From a person with bipolar disorder.

My roller coaster ride wouldn’t stop. I didn’t feel so depressed that I didn’t want to do anything. Just felt an overwhelming sense of sadness.

Trouble with me is that I feel a need to reach out and draw comfort from others. Yet that kind of comfort is hard to come by.  What can they possibly do? My husband has compassion and that’s so good. I thank God for him.

What puzzles me is this: When a person feels so down that they become suicidal they are told that they should reach out. They’re told they should let others know how they’re feeling. Yet how many people really want to be told how crummy a person feels? How many people truly know how to feel compassion? Depression is a lonely state to be in for sure. It’s hard to find the kind of support we need.

For several years depression caused me to be tempted to take my life. My medical team had me keep an up-to-date safety plan to remind me of what I should do if I didn’t feel safe. There were four spaces for people I could talk to if things got bad. I had friends, though there wasn’t one I felt I could go to in crisis.

The crisis line became my best friend.

I’ve wondered why some people with depression decide to take their life. Others, though suffering, choose to live, no matter how dark their life becomes. What’s the difference? How can we persuade those who want to die that life is worth living? How can we persuade them to choose life, not death? How can we help them find meaning in life?

There are at least two ways in which people with depression can find the courage and desire to keep living. Two ways in which depression might not have such a hold on them. One is to create a life that is so precious and meaningful that you would not want to lose it. The other is to have a supportive ally who will give you love and to whom you can, in turn, give your love.

In 1946, in response to his experiences as an inmate in a concentration camp, Viktor Frankl wrote a book called Man’s Search for Meaning. Frankl concludes from his experience that a prisoner’s psychological reactions are not solely the result of the conditions of his life. They also come from the freedom of choice he always has, even in severe suffering. The inner hold a prisoner has on his spiritual self relies on having faith in the future. Once a prisoner loses that faith, he is doomed.

We who live with the highs and lows of mood disorders can learn from this. We know that we’re going to hit depression. It’s unavoidable. All of us have gifts we can use to create a rich life, one we would never want to give up. But we need to work on building that kind of life while we are well.

Sometimes depression grabs hold of us, no matter how meaningful our life might be. What then?

In his book New Light on Depression, Harold Koenig writes how we need a supportive ally who will say, “I love you, and there’s nothing you could do or say that would change that. I am with you now, and I’ll be with you as long as you need me. I believe in you.”

One thing Koenig said that resonated with me is that “Love—unconditional love—is the ultimate long-term antidote for depression, for at its core love is connected with faith and hope.”

I always read this unconditional love to mean the love we receive from God. However, I’m seeing more and more how it’s even more important to take that love God gives us and share it with others.

When we’re giving of ourselves in love to others, we tend to overcome the threat of depression and work our way out of it more effectively. When we concern ourselves with the needs of others, our own lessen. We forget about ourselves. We know we’re needed and it feels good to be needed.

Why would we want to end our lives?