To My Loved Ones Who Feel Helpless About My Depression

2k
2k

Dear Friends and Family,

When I’m not feeling well, when depression has me in its grip, I may not be very fun to be around. I will not act like myself. I may ignore your phone calls, isolate myself and even push you away. It’s not because I don’t love you; rather it is because I don’t love, or even like, myself.

When depression takes over, I may be more helpless, hopeless and pessimistic. I may not be able to concentrate and it might take me forever to make a decision, if I make one at all. My intrusive thoughts may make paying attention to anything you say nearly impossible. Showering, cooking, cleaning and necessary errands may be neglected. I may not be able to work, and paying the bills, if I can muster the energy to attempt it, will become challenging and stressful.

I may look OK on the outside, but I feel absolutely nothing on the inside. This is more painful than words can express. When I am sick with depression, my world becomes an overwhelming, dark, chaotic place and I may just want to hide.

Girl on train
Photo source: Thinkstock Images

Depression is confusing. When my symptoms are at their worst, I may sleep too much or not enough. I may be tired all the time or unable to settle. I may eat everything in sight or nothing at all. I may be able to follow through with scheduled appointments or unable to get out of my house. And I never know from one day to the next what my capabilities will be. It makes it very challenging to plan anything. So I’m not trying to be difficult; I just don’t know in advance if I will have the energy to do whatever it is you’ve asked.

Please understand. Depression tells me I am useless, hopeless and not fit to remain on this planet. It tells me I will never amount to anything no matter how hard I try, so why bother trying. Depression tells me I’m ugly and fat and not as good as you or anyone else. It makes me self conscious. It distracts me so much, I may not be able to follow your conversation, and I certainly won’t remember it tomorrow! Depression makes me feel stupid. Can you understand now why I’m not myself? Why I’m not easy to be around? I have to work extra hard to hold up my end of our relationship. Despite what may appear, I really don’t want to lose you.

What can you do to help? I’m so glad you asked. Pretend I have cancer or any other debilitating illness. Just remember I have an illness, too. And like cancer, I may have periods of wellness followed by relapse followed by wellness again. It will pass, but I may feel unfamiliar with that fact. It’s OK to remind me gently, but try not to pound it into my head. Don’t dismiss what I’m going through. It may be invisible to you, but it is ever so real and debilitating to me.

There are simple things you can do. If I’m isolating, offer to sit with me. Don’t expect me to be a great conversationalist, but just sitting with me will reduce my isolation. Send me a card or flowers, even, especially if I’m in the hospital. Remind me you’re there, offer assistance, validate how I’m feeling, but don’t force yourself on me. I just may not have the energy to go out for coffee and that’s OK. Let that be OK.

If I’m struggling, offer me something to eat. Fix dinner or bring over a casserole. Offer to mow my lawn, shovel the snow, or help with laundry. Do anything you would do for a loved one having difficulty caring for themselves due to any illness. It’s simple, really. I don’t want you to be a hero. I may need help, but I don’t need you to fix it. Continue to love me when I can’t love myself, and know I will come out of this. Things will improve, and I’ll be able to care for myself again. I will be ever so grateful for your kindness and help. And soon I will be myself again.

Thank you, friends and family. Thank you.

A longer version of this post originally appeared on Depression Marathon.

If you or someone you know needs help, see our suicide prevention resources.

If you need support right now, call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.

The Mighty is asking the following: What’s one secret about your mental illness that no one talks about? If you’d like to participate, please send a blog post [email protected] include a photo for the piece, a photo of yourself and 1-2 sentence bio.

Want to end the stigma around mental illness? Like us on Facebook.

And sign up for what we hope will be your favorite thing to read at night.

2k
2k

RELATED VIDEOS

TOPICS
JOIN THE CONVERSATION

The Incredible Way Tiger Woods Stepped In to Help a Bullied Teen

38
38

Dillon is a high school student who’s a big fan of professional golfer Tiger Woods. He also lives with a stutter, and because of that, is frequently bullied at school. The bullying and problems with friends got so bad that Dillon recently tried to take his own life, Golf Digest reported.

When Sophie Gustafson, a former professional golfer who also has a stutter, heard about Dillon’s story, she immediately wanted to help. She befriended Dillon and began visiting with him regularly. Dillon had seemed to feel better, but recently, Gustafson received an email from Dillon’s mom that made her realize it was not enough.

“He has really been struggling lately, feeling lonely due to the [fact that he] really does not have any close friends. On the week of April 16, he had a bad week; he had been teased about his stuttering. That evening, he attempted suicide,” Dillon’s mom wrote in an email to Gustafson, which Gustafson shared with Golf Digest’s Ron Sirak. The mom continued, asking for Gustafson’s help:

I am writing to ask you, do you have anyone that could help us share his story and help us find something to encourage him and help him see that he has a positive future?  He continues to love to watch golf and is still a fan of Tiger. Is there anyway we could get his story to Tiger and see if he could help find something encouraging for [him] to look forward to?

When Sirak received the note from Gustafson, it became his mission to make sure Tiger Woods knew about Dillon. Soon after that, Tiger Woods sent Dillon a personalized letter, CBS Sports reported.

