I am the mother of a 35-year old son who has suffered for over 20 years with severe and debilitating depression and self-hatred.
He sought help through medication, counseling, psychiatrist visits, as well as various out-patient and residential treatment facilities. He found a few brief periods of feeling well and hopeful but they never lasted for more than a few months at best. He tried often and hard but eventually began to feel discouraged and despondent about the cycling between feeling healthy for a short time and then struggling for months or years before having another brief time of feeling well again.
Our son began to question whether it was even worth the difficult struggle to get better when it lasted for such a short time. Several times he became suicidal.
The most memorable to me was a time when I found that he had been basically hibernating in his condo, living on crackers or whatever was left in the cabinets because he hadn't been able to make himself even leave to get food, lying on the couch all day and night watching Netflix almost 24-hours a day. He had a hunting knife on the coffee table next to him which alarmed me greatly.
I sat next to him and began gently asking him what he was doing and why he was watching non-stop movies. He told me that he was in a very bad spot. He felt if he stopped watching shows then he would start having repeated thoughts of giving up and hurting himself.
He said he was just tired of feeling so sad, such a failure and that he would always remain the same. He said that even when he was in his periods of good health, he'd reach out to help others and then he would crash again. He felt he let those other people down so they actually would have been better off if he hadn't gotten their hopes up.
Our son told me how he felt the world would be better without him because it seemed that even when he was better, he seemed to damage others. I told him that I didn't believe that God had given him the gifts of intelligence, kindness, talents, sense of humor and compassion for no reason or for for all those gifts to be lost through suicide.
I believed that even though we couldn't understand right now, this suffering must be part of God's plan to make him more ready to fulfill his mission in life and perhaps to help others who have suffered through this same journey. He started sobbing and said, "Mom, I used to have hope that I'd get better, to be happy and to add value in this world. But now I'm struggling just to find hope to hope at all. Now I don't believe anymore that I'll ever really get better."
It broke my heart and I was holding him, crying and rocking him like a little boy, and I said, "You may have given up hope, son, but I haven't given up hope for you!" He crumbled and just said over and over, "Thank you, Mom. Thank you, Mom I needed to hear that."
I'll always remember that moment because it struck me that when someone is totally despondent and hopeless and so very tired of struggling, they might just need to know that there is someone that will hope FOR them, believe in a future FOR them, and just support them through those weakest moments...not with any solutions but simply with love and the strength of caring. Just your presence or simple words do matter, especially if they are non-judgmental but rather simply comforting.
Eventually my son has found peace and is doing very well and living a full life. It was an awful and hard journey for him and for all his loved ones but we are all very thankful that it has had a happy ending after so many years. And believe it or not, we are ALL better, more accepting, and more compassionate people because we had to travel that long, hard journey!
For further reading about how to hold space for someone who is suffering, read What it really means to hold space for someone on Uplift.com