Everywhere I looked, darkness engulfed me. Boulders took up residence at the pit of my stomach. My shoulders were weighed down by more than the bags I carried through the airport.
Returning home from a professional conference, I dragged my briefcase behind me as I made my way from the gate to baggage claim where my husband greeted me enthusiastically waiting to hear all about my trip. He swooped me up in a big hug, but upon setting me back down on solid ground, I could barely meet his eyes. Tears began to stream down my cheeks, leaving him speechless.
He loaded the trunk with my luggage and held my door while I climbed into the car.
As we drove toward home, I hugged the door and stared out the side window blankly. Not desiring any conversation, my answers to his inquiring questions were concise and pithy. It was warm outside, but my demeanor was as cold as ice, despite the fact that I burned with despair and hatred toward the enemy of my soul who had introduced depression into my family generations before.
As we got closer to home, I knew I couldn’t go there. Not like this. As hard as it was to form the words, I hurried to speak them before it was too late.
“You can’t take me home,” I whispered to my husband.
“What? Do you want to get something to eat?”
“I don’t want the boys to see me like this.”
The next two hours took my husband completely by surprise. We sat in our minivan in the middle of a grocery store parking lot, while I wept and he sat mostly in silence, praying.
His heart sank and he went pale as he heard me share the unthinkable. Something I couldn’t even believe myself.
I couldn’t even recognize my own voice. My voice cracked as I shared in an almost inaudible whisper that sounded nothing like myself, “I understand why people commit suicide.”
I heard him swallow hard before answering with a stammer, “Are you thinking of committing suicide?”
I recognized the war—it was a battle, a spiritual battle. Entrenched in a war that had plagued my mother, and her sister, and their mother, now I wasn’t sure I was winning, but thinking of my young boys at home, I wasn’t going to give in or give up either!
I knew better than to vocalize my thoughts and give the enemy another open door to the playground of my mind, I mustered all the strength I could and pronounced, “I’m not going to put that out there. The enemy would love nothing more.”
I knew that if I give the enemy an inch, his army would take a mile. He had already stolen too much from my family and me, and I wasn’t about to give him the satisfaction of stealing from my children.
On the one hand, I felt weak and powerless in my despair, and yet at the same time, I felt sorry for my husband. He didn’t deserve this, and he didn’t know what to do with the unthinkable information he’d just been given. After all, I was the doctor, the mental health practitioner, he wasn’t.
He looked terrified as he asked, “Do I need to take you to a hospital?”
I didn’t answer. What could I say? I knew all the “right” answers—taking me to a hospital would be fruitless.
The tension in our minivan was palpable, and my mind flashed to the many patients who had previously sat in my office sharing such despair.
My husband’s question broke my thoughts, “Honey, I don’t know what to do or say right now.”
“I don’t either.” The sad thing was, even as the professional, I really didn’t.
He wanted me to promise that I wouldn’t do anything to harm myself—that I would just “hang on.” I don’t make promises unless I know I can keep them. I wasn’t sure of anything at that moment, least of all that. And that scared me.
Never had I felt so alone. So afraid.
I didn’t really want to die. More than anything I wanted the pain to end.
That’s the case for most who consider suicide: they don’t really want to die, they just want to end the pain.
How had I gotten here? I had never experienced such severe thoughts before. They didn’t even sound like me.
But that’s just it. Those weren’t my thoughts. They were from the enemy of my soul who seeks to steal, kill, and destroy (John 10:10). But Jesus came that we might have not just life, but abundant life.
Yet so many suffer. And to compound their pain, they feel shame because of their experience. According to the World Health Organization, 350 million people suffer from depression, and by 2020, depression is predicted to be our greatest epidemic worldwide.
Each year, almost 800,000 people worldwide kill themselves. More than 2,000 suicides occur daily, with one death approximately every 40 seconds. And for every successfully executed suicide, there are approximately 20 attempted but incomplete suicides.
As Ray Comfort discusses in his movie, “The Exit: The Appeal of Suicide,” nearly half a million Americans are taken to the hospital every year because of suicide attempts. Suicide is the second leading cause of death among college students. Twenty veterans commit suicide every day.
As a doctor who treats patients every day with depression, but who has gone through severe depression herself and come out on the other side, I want you to know that if you are in the valley of depression or struggling with suicidal thoughts, this isn’t all there is for you.
Jeremiah 29:11 gives us hope for better days ahead. “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”
If you are struggling with depression and/or suicidal thoughts, I would encourage you to watch Ray Comfort’s new movie, “The Exit: The Appeal of Suicide”. I would also encourage you to read my own account of how I overcame depression in my book, “Hope Prevails: Insights From a Doctor’s Personal Journey Through Depression”.
You are not alone! There is help, there is hope, and there is healing!
Because of Him, #HopePrevails!
(If you have a question you’d like Dr. B to answer, contact her here now. Your name and identity will be kept confidential.)
A short brief about Hope Prevails.
Insights from a Doctor’s Personal Journey through Depression
Dr. Michelle Bengtson
Speaking from personal and professional experience, a neuropsychologist unpacks what depression is, shows how it affects us spiritually, and offers hope for living the abundant life.
Neuropsychologist Offers Hope to Those Struggling with Depression
-By 2020, depression will be our greatest epidemic worldwide
- An estimated 350 million people worldwide suffer from some form of depression
- As with the bestselling My Stroke of Insight, the author experienced the same condition she treats
- Helpful features include personal stories, biblical truths, prayers, and music recommendations
In Hope Prevails, Dr. Bengtson writes with deep compassion and empathy, blending her extensive training and faith, to offer readers a hope that is grounded in God’s love and grace. She helps readers understand what depression is, how it affects them spiritually, and what, by God’s grace, it cannot do. The result is a treatment plan that addresses the whole person—not just chemical imbalances in the brain.
For those who struggle with depression and those that want to help them, Hope Prevails offers real hope for the future.
Hope Prevails is available now wherever books are sold. To find out more, see: https://drmichellebengtson.com/hope-prevails-book/.