What people don't realize is depression is a silent, isolating, slow-moving killer. Some who experience it will commit suicide -- about 39,000 people every year. Some will attempt to take their life and others will be so paralyzed by fear that they will be alive, but not living.
The news of beloved Robin Williams has caused an avalanche of grief from around the world. And then questions: Why? How? Didn't he know how much he was loved?
We are left reflecting on our own lives as we reconstruct our beliefs about happiness, the world and what it means to suffer alone.
We feel confusion, rage and grief. The funniest man in the world, who touched millions of people, couldn't touch his own heart.
The thing about depression is no one really talks about it out loud. It makes most people uncomfortable. Those who aren't depressed think, "What do they have to be sad about? Why can't they just see the bright side?"
But the raw truth is, no one has reason to judge anyone who struggles. And for the one who is depressed, life is unbearable to navigate. It doesn't matter how much you are loved. You feel like a burden to the world.
From where we stand, it may look like Robin Williams had it all. But his unfortunate death shows the world we can never judge a character from the outside.
Several years ago, I was diagnosed with clinical depression. I experienced my own isolation, pain and internal rage.
I recovered and overcame that dark period of my life. People close to me say they had no idea. "You should have told me. I could have helped." They seem to take it personally that I didn't come to them.
That's the thing about depression: When you are in it, people around you seem happy. They seem to have it together. And if you suffer, the last thing you want to do is take their happiness away or bring them down. You feel like a burden to those around you.
So the depressed stay isolated and in pain, lonely and sadness.
If You Suffer From Depression
When we take a step back, we see we are not a burden to others. In fact, the very thing we think we can't do is what we need to do in order to move through depression. I am not talking about asking for help. That's a tall order for the one who is depressed. I am talking about being willing to get help.
The pain that depressed victims suffer is a gut-wrenching, soul-sucking disease. But if you are willing to receive help, then you have already overcome the hardest part. Allowing yourself to receive is an emotional and spiritual experience most depression sufferers have difficulty opening up to.
The disease makes its victims feel unworthy and unloved. But when we can open up and receive love, help from friends who are there, family who does love us, then we can begin to shift our awareness. Life can be lived again and joy is possible. Our hopelessness turns to hope then quickly to faith. And faith is seeing light in your heart even if your eyes still see darkness.
In my own personal recovery, I had to let love in. I had to allow myself to receive. This happened through prayer, meditation, opening up to close loved ones, writing and ultimately dropping from my head into my heart. My heart led me out of depression because I allowed the baby steps to unfold to my bigger picture. I grasped for hope, and that hope kept me alive.
No, there is no cookie-cutter approach to healing depression, and what worked for me may not work for others. But one thing is for sure: If you are suffering from depression, you are not alone. Reaching out, being willing to receive help, will help you see you are not such an outsider after all. And in that experience you may learn that you don't have to see the entire path, just take one step.
You do matter, and your future can be lived more joyfully.
For those who suffer in depression, please allow yourself to receive. Getting through it is possible. There is a life after depression.
It is one small step at a time.
Ask yourself: How can I let love in today?
I open up to guidance and help in this moment.
If You Know Someone Suffering From Depression
What you say to someone who suffers is important. Remember not to take it personally if they can't or won't open up to you. Compassionately reach out.
When they do open up, do not brush it off or ignore them. There is nothing for you to fix. Just listen. Sometimes, just knowing they are not alone will help them move out of the pain.
"The worst part of depression is that it narrows the field of vision into a very small tube so they can't see the options," according to Dr. Adam Kaplin, an associate professor in the departments of psychiatry and neurology at Johns Hopkins University, who spoke to The Huffington Post for a previous article.
The goal of helping is giving people who suffer from depression a voice and allowing them to be heard. This pulls them out of isolation and helps them feel loved.
Reach out to them, be with them, listen to them.
This will and can save a life.
It saved mine.
Depression is a disease of the heart, one that equals sadness.
Suicide is not reversible, but sadness, if it is caught early enough is.
With compassion, empathy and kindness to one another, we can reverse the disease. We can save each other with sympathy, honesty and love.
The author of this blog, Shannon Kaiser is a depression counselor, life coach and best selling self-help author. She works with individuals to overcome depression and anxiety.
Have a story about depression that you'd like to share? Email firstname.lastname@example.org, or give us a call at (860) 348-3376, and you can record your story in your own words. Please be sure to include your name and phone number.
Need help? In the U.S., call 1-800-273-8255 for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.