Those statements seem pretty similiar. In fact, in a lot of scenarios the latter is the immediate follow-up to the former.
But sometimes it isn’t that simple.
We don’t like to think of sadness or being down as just a natural state of being, and in a perfect world it wouldn’t be. Low moods would be the result of some life event, be it stress from work, losing money, relationship problems… the list goes on.
But what about when there is no reason?
You’ve got a great job, a partner who cares about you, good friends… so what’s with this low mood you can’t shake? The sun is shining, that yoga class you were looking forward to just yesterday is on, and you’re meeting up with a friend for brunch later… but the mere thought of getting out of bed makes your eyes prickle.
Excuse the overly peppy, slightly cheesy example. It does serve to illustrate a point though. There’s no logical reason for you to be upset.
But depression and anxiety don’t follow logic. They aren’t rational things.
It’s easy to grasp at straws here and seek some kind of reasonable explanation for your feelings. If there’s some sort of causation, tangible or intangible, that indicates you have some sort of control over it. If you have some sort of control, maybe you can prevent it from causing you these feelings again later.
I hate to be the one to burst your bubble… I really, really do, but sometimes those explanations don’t exist. You’ll wake up and immediately want to go back to sleep. Not because you’re tired, not because your bed is just oh-so-comfy, but because being asleep is the only way to escape the emptiness. If you’re unconscious, you can’t be acknowledging those thoughts that chatter away in the back of your mind, whispering harsh words and questioning life at all.
That’s dark, I know it is. I’ve lived it, and frankly, it scares me that at some point in the future I’ll live it again. It happens every so often, thankfully less and less so now, but it still happens.
The good news? It isn’t forever. It might feel like it will be when it happens, but trust me, it will pass. Know that you aren’t alone, and that people still love you. You may want to push them away because you feel like you’re protecting them. If they care about you, they will actually want to help. Shutting them out isn’t saving them, it’s just hurting you both.
Sadly, it’s not something everyone can deal with and support. It takes a strong character, but when someone has seen you through a period of you at your worst, you hold onto them and you don’t let go. I’m not saying overburden them with every thought or worry that goes through your mind, but know if you need to, they’re there to talk to.
Depression isn’t an indicator of weak character. Hell, depression and anxiety can be the cause of some of the greatest strengths of character possible; personally experiencing those lows often lead to an innate desire to improve the world and the lives of others.
Woody Allen, Bon Jovi, Zach Braff, Jim Carrey, Winston Churchill, Kid Cudi, Hugh Laurie… you can probably see where I am going with this, but all of these people have, or have had, a major depressive disorder. And those are just a few examples of a very lengthy list.
Depression does not define you. A lot of the time, it can make you. It’s hard, so fucking hard, but push through it, and know that you’ll be stronger when you do. Sometimes it’s just baby steps; you got out of bed today and made yourself a cup of tea or paid your phone bill. You know what? High five. That’s awesome.
It doesn’t matter how small these steps are, still acknowledge them as achievements.
Now, for anyone who hasn’t suffered depression… this post may seem a bit irrational. I know it’s hard to understand when you haven’t lived it (though sometimes I have to remind myself of that).
Here’s an easy cheat-sheet for a few things to be mindful of:
- By now, you’ve probably got that even though the answer to “Are you ok?” may be a “No”, the answer to the question “What’s wrong?” may not even exist. So don’t be surprised or offended when someone answers “I don’t know” or even “Nothing”. That’s just their way of saying “Nothing I can physically put into words or rationally explain is causing me to feel this way”. It sucks because if there isn’t something you feel you can fix, it can be hard to know how to support someone. Just be there, even if it’s just to hold their hand or reassure them you’re a phone call away.
- “Try to take your mind off it” or “Find something to distract yourself” isn’t going to work. There’s no one thing their mind is on… It’s more a general feeling of sadness or emptiness; it engulfs everything. If that sounds scary to you, imagine how it feels to them. They’re going to need to wallow, and there’s nothing you can do except ride through the storm with them.
- “Do something that makes you happy”. Except the things that make them happy no longer will. See point two: those feelings of hopelessness tend to take over everything.
- “It could be worse, you could [insert bullshit scenario here]” You don’t know how they’re feeling, and maybe you’re right and it could be worse, but it also could definitely be better. Telling them their scenario isn’t comparable to something else just makes them feel like you’re trivialising their problems.
- It’s tempting to try to offer solutions but the lack of a reason makes a solution impractical. If someone is telling you they feel like this, they aren’t asking for advice, they’re just looking for someone to listen. So just do that.
- Remember, how they’re feeling now isn’t a reflection of who they are as a person. Depression is hard to live with: you don’t want to watch someone suffer through it and be difficult to be around, and they definitely don’t want to suffer it and put you through that. It is, however, temporary. Like any illness, it is something they are afflicted with that will cause them to behave differently while their body works to right itself. You just need to show them the support you’d show anyone feeling under the weather: patience and love.