amazing.
Sounds awesome huh?

Now imagine you are in a space suit.
You can barely hear what anyone is saying and although you are being hugged, you can’t feel anything.
In the midst of not being “alone”…
You are alone.

I write all this to say, Yes, make sure you tell your friends with depression they are loved and you are near…

But they ARE alone.
So don’t just BE NEAR THEM and tell them they are not alone when the suffocating space suit of depression envelops them…
LIVE FOR THEM until the suit comes off.
Cause until the suit comes off…
They are alone.
Los

loswhit

Author loswhit

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  • Brenda P

    It’s even harder when you don’t have any friends to support you, when you’re alone inside your head AND in the world around you. The closest I’ve come to not being alone internally in the midst of my depression is being in a support group for other people who have depression. We all may deal with it differently, but there is a solidarity in being truly understood by people who also know what it’s like to fight alone.

    • ragamuffinsoul

      I get it. I truly do. Keep keeping on.

  • Thanks for articulating this so well

    • ragamuffinsoul

      You’re welcome

  • Eternal Lizdom

    I appreciate this post. And the emotion with it.

    *How* does someone LIVE FOR THEM? I know how to be near. I know how to pray. I know how to serve and help and do. But I don’t know *how* to truly live for someone else.

    • Marja Cody Slifka

      Stop by, bring them dinner or lunch (often eating, or eating well is hard). Talk to them, help clean if it’s a mom. When I had PPD, I couldn’t force myself to clean, there was no incentive to do it, yet, when it was done, I felt better. Someone said their mom actually researched a therapist and called, that would help. Bring joy however you can, a cheerful show, a happy card, a flower, dragging them kicking and screaming to do something they normally enjoy, etc. Take them to church and/or youth group or small group, as it is hard to want to go, hard to get up and go alone.

  • Ed Neely

    Los,
    Thanks for giving those of us that are blessed enough to not face this challenge, a little bit of insight into the reality of depression. I have been surrounded with depression my entire life. My mother committed suicide when I was 12, a good friend did the same in the mid-1990s, and others very close to me have had similar struggles their entire lives, but I still have not been able to grasp what they go through. Your space-suit metaphor is really helpful to illustrate the isolation in a crowd.

    My wife and I love you and appreciate your authentic love for your fellow man and your willingness to show your scars (and tattoos). We are looking forward to you coming back home to Cross Point and leading us in some worship!!

  • Los, I have a few friends that do struggle with depression (including a close family member). WHAT CAN I SAY TO (OR DO FOR) THEM WHEN THEY ARE IN A MOMENT?

  • jeffallen1

    Los, you always speak directly to me…and frankly for me…when you write about depression and anxiety. It’s been a struggle for me and as life gets harder and ministry gets…darker… I need your words. I’m alone, but I know that in solidarity, I’m not alone in my struggles, as others can indeed empathize.

  • P. V. Clark

    Wow Los. I’ve been following you on social media for over a year. We’ve chatted (briefly) via email. Your realistic approach and desire to destroy rhetoric (christian and secular) is a breath of fresh air. Our society lives in a bubble and until we come out of it no one is going to improve. Thanks again.

  • DanH

    Thank you for sharing this. We who don’t suffer from depression to the depths that some do need help in understanding.

    Please, can you unpack “LIVE FOR THEM”?

    Is it proximity? Activity? Reminders of the beauty of life? Carrying them forward while acknowledging their depression?

    Is there a physical parallel? The mountain climber being encouraged by a companion to push on?

    Is it a boostable mental toughness kind of thing?

    We, the frail fellow-travelers, want to know what we can do.

    • Maryanne525

      I can only speak for myself here, but “living” for me meant my mom calling doctors in the Nashville area when she lived 700 miles away in Iowa. She researched, called, got prices and then gave me 2 numbers to choose from with names & direct lines. I knew I needed help, but googling “therapist” was literally the biggest mountain I could climb at that moment. I couldn’t get out of bed, let alone pick a doctor at random. She knew that me saying, “I need help” was using every last ounce of strength I had. That’s what embodies “living for them” to me. It helps tremendously to hear that you care, & are there for me, but it took her being my voice and doing the legwork for me to find the energy to get up and get help. That’s my experience. Los could mean an entirely different thing, but that’s what pretty much saved me a couple of years ago.

      (By the way, I just wanted to say how much I appreciate seeing someone trying to understand the struggle just a little better. Even that goes a long way.)

      • Thanks for the answer. After reading the author’s post I had the same question about the last line.

      • Katherine Heasley

        Yes. I had to lean on other people’s faith for a long time, because I had none of my own. I, too, had a mother who more or less frog-marched me to help, God bless her.

    • ragamuffinsoul

      Hey Dan. Thanks for asking…
      I’ll follow up tomorrow.

  • Los, thanks for this explanation. Add me to the list of helpless-feeling people who’d love a follow-up post on what those outside the space suit can do to help the person in it.

  • Greg Best

    Thank you Los. This reality sucks so bad but it’s very real for me. Thank for for helping me understand myself through this. I am so thankful that you aren’t afraid to write about this topic. I’ve felt comforted and understood even in the midst of my really bad days just because you were vulnerable enough to post things like this. Bless you, man.

