I want to add on to what I wrote about last time – which, admittedly, was fairly off-topic in regards to what I had initially started this blog for. But I now know it is important for many people who have come across it, so it has been entirely worth it, and I’m putting it in the category of “things I care deeply about.”
It has been over a month since I wrote that last entry, and I have had some good time to think about it all. I still have battles with myself over whether I take the last post down or not, but it has lasted so far. When I had written it, and actually published it, I sat at my computer desk in a state of suspense for many long moments afterwards. I realised I cared a lot about being judged, so to me the act of publishing this piece of written thought was emotionally brave (and terrifying). I was worried people would see it as a form of attention-seeking, which it was not. I was worried people would look at me differently, and treat me differently; even those who have known me all my life as the person that I am. For the most part, though, I figured there would be two main outcomes: those who did read it wouldn’t mention it, or they would tell me to “toughen up” or give me some equally supportive suggestion.
To be honest, I would have been very surprised if anyone even read a portion of it. But after I posted the ramblings of this strange, airy-fairy girl, someone on my personal Facebook page clicked the “Like” button for it. ‘That’s nice,’ I had thought to myself. ‘My friends are so supportive.’ I figured that this person was just letting me know they acknowledged I had written something. I truly didn’t expect anyone to read through it all.
Very soon, though, as I still sat there at my desk with blurry eyes from uncovering certain memories I had buried unthinkably deep down, there came beautiful messages, comments, texts and emails. Some were from people I hadn’t spoken to in years. Some were from people I hadn’t even spoken to at all. It brought me to tears realising the amount of people in my immediate life who could relate to what I spoke about – it was incredible, and tragic. And yet there we were, chatting away to each other, recognising something in each other, and realising we weren’t alone.
It goes without saying that you are never alone in what you are feeling – someone, somewhere, is feeling the exact same thing, and countless people before that time have also gone through it. And even though I always knew that, it was something else to suddenly be connected to so many people who could relate to my written words. Perhaps even more amazing was the amount of people who couldn’t exactly relate to it, but still reached out to demonstrate that they care. People right there help restore some of my faith in the human spirit.
That’s what I want to talk about in this post – understanding, and depression. Not understanding depression, because I really don’t think you ever can! When you have it, it is different for everyone of course, but I liken it to a cloud of black smog with suffocating tendrils that seems to know exactly what to do to smother you down to a low point. And if you have never felt this depression thing, or anything like it, then how can you possibly be expected to understand what it’s like? You can’t. You also can’t expect someone with it to explain it to you so that you will understand what it’s all about and what it feels like. If we accept this, it can take a lot of frustration out of some situations.
If there is someone in your life who you suspect may be haunted by a nasty depression demon or similar, the first thing to remember is that you do not need to understand it. If you have never gone through something like this, then it will probably be impossible for you to understand no matter how hard you try. And that is absolutely okay. It is absolutely okay to have no idea what this person is feeling, or why. Equally, it is not okay to tell them that what they are feeling is made up, ridiculous or insignificant. It is not okay to tell them to “harden up”, to “build a bridge and get over it”, or to “snap out of it”. If you have someone close to you who is dealing with something unexplainable like this, please know that in order to support them you do not have to understand – you need only be there for them. That’s all. If they need to be held, then hold them. If they need to talk it out, then let them talk – you don’t have to understand the ins and outs of what they’re saying, and you probably won’t, but simply being there and letting them know that they aren’t alone in this can lift the darkness significantly for someone struggling. And remember to look after yourself, as well; it can take an emotional toll on you to be there for someone who is going through a situation you are totally unfamiliar with, so do what you need to do to take care of yourself. If you need a break from it, you should not feel guilty to do so – just like you are supporting this person close to you, they should also recognise that you may need some time here and there, and not make you feel bad for it. It’s all about wanting the right things for each other.
This is one example of why my Mum is such an incredible, strong woman. A few weeks ago, when the reason for me writing the last blog post was in full-force of knocking me about emotionally, it would be my evening routine to head to Mum’s, plonk myself down on her couch, and talk or cry or just sit there in numb silence while she gave me a big caring hug. We would eat food and watch movies, she’d drink wine and I’d have an ice-cream – she knew she couldn’t make the darkness go away, but she was just there for me regardless of anything else. She would give me advice if I asked for it, or she would let me ramble when she knew I needed to get it off my chest. At the time, when you are being choked by those vicious black tendrils, it can be hard to recognise the good around you – so if you are supporting someone and you feel like it is all for nothing, please know that while they may not be able to see how much you are doing for them right at the time, I can guarantee they will thank you later on, when they have the ability to appreciate again. At the time, I had been so focused on how horrible I was feeling, I couldn’t quite vocalise my appreciation to Mum for being there for me – but we both know it made things so much better.
Once upon a time, when things with my parents were teaching me that some things in life really wouldn’t go as smoothly as I had once thought was guaranteed, I wasn’t there for my Mum as I should have been. This was one of those stages where I literally can’t remember the events of days, or even weeks. I blocked it all out without realising that I had. And I don’t think it was emotional trauma that made me block this time of my life out – I think it was guilt.
I had figured that because I couldn’t fix the problems going on, I was useless. I thought I was in danger if I even tried to be there as a supportive daughter, because I wouldn’t do a good job of it, and I would crash and burn. I was already tormented by things I hadn’t dealt with and hadn’t told my parents about – and if that did happen and I burnt myself out, then who would look after me? I couldn’t burden people with my own failures; they had enough to deal with.
I knew I couldn’t understand the issues that were going on with my parents, or make it better. So I ran away from it all. If I did come home and see my Mum or sister upset, I would feel a frustration grow within me – I pushed them away, instead of being part of the support system, because I knew I couldn’t make it right.
I see now that I didn’t have to make it right, nor was I expected to. But I could have been there, as a listening ear or an open pair of arms or a shoulder to cry on. That’s all. Instead I decided I was of no use, and that’s how I acted.
Now I can recognise the huge impact one can make by just being there, even if they don’t understand. I know people who have gone through incredibly tough times, and their partners have left them to fend for themselves because they were too scared to even try and help. When I started on the medication, I knew my then partner was just as scared to offer himself as a support – it’s as if he was worried he might ‘catch’ what I had if we talked about the “D” word. So we wouldn’t talk about it, and I felt alone. I also felt like a lesser person every time he turned away when I took my medication. It became something I felt like I had to hide. If I had a dark day I would have to take myself away, rather than ask for comfort. It became a very inward, personal battle – not only did it rot me from the inside, but being in a relationship where I felt like I couldn’t talk about things meant that the relationship was rotten, too.
My point reiterated: you don’t have to understand what someone is going through. But do recognise that whoever this individual is, whatever they struggle with does not make them a lesser person – mental and emotional health is significant. You don’t have to be scared about not being able to fix it, or feel like that’s your job to do – just simply be there for them. Watch silly movies with them. Let them talk if they need to. Let them cry and give them a hug; you don’t have to do anything else. If they are going to a doctor, offer to go with them – you may not understand a word of what’s being said at the appointment, but at least they are supported in that room and aren’t alone. I’m not sure if it’s even about compassion – I know I still contained compassion even when I was afraid to be there for my family when my parents were splitting up. It’s about understanding and accepting that you don’t have to understand, but you can still be a positive force in someone’s life, and that can make the world of difference.