There are so many voices that scream at us. They come from everywhere, and the negative ones usually decide to stay. The voice of perfection whispers that if you can do this thing just right, you will feel like you are actually worth something. But then it screams and rages when you make the tiniest of mistakes.
The voice of acceptance, based on the world’s definition of beauty, says that if you can just be skinny enough, tan enough, tall enough, short enough—then you’ll be accepted and all will be right with the world. The voice of approval, based on performance, constantly yells, trying to get you to run faster, play better, work harder, get better grades. And when you fail, this voice goes completely silent, forcing you to just sit and think about what you did. That silence is deafening.
These voices are the lies that cause depression, anxiety, and suicide. I know these voices. Yet I am an outsider, a foreigner. I only know what I’ve witnessed and heard. But I’ve seen them all destroy close friends and family members. We’ve all read and heard of these things from the lips and hands of those who struggle with them every day. But what about those who are indirectly affected? The close friends, the family members who don't struggle with it but have to watch someone they love go through it?
Sometimes, we romanticize depression, anxiety, and suicide. We hear about them and they’re sensational. Morbidly so, but sensational nonetheless. Let me say this: there is nothing about these struggles that is romantic. They are real. They hurt. They destroy. Depression and anxiety cripple, filtering everything through a lens of sadness and hopelessness. Suicide takes a soul away from all those who loved it. There is nothing romantic about it.
These things are scary. When you take the time to love someone and invest in someone who struggles with these things, it is heavy. It is frightening. Diving into the ocean of someone’s soul requires great courage and sacrifice, because it means being underwater, beneath the burden of depression or anxiety or suicidal thoughts.
In a way, diving under the water of someone's soul takes you to a place on the edge, between life and death. When you’re close to someone who fights on the fine line between life and death, it not only takes a toll on them, it takes a toll on you too. It’s hard to love someone like this and love them well. Their feelings and struggles sometimes threaten to overwhelm both of you. But it is worth it. So worth it. Because every so often, usually when you’re bone tired of fighting with and for them, you see a glimpse into their soul, their beautiful soul that God created. You are reminded of the person that is veiled by depression, anxiety, and suicidal thoughts, and beyond the veil is someone worth fighting for.
We can’t erase the voices, but we can add our own. We can add the positive voices: the voice of acceptance no matter what, the voice of unconditional love, the voice of truth. We can be louder than the voices screaming inside their heads, or we can be the quiet whisper that underlies all the rest.
We can be a living, breathing example that there are better things ahead. We can be a shoulder to cry on and a hand to hold. We can be Jesus with skin on, loving our hardest and crying out that there are better things. One of the most valuable pieces of advice that I’ve received from someone who has struggled with depression her whole life is this: it is not up to you, as the friend or family member, to make those who struggle with these things happy. It is up to you to pray for them and love them to the best of your ability and let God do the rest.
For those of you loving someone with depression, anxiety, or suicidal thoughts—don’t give up. It means more than you know. Pray for the grace and strength to love well. For those who struggle—we love you. We want you to know that it does get better and we want to love you better. And lastly, for those of you afraid to love those who struggle—I pray that God would give you strength to step outside your comfort zone, ask the hard questions, and love as hard as you can. Jesus knew in loving us he would be hurt beyond measure, but he loved anyway. We are called to do the same.