"Depression is like a bruise that never goes away. A bruise in your mind. You just got to be careful not to touch it where it hurts. It’s always here, though.” – Jeffrey Eugenides
In the past, I have written blogs on depression. I seem to write them when I am depressed; it is cathartic. Today I am doing well and want to share my observations about depression.
This is not a blog with a lot of scientific information. Instead, I am speaking from my heart and what I have learned from struggling with bipolar disorder and working in the mental health field for 12 years.
A simple definition of depression is persistent sadness and a lack of interest or pleasure in previously rewarding or enjoyable activities.
Most people misunderstand depression. Those that do not struggle with depression are very uncomfortable when around a depressed person. They desire to “fix” the person. I struggle with depression; the last thing I welcome is to be “fixed.” So many expect the depressed person to snap out of it! It feels like they are saying, “Don’t worry, be happy.” Sounds easy, but it is not.
I am writing from my experience, and maybe you can recognize yourself or a friend.
When I was very young, my mom called me her little Pollyanna (many of you will not even know what that means. Pollyanna was a movie about a little girl that found the positive in everything). I am unsure what happened, but as I got older, I found the negative in situations, and my pessimistic nature grew. (I don’t know if that was the start of my depression or because I turned 12.)
Throughout my teenage and young adult years, I had huge mood swings and displayed compulsive behaviors (shopping!) First, I would be very talkative, overshare, and unaware of others' space. Then, a few days later, I would pout, stay in my room, and be miserable and make others miserable. (signs of bipolar)
When I was 34, my depression manifested itself after I lost a child in an adoption failure, and a few months later, my husband left. I became so depressed that I stopped living life. Everyday life was almost nonexistent. I spent much of my time on the couch or in bed. The TV was on most of the time, but I didn’t watch anything. Because I had to support myself, I had to work and went almost daily. However, I was not a productive employee. Nevertheless, my employer was extremely understanding and did not fire me.
Major depression can be dangerous. A depressed person feels lousy about themselves, isolated from others, and loses hope. This illness often leads to self-abusive behaviors (cutting, substance abuse, and suicide). The person often is hard to approach because often it is difficult to penetrate the wall they have put up around them. In many cases, it is not that the person doesn’t want help; it is more like it is hard to step out of that dark place and get well.
During my season of severe depression, many tried to help me. Friends helped me get a therapist, researched available groups, and arranged for me to see a psychiatrist. I obediently went to these things but was so sick I did not do my part to get well. However, the church prayed for me, arranged several of the doctors’ visits, and some people took the time to listen without judgment.
After being depressed for such an extended period, it became comfortable. And I lost interest in getting better. Finally, I was able to move to a much healthier place. I was put on medications that worked, started taking an active role in counseling, and allowed my friends into my healing process.
So how do you help someone who doesn't want help? You can still be there for your friend or loved one; you might just need to take a different approach to the way you're supporting them.
1. Be available.
2. Offer help. Don’t be surprised if the person is not open to help.
3. Become informed. Do some research and ask questions.
4. Talk to someone yourself.
5. Set boundaries.
6. Don't force the issue or put pressure on them.
7. Don't avoid them. Being in contact with the depressed person is important because often, those who are continually depressed find that their support system has disappeared.
Today, I am doing well. My medications are at the correct dosages; I am living life, being productive, and experiencing happiness. HOWEVER, I still get depressed and unable to participate in life. My friends are patient, and I know they are praying for me.
I know this blog only touches the tip of the iceberg. However, I hope this has given you insight into this mental illness.
Have a blessed day!