It is almost impossible to describe what depression feels like to someone who has never struggled or suffered with a bout. There are words that can be used to perhaps capture some of the darkness/sadness/despondency/desolation that is felt as part of depression, but unless you have lived/felt/struggled with it, you don’t truly understand it.
So I’ve been visiting my family on the other side of the planet, where it is supposed to be heading into Autumn. But the last vestiges of summer are far from over. The weather is as bright and glorious and warm as any summer’s day and when I open my curtains, I still can’t get over the surprise of having a blue sky greet me every day. It’s great to have the sun on my skin – most definitely it lifts the mood.
One of my clan doesn’t understand depression, doesn’t seem to want to understand depression, and is sort of, kind of, way too upset that I still show the signs of the “low mood” she saw last year. (her words not mine)
After a clan gathering, we went back to her place, where I am spending most of my time and I was asked to explain why I was still not “better”. Let me put it this way she demanded to know why I am still not ‘back’ to my old self (the asymptomatic individual she used to see most of the time).
“What is that all about: explain it to me, explain why you are still depressed when you have no stress, no job, your kids are great, you can do what the fuck you like every day and have no money worries, explain to me what you have to be depressed about?”
So I started off trying to explain depression and how it works. But the member of clan got that. “I know why you got depressed in the first place, but why are you still depressed. Most of that stress is gone now.”
To be fair to member of clan, my life has had to drastically change in the last year, so change it did. So again, calmly I set about trying to explain that the brain is like any other organ in the body and depression is in very simple terms a sick brain. It takes time to heal, even with medication helping along the way.
No, clan sill didn’t get it.
It’s the most selfish, self-centred self-obsessed thing to just ‘give in’ to feeling down, they say. It’s the epitome of being self absorbed in your own little world, where only you matters” Clan ranted…!!
So again I tried but this time with a medical metaphor.
“Say that you have appendicitis and you are in intense pain. So you go in to hospital and have an operation to remove the source of your pain. What you are saying to me about depression is like me expecting you to get up off the operating table and expecting you to have no pain, no side effects and be ‘better’ as soon as the surgeon makes the last cut and removes your appendix because the source of your pain is gone and getting annoyed at you because you have to be sown up and recover from the operation. It’s exactly the same thing; the brain is an organ and needs recovery time.”
Clan didn’t get it. Clan perhaps didn’t want to get it. No matter how many metaphors I came up with, no matter how many ways I tried to explain the processes involved in dealing with and recovering from depression, clan just shook her head and said “Nah, don’t get it”….
“Its just self-obsession” became the mantra of the night…
So I lot my temper with clan.
I shouted at clan, the word ‘fuck’ was used liberally in my sentences, I got up off my seat and slammed the back door and went to my bedroom shaking like a leaf. I was angry and upset. I was upset that I had to explain myself. Upset that clan couldn’t or wouldn’t get the fact that depression is not something easily cured. Upset that clan didn’t recognize how far I’d come in the past year, just harked on about the fact I’m not quite all the way back. Upset that clan thinks I am self absorbed, self-obsessed and selfish. And I know I am not, I am just not recovered yet.
The next morning, mumbles of “wanna talk”, ended with both of us in tears agreeing that instead of clan “understanding” what depression is and how it works she just has to accept that it “IS” and leave it at that.
A few days later, we met a pal of Clans who I know struggles with depression also. He and I have had many conversations about how it has affected our lives in the past. This is the first time I’ve seen him in a year.
“How are you travelling”, friend asks.
“Getting there,” says I. “Anxiety still a factor, sleepless nights still worrying, but mostly stable at the moment. Meds dose quite high, making me forgetful though. How are you?” says I.
“Meds have me flat. Don’t like it there, in that zone. Yeah, know what you mean about the anxiety. But yeah, travelling well otherwise, for the most part.”
We nod at each other. No other words are necessary. I know what he means; he knows what I mean. How easy it is to be understood when conversing with someone who struggles as I do….. It doesn’t matter what I have or have not got to be depressed about, it just matters that I am struggling/still fighting on – and I am understood.
My clan has watched me for over 20 years struggle with this and still doesn’t understand. What hope is there to educate those who aren’t clan/family/friends and have them truly understand what it is like to struggle with depression?
(Picture thanks to Memegenerator.com)