David Woods Bartley is a passionate mental health speaker, writer, facilitator and advocate, who travels the country sharing his seven year journey from mental “hellness” to mental wellness. David’s mission is to raise awareness about mental illness, replace myth with facts and teach people ways to experience their divine birthright — mental health. Watch David’s recent TEDx Los Gatos talk here.
The recent high-profile deaths by suicide are awful, tragic reminders of just how devastating an impact mental illness can have on a person.
This medical condition, in all its forms, is cunning, baffling, incessant and evil. It will use all means necessary to inflict horrific pain upon its undeserving victims.
In his book, Reasons to Stay Alive, Matt Haig says “depression is a disease of thoughts.”
I believe Matt is spot on, and the sequence in my mind and those of my brothers and sisters in this world, often flows like this:
- Depression creates a thought.
- The thought births an emotion.
- The emotion triggers an action.
It’s a highly effective mechanism used to thrust a soul into the precarious state of isolation, extreme disconnection and, worst of all, hopelessness. From that dark sliver of hell, a suffering soul can lose its way and wander past the point of no return.
Nothing good happens in isolation. Only bad and terrible things are born there.
But there is a way out — connection.
Connection creates hope. And hope heals.
Hope revitalizes, restores, reenergizes and renews a weary soul. Hope reminds us we are wanted and worthy and that we matter.
Hope saves lives.
The truth is that sometimes what hurts the most can’t be seen. Sometimes great agony and pain lie just behind a forced smile or distracting joke.
But while the pain of mental illness is most often invisible, that doesn’t mean there is nothing we can do to help alleviate the unseen suffering of another.
Actually, what we can do is surprisingly simple, yet powerful .. even lifesaving.
The beauty is, sometimes what helps the most is easy to do. Sometimes it’s the little things that make the biggest difference, and we are all capable of doing the little things.
We are all capable of creating connection:
- We can take the time to remember and use a person’s name.
- We can pause and stand in the innocent place of curiosity and ask a heartfelt, open-ended question. And in doing so, create the space for another to tell us their story.
- We can send a timely, specific, authentic expression of our care, concern and support. And, we can do this simply by way of a text, an email or a phone call. But I think the best way is to use the good old-fashioned handwritten note to convey our loving sentiments.
One day, while stuck in the middle of a major depressive episode, someone near and dear to me sent me one of those priceless, amazing, life-saving handwritten notes.
It was in fact the perfect note:
- It offered support, not advice.
- It served up empathy, not pity.
- It oozed understanding, not judgment.
And, at the bottom of the note, this soul, whom I love and completely adore, passionately reminded me, and in no uncertain terms, I might add:
“Depression can’t have you, because you’re ours.”
In the end, it’s all about connection.