There have been times, in everyone’s lives, I’m sure when you’ve felt a sadness or frustration, a sense of not knowing who you are or if you’re getting it right. Moments where the possibility of not being in that moment, or in that life, were a tempting prospect. For most people experiencing low moods, the recovery is quick, instantaneous almost. You dust yourself off, tell yourself not to be so daft and that’s it, you’re all better. That whole episode probably took up less than a few hours of your day, but what if you couldn’t just dust yourself off and move on, what if you were held hostage to that low mood, what if you lived under the constant fear that even on a good day it could strike, and it may never leave this time, you may not get the respite you desperately crave where your every waking moment isn’t controlled by a negative alternative to every thought you have, even if it’s one filled with joy!
Take a moment now and picture how you might feel spending every day under the weight of a wish not to be here…….
All too often society lauds people who don’t “suffer with depression” as being strong and healthy and successful. I’m sorry, but take yourself back to the task I gave you above, take yourself to the lowest point you’ve ever reached in your life, even if there was an obvious reason for it or even if it was for just a moment. Once you’re there, add into that a feeling of having no control, no voice, no power to change the way you’re feeling; alone or with someone’s help. Now think about how much strength you need to ask for help or even just to go about your day to day life when you’re feeling like that. For people experiencing chronic or acute depression, whether episodic or continuous, they need to display that strength every day to get through even the most menial of tasks, they draw from that strength to get through each hour of the day, they use that strength to fight to stay alive. Depression isn’t a choice you make, it’s a cruel, indiscriminate bully that consumes the very core of a person.
I know from my own experience of depression, that I tend to withdraw from almost everything and everyone around me; in my mind, it’s what I need to do to survive. None of the actions of the affected are aimed at a specific person or situation and unfortunately, in my case, episodes like this leave me unable to clarify that or give warning, particularly as I don’t always have any warning myself. What would be helpful is just a gentle reminder that there is support there if I need it, when we’re low we so often forget exactly who we can rely on, trust or turn to. Being given space, and getting to know the person well enough to recognise that they’re in a dark place and to be able to talk to them about it without fear or stigma when they’re back in the light, can mean together you find ways to help each other through it. Trust that your loved one lives with this on a daily basis and they know how to manage themselves, but that if it is right to do so they will find the right place to get help. You may not know about these displays of superhuman strength, we’re not accustomed to screaming our successes from the rooftops, but what you will know is that your loved one is OK today! Ultimately, the most helpful thing would be for society to recognise the strength we have as people affected by depression, and to remind us of that.
A couple of years ago, I had a difficult year for various reasons not just associated with my depression, I think it was a birthday card that a very dear friend wrote, “Don’t ever let anyone tell you that you don’t have the strength of superwoman!” I still have that card, but even if I didn’t, I carry those words with me everywhere. It meant so much that someone else could see that in me at a time when I struggled to see it in myself and I’m so utterly grateful that S took the time to write it down to share with me. To her, I imagine that’s nothing; to me it’s overwhelmingly huge. I’ve been fortunate enough to have some time and resources to work really hard at finding tools and techniques to manage my depression, which I’ll be talking about in the future, but not everyone is as fortunate or able. Next time someone you know seems low, or even if you know they suffer with depression; tell them how much you admire their strength. They may tell you to f*%k off in the moment, but it’ll stick with them, and when that person is up to it, maybe you’ll be the one they talk to about the experience.
Depression and Diabetes are very similar in so many ways; both have a physical impact as well as a mental one, neither one is automatically perceived by the naked eye, both require more self-management than is often acknowledged – especially by those with it, both can consume you and both will be with you for life! Both will affect each other, but we can affect both.
I didn’t write this post to educate you about the types of depression or their causes, Mind, Samaritans or your local NHS/GP can give you comprehensive information and support about that. No, what I do hope I can achieve in this post, is to give insight into how we can support the people around us, the ones we love who are often at the mercy of this merciless disease. I hope it will start a conversation, I hope it will contribute to removing the stigma from Mental Health issues. I dream of a day where telling someone you have a mental health issue gets a compassionate, supportive reaction that leads to easily accessible and thorough care/therapy.
When I write about depression or mental illness, it will always be about my own experiences from the perspective of both someone who’s been through it and as someone who has loved people going through it. Just like Diabetes, Depression is a different experience for everyone; whether that’s the sufferer, those around them or the professionals they interact with. It is an individual journey and no two beginning, middle or ends are ever the same, to some, the end may be in the middle and the beginning at the end. What I write here is not intended as advice.