Nov 1, 2015

Posted by in My Viewpoints | 2 Comments

The Mindset of Depression

As someone who deals with depression, it’s hard for me not to notice the images that go around social media on a regular basis about mental health and how we deal with it in America. It’s also of particular interest to me whenever someone says (of shares an image stating) “I’m here for anyone, at any time, who needs to talk! Please come to me, I’ll listen!” This phrase, right here, gives me mixed feelings.

On one side, I’m always touched when people say this. It’s a wonderful thing to make such a gesture to your friends and family, and it means a lot. Having someone to talk to is something everyone needs, and the heavier the topic the harder it is to be a listener. So being willing and open to listen to someone who is depressed is a very big commitment.

On the other side though, it is a big commitment. Depression is a very heavy thing, and often it makes no sense. Even we who deal with it don’t understand it usually, nor what causes it. In my case, for example, I have a good life. My parents are together, my family is not abusive, my friends are supportive, I’ve got a home to live in, ect. There’s nothing terribly wrong with my situation in life. However, I have depression and it’s something I have to live with. Why? Well, I suppose it’s purely chemical, but that doesn’t make it any less pressing on me. Because of this though, it can make it difficult for others to listen to me, because there’s not much that’s going to poignantly stick out as what’s obviously wrong.

We, as a society, like to fix things. The first thing you have to understand about people who are depressed, is that you often cannot fix what is wrong. You may be able to assuage the fears that come along with it, which will ease it up a bit, but you cannot fix it. You also need to remember that you’re not trained in this (unless you are), and so you’ll only be able to do so much. It’s okay to recommend that your friend seek professional help.

The big thing that bothers me though, with the friends who leave that message, is that it somewhat shows a lack of understanding of the situation (I feel, anyways). I can only speak from personal experience, but I think the feeling goes right across the board for the most part, having spoken to others who also deal with depression: When we’re depressed, our ability to speak up and say so goes way down. The further we fall into the hole, the less able we become to tell you that we’re drowning. As friends, we need you to not only be able to listen to us, but we need you to look out for us. Pay attention to us, and if you perceive that we are acting off, say something. Speak up and ask us if we’re feeling okay. Usually, even though we cannot speak up for ourselves, we can answer your question.

Don’t feel off-put either if you have to ask us a couple of times, either. Please remember that society has placed a huge stigma on mental health issues, and so we’re doubly-worried about speaking up about it. The first is we don’t want to bother anyone with our issues, the second is we are afraid of being judged for them. On top of that, we need to feel we can trust you with the things going on inside our minds. Trust is a huge thing, and if someone who is depressed extends that trust to you, opens up, and talks to you about it; if you go behind their back and break that trust you are a scumbag. Plain and simple.

The main thing though is it just pay attention. Even if a person doesn’t open up to you [right away], the fact that you noticed goes a long way. It goes much further than just putting it out on social media that you’re available. If you notice the person individually, it means you’re not just posturing, you’re serious and you’re attentive as a friend. The person you reach out to might not want to talk right then, or be ready to, but you can be sure that you’ve really made a difference in their day. Suddenly they will feel like they’re not just someone that everyone overlooks and ignores. Now they’re a person who is seen, is cared about, and in general isn’t just taking up space.

Just that small gesture can make a big enough difference that a person may not take their own life. It doesn’t take much sometimes. However, if you ever feel that your friend is a danger to themselves, never hesitate to contact the authorities. Depression is a very dangerous beast, and sometimes we don’t realize how much help we actually need. It’s better to be safe than sorry, and even though they may hate you for calling someone to help them remember this: it’s better to apologize to them for finding them help and ask forgiveness, then to apologize at their graveside for not doing more and ask for forgiveness.

  1. I started writing a novel as a response and realized that really all that needs to be said is, “Yes.”
    And “I totally understand.”
    And “I’m pretty sure I just heard you giving permission for me to stalk you!!” 😉

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