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Letter: Reach out to depressed friends and loved ones

It was as if I was both deep within the darkest abyss and yet on the edge of a precipice. It was as if I was losing every basic instinct that keeps a person alive. It was inexorable that death would take me.

As I write these words, I have enjoyed almost 20 years of wellness and happiness that never before had been mine because my husband intervened and insisted that I get help.

How did my husband know to intervene? I was angry with him and impatient with our children. I was isolating myself in our bedroom, drinking wine and watching television. And he had frequently found me crying, when I thought I was alone.

I would never have asked for help because I could not even acknowledge the depression. It was a terrible character flaw.

I fit a description of the maladapted perfectionist that I found online – “fixed on a never-ending cycle of do more, do better, don’t fail, smile… do more, do better, don’t fail, smile.”

An inner-voice of unrelenting self-criticism reminded me that I was a fraud whose accomplishments were undeserved and overrated by others.

Consequently, I am saddened, but not shocked, when high visibility, successful, but deeply vulnerable, achievers commit suicide. Balanced precariously at the edge of the precipice, some cannot hold on without, and sometimes despite, intervention.

Yet, intervene we must. The upside of my experience has been the ability to recognize the signs in college students whom I have taught and the opportunity to privately share my experience and empathy. In the words of one who recently wrote to me, when we speak we bring light in their time of darkness, when they feel that they have absolutely no one.

One person can make a difference. Be that person.

Patricia A. Hutton, Ph.d


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