One day I was getting ready for work and I heard a report on the local radio station that a 26-year-old woman was found in the river near Benham Falls. When they said her name, I hoped there was a different person with my friend’s name, but I went and checked her Facebook page and people were already posting about how much they would miss her and could not believe she was gone.

We were roommates as freshmen in college, and though we hung out a lot during the college years, we fell out of touch after graduating and I hadn’t talked to her for at least a year. I had no idea until I talked to some of our mutual friends that she had been depressed and that it was in fact a suicide. The only thing my mind could make sense of was that she slipped and fell and wasn’t able to swim back out.

One of my friends’ mom came to meet up in town with all of us for the funeral, and afterwards met up with us for the wake in a bar, where she told me one of the most important things I’ve learned as an adult: depression is a chemical thing. She told me that some people most often in their mid-twenties to mid-thirties can experience a chemical switch, when your brain chemistry rapidly shifts and you become depressed very quickly. I’m not sure if that is exactly what happened to my friend or not but it really helped to know that even though it was a pretty horrible reality, that it was explainable in a scientific way. The girl that I knew, who was so vibrant, friendly, caring, intelligent, and so many other things would never have killed herself in her right mind.

After that I started realizing that everyone I had heard of who killed themselves were not in their right minds at the time. Whether it was a housing investor experiencing panic during the collapse of the housing market or someone who had been suffering from long-term depression or another mentally-afflicting condition, none of those people would ever take their lives during the best of times when their minds were unclouded and fully engaged in life.

I’m not sure if it is helpful or not to disclose that I’ve never had suicidal thoughts, as everyone has a different experience with depression, but knowing about the chemical, scientific aspect of it before I knew I was depressed probably helped. I never planned on becoming depressed but I guess you could say that I had formed a plan for if I did, and that was to ask for help, even though I didn’t know how hard that would be until I had to do it. I want to inform people so they also know that if they ever fall into depression that it is something that can be helped and treated. I also want them to know that if their doctor is like mine and doesn’t push them towards all the different things they can change and try and adopt in their daily lives that they’re not limited to waiting for medication to make them feel better.

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