I have been writing a lot about depression (and anxiety) lately, and have been trying to be open and honest about it. As I was thinking about that today, I came to the conclusion that some people will not understand and maybe even don’t want to understand what it means to go through a depression – a real depression, not just feeling depressed because there is a difference. It is clear to me that there are more around us than we think, who just don’t see it as an actual illness and therefore don’t really believe us either. It’s a sad yet very clear fact.
Whenever I am struggling with something I usually go to my mom and talk to her about it because she knows what it means to feel the way I do. She’s been there, done that and can definitely relate. As I was talking to her today, trying to make sense of the thoughts I had as well as the frustrations I felt (over a few different reasons related to my illness) she told me about a person we both know who discovered a few years ago that he was struggling with depression too. He was a great advocate for the addressing of the issue, very outspoken and direct. He would lead meetings to raise depression awareness and to do his part in trying to help those, who weren’t suffering from it, understand what it meant to deal with this illness. He actually used a very interesting approach. He would introduce himself, and then say: “I had a heart attack”. Then he would introduce himself again and he would say: “I have cancer.” And he would introduce himself again and say: “I have depression.” After that he would explain that he didn’t have an heart attack and cancer, but he wanted people to understand how serious this is. What a great way of raising awareness. 🙂
That being said, I have realized myself how hard it is to get understanding and empathy from those who have no idea what it feels like. A “normal” every day task that everyone can accomplish without a problem, can become a giant obstacle for someone who is in a depression. You can sometimes make yourself function to a point, but that’s about it. You are so empty and unmotivated that you just don’t really have anything left to give, but if you have a family you sometimes have to push yourself to a breaking point simply because they need you. What people don’t get is that this type of functioning doesn’t mean you have to now push yourself with everything. We’ve already reached our limit and can’t handle anything else. We are trying to deal with the tasks we have to deal with and everything else has to wait.
Today, as I was picking up my kids from school, I stood there looking around, thinking how awful I really felt but how I had to put on a face to make those around me believe I am okay. I smiled at those who smiled at me and seemed calm and fine. Nobody around me realized how difficult it was for me to stand there, how hard it is for me to even do this today and how it really looked inside of me. Nobody knows! Unless I break down crying in front of you or I trust you enough to open up to you, you have no idea how badly I am doing sometimes. YOU JUST DON’T KNOW!
And because people don’t know and understand, they expect things from us that we just can’t do because it is too much. And yet when we try to explain why, we get people being unhappy, offended and frustrated with us. Now if we had a broken leg or something like that it would be a completely different story, but since you can’t see the illness (and we oftentimes hide it too because we don’t want to be mistreated) it seems to be okay to pretend we are just making it up and you can just make us feel worse by guilt-tripping us. If those who do that truly knew what they are doing to us, and how they put us in a horrible position, I think it would make them stop.
Luckily I have never felt or thought about suicide, but I started to understand why some people think it is their only way out. (It is no solution because I am convinced we will get to the other side and remember what we’ve done and we will also see how much heartache we caused those we left behind.) I knew several people who ended their life because of this horrible hidden illness. Some did it because they just couldn’t live with this illness anymore and some did it because on top of the illness they felt completely lonely and misunderstood, maybe even bullied by those who made them feel like liars because “the illness is just made up” and because they thought they wouldn’t be missed. It makes me so sad that anyone could feel that way, but as the years go by and I am going through depression on a regular basis, I can see how the already hard to deal with emptiness and hopelessness can push you over your limits especially if you feel that those around you don’t care and don’t believe you. I admit, I’ve often wondered how people could even do something like that, and yet I am starting to understand their thinking as the feeling of worthlessness is very real, add unkindness and rejection and life might feel as too much. 😦
I hope that by writing about it and sharing my thoughts and experience will help those who are struggling with it and shows them that hope is never truly lost and that there are people out there who do understand. We are never alone, no matter how this illness makes us feel and how much Satan adds to it on top of that. Some might ask what they could do to help, but there is not much they can do. You can’t take the pain and struggle away from a person, you can’t go through it for them and you can’t live their life for them. What you can do is being understanding and patient. It sometimes takes some time for a person to make it through a depression, but they will get there. Just show them you care and that you are there for them when they need you. Show them you love them. Advice and pushiness don’t help at all and just push a struggling person further away. This illness can’t be rushed. You can’t just say: “Go away”, and it will disappear. I wish it would work that way, but it doesn’t. Sometimes it’s a quick visit, and sometimes it takes a long time, rushing the person or making them feel bad about themselves surely doesn’t do any good. If you are a person who doesn’t understand depression at all, or believes it isn’t even an illness, the best thing you can do is stay away from them until they worked through it and don’t address it all. You can pretend all you want that you understand and believe us, but trust me we know if you don’t. We can feel it and oftentimes we can hear it in your choice of words too. As I said above, it only makes matters worse. Any type of guilt or pressure can lead to another crash, worse than the one before. Let us handle it and we will return to our normal self as soon as we can. Just be patient. 🙂 Once again I want to share the words of a man who inspires me in so many ways. I love how he worded this quote and the reason I love it is because he understands.