Dealing with Depression
Nine months ago I wrote a post called Affirmation Giveaway. It was a less-intense intro to this area but I felt it was a good start into examining my own feelings on the topic and the most important takeaway – I understand and I will be there if you need me because I DO understand. This post is more direct about a topic that tends to be misunderstood, shied-away from and even stigmatized: depression. I’ve started and stopped this post so many times becomes of that fear of being ridiculed, ignored or hurt by my honest. But after dealing with another episode this week, can’t pretend it isn’t here any more. It’s time to talk candidly.
Depression isn’t “Prolonged Sadness”
When I say “depression” I’m not talking the blues or grief or a bout of understandable but prolonged sadness. I’m not talking about the feelings of occasional doubt everyone has probably felt. Depression is more than that – so much more.
Depression, to me, is a deep-down, bone-crushing, soul-scarring, drowning-on-dry-land, intense wave of emotion. That feeling of not being good enough, as though the world is against you, that you are unlovable, unworthy, unwanted and as if you are wasting everyone’s time and precious energy merely trying to exist. Depression feeds that belief that we do more harm than good in this world and the world would be better off without us (that’s the siren’s song for suicide, no?). Depression is debilitating. It’s fatiguing. It’s heartbreaking. It’s lonely. It’s unexplainable. And most of it, it’s very real.
And there are those of you who sat up a little straighter, who nodded along, who said “Holy shit – SHE gets it!”. Because I do. I’m one of those people. I deal with depression on a regular basis – monthly if you believe certain people. In my little list below, I indeed fall into Group 1 – The Depressed.
My Emotional Groupings
I believe that everyone who comes into contact with depression will fall into one of three basics groups. This is not proven fact, there was no survey done; this is based on my interactions with individuals over 41 years of living.
Group 1 – The Depressed
We are the ones who understand depression on a fundamental, basic, “living with it” level. Those individuals who nodded along above. Those who might dare be hoping this post will give them a little lift, a little reason to keep existing, to keep trying. Those who see not an escape but a profound nobleness, even a personal sacrifice, in the act of suicide because of the prevailing thought that they are hurting more than helping and the world is better without them.
You are my kindred spirits. You GET depression because you have dealt with it or are dealing with it personally and regularly. I feel you. I get you. And I’m sorry that anyone else ever feels these same emotions – some more strongly than I do and some more often. I’m so truly sorry for that. I don’t have answers. I don’t have much in fact, except my own experiences and insights. And maybe those can help you at least a little. At least know…you’re not alone.
Group 2 – The Deniers
Those who will never ever understand depression. And frankly, they simply don’t want to. They don’t believe it exists or that it can really be “that bad”. They deny it! They’re the ones who say “Perk up” or “Just get some sleep” or even “Get over it already!”. They are the ones who believe suicide is cowardice. They don’t get sad very often and when they do it passes quickly. They have never felt that belief that their existence isn’t warranted on this earth. They may attempt to sympathize…for a time…but in the end they will walk away. This group breaks my heart because there are far too many people who land in here.
Group 3 – The Triers
Oh, the Triers – how I love thee! For they are every bit as clueless and lacking of understanding as the Deniers but with one major saving grace – they TRY to understand. They TRY to help the Depressed as best they can. They have this wonderful quality the Deniers do not – they EMPATHIZE. They want to lift up the Depressed and give them security and comfort and support. Their love is stronger than the depression, stronger than their own doubts in such a thing. Thankfully, I am blessed with at least five such individuals in my life and they have truly kept me alive over the past 20 years.
So many times I’ve tried to explain what depression looks like, acts like, sounds like to Deniers and to Triers. But, there is no catch-all for depression. I can only explain what it is to me.
Imagine feeling perfectly fine. Even intensely happy. Going about your day as calm and wonderful as can be. But then. There’s a shift. Like an internal earthquake that mixes things up. It’s as though the ground on which you stand has turned to muck and you’re stuck in place while the world moves around you. Then there are walls. They surround you. Box you in. Isolate you from everyone else. And the box fills with water. So much water. And it rises. From your feet stuck in muck to your head racing with thoughts of escape. Thoughts of “not again”. The water covers you. Then it fills you. You can’t move. You can’t escape. Then you can no longer breathe. And then…you no longer want to. You want to stay under that water. You want to leave those around you better off without you around. Without your intensity. Without your whining. Without your judgements and self-doubts and disbelief in all things good. You feel disconnected from everyone who lifts you up, who need and want you in their lives. You want to give in to the water and let it take you. In a matter of minutes you’ve gone from being a happy, loved, smart, resourceful and wonderful person to hating yourself, doubting yourself, removed from the world, sad, angry, lonely, isolated and scared. Tremendously scared…of yourself.
THIS IS MY DEPRESSION.
THANKFULLY, I have those around me who understand. I have Triers in my life. They let me hide for a while. Then they let me rail. Maybe they let me wallow. Then they quietly remind me of their love. They slowly remind me of my intrinsic goodness and my inherent beauty. And they help me drain the drowning liquid from my personal water closet and help me see the sunlight again.
