HOW TO HELP THE DEPRESSED PERSON

I had a mental breakdown last week.

It’s been a long time coming.

For too long, I have been ignoring the fact that I just wasn’t dealing with the grief surrounding the death of my mom five years ago.  Five months before her death I had become sober.  I forced myself to pretend I was living life on life’s terms.  I was sober now, I was stronger now, I was living life now.  I was wrong.

So much anger, resentment and grief filled my heart.  It was black, and heavy, and my life felt like wading through black tar.  Everything I spewed forth came out as toxic.  Life started to slip away from me and I had no need for it.  Slipping into the darkness, the nothingness, seemed such a viable option.

I lay curled up in a ball on my bed.  Mr C lying next to me.  And I snapped.

I wanted to end the pain.  I desperately wanted to end the pain.

Life, my life, had no meaning, no light.  I needed to end this pain.

I waded from one day to the next without purpose, without direction.  I felt numb.

I was battered.  Weary.  Hardened.  There was no room for Life inside my heart.

**********

I was told recently that to end one’s life is the most selfish act.  That the pain we inflict on others is the ultimate selfishness.  It’s not the first time I have heard this.

But what of our pain?  What of the wiring of our brain that constantly reminds us of how little worth we have in the world?  What of the world that constantly reminds us that if we just think more positively, have a better attitude to life, could just see the good, how much better off we would be?  What of that world that has no compassion, no understanding for the inability, in those darkest moments, to see any light?  What of the world that has no comprehension that in those moments, there is only darkness?  A darkness that fills you, that pulls you into the bowels of non-existence, that convinces you that your life has no meaning, that those you love most dear {and dear god believe me when I say that we love you so deeply} would be better off without you.  What about that?  Does it matter?  Or does it only matter that we would choose to exorcise that anguishing pain in the only way we can?

I am okay now.  I am not well.  But I am aware of my illness and I am alive.  One day at a time.

I have chronic depression.

Telling me to think more positively and find the light in the day is not going to help me one bit.  It just serves to make me feel more guilty.  It serves to make you feel better that you are happy and have done your good deed for the day.  It does not help me.  It is judgemental.  Please don’t do it.

I need you to sit with me.  I need you to not try to remedy my affliction.  You cannot.  Only I can do that.  Only I can do that in a way that has meaning for me.  My brain is wired in such a way that depression is likely to be a part of my life forever.  The goal is to find more better days than worse days.  So just sit with me.  Make me a cup of tea.  Tell me that you love me.  Yes, love me.  Because we need to believe we are loved.  We need to know that we belong.  We need to know that we have a tribe.  We need to know we can reach out.  Because we don’t believe we can.  We feel alone.  So very alone.

If you do not understand mental illness, that is okay.  But don’t offer advice if you believe that people who suicide are selfish and that people who are depressed just need to think more positively.  Rather, just walk away.  Let someone who understands the true depths of this beast help them.

Do not be unkind to them because you believe they are not trying hard enough, or are not living life in the way you think they should, or are being self indulgent, or too negative.  Rather, just walk away.

Do not criticise the choices that they make.  They are fragile and believe they have no worth.  They believe that they are judged for everything they do.  They believe that they have nothing to offer this world.  They believe that their very existence in it is an affront on the human condition.  Criticising their choices only reaffirms this belief.  Rather, just walk away.

These are the things that we know help depression:

1.  Good, healthy wholesome food full of nutrients that feed good things to the brain.  Make them some good chicken soup.  Sit with them whilst they eat it.  And if they can’t eat it, that’s okay.  Sit with them.

2.  Exercise.  A half an hour walk works wonders for the serotonin levels.  You get the sun on your skin and your heart pumping.  Your brain likes that.  Offer to go for a walk with the person.  We don’t always want to move outside.  That is okay.  Sit with them.

3.  Action.  It’s true.  We need to consciously make an effort to “DO” something.  This serves the purpose of taking our minds off of the thoughts swirling around our head.  Offer to take them out, help them clean their dishes, something, anything, to get them doing.  Sometimes, often, we won’t want to do anything though.  That is okay.  Sit with them.

