Let's Talk About Depression, Part 3
It's been a little while since I talked about depression (and the second part is here). Obviously, you've been reading quite a lot about my situation in life over the past month or so. It took me nearly 10 months to get to a point where I could write about the divorce, moving, losing my company, and other things. If it's a surprise to you that I was depressed, you're kind of an idiot.
I've talked about how depression feels like a glue-coated velvet cloak you cannot cast off. I've talked about hopelessness and the fact that "life is going to be okay" could probably be the worst thing to say to someone who is truly depressed. Depression is RIGHT NOW. Not tomorrow, not a week from now, not a month from now. Right. Now.
When you are depressed and someone tells you "but life is going to be AMAZING" you can't see it. It's not that you don't believe it. You do. You really, really do. But it doesn't matter. It's not right now. It's like telling someone with a broken arm "hey, one day it's going to not be broken."
You're not wrong. It will be ok. It's just not right now. And it won't be for a minute. So what now?
Everyone who suffers or has suffered from Depression has a go-to. Unfortunately for some, it's suicide. They threaten it, they attempt it, and every so often to our chagrin, they succeed. Something you should understand: no one wants to die. People who attempt suicide don't want to die. They want the pain to stop.
That's what those who get out from their depression have in common: they found a way to make the pain stop. They may not realize they have this emergency lever that they pull, but they have it. For me, it's The Discipline. In the past 31 days, I've been working. Hard. In the gym, writing, selling off crap, moving, and eating right. Everything in my life centers around discipline. That's my go-to. That's my "pull in case of emergency" cord. Discipline.
This works for me, because it's a moment of surrender. My immediate mind finally kneels to my larger self and says "I give up. You win. I'm done trying to con my way out of this sadness. Just tell me what to do, and I'll do it." My larger self already knows the answer: retreat to the basics. Work the steps. Stop the bullshit. No more retail therapy. No more alcohol. No more recreation and trips and running. Wake up every morning. Walk the dog. Hit the road and run. Eat a banana. Take vitamins. Write. Eat lunch. Write. Eat a banana. Hit the gym. Eat dinner. Write. Eat a banana. Go to sleep. Get up, do it again.
Every. Single. Day.
It may not be the same for someone else. In fact, it probably isn't. Everyone has their own way of handling Depression. I have a friend who is adversarial with her disease. She fights. She gets to a point where she says "Oh, you want me to stay in bed? FUCK YOU. I'm getting up to spite your dark dreary ass. Oh, what's that? I don't want to work out? Watch this shit." Some people visit a therapist (and oh my God, I cannot recommend this enough -- if you broke your arm, you'd visit a damn doctor, do the same when your brain and your heart break too). Some people allow themselves a day of indulgence and give themselves permission to break all the rules to release tension.
It's different for each person. But one thing is in common: there's a point where you reach the end, and some larger part of you says "This has got to stop." And you make a decision. If you want to live life and fight, you fight. If you want to give up, you give up. Regardless, you make your decision.
When you're on the outside looking in, all you want to do is give comfort. You like and love the people you care about. You want them to stop hurting. You're not depressed, so visions of future reward for current effort are easy to attain. That's how we are wired as a people. But if you're on the other side of it, it doesn't work that way. Not that you don't want it to, or you're trying to be an asshole... It's like a building blocking the view of the sun rising. It's out there, you know it's out there, it's beautiful... You just can't see it right now, because there's a fucking GloboBank in the way. You'll see it later, when the sun is up... For for now, no sunshine. Just a big immovable thing blocking your ability to see clearly.
That's where the "Pull in case of emergency" lever comes in. Instead of accepting something you cannot see, you start walking around it so you can actually see it. You walk past it. You get somewhere else emotionally. And then, there it is, that sunrise you knew was just around the corner.
Something about doing the work of getting over Depression is itself how you get over Depression. But actually getting started on doing the work... That's where we all fall down. And that's because Depression doesn't knock and announce when it's on the way over. It just shows up, sneaks in, turns the TV to the channel it likes and makes itself comfortable. You walk in the room and there it is, getting Cheetoh dust all over your Lay-Z-Boy. You haven't the first clue when it actually showed up, but there it is. It's here now.
If you want to help someone who is suffering from Depression, your job will be immensely easier (and effective) if, instead of telling them what life will be like when they kick that asshole out of their house, you lace up your boots and actually help them kick his ass out. Because he's here RIGHT NOW. And he needs to go. And he's not going to without a fight.
I can't tell you what it's going to be with your friend or loved one who suffers from Depression. I can't tell you that my system works for them. What I can tell you is that you've seen them depressed before, and you know them best. You've seen how they recovered. Not how they THINK they recovered, but how they actually recovered. And if you don't, or this is your first encounter with a new friend / loved one's Depression, you can ask them to tell you everything that happened last time. But whatever it is, and however you figure it out, action is key.
Get them out of the house. Do not accept no for an answer. Depression loves isolation. Don't let it happen. Push on them. Don't be abusive or dictatorial, but don't relent. You may not get them over it today or even this week, but the nudges help. Truly, they do. Feeling cared about, even if it annoys you, helps more than you can possibly imagine. And part of feeling cared about is not hearing how great you think I am, but knowing you know me well enough to push me where I need to be.
If you're suffering yourself, you need to let your larger self be your best friend. Somewhere deep inside, you know exactly what you need to do to start getting over. You're just not motivated to do it. So step one is TAKE STEP ONE. Only you know what that is, but we all know that you can't take step two without taking step one first. So step one: Take the first step.
And if it helps, you be sure to call Depression "motherfucker" anytime you want. And when you finally start beating it, call it your bitch. It hates that. It'll leave faster.