Living with depression has never been easy. I’ve tried different medications and I’ve tried therapy, but there is something about this disease that waits, lurking in the shadows.
No matter what I do, I can always feel that it’s there. I can feel it wanting to pounce, waiting for a moment of weakness which can quickly escalate into full-scale depression. It waits for me when I’m most vulnerable, and then it whispers feelings of inadequacy until I can no longer move.
Depression feels like moving through molasses. Every movement takes longer and requires more effort. Mental illness can’t be seen, but the strain is felt physically.
Sometimes I don’t even have the energy to stand up to take a shower, so I take a bath instead. Sometimes I don’t have the energy to bathe at all, so I’ll avoid having to leave the house, because it’s easier than having to make excuses for my appearance.
I will go for days in the same outfit. Sometimes weeks. It sounds gross (and it’s certainly not glamorous), but this is what mental illness looks like. It’s not because people with depression are lazy; it’s that this sickness steals our motivation to put our bodies through strained movements. Our minds have attached an invisible anvil to every limb, which must be dragged along.
I’m an introvert, so my default setting is to be alone to recharge. This can be frustrating for my friends, who want to help when I’m depressed, but don’t know how. One of the best ways that friends can support another friend who is suffering from depression is to give them space and give them grace.
Depression is a complex mental illness and affects people differently. I know it’s tough for my family to see me go through depressive episodes, and I don’t like my friends to see me go through them either. I hate that people want to help, but can’t. I hate having that helplessness about myself and my depression. I hate imposing that feeling of helplessness on others.
It’s tough for people with depression to reach out. There is a serious stigma about mental health in our society and it can be embarrassing to feel physically paralyzed by a mental illness. So if friends want to help, one of the best things to do is to be there if and when we do want to talk, knowing that there might be long stretches when we simply don’t.
Please don’t try to pressure us into going out, especially in groups. Depression is a disease that affects our serotonin levels, similar to anxiety. In many ways, we feel physically unable to get ready, go out, and socialize.
Never talk dismissively about a friend’s depression or put the blame on them. We’re already struggling to get through the day. The fight is very real. When people say things like, “Get over it” or “Just go outside and get some Vitamin D,” it’s cruel and dismissive to the person who’s trying to get through it.
People with depression can be incredibly sensitive and we are often our own worst critics. We’re telling ourselves that we’re inadequate and terrible and, in some extreme cases, that the world is better off without us. To be dismissive of the affliction, or to point the blame on them, is flirting with serious danger. I’m not a doctor, but I know that being dismissive of anyone’s mental state is never a good idea.
So when a friend with depression keeps to themselves, reach out and let them know you’re there for them, no matter how dark it might get. Extend an offer to talk anytime, and let them weather out the season with as much, or as little, interaction as they see fit.
Sometimes the best we can do is remind people that they’re loved, and sometimes that’s all a person with depression needs to hear. It won’t make them better, but it’s important to know that people care.