GENDUSA COLUMN: Crossing the street to peace

Published 10:30 am Wednesday, May 18, 2022

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Naomi Judd’s battle with depression saddened me in a way few understand. Hers was a “drug-resistant,” lifelong struggle with a disease that eventually took Naomi away. She fought abuse and poverty earlier in life, worked diligently to become a nurse to support her children, and used her Christian faith to live through hardships. She gained fame with her God-given musical talent, was loved by her family, and lived in comfort.

“So, why did she take her life?” “What in the world could be so bad that she no longer saw any good?” “I don’t understand how she could be so selfish.” These are examples of comments people who don’t understand say after one hears about a suicide.

Lack of mental health knowledge and compassion is akin to a person who lives in poverty versus the individual who has always existed with the proverbial silver spoon. 

If one has lived most of their days happily, how can they possibly understand some find it difficult to just discover peace?

When I was a little girl and watched my friends be carefree, I recall thinking, “I wish I were like them!” As far back as I can remember, I was always a bit embarrassed being me.  I tried to hide my wheezing caused by asthma, my allergy-induced swollen eyes, or the eczema that covered my arms. I also did an Oscar-worthy comedic acting routine to conceal the pain deep within my soul.

I loved people but was never sure that anyone truly loved me. Because of my health issues, I felt like a burden, a loser, and since I wasn’t the smartest kid on the block, I deemed myself to fail.

Did anyone understand me? No, not even my parents. I was called too sensitive, too emotional, and told to be more thankful.

The asthma was gone before I was thirty, and the allergies were under control. However, the cheery act was up, and the little girl fell to the floor. The hiding and charade were over when I raised my hand for help.

I tried to be more grateful, prayed to God for aid, and wondered why I was not like my pals. I once told a friend who wanted to comprehend how I felt, “I envision myself on a busy street in New York City. All the people hurry in one direction, talk to each other, laugh as they walk, and enjoy the sunshine. On the other hand, I am walking alone on the other side of the street in the rain, but not sure where I am trying to go. I want to join the others, but I can’t find a way to cross the road.”

Naomi Judd suffered from treatment-resistant severe depression. She was open about it and shared her journey, hoping to help others as she tried to help herself. However, I cannot imagine her despair and anxiety.

After receiving my own clinical depression diagnosis, I imagined that I would cross the street to normalcy one day. In the beginning, I, too, was drug-resistant and used therapy, jogging, and prayer to get through the hours.

Looking back, I am thankful I wasn’t financially comfortable. I needed to work to put food on the table for my children. That was my sole motivation for living, which undoubtedly saved my life. Even when the depression tried to kill me, I fought, in the end, to live. But let me tell you, at times, it wasn’t easy, and I thank God today that He saved me from me.

When the newer medications for anxiety and depression arrived, I was one of the lucky ones they helped. Naomi was not so fortunate. She tried everything from potent drugs to complex therapies, but she lived with hearing the whispers of depression daily.

I suspect the voice told her that she was a burden, unlovable, and useless, and though the crowds applauded her, she could not cross the street.

On some dark days, even I still hear those same faint, annoying whispers.

Friends, family, and advisors help, or they try. What a person suffering from mental health issues does not need is to be judged by others who haven’t walked on that agonizing road alone. We, who suffer from depression, do not need to be told how grateful we should be or how selfish we are, and we certainly don’t mean to be thoughtless. In those dire moments when we contemplate ending our lives, most of us feel we are making yours miserable, so we should leave. Understand, the depression causes our minds to become ill and grow weary.

So, Naomi, I promise to continue being transparent to help those who suffer cross the street toward peace.  I pray you found it.

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255