By Miranda Weindling
“Mental pain is less dramatic than physical pain, but it is more common and also more hard to bear… it is easier to say “My tooth is aching” than to say “My heart is broken“. –– C.S. Lewis
Depression is a broken, bashed and deadened heart. It erodes the soul, and sucks the vitality out of everything, inside and beyond you. That’s how I know it to be. Your depression, or that of someone you know, might feel different. But whatever the case, it is undoubtedly hard to bear.
Diagnosed cases of depression seem to be more common than ever, maybe that is due to the pressures of contemporary living, or simply because people are reporting it more. Either way, talking about depression, making an effort to understand it so we can keep breaking down the stigmas around mental health and supporting each other, is essential.
Sadness Is Normal
When something bad happens, you experience a loss of any kind, somebody snaps at you, or you spend too much time reading about climate change, the typical reaction is to be sad, frustrated, angry, anxious, disappointed, you name it…
People understand this––you have a bad day or week, so your mood reflects this. Makes sense. But not everybody is so understanding when it comes to depression. We don’t usually hear that depression is normal and often triggered by difficult life events such as the loss of a loved one, or cumulative stresses. And it doesn’t just go away overnight.
Depression: More Than Just Sadness
When your state of sadness is ongoing, depression becomes clinical. It is hard to get over stressful life events, but depression can also feel more insidious––you can’t pin it on one single thing, but it has crept up on you seemingly out of the blue. It could be linked to the season, pregnancy or even your period. If you think you are depressed, whether you know the reason or not, it is vital to seek help.
Clinical depression is the medical diagnosis when specific symptoms, including your depressed mood, persist for longer than two weeks. It is psychological, physical and emotional. You might experience feelings of worthlessness or guilt, low energy, be over or undersleeping, Changes in appetite, becoming indecisive or foggy-brained, having intrusive and suicidal thoughts, and no longer finding enjoyment or pleasure in the things that you used to, are also indicators.
That last symptom, anhedonia, is the one that really gets me. A life without joy. It is as terrible as it sounds. All the things and people and activities that you used to like doing no longer possess that spark of vital pleasure.
I also think this is one of the things that people who aren’t depressed struggle to understand. You can’t just ‘get over it’ –– you no longer feel connected to life, and that makes it hard to find life meaningful.
Depression is very treatable, but patience is key –– there is no ‘snapping out of it’. It usually takes a combination of different things. These might include prescription medications, talking therapies, movement and exercise, meditation, holistic therapies, healthy eating, supplements… It might take some time and trial and error to find what works for you, but there are many options available. Don’t give up on the process.
Something that makes a huge difference, and isn’t always spoken about is people –– the compassionate and non-judgemental ones.
Why People Matter When It Comes To Depression
“If you know someone who’s depressed, please resolve never to ask them why. Depression isn’t a straightforward response to a bad situation; depression just is, like the weather.
Try to understand the blackness, lethargy, hopelessness, and loneliness they’re going through. Be there for them when they come through the other side. It’s hard to be a friend to someone who’s depressed, but it is one of the kindest, noblest, and best things you will ever do.” ― Stephen Fry
Depression is incredibly lonely, even if you are surrounded by people, they tend to feel very distant. But they make all the difference. As Stephen Fry says, it is not that the mere presence of people will make you feel better, but it truly is what counts when you come out the other side.
The importance of compassion, and the willingness to accept the people we love no matter what cannot be understated. Sending thoughtful messages and reaching out to the people we love, without advice or suggestions or a need to help ‘fix them’, is the most supportive thing we can do.
We usually think about mental health when people are psychologically unwell, but mental health is about wellbeing. We need to support each other’s wellbeing. Making unrealistic demands of others or ourselves when we are depressed isn’t supportive. The best we can do to heal that mental pain is be patient, present and compassionate.