Depression is a difficult thing to talk about. I know, because I suffer from it. Lock, stock, and barrel, I deal with depression and anxiety both. I do think the stigmas around mental illness are slowly beginning to change, but preconceptions and judgements still linger. Even when people mean well, it can still be a challenging topic to deal with. Especially since these disorders are largely invisible.
In some ways, I think some of the difficulties surrounding depression (and anxiety) can be attributed to the language we use.
“I’m so anxious about my meeting today! I can’t wait until it’s over.”
“Ugh, I’m so depressed they got rid of the pumpkin spice latte already. It’s my favorite!”
Sound familiar? The fact that we use the same verbiage to describe both fleeting emotions AND majorly debilitating illnesses often makes it difficult to be taken seriously, no matter how well-meaning someone might be. No, a walk around the block will not make me less depressed. Unfortunately, encouragement to look on the bright side will not make my anxiety any better. But someone listening, just being there, or simply acknowledging how difficult things may be can sometimes make a world of difference. And if you aren’t sure what might help? Ask. It’s that easy. A very dear friend recently asked me what helps when I am feeling bad, and I felt so seen. His kindness in that moment made me so grateful. Similarly, I almost cried when my doctor described panic attacks as one of the most terrifying experiences out there. Up until that point, the episodes I had experienced were described to me as “only” panic attacks (as opposed to a cardiovascular issue). The validation and relief that came with that simple shift was staggering to me. I felt seen. And I felt understood.
Perhaps the most difficult thing to explain is when people say you can “just ask” for help: “Just reach out — I’m here anytime!” Unfortunately, depression is insidious in that way. It isn’t simply feeling sad. To me it feels more like emptiness. Like inertia. All the color drains from the world, I can’t appreciate any of the good things in my life, and I want nothing more than to curl up into myself and cease to be, for fear of being a bother to anyone. As much as I try to “logic” myself out of negative self-talk, on the bad days, you can’t convince me I am anything other than lazy, weak, a downer, a failure, and a burden to everyone I care about. It takes an immense amount of willpower to even get out of bed some days, much less send someone a text that I’m feeling a little down. (I won’t ever say more than that, for fear of being a burden. Or a downer. You see? Insidious!) That being said, if I can get there, if I can send that little text, I am forever grateful if someone says, “Hey, you’re not a bother. I know it’s hard, but you’re strong. I believe in you.”
I had a rough day recently, which made me think I should put some of this out there, in the hopes that maybe someone sees this and feels a little bit less alone. Sometimes, that can make all the difference.