Oliver: Depression can be heavy burden to bear

“Your joy is your sorrow unmasked. And the selfsame well from which your laughter rises was oftentimes filled with your tears ...” – Kahlil Gibran

A sorority sister left that poem anonymously in my mail slot my sophomore year at Northwestern University.

My father had died shortly before I returned to class that year, no easy thing for a 19-year-old kid to handle.

I thought I had been putting on a brave face, denying to the world that what had occurred had shaken my world to its very core.

I learned then that sometimes one can hide one’s true feelings, and sometimes one cannot. Or more accurately, some can do it better than I.

I also learned that we can never really know what is going on in the mind of another.

An event that might not seem all that big of a deal to one person just might be the thing that puts another over the edge. And a smile just might mask a sorrow beyond words.

Who are we to judge the pain of another?

That Gibran poem came to mind again upon the news of the suicide of country singer Mindy McCready.

I’m not follower of country music, and I wouldn’t recognize a McCready song if I heard one.

However, her struggles with depression, domestic violence and substance abuse transcended her musical sphere.

At 37, McCready had been through more than a lot of us will face in twice that many years.

Sadly, the pattern of her life and eventual death are all too familiar.

She had attempted suicide more than once. She battled drug and alcohol addiction. She had been to rehab, even appearing on the “Celebrity Rehab with Dr. Drew” reality series.

Yet she never really was able to get off her own life’s roller-coaster. And even to the end, she put on a brave face and vowed to continue.

Just last month, her live-in boyfriend, record producer David Wilson, was found dead on the porch of the Arkansas home where McCready later committed suicide.

It was a sad end to a troubled life.

As always happens in these sad stories, there are those who wag their fingers and pass judgment on the “chaos” she and others like her bring upon themselves.

What they fail to appreciate are the depths of pain that depression can bring. If only it were as easy to dispel those inner demons as these critics would have us believe.

Even here, a spike in suicide deaths in 2010 led to the formation of the McHenry County Suicide Task Force. Sadly, the trend is continuing.

For some, the winter, with its shorter days and increased isolation, poses an additional challenge.

How disheartening that someone would think it would be funny to pretend to have seasonal affective disorder in order to “dupe” a Northwest Herald reporter.

Emotional pain is hardly a joke, Justin Stone. Perhaps when you grow up, you’ll understand.

For those who are sincerely struggling, please hold on.

If you need help, please remember that the McHenry County Crisis Line is available 24 hours a day at 1-800-892-8900.

And know that you are far from alone.

• Joan Oliver is the assistant news editor for the Northwest Herald. She can be reached at 815-526-4552 or by email at

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