A Thin Line Between Sanity And Depression

Photo By Lechon Kirb

I posted this two years ago and sadly it is still relevant.

When I was at University, one of my friends was falsely accused of being in an occult fraternity which led to an investigation that cost him two years of his education. After a long drawn out battle, he was acquitted and was able to return to University. It was at this point he came to visit me; to share his story. He said a lot of things but one comment stuck with me ever since:

I almost lost my mind. I discovered that there is a thin line between insanity and sanity.

He was in his early twenties at the time. He was lucky; he had his faith and supportive family and friends. Nonetheless it was the loneliest time of his life and he led life as a recluse over those two years.

Today, we learnt in the news that the suicide rate for middle-age men with mental health issues has risen by 73% since 2006*.

When my friend was sharing his story with me, I remember thinking how incredibly brave he was. Not just coming through it but for being open about it and sharing his vulnerability. This is not how society generally socialises men to be – vulnerable. Certainly not in Nigeria where I grew up.

We know that today, men, particularly middle-aged men, are more at risk of taking their own lives.

I’m not a mental health worker nor do I profess to be an expert in any way. However, one thing I’ve learnt, after 10 years in pastoral care; is that people, men and women, need an opportunity to be honest and vulnerable without fear of stigma or reproach. People need to be able to share their pain, sorrow and fears and know that it’s O.K. People need a support network to help them through tough times. Before any recovery, there must be the space to be real with themselves.

Too often men are held to very high standards of masculinity and within that strata, there is very little room or respect for vulnerability let alone crying. We socialise our boys from an early age to adopt a false sense of masculinity. We ask them if they are girls when they cry or tell them to man up. We teach them at an early age to stifle their emotions and it’s little wonder that they grow up not learning to deal with them or ask for help. Clearly, this has to change if we want men to be sensitive to the state of their mental health.

Mental health is complex and there will be many issues to unpick in today’s news as to why men are at a higher risk of committing suicide. However, you and I can start by giving boys and men a break from machismo and let them just be.

Samaritans: 08457 90 90 90 (24-hour national helpline)

* University of Manchester’s National Confidential Inquiry into Suicide and Homicide by People with Mental Illness

Lest We Forget How Fragile We Are

Encountering judgemental and insensitive people is the bane of social media.  I really don’t care your religious or personal beliefs but when someone dies, you keep quiet as a mark of respect.  It is called social decorum.

The irony that THE Mr Funny Man, Robin Williams, was suffering from depression can’t be lost on anyone who has heard the news.  You think how?  But he was so funny.  He made us all laugh.  I watched his films and felt better after.  That was the magic of Robin Williams – the actor.  For very few of us were privy to the life of Robin Williams – the man.  So I truly wonder on what basis we choose to pass judgement on his committing suicide.

It is an inimitable tragedy when someone is so overwhelmed and shrouded in despair that the only option they see available to them is taking their own life.  It must be the lowest and dimmest point of such a person’s life.  We can be shocked, distraught, angered, upset, dumbfounded but judgemental?  I don’t think so.  If such news doesn’t elicit compassion within you then I am speechless.

Depression is not as distant a reality as many would like to think.  Something that happens to ‘certain’ people.  It is a clear and present danger in the daily reality of many of our friends and family.  I too, remember when after having my first child, the pressures of being the ‘perfect’ mother who instinctively knew what to do began to cave in around me.  I remember the moment clearly.  I hadn’t eaten that morning.  I had not had my bath. Having decided to breastfeed exclusively for the first six months, I had an interrupted night’s sleep as I had had the night before. My mother and I were giving my son a bath earlier and she made a suggestion which I interpreted as criticism.   My husband was at work and I felt alone.  As I placed another set of soiled baby clothes in the washing machine, I felt a cloud of darkness begin to seduce me.  It was not a literal cloud, more like an invitation to dance with a masked dancer whose true nature would only be revealed once caught in his clutches.  I am grateful that I had the clarity of mind to say no thank you to that dance.  And I know without a shadow of doubt, if I had entertained that sinister dancer, I would be telling a different story today.  Post-natal depression is simply what I would have been told.  I was able to derive strength from my faith that day and escaped the clutches of depression but not many are so lucky.

I Corinthians 10:12-13

Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall. No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it.

My faith was my way of escape.  It is a faith that I wish for all but such is life; not all will believe it.  However, I also strongly believe that we can all offer one another a way of escape from the burdening issues we may face and make it easier to bear burdens.  I’ve blogged about this before in Too Busy to Care.  And I think it requires mentioning again.  Let’s be attentive to one another, particularly people you know who are suffering from depression or going through a tough time.  Let’s just care a bit more and not forget that it could have been you in their position. You never know, you might save a life!

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