Last night I was watching TV, getting cookies made to send to my brother on his mission and half-heartedly grading papers when I got a message on Facebook (of all places) from an old friend telling me that one of our mutual friends from high school had killed herself on Tuesday. I think I should be clear that, for the most part, the telling of the information in that particular way without any preamble or titling the message "bad news" or something almost took me by more surprise than the message did. What's more, I've lost touch with both of these people since I left home, so I don't feel as though I was personally responsible or feel like I'm in any huge emotional breakdown mode. What it has done, though, is brought back many memories of when my uncle killed himself nearly ten years ago.
It's also brought back memories of how horrible my junior high and high school years would have been if not for this wonderful group of friends who pulled me through. This particular girl was always happy. She had a beautiful smile and a wonderful sense of humor. She welcomed me in without question. Unlike so many other people, I rarely heard her join in with joking about others or backbiting. She was gracious and kind. In recent years, I know she'd been suffering with a lot of depression. As I said before, I don't know how long this went on - and I definitely hadn't imagined it to be so extreme that death would feel like the best option - but I know that she's found a release from that pain.
The culture of my church can be very secretive when it comes to "skeletons in the closet". I'm not entirely sure of why this is, but I've experienced it in my own family and seen it in others. Someone struggles with something that isn't "kosher". It's alright to struggle with certain things, but more embarrassing to struggle with others. I think that depression is one of those "others" - I don't think many members of the church recognize it as legitimate suffering. I think many people assume that if a person would just pray more, or get a blessing that life would just come up roses again. That feeling sad or lonely is only something that can be spurred on by sinful behavior. That my uncle and this dear friend are wrong and have no hope for recovery.
I can't believe that. I won't believe that. I've felt it. Depression runs in my family and I have been there. Not to the extreme of my uncle, but there are days when I feel as though I am suffocating under some invisible weight. Days when I would rather close the door to my room and be alone than see anyone. Days when I get angry about little things that don't matter. I don't know why the Lord made me this way, but He did. The wonderful thing, though, is that He's also given me the wonderful gift of faith.
I want to be clear when I say that what I'm getting at is in no way supposed to lead to the assumption that my friend was not doing these things. I would have a hard time believing that of her. All I am saying is that for me, when things get hard, my first reaction is always to turn to the Lord. Always. Thanks to the example of my parents who trained me so well, I turn to the gospel when I need help, and I find answers that are sent with peace and reassurance, even if the answer is only to endure a little longer before things get better again.
I love my faith. I can't imagine life being livable without it. I am amazed and humbled at the knowledge that I have a Savior who would die for me and a Father in Heaven who loves me and knows me enough to have given me the life that I have. I know that after I die I will be with Him, and with the rest of my family (and friends) forever - and that is the best feeling in the world, even when everything else seems wrong.