I didn’t date at all in high school, and not much in college. This was despite going to Brigham Young University, where the most impressive status symbol a girl could have was a diamond ring on her finger. I was supposed to date—or, more precisely, I was supposed to be getting asked on dates…though I was not. After I graduated, as expected, I left BYU’s campus for the “singles’ ward” Mormon congregation of young unmarrieds, and waited around for a relationship.
After a couple of years of this, though, I started doubting the Church’s way of “ask and ye shall receive.” I was clearly still un-coupled, for one, but I was also struggling with a depression that no amount of praying was ameliorating. So, I started deciding to take action. And taking action slowly started replacing my praying, asking, and hoping.
On the dating front, this looked like signing up for Tinder.
The first Tinder date I went on was with Chad. I liked him right away. I even remember thinking, maybe this one’s different (and when I say different, I mean different from the grand total of three guys I had gone out with more than twice, none of whom I dated longer than three months).
Spoiler warning: We got married a few years later. All that time waiting around for a relationship to happen, and it turned out the best thing I could have done was taking matters into my own hands.
We got married!
On the mental health front, this new philosophy looked like trying different providers, researching medications, and finally communicating with my parents about how bad the depression was (which, well, mostly happened because things got too big to keep hiding). By the time I met Chad, things (really for the first time) were getting better rather than getting worse. After trial and error, I had started figuring out treatment options that were working. I was also finally realizing that mental health would probably always be an issue for me.
With this realization, when it looked like we were going to have an actual relationship, I put together a Google Doc with some homework for him: A quick primer on depression, suicidality, self-injury, and how to treat someone with those issues.
I came across that Google Doc recently, and I thought: This might actually be useful for other people, too. For that reason, I wanted to share the resources I sent to my then-boyfriend, now-husband. Maybe there are some resources that express some of what you experience, and that would be good for you to share with someone, too. Or maybe you yourself don’t understand a ton about the topics, and are looking to learn more. Either way, I hope these are useful.
This first resource is from the Mayo Clinic. It’s a dry, clinical overview on major depressive disorder. It’s boring, but good, solid info.
This second resource is a lot more interesting. And it has pictures! This is a post from the blog Hyperbole and a Half on what it’s like to be depressed. Also, if you’re a person who has ever thought, “Depression? Everyone gets sad. Why do people make a big deal out of depression? These people just need to cheer up” or similar (no judgement, it’s a fair point if you haven’t experienced depression yourself), this is a great source for you.
You should also check out Hyperbole and a Half Depression Part 2! Also, I should put in a little note here: Some people feel like depression is like you can’t feel anything (like the author). For me, depression does make me feel things. It makes me feel sadness and hopelessness. I think depression can mean a lot of different things for different people. I think what matters is that you try to learn about it and listen to peoples’ experiences, and try to be sympathetic even if you can’t be empathetic. But if you’ve made it this far, you’re clearly doing that—so good job!
This is a tough topic, but just because it’s tough doesn’t mean we can just ignore it. In fact, let me give you a tip: Ignoring suicidality does not make it go away. I’ve heard that some people are afraid that bringing it up will plant the idea of suicide in someone’s mind. Coming from someone who has struggled with suicidality, I can pinkie-swear-promise you that this is FALSE. For me, when I’ve been in this state, I am already thinking about suicide. I don’t need someone to suggest it, trust me. What bringing it up does do is give an opportunity to deal with those thoughts in a healthy, safe way.
This resource comes from an organization called Mind (at the link, but also embedded below). It’s an amazing (and short!) conversation on what’s going through someone’s head when they’re feeling suicidal. I feel like it might help you understand if you’ve never been there yourself.
While we’re on the topic: When it doubt, ask. For reals. Be brave, bring it up. Let me suggest to you some phrases you can use!
“I’ve noticed lately that you (state what you’ve observed). I just want to check in on your safety. Have you been having thoughts of ending your life?”
“I’ve noticed that lately you ____. Sometimes, when people are having a hard time with ___, they might have thoughts of ending their life. Have you been having any of these thoughts?”
“I’ve noticed that lately you ___. I care about you, and want to make sure you’re safe. Have you been having any thoughts of ending your life?”
If you’re currently feeling suicidal, I also wanted to suggest a few ideas. One is texting the Crisis Text Line by texting CONNECT to 741-741, or calling the Suicide Hotline at 1-800-273-8255. If you’re in the Salt Lake area, the UNI Receiving Center is free, and will keep you safe for up to 23 hours–info about it and some of their other awesome resources are at this link. Another great idea is talking to someone—your doctor or school counselor are both great places to start, though going to a friend or family member is also good. People don’t always know how to respond to this stuff, and if you don’t get a great response to someone, don’t give up. Keep trying resources, and fight for yourself.
Ok, these are all hard topics, but this is one is harder for me to discuss, and I know it’s also one that can be hard to wrap your head around if you’re unfamiliar with it. These two resources do a great job of explaining self-injury—a pretty clinical one from WebMD, and a friendlier one from TeensHealth; the latter one also has some good resources for if you’re struggling. Just please ignore that these articles focus on teens—self-injury isn’t exclusively a teen issue.
What You Can Do
These links have some guidelines on interacting with someone who is in crisis or struggling with something like depression. The first one’s a guide on talking to someone who’s currently having a hard time, and this second one is more generally about how to help someone who struggles with depression. I think these articles are awesome. I also like that the second one talks about how you can care for yourself during these interactions. Even if you’re not the one with the diagnosis, your mental health matters, too!
Finally, this is a pretty great story from The Moth, where writer and reporter and former-depression-sufferer Andrew Solomon talks about a Senegalese treatment for depression. It’s super interesting to listen to, but I share it for a specific reason: And it’s not so you can walk away thinking, wow, there are some really crazy treatments for depression out there, none of this sounds scientific at all! Instead, I hope you listen and think about how, when it comes to mental health, your support matters. Community matters, connecting with other matters. Most of all, talking to each other about this stuff is so, so important. Whether or not you struggle with this stuff, whether or not you can’t even relate, supporting each other can make a world of difference.
I encourage you to continue to find ways to do so–to share these resources with others, to have a conversation with someone about mental health, and to just keep talking.