But, that’s just me and my depression. Some others in Group 1 have found different ways to explain it:
- Depression looks like a Room – the closest visualization I’ve ever come across for my own feelings.
- What suicidal depression feels like – one of her most poignant lines: “The most difficult thing I will ever do in my lifetime is to not take my life.”
Tips for The Triers
Everyone handles their depression differently. It’s as unique as the individual themselves. However, that being said, there are a few tips that are fairly applicable to all of us in Group 1.
What NOT to say or do:
- GO AHEAD AND DO IT! Logically, of course, it’s understood that you don’t actually mean this. However, a depressed and potentially suicidal person is NOT logical. This is not reverse psychology or a challenge to be overcome for a suicidal person. It’s permission and a reinforcement of what they’re feeling. It may be the last thing you say to them. It nearly was the last thing a Denier said to me in college. Just…don’t.
- Get over it! Depression is not something to “get over”. Chronic, serious depression is not just sadness about a single event or series of occurrences. It is an overwhelming feeling of despair – and at times for absolutely no reason. There truly is nothing for them to “get over”.
- You need professional help. While in general this is probably a spot-on bit of advice, the time to say it is NOT during suicidal tendencies or a severe depressive episode. Just as there is a stigma associated with admitting to depression and suicidal depression, there are also negative connotations associated with therapy and psychiatrists. It is good advice for them to find someone to talk to, but find the right time to offer it – when they are calm, open to reason and (honestly) feeling fear/shame for their actions after an episode.
- What aren’t you on drugs for this? Hand in hand with the professional help statement above, drugs have a stigma and negative association for some. Previous negative experiences, loss of “self”, a sense of personal failure, interactions with other medications, intolerance – there are many reasons someone may not be on medication for depression. Unless you’re a medical professional experienced in this area, someone’s medical options are really none of your business. And questioning them may only make them feel more guilty for their choices.
- Any form of arguing, ass-kicking or fixing. During a depressive episode is NOT the time to argue with the sufferer. It is not the time to convince them how wrong they are or everything they have to live for. If they accuse you of something, don’t fight with them about it. If you know they would never think or say things when they’re in their “right mind” then don’t take it personally if they say it in this state. It doesn’t excuse their actions or words and you should definitely talk about how it made you feel… later, when they can process other people’s emotions. Theirs are just too strong to let anyone else in at that moment. Fighting may push them away and reinforce their negative beliefs.
- For the love of all that is good, DON’T PUSH! Let the situation work its way through for them, in their time. Be there FOR THEM and if you’re really there for THEM, then it shouldn’t matter if it takes a couple of hours or a day or two. If they feel like they can’t breathe or move, how can they explain things to you? Give them time and support.
What you CAN say and do:
Comfort, listen, support – these are the words you need to focus on to help.
- Comfort in the form of hugs, caresses, hand-holding, hot cocoa or tea, a stuffed animal, blanket – whatever they can tolerate and you can provide. Some people may not want to be touched, might not want to talk, have no way to articulate what they’re feeling. But offer them what you can and respect their choice to say “No” and even more their need to say “I don’t know.” Sometimes just having a warm body nearby, knowing they literally are not alone can bring about a positive change.
- Listen to what they say, even if it’s the most ridiculous nonsense you’ve ever heard. You don’t have to agree, just don’t argue. Sometimes, the depressed person doesn’t feel like the world understands them or that they’re not heard so the biggest gift you can give them is to hear them.
- Support their positives. Any small agreement that something is good in their lives, expound on that. Support those thoughts. Don’t push, don’t force. If they can see even the smallest light at the end of the tunnel help them travel closer to that light!
- Help keep a log. Daily, if need be. Don’t record all the things said or done. But if certain phrases are repeated to you, make note. If certain activities seemed to trigger the emotions or they helped reverse the negativity, write it down. Knowing what are triggers for their depression can really help minimize the downtime.
A few other thoughts from around the Interwebs
Boggle the Owl offers these thoughts regarding depression and those seeking help. Basically, hand someone the stick they need to keep fighting, whatever that stick might look like.
How I would love someone to build me a nest!!
A Cry for Help
Please understand – this post is NOT a cry for help. I am not suicidal and I am still going to be around bringing joy and silliness to the world. I do have depression at times but it’s mostly managed and the flare ups are few and far between these days. I have my triggers and recognizing those are a huge step in the right direction for me.
However, if YOU need help, please find it! Please know that suicide is not the answer (Trust me…I went down that road in college. It solves nothing and it does hurt those who love you). There are suicide prevention hotlines everywhere, including the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, 1-800-273-TALK (8255). There are local clergy who will talk to you and there is medical assistance available. If you can find help nowhere else, contact me. However you can reach me – comment here, email me, Facebook, Twitter, whatever! I’ll do what I can to be sure you see the sunlight again. Because in addition to being a Depressed I’m also a Trier. I empathize with you and I will help you! We all deserve to be here, we all deserve to be happy.
XO – T.
Please remember – I am NOT a medical professional. There is no medical advice in here. I’m just a woman dealing with depression and these are just observations and my own ramblings. Please seek proper assistance if you need it.