  • Jennifer

    Many of us, myself included, have dealt with the suffocating wet blanket that is depression. Some in seasons and spurts. Some our entire lives. But the Lord says, “I will never leave or forsake you.” If God’s word is true, in spite of feeling alone–we really aren’t. When we hold onto God’s Word, no matter what we feel and declare it over our lives, demonic oppression must flee from us. Even if we have to stand up against it in faith over and over the rest of our lives–We have power and authority over depression as God’s children in the name of Jesus. 2 Corinthians 10:4 <3

  • Cathy

    Is it ok for me to share this on my FB page?

  • Spacesuit

    Currently in the space suit. That’s probably the best metaphor I’ve heard for this feeling. I’m awake. I’m breathing. But I’m not “here”. As a stay at home mom with a 2 year old, it makes it difficult to let others know. To let anyone know. And when I work up the courage to tell someone, anxiety kicks in. I’m in the space suit now. That’s the best I can do at letting others know..

  • Guest

    Very true! Even harder is when you don’t have any friends to live life for you until you feel you are not alone. I know you will probably get this more than most but it really isn’t comforting when you tell someone you are alone and they say, you aren’t alone you have Jesus. Awesome, but who is going to give me a hug when I need it, who is going to wipe the snot and tears off my face when I can’t function because life is just too much, who is going to answer those emails and pay your bills for you. When you truly only have Jesus that is great but despite what others mainly the over religious that have enough friends that they could give me a couple and not notice that is not enough HE even says that. We are not meant to live life alone and yet, I am unfriendable to the Christian community.

    • DanH

      “We are not meant to live life alone and yet, I am unfriendable to the Christian community.”

      That is the main indictment of our Christian culture. This post and what flows from it may result in a so-necessary crack in the veneer.

      To the degree that the Christian community cannot friend, in real ways, the broken and marginalized, it does not know Christ.

      Father, open our eyes and hearts to see and move, to trust you as we love those around us.

  • Perhaps “you are not alone” is said to mean: “You are not the only one suffering this way.” That is how I now take it. Especially after it became a thing we commonly say in the widowed community I’ve become a part of—see http://www.soaringspirits.org,…the best place I found the thing that helped the most: community with others who’d also lost the one they believed they’d spend the rest of their lives with. Finding those others who GET IT can prove to be the lifeline that a person needs in their darkest hour. It proved so for me.
    And lest you think, “That’s grief, not depression”: they are not the same thing, and I know that. But of course both are dark experiences that can leave a person feeling, yes, alone.
    And by this comment I am NOT taking anything away from that feeling, regardless of its exact cause. I get it. I get both of them. I have experienced both—have been depressed most of my life (of 45 years so far), frankly, and have been widowed for almost 10. I’m only presenting an alternate meaning for your consideration.

    • Kristi

      The thing is, Connie, that no two people have ever experienced anything in exactly the same way. So to say to a person “you are not alone” is, essentially diminishing that person’s struggles. I’ve dealt with depression for 20 years, and every time I hear someone offer such a platitude, I actually FEEL BAD about what I’m struggling with. And I know that’s not their intention, but again, it often stems from a lack of understanding about depression and what, exactly, each individual person is dealing with.

      I spent two years studying to be a marriage and family therapist (’til God called me elsewhere), and one of the things we learned was to NEVER say to a client “I understand what you’re going through” – because we don’t. Like I said earlier, no one genuinely understands another’s situation. We can appreciate their struggles. We can walk with them. But, we don’t understand, and to say that we do takes away from that person.

      (Also, I hope this makes sense and doesn’t come across as “fighting words,” because that’s not my intent… I just wanted to try to explain my own frustrations in hearing platitudes when I’m at the lowest of the low, and when I post passionately about something, my tone is often misinterpreted.)

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  • Abbi Berry

    This. Thank you.

  • Karen

    A to the freaking men. The biological symptoms hit like a brick. And anxiety, too. I’m still not sure how to have other people help me function when anxiety hits…no amount of “it’s okay”‘s will ever do the trick until it ACTUALLY goes away.

  • Kristi

    Thank you.

  • MT

    I understand what you have written.

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  • Rachelle

    “LIVE FOR THEM” I believe this is what 1 Thess 2:8 means when it says “Because we loved you so much, we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but our lives as well.”

  • Ron

    Brave and true. I have never read anything that described my feelings so perfectly. I didn’t know other people felt like this. I am afraid to talk about it with people I know, afraid to upset those I love. Thank you.

  • Bill Stanley

    Well said! If be interested in your take of how to live with them.

  • AJ Marais

    The only problem is, people say they know what depression
    is, while their word, deeds and attitude proclaimed that they don’t have a
    clue. They are “wise,” but they only increase your loneliness. Just forgive
    them, because they have not the slightest idea what they are saying.

    The only problem is: there are only a few that understand
    and if nobody is living nearby you…

    Just keep believing, even if it feels
    impossible.

  • Jeanne

    I understand. I will pray for you. Remember to hold each thought captive. Its not easy to do, but it helps. TC

  • tony Diaz