…and in my soul. Wanting to write about depression for a week by now, I became depressed several days ago. Maybe that’ll help? Nah, guess not.
What does depression mean?
Depressed and depression are words we hear a lot nowadays. It seems that everyone and his neighbour are depressed.
However, the term is highly overrated. Whenever that happens the true meaning of the word gets lost in the overuse of it.
Sure – we all have days when we feel down, tired, pessimistic, inadequate and don’t want to do anything as a result. But normally this will last a couple of hours or at most a couple of days.
The depression I am talking about here continues for several days or weeks or months (and for some of us years) when we are in a state of despondency, dejection, melancholy, overriding sadness, downheartedness, mournfulness and anhedonia so severe as to require clinical intervention. Anhedonia means that one loses pleasure in activities that are usually enjoyed. I had to ask my p-doc when he first used the word :).
Note that the main issues here are the severity and the duration. It doesn´t resolve itself, as it would under normal circumstances, so that is why medical treatment is needed.
How depression feels (for me)
The tiredness hangs as a dead weight around my neck. I don´t really know what to do with myself. Sometimes I am simply existing, because that is all I am capable of. My heart feels so sad and down that it seems impossible to pick it up again. I mourn my loss of hope which turns in despair which in turn pulls me ever more downwards. Whenever I think I can’t go further down, it turns out the bottom of the pit never ends.
In fact, it can get so bad and so painful that it becomes impossible in my mind and soul to live any longer with this burden. That is when I start thinking about suicide. (This has happened to me, but thankfully hasn’t in the last few years.)
It is vital to understand that we do NOT want to DIE, but that we can NOT longer live with the PAIN!
It is critical for those around truly depressed people to understand this. The intervention is geared (or should be turned) towards relieving the pain in the first place. Relief of the pain in turn takes away the biggest reason for wanting to commit suicide.
The reason depression happens to me is because my brain is wired differently, my brain chemistry works differently, I respond to life events differently. Bipolar (disorder) depression is a complex and serious illness.
What not to say
I hope that those who stand by a loved one or friend with depression start to understand that:
- We cannot “Pull ourselves up on our boot straps”;
- We can not “Cheer up!” or “Think positive!”
- We can not “Just get over it!” or “Just snap out of it!” either;
- To say that we “have nothing to be depressed about” doesn’t quite cut it;
- We are not “feeling sorry for ourselves”, so it’s no use to tell us to stop doing that;
- To say to us that “lots of others are worse off”, falls flat on its face.
Well, I could go on, but I am sure I’ve made my point…
What to do?
When someone has pneumonia, we don’t say to that person: “Hey, you’re not really sick, get out of bed and go have some fun. I am sure you’ll feel better!” Nor do we say to a diabetic that (s)he is better of without her/his medication. We accept that it is a chronic illness that needs to be treated and that it has consequences for someone’s lifestyle. A diabetic can not decide not to be ill and expect by choice to be cured of the illness. We all understand that it doesn’t work that way, right?
We might ask what we can do for the sick person. Maybe we do some household chores, shopping or something else practical. Maybe we make tea, sit by their bed, show compassion and give comfort.
In short, we accept the person with his/her sickness and take care of the person in a way that is beneficial to him/her. We respect the boundaries of the illness the person has and do our best to make the person more comfortable and at ease.
So why would it be any different with a mental illness?
To be continued
Please, note that I am not trying to be critical of anyone trying to lend a hand to a truly depressed friend or family member. But I think it is important to understand what this friend or family member is going through in order to give or decide to get adequate help. I am trying to show what depression means, what it does and what can be done. By no means is this post complete, there is a whole lot more to be shared in future posts.