Thursday, August 14, 2014

What DOES depression feel like?

Imagine for a moment...

...you are in complete darkness. There is no light, no sound, no wind, or smells. Holding your hand in front of your face, you see nothing. You speak but your voice fades away without echo.
Stepping forward to find a wall or a door, you trip over uneven ground.  But when you crawl back to find what made you trip, you feel only a surface as smooth as glass.
You try to stand to keep looking for an exit and somehow weights have been added to your body, pressing down on your shoulders. The added pressure throws you off balance and makes you feel weak. You try to knock them off, but your hands find only air. 
A long time passes as you struggle to walk, trip, and stand over and over again.  
You don't know how long you have been here. 
You don't know how long you will be here. 
You only know the quiet desperation ripping you apart from the inside...begging for it to end. 
You can only feel the utter loneliness in your soul created by the dark void around you. 

This is how depression felt to me. 

How do you explain that to someone? 


Struggles (like the invisible weights) create the sensation that our problems are unreal. We don't even know if we can trust what we felt because it's intangible with no obvious connection or cause. 

In a day and age where everything has to have evidence leading to a cause, how do we explain ourselves in a way that others will listen? 

Depression tells us we are totally alone and our situation is helpless. 

Not having evidence to the contrary, we believe it. And sometimes, we give up because there are only two ways out of the dark void:
  1. Death
  2. Asking for help

Why don't people ask for help?


When you're depressed, it's kind of like being on the reflective side of a one-way mirror... Other people can see and hear you, but you can't hear or see them. It's impossible to know if anyone can hear or see you...or if they even care. 

And what you don't know, you fear. So instead of imagining your friends and family hugging, loving, and supporting you - instead you imagine them as callous and indifferent towards your problems. You anticipate their judgment and critical gaze. 

Fear of the response of others, and not knowing how to verbalize and justify emotions are huge contributing factors which deter individuals from seeking help for depression. 

What can we do?


A lot, actually. 

First and foremost, stop judging people who seek mental health treatment. I mean, stop with both the negative and pitying statements. Pity implies that someone is weak and somehow less than you. That you see yourself as stronger or better than someone receiving mental health treatments. 

This could not be further from the truth. 

When you find out someone is getting help, congratulate them for taking that step. Acknowledge that it's challenging and takes a great amount of courage to ask for help. 

Give encouragement. Share your love. Empathize if you can. 
But do not be critical or pitying. 


Second, let's stop perpetuating this idea that success leads to happiness
Happiness comes from within. It's about accepting who you are, where you come from, how you live, and being grateful for it. 

Some days I feel completely inundated with distractions, advertisements, movies, music - all promoting this idea of:
"Do this! You'll have fun! You'll succeed at something and that will make you happy! Happiness is when you're the best, the smartest, the thinnest, the tannest..."
Blah blah blah... 

No.

Robin Williams's death was tragic, but he has taught the world something important through his suicide. 
Happiness is not determined by your level of success. 
Mental health problems cannot be fixed with the same mind that is sick. 
While we may perceive successful people as someone who "has it all" and has a happy life, that doesn't mean it's true because we can never really know the inner workings of someone else's mind. 


Third, you can share this message to raise awareness of what depression really feels like

Shine a light into the void so people know their negative self-talk is a lie. Show them they are not alone.

Reach out your hand so they can hold on to something real, and trust what they are beginning to see. 

Speak up about the reality of depression so all can hear you, even those trapped in the void. Tell them you're listening. Tell them about the phone number in the picture below, and tell them that they will listen too. 

Basically, be a friend.