Depression is not a choice that we can accept or not, and is one of the most helpless and awful experiences a person can have. Its feeling sad, sometimes feeling empty, sometimes feeling devoid of any feeling at all. There are times when depression can leave someone feeling paralyzed/monotonic. It can manifest itself in actual physical paralysis. I know, I have actually experienced these effects and many, many more.
If you are someone who cares for a person suffering from depression, try at all costs, to avoid judgements, avoid saying things like “you just need to pull yourself together”. These well-meaning phrases are harmful and can push a person down further. Don’t even pretend that you understand, unless you have suffered yourself, how the hell can you? And even if you have suffered, your experiences may well be different to another person in the clutches of despair.
What you can do, is offer a hug, a cup of tea, a notion that if they want to talk, you are there, standing side by side, shoulder to shoulder be that physically or at the end of a telephone.
People who suffer from depression often worry that they are a burden on others, so, as a result they attempt to distance themselves in the confused ideology that if they become distant then they will be less of a worry to their loved ones. I have personally tried purposefully to try and “break” close and very dear friendships for fear of hurting people, should my decision reach a conclusion of suicide. I know this reasoning sounds ludicrous, but unless you’ve felt such a darkness and for long periods, and repetitively over thirty years, there is no way you can possibly understand.
All you can do, as a witness to a person “under attack”, is to remind them you’re still there, but don’t try to force them to socialise or talk about what’s going on if they don’t want to. You can open doors, but the sufferer has to choose to “walk through the door”. This is a time when you may find a person asking for company, or it may be something they undertake on their own, for fear of shame.
Of course, there’s no shame, (although like it or not, that stigma does still exist in our society and more frighteningly in the medical fraternity) but a depressed person may very well be impervious to this reasoning.
One of my personal examples of “choosing” was to admit myself into a hospital with just one or two people knowing where I was, and with specific requests that I have absolutely no visitors at all. I emerged four weeks later. This was JUST the beginning of my acceptance and awareness that I had depression. I think I was in my early thirties. Now, if I look back at “who” I was, I can see that ever since the age of 10 I can remember feeling very low and was often bullied at school.
Now it’s really important that you, the companion, the Mum, the Dad, the adult Son or Daughter, Sister, Brother, the friend all have a right to feelings too! If a depressed person does something that upsets you then they need to know. In my depression, there have been times when out of caring I have bought gifts for people as it’s the only pleasure I got out of life. But that action in itself can be selfish. I’ve done this to my closest mates and family and they have opened my eyes, very carefully, to this selfish action.
Constant exhaustion is a common side effect of depression. Just getting through the day can be an overwhelming and exhausting experience. A depressed person may seem and look totally fine one moment and in the next moment feel tired and have no energy at all. This can result in them cancelling suddenly, leaving events early, or saying no to things altogether. Just remember it’s not about anything you did. It’s just one of the prevalent side effects of living with this debilitating disease.
Many, often assume people dealing with depression want to just be left alone. While there may be times when they (we) want their (our) space, it may also be that just having someone in the house doing something completely different is SUCH a comfort to them. Ask if they want to get a coffee. One on one time where you can bring them into a different “place” and where you can connect can often mean everything to them. There’s no harm in reminding them that you will be silent if that’s what they want or talk if they want. It’s ok to quietly ask “how are you?”
For goodness sake, don’t preach! DO NOT say “Don’t you ever talk about feeling suicidal, how can you be so selfish, what about your kids/wife/parents etc”. I had a cousin do that to me once, and all I can say is that this pushed me closer to the cliff.
Dr Tim Cantopher, sums up the last point of this “insight” for me in the title of his book. “Depression – The Curse of the Strong”.
Don’t regard a depressive as weak, WE are human too. I know not of anyone on this planet that doesn’t have some challenge of some kind.
I wish you all well and if you suffer already with depression, at least you know you are not alone, and it’s ok to get it out in the open and demystify this condition.
With Love, peace and hope