We don’t like to talk about it, but there is a dark side. If you’ve never experienced depression you would never know, never understand. Heck, I’ve been through it many times myself and I don’t understand it. For me I think that’s the hardest part about this illness, the utter lack of mental control. Not being able to trust your own thoughts. Is this real or fake? Rational or irrational? You don’t ask these questions out loud. Revealing the dark thoughts and emotions somehow make it more real, more terrifying. Revealing them to those you love seem to distort you beyond the person you want anyone to see.
I guess that’s always been my struggle. I hate anyone to see my weakness. Just proving I am what I feared: weak, incompetent. My greatest fear is that I am not enough. Revealing this huge weakness just proves it. Another symptom of the illness, emotions and thoughts lean towards all encompassing. I can’t just have a flaw, I am flawed. Uncontrolled my emotions can define me.
Over the years I’ve been able to put up a pretty great mask. What can I say, I’m southern. For years no one knew the smart, funny, popular, pretty girl was hurting so deeply, so profoundly. I’ve fooled many a doctor and counselor telling them what they wanted to hear. I told them all what they wanted to hear. Those dark thoughts and feelings so extreme I knew they would frighten “normal” people; they certainly scared me. How can I explain it?
I can remember many a night in grad school, a few times in undergrad, not being able to think. My mind felt like quick sand. Every thought took great effort and energy, like pushing through solid. Everything left me feeling so incredibly drained. Several times I’d lose track of time, only to find 30 minutes later I’d checked out staring at the wall.
It feels like a physical weight, a physical darkness pushing and holding you down. At first I’d fight it, but eventually the fighting gave way to numbness, emptiness. I would collapse in a fetal position, silently sobbing just wanting it to be over. Sleep felt like my only escape.
I would never wish such darkness on any other living person. Its horrible. However over the years I have found certain mindsets that can help pull me out of it, as well as ones that don’t:
-I’m not sure how to word this. Don’t put your fate or outcome on someone else. Somehow I think this one’s harder in marriage. But it is not up to someone else to pull you out of it. Blaming others for your state of being helps no one. Take ownership of yourself and your own outcome.
-Don’t watch too much TV. Sometimes you just need to check out and escape mentally, but too much TV can make it worse.
-Fight it. Fight like hell with everything you’ve got. It’s easier to said than done depending on how deep you are in it. Don’t wait until it’s more than you can bear before you stand up against it. (Ephesians 6:10-18)
-Change your environment to the best of your ability. This can range from as simple to going outside and standing in the sun for 5 minutes to changing jobs (I have done both).
-Write down positive truths. For me this is scripture. Anytime I come across a verse on who God says I am I write it down. Regardless of what I’m thinking I can fight the lies with this.
-Go through the motions. Try to find some normalcy in your day to day. It helps me to schedule things out.
-Take a nap, but don’t stay there. Set a timer and get up when it goes off.
For friends and family:
-Don’t ask us if we’re sad; it’s insulting. Being sad and being depressed are not the same.
-Don’t take it personally. Now is not the time to be a victim, it will only make us feel worse.
-Fight for us, especially when we can’t fight for ourselves. Let us know we’re worth fighting for.
- Do NOT discount the reality of the situation. In the past I’ve had some real ignorant assholes tell me that what I was feeling was not real. Do not judge something you do not understand. I can assure you it is very real. Making any statement in this regard will hurt your relationship with this person.
-Be honest with us. Speak truth into the darkness and lies that can cloud our mind. You aren’t allowed to say what we are feeling is stupid but you are allowed to say that a particular thought is a stupid lie.
-Don’t pretend like nothing is going on and everything is fine. It makes us feel like you don’t care about us.
-If you don’t know what to say, distract us. Suggest fun things to do, movies to watch, ice cream to eat, funny stories you’ve heard. Keep asking; don’t give up. My dad once chased me around the house and dumped maple syrup on my head to make me laugh.
-When all else fails just hold us.