4.  Connection.  The depressed person feels desperately alone and disconnected.  From everything.  And I mean everything.  Especially from those they love most.  Invite them over, or offer to start volunteering with them since the act of altruism is also a good antidote to depression.  Initially, they won’t want to do any of those things.  It is hard to venture into a world that you absolutely believe doesn’t love you or want you.  That is okay.  Sit with them.

5.  Good quality sleep.  We don’t sleep well.  My pattern is that I can’t get to sleep, so I stay up late.  I then do not want to face the day as I am tired and have not slept enough.  It is the washing machine cycle of sleep deprivation feeding depression feeding sleep deprivation.  Mornings are my worst time.  Do not tell me to get up early because the “Early bird catches the worm” or that the mornings are the best time of day or that I need to get to bed earlier.  This just serves to make me feel inadequate because I am not doing my duty of seeing the best part of the day.  Instead, just sit with me.

My depression began long before my mom died.  It began when I was a teenager, when I became drunk for the first time and tasted the sweet numbness it provided, when I embarked on my path of alcoholism.  I have seen little light in that time.  Because that is what depression does.  It robs us of being able to see the light.  But there has been some light.  Some rays through that thick black sludge.  Which is why I am still here.

I need you to be here with me.  I need you to help me see that living is a far better alternative than dying.  I need you to do that by just sitting with me.  By being with me.  And if you can’t do that, then, please, just walk away.

Much love,

 

 

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16 thoughts on “HOW TO HELP THE DEPRESSED PERSON

  1. You’ve really said it all here. I’ll just add one thing because know it all people who say to depressed people “You don’t need drugs, you just need to cheer up” drive me nucking futz. 🙂 That kind of statement makes me need to ask them a lot of questions – it goes a bit like this –

    Would they say to a diabetic “You don’t need insulin. Just tell your pancreas to harden up and behave properly.”

    Would they say to someone who received an organ transplant “You don’t need to take those anti-rejection drugs. Just tell your body you accept the organ and everything will be just fine.”

    Would they say to someone with high blood pressure “Just do some yoga, remove yourself from stressful situations, eat less salt. You don’t need to take drugs for this.”

    Do they refuse to take paracetamol when they have a headache? Are they living a totally drug free life?

    Have they trained as a doctor? A psychologist? Are they qualified to instruct others on this subject?

    When I ask these know it alls these questions, the answer to *all* of these questions above is always NO. To all of them.

    With depression, sometimes the chemicals in the brain are out of whack, and no amount of pushing, hoping, thinking positive, cheering up, or pulling ones socks up and hardening up is going to fix that.

    It is important for people with depression to know that it is ok to take the drugs their doctor prescribes, if their doctor feels those drugs are required. Needing these drugs is not a sign of weakness. It is a fact of chemistry.

    It is important to note that are really lucky in Australia because people can see their doctor and ask to be put on a mental health plan, which allows them up to 10 sessions a year with a psychologist bulk billed on medicare.

    Thank you Sarah for writing about this topic – the more of us who write about this subject, the better for everyone. In particular the better for those suffering from depression, and those around them who aren’t quite sure what the best thing to do is. 🙂

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  2. Thank you for this honest post – I feel like I slip into deeper grief as the days approach my middle son’s birthday (he died very young). You are so right about not preaching to people that they need to look on the bright side. A lovely friend once put it this way: You are in a hole. People come along and look down the hole and say things like “hmmm.. how are you going down there? Why don’t you come up here”. And then the rare and beautiful person will come down and sit with you in the hole a little while. Not because they are indulgent, but because they understand that’s where you are right now, you won’t be there forever but they can make it easier will you are.

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    1. I adore that anaology Robyna and very often that is exactly how it feels to me. I am so very sorry for your loss Robyna. There are no words, except that I would sit with you, just sit, and be there with you xx

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  3. I wish I could sit with you Sarah, make you a cup of tea, give you a hug, have a laugh, talk or just say nothing. I send you love, strength and hope for the future x

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