Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Update: A different kind of anniversary

It's been two years today since this happened. Two years of healing, of talking, of growing. Most importantly, it's been two years of watching life come back into our son. It didn't happen overnight. It didn't happen without hard work, tears, wrestling fears, and lots of prayer. It happened though, and for this healing I am eternally grateful. My son is not alone in this fight. Millions of others suffer depression, yet they never take the step to ask for help. Many give up completely and follow through with a suicide plan. It's hard for me to even write those words, knowing the reality for so many other parents is not as beautiful as ours.

I don't post this for pity or attention. I post this so that others know they are not alone. Bryan has said he is fine with letting people know if it encourages even one to seek help, to speak out. I'm so proud of him. I'm so thankful for his life. I'm so humbled to have been chosen as his mom.

This is a fight that our world must keep fighting. As followers of Christ, we must bring to light the reality of depression and its effects. If you need help, please don't wait too late. If you think your child needs help, please talk to them. You might be surprised at how much they tell you simply because you asked.

Here is our story, as told one year ago today:

One year ago today, I sat in this very chair that I now sit typing. Across from me was our son Bryan. It was a rather typical Tuesday afternoon, and we were going through the day's homeschooling assignments. I asked a simple question while I looked over his workbook, but he never answered me. I looked up to find tears running down his cheeks and a look of defeat on his face. As I reached across the table to touch his hands that were shaking, he said "I cannot do this anymore".

Those words changed the course of not only that day, but the whole year that followed. What I heard next pierced deep into my heart. My son looked down, unable to make eye contact and said, "I want to die. I want to kill myself mom. I'm not safe."

If you've never heard those words from your child or a loved one, you can't understand how I felt. Jeff got home shortly afterward, and he too heard those words.

We were shaken.

For those who may not know me well, let me explain that I am a psychiatric nurse. I do this stuff for a living. I've heard many people, young and old, utter those same words throughout my career. I've hurt with them, rejoiced in healing, grieved when things didn't get better. But never once had I sat in that spot as the mother of a child who was severely depressed. Bryan had dealt with some mild depression and anxiety issues in the past, but it had never gotten to this point. In fact, he had done so well in the year previously  that he had gone off all of his medication.

Yes, there were "signs". He was not sleeping as well. He was a bit more irritable. He was a little more withdrawn from us and from friends. But really, we had no way of knowing it had gotten this bad. You see, Bryan hadn't wanted us to know it was that bad. He had done a fantastic job of making it look like things were okay. I can't tell you how many times I've thanked God that on that Tuesday last January, he decided that he'd had enough.

Because Bryan not only was voicing suicidal thoughts, but he had a plan for harming himself, we had no choice but to hospitalize him for safety. It was excruciating to leave that hospital that night without him. I wanted to scream. I wanted to offer to stay home with him all the time until he felt safe. But in my heart, I knew that he needed to do this. He needed to go and learn that he had a voice and that he could learn to help himself. I still firmly believe that while it seemed that the hospital stay did little more than provide him safety while his feelings were intense, in all actuality it showed Bryan that when he voiced his feelings, he got help. It's important for people to know that they are heard, and Bryan knew it.

In the year that has followed, I've watched my son overcome. He's overcome depression. He's overcome suicidal thoughts. He's overcome stigma. He's overcome the overwhelming anxiety. He's overcome fear.

Is he perfect? Heck no! (are any of us?) But he has a strength that I had not seen before this year.

Today, I asked him what has been the key for his healing. Typical of Bryan, his first response was "I don't know. I got happy.". But when he answered seriously, he said "I started taking my faith seriously. It's not perfect, but I know I have God.". He also made changes in some of the music he had been listening to prior to this time last year, changing from some really dark and sad stuff to more positive music (Yes, screaming music can still be positive). And he's worked hard to be with people. As an introvert, that's not easy, and I've watched with pride as he has come out of his shell more this year and put himself out there to be in relation with people.

I write this today with his permission. I write this because depression is no respecter of persons. It hits the young and old, rich and poor, white collar and blue collar, fat and thin, athletic and non-athletics. It doesn't care if you're from a family of faith and pray every day; it still creeps in, telling you that you're not good enough, not smart enough, not talented enough, not...... Depression sucks the air from your lungs and leaves you gasping. It sharpens its claws on your heart, ripping it to shreds before you know what hit you. It replaces optimism with fear, unbelief, panic and paralysis. 

Depression kills.

Our family is one of the lucky ones. In my heart, and because of conversations with Bryan throughout this year, I believe that had we not sat down together that afternoon, Bryan wouldn't be here today. I believe that had I not listened that day, this would be a whole different kind of anniversary for us. To say that I celebrate this day is an understatement that I cannot begin to explain. Our family can rejoice even while countless other families stare at an empty chair at their tables tonight.

If you're reading this, and you are experiencing any of the things I've written about, please get help. Call 1-800-783-TALK if you don't have anyone you can talk to. Call your best friend. Call your mom or dad. Go to your spouse. Call your doctor. Call your church and talk to a pastor. Talk to someone. And if you suspect that your child (or spouse or friends of whomever) is suffering, don't stop asking questions and telling them you love them. Because let me assure you that it's worth them being aggravated to let them know you are here. Our family can attest to that, and Bryan will assure you that we've never let him rest in that area.

I've witnessed God's healing in many areas of life. This one is extra special because I've watched as God has breathed life into our son again. And y'all, that is a beautiful thing.