There is something which has been weighing on my mind lately. This post is going to be intensely personal and hard for me to write, so if you have something negative to say just swallow it back down.
I want to talk about depression. And by depression I don’t mean sad. For a lot of people when you ask if they’ve ever been depressed, they say they have, but they don’t actually mean depression. They mean sad.
Depression is when it’s hard to get out of bed. When you lose the energy to do anything and when you do your best to hide it not only from your friends, but your family. Depression is when everything loses its colour. Not once for a long period of time, but consistently, with it coming back just once you’ve thought that maybe, just maybe, you beat it this time. The people who try to help you are well-intentioned, but just not quite understanding what you’re going through. Sometimes the people who are depressed cut, sometimes they drown their fears in alcohol, but you don’t want people to know.
Because once people know the guilt comes. Why can other people seem to deal with this, but you can’t? The truth is that everyone has a different level of tolerance to life events and it’s impossible to compare lives like this.
Depression, at least how I understand depression, is when you are unable to react positively to things however happy they may be. A significant other saying that they love you is hard when you have depression because you feel guilty. You’re worried about dragging them down or you feel guilty because they need to take care of you. Even when you hear about happy things like a promotion, it’s hard to get excited. You can recognize that you should be thrilled about this, but you’re so tired, so weary, that it’s impossible to lift your head.
It becomes harder and harder to interact with people. People are loud and exhausting. You want to shut yourself away, but when you do you’re lonelier than ever. It becomes easier to talk to people through alternative mediums such as text or over messenger than through the phone. It’s hard as well, to get excited about the things you used to. If there was a video game you loved, or if you loved writing, it becomes harder to do these things. The less you do them though, the more miserable you feel and it weighs on you even when you try to stop it.
Depression does not mean that you are unable to smile. You can smile and joke with people, you can act normally on the surface, but underneath there is a numbness to what you do. Some people who are depressed describe it as if they are walking through a dream, for me it’s almost as if I’m swimming underwater or trying to climb up a steep hill. There is nothing peaceful about depression and you begin to dread certain things. It can become hard to function in simple ways such as commuting to work. You hate work and don’t want to go in, but once it’s done, you dread going home as well.
There is no place that is safe and no place that is an oasis of calm since depression is a battleground inside of your own mind. A lot of people don’t understand that, they want you to snap out of it, but depression is waging a series of battles in a much larger war. You may win a battle and earn yourself a brief reprieve, but the war still wages within you and if you ultimately lose the war, then you die.
People who are depressed often think about ways to end it, or if they aren’t thinking about that, they’re thinking about how they no longer wish to be here. Some people make light of that, mistakenly thinking that not wanting to be here any longer does not mean that a person is suicidal since they’re not actively thinking about suicide. Wrong. It is the desire to be here that curbs suicidal intentions and without that desire all it takes is one very bad night for things to be ended forever. The ironic thing about depression is that while the urge to disappear or sleep forever can translate into suicidal intentions, some of the time the person may be too dragged down by depression to work up the energy to actually go through and commit the act.
Depression is a series of extremes that people go through. There can be a lack of interest in food followed by gorging oneself on food (usually the wrong types of food). There can be too much sleep followed by insomnia that persists for days. A person who is depressed has trouble moderating their existence in the way that a mentally healthy person would be able to because it takes so much energy to do the small things that most people would take for granted. To go to work often takes up most of the energy that a depressed person has and even then, people may start to take notice.
There are many people who are depressed, it is a common affliction in today’s world and yet, there is very little discussion on it. There is a stigma against people who struggle with depression and a lack of understanding in regards to it. Not that I think that people are doing this out of malicious intent, but because depression is so intensely personal, it can often be mistaken for other things. People who know their loved ones have depression often fall into either side of a wide spectrum with some people coddling the depressed person until they feel out of place and abnormal, while others will tell the person to snap out of it because there’s no reason to feel that way.
The problem with the coddling is that it makes the person who is depressed incredibly aware of the problems that they are having and that these problems are noticeable to other people.
The problem with telling someone there’s no reason to feel that way is that depression may not have a reason. It doesn’t need a reason. It is not like manic depression which runs in families and may be able to be chalked up to genetics alone, nor is it like addictions where it is the withdrawal from a drug that has someone’s mood spiralling down. Depression can strike at any time and any place.
It is callousness which becomes the most detrimental in dealing with a person who has depression. There are different kinds of callousness, but if you coddle someone too much then they are never pushed to get better and stay in their miserable state. If you push someone too hard then they are unable to maintain your expectations and when it comes crashing down they are in a worse place than before. It’s common for people to say the wrong thing when it comes to depression simply because they don’t understand or are scared.
People who are depressed are this strange mishmash of contradictions and the world begins to make less sense as a depressed person’s reactions to outside stimuli become more erratic.
To put someone on medication for it is too simple. It does not solve the problem although it can help to alleviate the symptoms. Since there is no one sure way to be sure that depression comes from a single source, I am against medicating as a way to ‘cure’ depression. Therapy can be just as painful since depression is so intensely personal. Therapists who try to use the same steps which were successful with other patients can leave a person feeling drained and jilted if it doesn’t work with them. It is so hard to turn these negatives into positives and insanely easy to send someone spiraling down further into a pit made of their own negative emotions.
Stress is not a good thing for people who are depressed. Neither is pressure put on you by family members to seek help. It’s easy to become frustrated with depressed people because it seems like they are falling into the same loop each time, but please try to be patient with them. The fact that someone is still here when they’re dealing with intense chronic depression means that they are still fighting that inner battle every day and as frustrated as you are with them, they are that frustrated with themselves.
I wish I could end this post with a way to fight your depression. My weapons against it change every time since depression is not a monster that you can keep slaying with the same sword. It evolves and changes as you evolve and change so what worked one time may not have the same impact the next time. Do not lose heart.
Exercise is always a good idea even though the very thought of it can be painful for someone who always feels so exhausted. Music (preferably more uplifting or light-hearted music) can help as well. Read i that helps you or play video games. Watch television, but avoid the news if you can. The last thing that anyone needs when they’re depressed is to be reminded of all the troubles in the world. Set yourself a project, a low key project and don’t beat yourself up if you don’t meet your goals. Just try again.
Because if you keep trying, eventually you’ll make it. If you can’t make it, then set this project aside and try a different one.
For those of you who are unsure of what depression means or how it feels for someone who is depressed, please consider trying this interactive story about living with depression. It does take some time so don’t expect to breeze through it and don’t expect to have fun. This isn’t about fun. It’s called Depression Quest and I would highly recommend it.
For those of you who are depressed. Keep going. Keep trying. Reach out when you can and don’t give up because the more you stop, the harder it becomes to get going again.
If that fails, then there’s always Disney: