Yesterday, Trey Pennington walked to the steps of his church and shot himself. You see, Trey had a disease, and yesterday he lost the fight. He had a very common affliction: depression.
I did not know Trey, we only met in passing and talked a few times on twitter. This is not an attempt to insert myself into his family’s very real tragedy. But I cannot escape the profound affect the news had on me. Hours before he committed the act, Trey updated all his photos on Facebook, talking about how he had loving being a dad, how he had loved his wife. He used the past tense, the decision already made. He signed off twitter, thanking his online and real life friends for being there for him.
He leaves behind six beautiful children, and a community that has over 100,000 members. At first there was shock and dismay, then sadness, then the inevitable ‘why didn’t he reach out’? It is a sad paradox that in the social media community you can be surrounded by hundreds or thousands of people and feel incredibly isolated.
He was passionate in his goal as a marketer, and social media leader. May he forever be remembered as that to those of us who interacted with him in the social sphere.
But how many people knew of his struggles? So many people ask now how they could have helped him or saved him, most mourn that his life was cut too short.
But for those of us that suffer depression, for those of us that have stood on the black abyss day in and day out, we closed our eyes for a moment. And we were jealous. His fight was done, his burdens gone.
You will say it is selfish…I will tell you I do not care.
You will say he left more problems than solutions…I will tell you I do not care.
You will say ‘think of his children’ and again I will tell you I do not care.
Depression isn’t just ‘sadness’; it is a deep undertow of mental brokenness that threatens everything you love. It steals your joy, your drive, your ability to love and to function. It is perfectly normal to for anyone who has been through it to want put all that down, to give up.
Every woman in my family has stood at that abyss. We have fought to varying degrees of success. I have self-medicated with alcohol, sex, and food. Even now that I have found a good regimen of medication, it wasn’t three months ago I was sitting in my bed and writing good-bye notes to my children in my head and thinking of a plan so they don’t have to find a body.
I go through ups and downs, we all do. So many people wonder how they could have helped Trey or anyone in the same position and I will tell you what I know.
Be a beacon to that person. Turn on your lights to show them the way safely home when the waves put them near the rocks. This does not mean to inundate them with trite phrases such as “It will get better”,”Don’t be sad”,”It’s not that bad.” It means to hold on their hand when they would cry, to shore them up if see them in distress, it means to hug them. Not the ‘how are you’ hug. It means to put your arms around them and wait. At first they will pull away, but hold on, and wait for them to really hug you back. Don’t be surprised if, when you do that, a person you have never see cry before cannot hold back tears.
And for those that fight every day, reach out. For the love of God – REACH OUT. To anyone. When you reach that place where you cannot break anymore, when the whispers of a forever peace haunt you, hold out your hand.
We won’t let you go.
(I am not allowing comments on this post, I do not want to turn a man’s tragedy into a discussion about me. Please respect my wishes.)