Let’s talk about the elephant in the room. That topic that everyone wants to chime in, but most don’t even understand it. That topic that carries more stigma than being a convicted felon. That topic that is as lethal as cancer, but those who have it are treated as lepers. That topic: Depression.
First let me say that I am not a doctor, counselor, therapist, or any other professional that treats or diagnoses any type of illness, especially those in the mental health arena. That does not mean I don’t have experience with this. I do. Quite a bit, actually. I have been diagnosed twice in my life with depression. Mine, I will call, situational. It is something that is not chronic, long-term, or due to my own body’s systems (for the most part). It is brought on by life’s circumstances or changes. It is where I find myself with no energy, no motivation and prefer to isolate myself. I don’t feel as though I should be around others, completely stress over the smallest things, don’t complete tasks, and stop taking care of myself. And although it is a type of depression, there is no feeling of wanting to end my life. It is treatable; it is temporary.
I am also a mom to a child (well ok, he’s an adult) that has chronic depression and anxiety. It is not situational, but situations come up that intensify it. It is not temporary; it will affect him the rest of his life. I have experienced being on the the other end of the phone when he proclaims he can’t keep up the charade. I have experience of being in the room when he is pacing the house during an anxiety attack brought on by the actions of another (something you and I wouldn’t even bother to be bothered). I have experienced the heartache when he truly cannot go on and attempts to make it end.
What I want to say will never be enough. I am angry at some people for their ignorance. To say that someone has a choice or that happiness is a choice. Or to say that someone is selfish and certainly didn’t think about how this would affect his/her family, friends, etc. Clearly, there is a complete misunderstanding. Most who suffer believe that they are burdening their loved ones by being around. They are in a tremendous amount of pain – all of the time. Their way to stop the pain is to stop living, because living is too painful. And that can be situational or chronic.
What I want to say will never be enough. I am heartbroken by the stories I keep reading about those who lose their battle. Depression, like so many other illnesses, takes our loved ones before we are ready. And sometimes we don’t even know they are sick. Mostly because no one wants to admit it. No one wants the stigma that’s attached to it. So they pretend. I can tell you if you would ever meet my son, you wouldn’t know. You would think I’m lying. He would be chipper, polite, outgoing. But everyday, he fights. He fights the demons that try to take away his life. He fights to keep moving, to focus on the good things, to smile. He is not alone in the fight.
What I want to say will never be enough. I am hopeful. As the stories break my heart and the comments by those who don’t understand make me a little upset, we are at least talking (or arguing) about a topic that has been shoved under the rug for far too long. We are beginning to see schools take a look at mental health as seriously as test scores. We are beginning to see social media light up and post ways to find help. We are beginning to see a government to start looking into better mental health services for all people.
But I do have this to say:
If you have never experienced depression of any kind, or have never had a close relative or friend seized by it, before you say or do anything, educate yourself. There are plenty of scientific, medical, professional organizations and studies that can give you factual information. Do not ever tell someone, especially if they are coming to you for support, that they should just get over it, or that happiness is a choice, or they are being selfish. Listen. Just listen. And if it’s serious enough, get help for them.
If you are going through this awful illness, I am so sorry. I will not say I understand, because every case is different. What I will say is that you matter, every day, you matter. It may be hard to see it, but I believe it. I also know that it’s so hard to reach out to anyone, but I beg you to please reach out. You may not believe that anyone cares about you, but I assure you there is someone that does.
If you have a close relationship to someone who is depressed, I am so sorry. It is a daunting task to watch someone you love go through the depths of this illness. It is not your fault. I urge you to get help to manage through this and get tools to help you support your loved one. Take care of yourself (your health) so you can be at your best to provide the love and support needed.
The best we can all do with this is to show love and support for one another. We can smile at each other when we pass by in the grocery store. We can offer a helping hand during math class to a classmate who struggles. We can stand up for one another when someone is being unkind. And we can all hug and say “I love you” to those we are close to…no matter how awkward it might seem. It just might be the words, the smile, the helping hand that keeps the person suffering with us a little longer.