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Friday, August 23, 2019

The Depression Experience

If you have ever suffered from depression, the real, debilitating kind, then you will understand the reason I wrote this post.

 

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Many people confuse depression with sadness, hopelessness, self-pity. It is not that at all. Clinical depression is serious, and can be life threatening. Having suffered with depression since my preteen years, and recently suffering a severe bout of depression, I can honestly say I think I know how to finally explain it to those who may not completely understand what is going on when your loved one is “down for the count” and completely not themselves. Trust me, it’s nothing to ignore or sweep under the rug.

Have you ever lost someone very close to you? A loving parent, a sibling, a best friend, spouse, or child? A beloved pet? You know that feeling that rips out your gut and leaves you feeling like you’ve lost a limb? That’s depression. But, instead of losing a parent, sibling, best friend, spouse, child, or pet, you’ve completely lost yourself. A part of you dies in the swamp of this very dark place of the mind.

 

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Depression takes on many forms, and can be rooted with the loss of a job, the loss of a friend, a relationship, a death or injury, a multitude of things can bring us to this dark place. Mine was brought on by verbal assaults, blame, accusations, lies, words, that ripped me apart to my very core. (Not by family, but by someone I know from high school). Suddenly, in the basement of depression, you feel vulnerable – very vulnerable – and cannot take any more cold or heartless advice, words that are meant to blame or hurt, and it all becomes a crisis.

 

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Body armor. If you have depression, it doesn’t exist. The person who coined the phrase “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can never hurt me” Never suffered from depression. Because, the opposite is true. You can throw all the sticks and stones you want at me, and many of them may physically hurt me, but verbal abuse, verbal assaults, whether true or not, carry a weight with them greater than the largest bat upside the head. You never really forget how those words made you feel.

 

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Maya Angelou once said: “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

Nothing could be closer to the truth. But when you are already in the throes of depression, family and friends need to tread lightly. Any words of advice “you’ll get over it,” “you’ll be alright,” “don’t believe everything people say,” “get over it,” “people like that don’t deserve your time of day.” Whatever the words are that are meant to support, usually end up driving you down deeper into the quicksand. Why? Because you DON’T WANT ADVICE!!! Advice picks at the wound of someone who is depressed. The reason for this is because it is like telling them they are too stupid to know this already. Believe me, if your “advice” could wipe out the destructive voice of depression that easily, there’d be no dark corner of the mind to disappear to. The advice given with good intentions can actually fuel further the depths of depression.

 

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Regardless of how well-meaning you think your advice and support may be, it is actually pouring gasoline on the fire burning in your loved-one’s head and heart. So, tread lightly. Please.

 

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In my case, and I am not speaking for everyone, I don’t think, but, whenever I have been deeply and devastatingly depressed, there is only one thing that truly pulls me out … slowly. Love. Support with the quiet presence of a loved one. A compassionate hug. Kindness. Someone brings me a cup of hot tea and a donut and then tells me they love me.

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Letting your loved one know that you are “there” for them and that you “have their back.” A supportive message, email, or card – no advice given, and just letting them know they are loved, is more healing than you can possibly imagine.

For me, these are the little things that I need to pull me out of the darkest corners of my mind, where I feel locked in a dark room all alone.

 

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My husband, the dear man he is, has a problem. Unfortunately, this problem is universal to most men, especially men who do not, themselves, suffer from depression. They try to “fix” things. They want to “fix” the wife who has got the “blues.” My husband is no different. He’s a fixer. I’d like to smack him upside the head when his “fix it” kicks in. It makes it worse. Far worse. Worse than you could ever imagine! Your wife does not need to be “fixed!” She needs love, compassion, and understanding. And if you don’t understand, then pretend you do. But depression cannot be “fixed” like replacing the rear tire on your truck. And when she says she wants to be alone, yes, she wants to be alone … but not for the entirety of the day. Check in on her. Ask how she is feeling. Be there. Bring her food, something to drink, a hug. Anything to just let her know that she is valued and treasured in your life. Be patient.

 

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These little things mean more than you know, because they begin to wipe out the devil’s words that have been flushed through your self-identity. Words that you begin to believe about yourself that murder the best parts of who you are, and trample your goodness and godly qualities, your love, your devotion, your own compassion. You believe the bad stuff, because you can’t believe for a moment that anyone could possibly say these things about you unless, somehow, they had some truth. It. Is. Debilitating. It is also bullying. It is the reason that many young people in middle and high school, take their own life.

 

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Which is another reason why I am writing this post … school has begun. Our children have their own fears about school – try to remember how you felt at their age, and be understanding. Making friends, dealing with bullies, not getting the grades, having difficulties with tests, having to change clothes in gym class in front of others. It runs the gamut. Please, I beg of you, all of you who are parents … read your children’s papers to see if someone stuck a nasty note in their notebook. Ask them questions. Be aware of changes in attitude, joy, fatigue, lack of interest in things they love, too much time in front of their computer. Your engagement in their life may save their life. They do NOT need tools for dealing with bullies, such as “punch that sucker in the face if they ever approach you again!” “Go to the office!” It doesn’t work. Communication, where your child feels safe, is the golden ticket to helping your child deal with the horrors of school AND college. Yes, it happens there too. Depression can come on almost instantly. It is THAT horrible; and, you never know when it will end. It feels like you are dying from the inside-out.

Know this – depression is not something to be ashamed of. Quite the contrary. I believe those of us who suffer with depression, also are greatly more empathetic, sensitive, and compassionate human beings. We are givers and we care deeply. Our relationships are very important to us. When someone attacks your very identity, it can be like a nuclear bomb went off inside your head. The fallout is terrifying.

 

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Depression can be managed with medication, but it will never completely erase “depression” from your life. It will simply soften some of the more horrifying affects, like wanting to end your life. It helps to keep things in check, even if your brain is telling you otherwise. You Are Not Crazy.

 

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But again, medication will NOT erase the pummels of depression at its worst. To really pull you out, you need your family and true friends to show you love, kindness, understanding, time, rest, and all the other things I mentioned above. For that is when you know you are loved and valued. That is when you know you are not alone. That is when you know the value of your life on this earth and within your family and community of friends.

 

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And yes, I have God in my life. Fully. But still, that does not erase the destructive path of the devil in the throes of depression. Pray when you are depressed. You will still feel the pain. You will still ask for things that God will certainly not give into. But pray nonetheless. You just need precious time …

And Love.

Susan

- when my 19y/o grandson laid down next to me and hugged me, telling me I was the most loving and compassionate person he’s ever known, and that he loves me.
- when my 22y/o son told me he always has my back, he loves me, and he brought me home a chocolate cake on his way home from college.
- when my husband made me something to eat and brought it to me with love and care.
- when my mother sat with me downstairs until I was ready to go back to bed.
- when my daughter wrote a letter defending my honor.

These are the things of love. These are what inspired me to share my story and write this post.

 

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