October 24, 2013

The right words offer hope in battle with depression

By Jack Smith

Bridgette never has a bad day. Her sweet and soothing voice is well known to customers at the Chick-fil-A drive thru in my hometown.  Bridgette always makes me feel better—even when I feel guilty for ordering yet another chocolate milkshake.

Her secret? Bridgette adjusts her emotional level based on her customers' first words into the drive thru microphone. If they sound grumpy, she dials down the sunshine. If they sound perky, she matches their emotions.


It works. I've never once had a bad experience in the Chick-fil-A drive thru thanks to Bridgette's sweet voice.

I think we can all take a cue from Chick-fil-A when it comes to saying the right thing in the right way to those suffering from depression and other mental illness.

Words can help or they can hurt. They can heal or they can harm..

I've found almost all people have good intentions, but I've also had some tell me they didn't know what to say to me or someone else struggling with mental illness. Maybe this list will help.

5 good things to say to those with mental illness

"I don't know what to say."

Nothing wrong with being honest with your emotions. If you can't think of what to say, just say so. Add a hug and you've just made somebody in pain feel better.

"Just wanted you to know I'm thinking about you today."

Short and sweet and perfectly appropriate. Knowing someone is thinking about you lets you know they care. And that's comforting and reassuring.

If it's hard or too inconvenient to say in person, shoot a text or a Facebook message to someone who's struggling. I've gotten a bunch of text messages, and every single one has been a boost to me and a blow to the demons I'm dealing with.

"I love you."

The three most powerful words ever spoken are surely "He is risen." The next most powerful three words ever spoken are "I love you."

Besides prayer, the biggest gift so many have given me during a tough time is their love. Sometimes it's shown by an act of kindness, other times just through these simple but powerful words. Hearing "I love you" without question has made me feel better when I felt rotten and hated myself.

The Smiths aren't really touchy feely types, and I'm one of three boys. We don't hug a lot, but I can't describe how much comfort and confidence it gave me when my big brother flew to Houston and dropped me off at The Menninger Clinic. I was scared and my stomach was churning with anxiety. It all melted away when he hugged me and told me he loved me.

There is never an inappropriate time to tell someone you love them. Especially someone who has been hurting and may not have the capacity to love anyone, especially themselves. The great thing about telling someone you love them is it makes you feel better, too.

I've never been comfortable telling people I love them until recently. Thanks to the grace of God, not only am I comfortable telling friends I love them now. I'm comfortable giving big hugs to anyone—my kids, my wife and even big, burly men.

Love is the most potent medicine on the planet. So just go all Supertramp and Give a Little Bit. You will get a lot in return.

"It will get better."

Everybody might not agree with this one, but it's helpful to me. It's helpful because depression is a great liar. When you are trapped in the hell of major depression, it's easy to think you won't ever feel good again. It helps me to know that's a lie.

"You can do this."

When I'm shackled by the heavy chains of depression, it destroys my confidence. The cruel bitch of a disease knocks me to the ground and puts its feet squarely on my neck, choking the life and the hope out of me. I begin to believe I can't beat it, that I've been defeated.

Yet the words of others often give me the strength to get up off the mat and fight another day. The encouragement of my wife, my family and my friends restore my hope. They give me confidence when all else seems lost. They give me a chance to win this war.

We can help people who desperately need hope with a few encouraging words, or we can tear them down with words that hurt. Let's choose our words wisely. 

 P.S. Thank you from the bottom of my heart to all my friends and family who've offered prayers and words of encouragement. They have made all the difference. 



  1. Jack, Thank you so much for blogging. I know so many are being touched by your words. It takes a lot of courage to put your personal life out there for the world to see but I am so proud that you are willing to do this in order to help others fighting depression. You and your family are in my daily prayers and I know God is listening and will cure you of this dreaded disease or at least allow you to live with it and get on with your life. I love you Jack Smith and I am in awe of your bravery.

  2. Hey friend! I read your blog like a novel and can't wait for the next page. I can feel your experiences through the way you describe people, events, and situations. Sharing these things enables me to be more understanding and compassionate towards everyone - not only those with depression. Your journey has become my journey, too. You, Jack, have always impressed me as a guy who is larger than life, so full of joy and passion. This confirms the old adage that we can never judge a book by its cover! We don't know what another person may be dealing with on the inside. So, we should all be like Bridgett at Chic-fil-a. Our words and attitude can and do make a difference. Your tone sounds so strong, so healthy. I pray the best for you each day. Our God loves us and wants good for His children. You are His hands and feet through your words. You are encouraging others who suffer the ravages of depression, and also those who don't! You inspire me and I KNOW you will continue to live strong. I love you sweet friend. Cathy

  3. Mackie Hughes JordanOctober 24, 2013 at 1:37 PM

    Jack, I posted a comment earlier, but it has " justappeared," " as my children used to say. I always liked you & your family during the years I worked in a Eufaula & would never have guessed the smiling, handsome Jack Smith who appeared to have everything going for him was suffering so. I, too, suffer from depression & know that the cheerful exterior often hides the painful interior. I can relate so well to some of your descriptions -- the one about chronic worrying in particular. Jack, I always liked you. Now I admire you as well. What courage you have! May God bless you and your family.

