Fourteen times is the amount of times something in my brain has snapped, causing me to think that I can’t go on. Each one of these times has been painful, yet filled with life-saving miracles.
One of the most common questions people ask when they find out my struggle is, “What can I do to help?” In an effort to answer this question and to help others in their ministering efforts, I want to share this list of the 14 most helpful things people have done for me that have given me the strength to stay.
Check on their immediate safety. When I have reached out for help, people have responded quickly by asking questions like: “Are you alone right now?” “Are you thinking of doing something?” “Can I come talk to you?” These questions can allow them to evaluate what is going on and decide if they need to intervene.
Make sure they’re not alone. Being alone only causes thoughts and feelings to get worse until they seem unbearable. In my weak moments, family and friends have stepped in, either by coming to my house to sit with me or by picking me up to be with them.
Express love. The three simple words, “I love you” say, “I need you and want you to stay. If you were gone, I would hurt, so please hold on.” These words give me strength and add to my ability to endure.
Promise them that it will get better. In my darkest moments, I am entirely blinded by depression. Someone reminding me that there is hope, that how I feel in the present moment is not how I will feel forever, gives me something to hold onto again. I can’t comprehend that anything can possibly get better, but I can trust in someone else’s hope.
Give warm hugs. That kind of physical contact brings immediate comfort to my aching heart. I feel safe wrapped up in someone else’s arms and the overpowering sorrow and fear subside for a small moment.
Help them meet their physical needs. When everything in my world feels like it’s falling apart, meeting my basic needs is difficult. My husband makes me food, reminds me to drink water, and helps me do what’s necessary for a good night’s sleep. These basic needs are directly tied to caring for your mental health.
Repeat, “I won’t stop loving you. You are not burdening me.” In those hardest times, I can’t hear enough that I am not going to lose everyone around me by asking for help.
Be available to listen and talk. When I’m surrounded by darkness, there are a million thoughts swirling around in my mind. Sometimes talking allows me to recognize that those thoughts are not rational. Other times, it’s in others’ responses that I can find clarity and peace.
Remind them that they only need to take things day by day or minute by minute. When I am severely depressed, I cannot stay in the present moment no matter how hard I try. Everything that I have to do in the future fills my mind all at once. Having someone remind me to let go of all of those things relieves some of that stress.
Have them promise you that they will stay and will continue reaching out. Promises are powerful. Saying out loud, “I promise I won’t do anything” brings incredible strength. It’s honestly very hard to say those words in the most difficult moments, but once I say it, I know I have to hold on. I know I can’t break my promise.
Help them get the physical, emotional, professional, and spiritual help they need, including getting a priesthood blessing, meeting with their bishop, seeing a doctor or counselor, or going to the hospital, if necessary.
Share your confidence in them. Someone once said to me, “You have been to the lowest point multiple times before, and you got back up every time. You can do that again.” Another friend once reassured me, “You won’t do anything. You’ve got this.” Their confidence in me gives me strength. It helps me recognize that I am stronger than depression.
Remind them that you would be sad if they were gone. This helps me think outside of myself and remember those I love the most and how hurt they would be if I were gone.
Help them recognize that healing is always possible. One of the most comforting things someone has ever said to me was, “You haven’t gone too far. You can’t go too far if you’re still here.” I think of that often now, especially when the lies in my mind tell me that I am too broken to heal.
While the last few years have tested my faith and stretched my soul, I have also seen miracles. My life has been changed by the countless, powerful examples I have seen of “mourning with those that mourn … and comforting those that stand in need of comfort” (Mosiah 18:9). I have gained compassion and understanding as my eyes have been opened to others’ challenges and as I have connected with their broken hearts in beautiful ways. I take hope in Sister Reyna I. Aburto’s words, “I testify to you that ‘thru cloud and sunshine,’ the Lord will abide with us, our ‘afflictions [can be] swallowed up in the joy of Christ,’ and ‘it is by grace that we are saved, after all we can do’” (“Thru Cloud and Sunshine, Lord, Abide with Me!” Ensign or Liahona, Nov. 2019, 59).
I have witnessed the healing power of Jesus Christ working in my life, giving me the strength to endure and the ability to find healing. You can be the one who helps someone else find that strength to stay.