It’s that time of year again.
Sometimes I desperately wish I could explain what it’s like to be inside my head during the days of depression: how you can’t see the options, how the answer to everything is no. How you just want to sleep, or lay still under the covers and cry. How I don’t know what makes it come or go.
I wish I could explain having to fight your own brain – just to go out and be with other people. People that you love, but that you can’t seem to say a kind word to, because you are all prickles and thorns inside.
What good would it do, really, to try to explain? If you know, you know too well. If you don’t, frankly I think it would be wearying to try.
I was with a friend the other day and she told me that recently her husband became worried about her getting depressed, so he made her promise that she would get up and shower every day. You see, when she’s struggling, those things fall by the wayside.
She promised, all the while reminding him that just because she’s clean doesn’t mean she won’t be sad. We laughed together as she said it.
It’s funny because it’s true, and really it’s true both ways. There is no linear equation to this [Out of Bed + Shower = Happy]. But, taking a shower might be what you need to help you feel a little better and do the next thing and keep going. Sometimes it works. Sometimes it doesn’t.
I’ve had the same sorts of things said to me – if you know you’re sad in January, why don’t you just decide not to be? These people are not malicious; they sincerely don’t understand that in some of this I simply don’t have a choice. And once it hits, the choices I do have left to make become hard to see and even harder to make.
So why am I writing this today? Well, for one, it makes me smile a tiny bit to see how ridiculously predictable I am. More than that, though, every so often I feel the need to raise my hand and say “I’m here.” I’m not quite myself right now, and I will understand the next time you aren’t yourself either.
And, as best as I can, I want to say that dealing with depression is my responsibility. And it’s also the responsibility of the people that care about me. It’s true both ways – I wish it wasn’t, but it is.
If you’re depressed, you must make every good choice you can. You must find what works for you and keep doing it: prayer, exercise, healthy food, medicine. Getting out of bed and taking a shower. Reading good books, creating great art. No, it’s not a linear equation – but some things do help, and it is your job to find out what does and keep on doing it. And when you can’t make the choices, when you can’t even really see what they are, you must talk to someone who loves you. You must ask for their help.
If you love someone that’s depressed (and especially if you plan to live with them), well then, you must help them the best that you can. Please know that I am not saying that you are responsible for another person’s behavior – no one can do that for anyone else. You cannot control whether someone you love is depressed, or what they choose to do because of it. But you can watch, and listen, and know that their struggle is real. They are not laying in bed because they are lazy, they are laying in bed because facing anything else literally seems impossible. What you can do is pay attention, and know them well enough to know when to let them stay under the covers and when to help them get out.
I feel like this needs some kind of disclosure: I am not a doctor or a counselor, I’m simply someone who struggles with being depressed at times, most often in the winter. I know that people deal with depression that is much more severe than mine, and I don’t pretend to try and speak to every situation. I also believe that everybody, depressed or not, has their own brand of crazy.