Friday, March 20, 2009
Trying to tell someone who has never experienced depression what depression is like is like trying to describe a headache to someone who has never had a headache. People just don't get it, and they never will.
No one writes about this better than Therese Borchard of Beyond Blue. Here's the last three paragraphs from a blog post from yesterday:
"The pain of severe depression is quite unimaginable to those who have not suffered it," Styron wrote. "To the tragic legion who are compelled to destroy themselves there should be no more reproof attached than to the victims of terminal cancer."
Like Styron, I was both enraged and saddened that friends and family were shocked to hear that two doctors sliced me open--before full anesthesia kicked in--to save little David's life in an emergency C-section. Yet when I voiced the desperation of depression--which made the knife cut feel like a knee scratch--they often brushed it off, as if I were whining to win some undeserved sympathy votes.
But I should know better. Most people don't get it. And the day I get that through my head I'll be less disappointed.
Obviously, Therese touched a raw nerve. Her blog post (as of right now) drew an incredible 209 comments, nearly all of it along the lines of "my friends and family don't get it, either."
So, are we on our own? No, not really. Way too many of us, unfortunately, get depressed. Between those with major unipolar depression and those with bipolar depression, not to mention those with depression as a symptom of another illness, we are talking in the neighborhood of one in five Americans who experience major depression over the course of their lifetimes.
So, if your family and friends are deaf to you, all you have to do is reach out a little further. Literally, throw a stone out the window. It is bound to land on someone who has been through depression. You will have someone to talk to. Keep in mind that Bill Styron, cited by Therese, cultivated friendships with fellow depressives Mike Wallace and Art Buchwald.
Also, keep in mind that although most people don't get depression, they are not exactly hostile, either. Chances are, depression has touched their lives in some way. They may not understand what is going on, but a good many are truly moved by the suffering they have witnessed close-up.
Finally, be mindful of the fact that depression affects our capacity to process positive news. Friends and family may be more supportive than you give them credit for.