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  • Writer's picturePam Fisk

"You Don't Understand:" What Depression Feels Like After a Child's Suicide

One of the worst things for me when I was severely depressed was the lack of understanding from my friends and family. So many wanted to help me, but they didn't understand HOW! They couldn't comprehend all the things going on in my head. They tried, they really did, but it isn't possible without experiencing it oneself!

The Suicide Option

I know because I wanted so badly to understand my son and how anyone could even think of taking their own life. I read books and did research. I am thankful I now understand, but I never want to go to that dark place where I ended up. Thanks to my desire to please and glorify God, I still never attempted suicide. It just wasn't an option! Period! But I thought about it! I could see how it would be better than living with the agony I was experiencing then!

Medical Model Intervention

I stayed off the Effexor XR for five years, thinking I would eventually be back to normal, whatever that is. But instead, it continually, day after day, got worse. Finally, I had a long talk with God and put myself in a lockup behavioral hospital. This was a brutal and traumatic thing for me, but God gave got me through it. But it took a lot of suffering and trial-and-error to stabilize me again. I thought I was going to lose my mind sometimes or just go mad!

My insurance paid for 13 days which wasn't even near enough time, as bad as I was. But I was thankful and blessed to have God in my life to comfort me. I also had a loving sister and brother-in-law to help get me through the following weeks and months until my insurance kicked. Then I could finally get outpatient rehab.

In the hospital, I saw many people worse off than me. Even though I couldn't fully understand all of them, I sure did have empathy for them and reached out to them to comfort them in any way I could. I saw a lot of different mental illnesses while there, for example, a young man with schizophrenia. I didn't understand it, but I could sure empathize, which is more I could do before I got sick. I believe suffering has a purpose, even though I don't always understand why? I am thankful for what I know now but believe me, I don't ever want to go through it again if I don't have to!

I find it so ironic that one can see my sore mouth and empathize with my pain and distress. But, they can't know this is nothing compared to the actual mental and emotional pain I was living with day and night with little relief.

The Invisible Illness From Hell

The INVISIBLE ILLNESS FROM HELL, that's depression and anxiety together working like a magnet with two opposing forces. So DEAD and NUMB, yet so pain-ridden at the same time. Off the scale emotionally. There are no words to describe it that would do it justice. Wanting to live and be well and feeling dead at the same time.

All things work to the good for those who love God! Praise him!

I wrote the above note in a journal shortly before I put myself in the hospital. Due to stress, my lips had broken out in painful blisters for at least six months. Nothing helped but keeping them moist constantly with vitamin D ointment. However, it was excruciating if I let them get dry.

Understanding Mental Illness and Suicide

So back to the subject of UNDERSTANDING! You can surely see how vitally important it is to understand and be understood in the case of mental illness of any kind! One simply, unfortunately, has to appear to experience it themselves to truly understand what it is like.

I believe many lives could be saved by the understanding and empathy that goes along with it. So no one wants to talk about their thoughts and feelings, even if they have the strength. So many people think they will be misunderstood, judged falsely, labeled, and too often punished because of misunderstanding. Believe me, it happens more than we can even grasp. So education on the subject of all mental health, not just suicide, I believe could indeed be beneficial!

When I was in the hospital, I heard over and over from other patients the phrase, "Fake it till you make it." So I've spent years putting on that fake smile to assure everyone I was okay when I was in anything but okay.

Another reason people can't understand anxiety and depression is that I couldn't even understand what was happening to me! The same goes for mental illness. Well-meaning people will tell you, yes, I understand I was depressed once. I just thought positive things, exercise, stayed busy, etcetera, but they just don't understand!

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About Me

Image of Dr. Trace Pirtle sitting on park bench identified as Jesus.

Greetings, I'm Trace!
I'm a retired counselor education professor who spent 35 years in the "helping professions." I'm a veteran and an "all-in" believer working full-time for our Lord Jesus Christ. I've included my personal testimony if you are interested. 
May God bless you beyond your wildest dreams!

In His Service,

Trace Pirtle

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