Sunday, 2 October 2016

Being on the verge of another episode of severe depression

must be terrifying. 
I am trying, once again, to understand how this must feel. A friend of mine is in just this position yet again. When she is well she is a wonderful help to everyone else. Someone needs a lift somewhere? She will take them. Someone needs a meal? She will cook it? Someone is in hospital? She goes to visit. Someone needs support at home after hospital? She will do it. 
She had a career as a medical technician and her attention to details would have made her a valued member of staff. 
I saw her yesterday. She apologised for not coming to my event last Saturday. As she spoke her eyes filled with tears. She had made food for it and was getting ready to leave when - suddenly - she knew she couldn't face the drive or the company or anything else. It wasn't that she didn't want to do it. She did but she couldn't do it. 
It isn't about being "shy". It is something much much darker than that.
I hugged my friend. I held her tight. I told her I understood...and I do understand on one level but I know it is not in the way she needs. Perhaps somebody who has been through similar episodes of depression would understand more than I can. I don't know.
I told her I am at the other end of the phone - any time. If she needs me I want to be there for her. 
"It's just a little downward blip," she told me - trying to sound positive. We both know it could be more than that. Last time this happened she was in hospital. 
Someone else at the meeting we were both attending asked me why my friend couldn't "just try and think more positively". It wasn't said unkindly but it was said with an almost complete lack of understanding.
Somebody with depression doesn't want to be depressed. It's an awful state to be in. If they could "just snap out of it" they would. 
And I am selfish enough to hope it never happens to me.


Jodiebodie said...

The whole notion of "positive thinking" can be downright offensive because it implies that the person suffering the illness is at fault for their own disease. "Blaming the victim" is not helpful and usually harmful. Nobody asks for severe disabling illness!

When people are continually hearing the message "think positively", it takes away the permission for someone to feel bad or sad about their situation. Then when normal feelings of grief and frustration inevitably arrive (par for the course with any chronic illness) the "think positive" message just loads extra guilt on a person for not being positive 24 hours a day.

The "just think positively" message detracts from the importance of acknowledging all the myriad emotions that one feels when living with chronic illness. It is necessary to experience and acknowledge all the highs and lows in order to come to terms with it. When people are not allowed to freely acknowledge or express the 'less positive' emotions, it can hinder one's adjustment and ability to cope with the situation, especially if those around withdraw their support because they are uncomfortable with the negative emotions.

Telling a person with depression to "think positively" demonstrates total ignorance of the condition!

I appreciate your honesty in your writing, Cat, that you can't truly understand what it is like to suffer from depression but your willingness to accept, support and try to understand your friend will be most appreciated.

I don't suffer from depression, but another chronic condition. I don't expect anyone else to truly understand what it is like - only those who live through it can do that - but I do expect my friends and family to accept my situation and me wherever they find me. Knowing that they are willing and able to do that is a great comfort. They don't need to know how my illness feels in order to support me.

catdownunder said...

Thank you so much for adding that Jodie! (I never expect anyone to understand something like why I can't do things like drive a car either but it is nice when people accept the situation.)