  4. I'm in your daughters math class and I too have bipolar bad depression and anxiety. My parents don't understand. I go to a therapist and she is making me feel so much better but my parents have just told me that she is not doing is any good and they are paying and getting nothing in return. I say she makes me feel better and they say you are just going through a stage and people have it worse than you. It drives me absolutely crazy! I have never really found someone who understands what I am going through. I was in dgroup yesterday and someone brought up your blog and it makes me feel so much better that I am not the only one out there who feels that way. Recently I have been so depressed I haven't eaten. I don't feel like opening my mouth because I always feel that someone will tell me that isn't the right thing to say or I am always wrong.

  5. Carol,
    Thank you so much. I love you and Terry and consider you great friends. Please tell Terry I said hello. Take good care.

  6. I love you Jack.

  7. Cathy,
    Yep the cover of my book would like quite different than what's inside. I hope Jan is doing okay. He's in my prayers. Thank you for your friendship and support. It means more to me than you know, and it always has.



  8. Mackie,
    Sorry about that. Should be seeing it now. Thanks so much for the kind words, support and friendship.

  9. I dearly wish I could do something more to help you. Your note is why I'm passionate about this blog.

    I'm afraid your parents may never fully understand. Nobody really can unless they've felt the heavy pain of depression and the unsettling feeling of mania or hypomania. I'm 42 years old and am still trying to understand the high side of bipolar. It's exhausting, confusing, worrisome and frustrating. Just know that you are not alone. Just be open and honest with your therapist. I've also had times when I could barely eat. Two years ago, I lost 25 pounds. People say take one day at a time. I say take one hour at a time. It won't be easy and may never go away entirely, so we just have to cope best we can. If you ever feel desperate, I'd ask your therapist who to turn to. Take care. I will be praying for you tonight and every night.

  10. Thanks, Amy! I love you too!!!

  11. Wow! You have always had strong and meaningful words; these are all that and filled with inspiration and peace. Coach Shoe and I think about you daily----We love you and pray that each day brings you closer to winning this battle.

  12. Jack,
    You are amazing! Thank you for being REAL.....

  13. Jack - I can't wait each day to check and see if you have added something new. Your blogs have helped me so much in understanding depression and what it does to everyone involved lives. You are such a strong person and have a huge support group. So many people in Eufaula and all around are praying for you and your family. We all know you can do this!! Much love and prayers for you and your family.

    Tammy and Eddie Thomas

  14. Mary Margaret StephensonOctober 25, 2013 at 9:58 AM

    You are in my thoughts and prayers today and everyday. And, I have no doubt that "you CAN and WILL do this" I hope that you and your family have a wonderful weekend and thanks for sharing your thoughts and feelings. You are very much an inspiration. Much Love to you, Mary Margaret

  15. So well said, Cathy - and I totally agree. I heard a message on the radio this week from a local pastor about "everyone you come in contact with has something going on that we don't know about ... some issues may be small but some could be huge. Treat everyone with a renewed attitude - as you hope they'll do the same."

    Jack, please know that your blog is helping even those of us who didn't realize we needed help. I pray for you daily! Let's do this - we're all with you! Lou

  16. I have had several bouts of depression and I never heard it described so well as you did. I am so sorry you have to go through this but I so admire your strength and your writing skills. You sure got that from your father!!He was a born writer as are you. I've known you since you could barely peer over the Thanksgiving table at your Uncle Jack's. I hope you keep getting better and better. Aunt June

  17. Thanks, June! I appreciate your love and support.


  18. Jack,I have failed to tell you and Barclay how much we care and love all of you. I have been in contact with Ann and she has seemed so very strong thru your struggle. She and I go back a long way. I treasure my friendship with all of The Ab Smith's clan from Geneva County. I also am very proud of your courage to share your story with other hurting people. Please continue your inspirational words for all of us and we will continue praying daily for you and family. I Love You

  19. Jack....thank you so much for sharing your journey. Your shared experiences, struggles and victories are compelling, inspirational and beneficial to so many. All of the Jaxons send their love and ongoing support to you, Barclay and family.

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