Gustafson thanked Woods on Twitter, adding that the letter had made Dillon happy:

Since the news went public, numerous fans have voiced their support for Dillon on Twitter.

Gustafson also wrote on Twitter that Dillon is continuing to do better and that he appreciates the incredible support he’s receiving.

If you or someone you know needs help, see our suicide prevention resources.

If you need support right now, call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.

Want to celebrate the human spirit? Like us on Facebook.

And sign up for what we hope will be your favorite thing to read at night.

38
38
TOPICS
,
JOIN THE CONVERSATION

8 Ways I Take Care of Myself After Experiencing Depression

2k
2k

Two years ago, I went through a period of depression. At the time, I dealt with it by meeting with a therapist once a week. While you’re depressed, you can’t really feel the depression — it’s your normal. You just feel as though you’re in the darkness, all the time. I used to call it the Shadowlands, and visualize it as an underground place where everything was dark and flat, as though the world were made up of silhouettes.

It was only when I started getting better, getting through it, that I could feel it — as a sort of dark cloud that hovered over me, and then near me, and then went away. I would tell my therapist, “It’s about three feet away now.” Recently, I realized that the cloud was nowhere near me, and hadn’t been for a year. So this is a post on what happens after depression. On where you find yourself once you’ve gotten through it, and what you do from there.

theodora goss

So what happened after my depression? Well, the first thing is that after a while, I started to experience joy. I use that word deliberately. It’s not happiness, although I could’ve been happy, too — but happiness is a fleeting thing, something you can feel for a little while.

Joy is deeper. It’s an inner peace and contentment and delight, based on nothing at all but life itself — the experience of being alive. You feel joy because your oatmeal tastes good, with milk and raisins and brown sugar, and because it’s cold outside and the sky is a clear gray, and because you have a warm blanket to wrap yourself in and a book to read. Joy is based on such little things, on breathing itself.

The second thing is that I realized how important it is to take care of myself. Here are the things I do, after depression:

1. I’m careful about what and when I eat. I eat whole grains, and lean proteins, and lots of vegetables and fruit. I give myself regular treats, usually chocolate. I make sure that I’m eating regularly throughout the day, small meals so I can keep up my energy. I never let myself become hungry and drained. And I make sure that my food is delicious, because if it isn’t, why eat it?

2. I exercise. Mostly, I get out and walk, long walks, even when it’s cold. Not just to walk, because that would bore me. (I’m rather easily bored.) I walk to buy groceries, or to the bookstore, or to my favorite thrift store to look at clothes. Walking around with a camera also gives me something to do. I can take pictures and post them later. I also do yoga and pilates, because moving makes me feel good, and being flexible makes me feel good.

3. I get more sleep. Not enough, I’m afraid, but what I’ve noticed is that getting too little sleep is one of the worst things I can do for myself. It starts a cycle, in which I eat too much and the wrong things, because I have to get energy from somewhere and if it’s not from sleep then it’s from food, and I’m too tired to exercise. Getting more sleep is at the top of my to-do list.

4. I prioritize my own work. This is difficult, because I have so much work to do: work I have to do, because it’s what I’m actually paid for, and then work people ask me to do, like write papers. And I simply can’t do it all. So I make sure that I do my own work, which means my writing — I make sure I’m writing every day. If I don’t do that, I feel terrible for neglecting what is most important to me. It is, in a very real sense, like neglecting myself.

5. I give myself a regular diet of treats. Bubble baths, good books, cupcakes. You need to treat yourself well. You can’t control what goes on out in the world, how other people treat you. I have a sticky over my desk on which I’ve written, “Are you loving yourself?” When I’m not treating myself very well, I remind myself of this — that I must love myself, and love is a verb as well as a noun. It’s an action.

6. I try to make my space as beautiful as I can. Right now I have a vase filled with daffodils and yellow tulips on my dining table, and I’ve been framing some of the art I have so there’s more art on the walls. And as often as I can, I go to the museums or to hear a concert. Beauty is therapeutic. Oscar Wilde once wrote, “Nothing can cure the soul but the senses, just as nothing can cure the senses but the soul.” I treat this as excellent medical advice. To cure my soul, I engage the senses.

7. I reach out. It’s so easy, when you’re depressed, to curl in on yourself, and you may need to do that in the midst of depression. I certainly needed to — if I were a turtle, I would have crawled inside my shell. Sometimes I just crawled under my blanket… But now I need to reach out, see people. I try to keep in touch with friends, make a point of traveling to new places even when it’s expensive. And I make a point of being on social media, because that’s a way of keeping in touch, too.

8. Finally, I let go. There are things I just can’t do — I can’t say yes to every request, lately I haven’t even been able to answer every email, and I have such a backlog of Facebook messages! This makes me feel guilty, but I can’t do anything about it. There simply isn’t enough time. I have to do what I can and let the rest go, feel guilty about it if I need to, but if I tried to do it all, I would be there again, in the space where there is no joy and no light.

And my life, right now, is filled with joy and light. It surprised me, really — that I should feel those things, and perhaps more powerfully than I ever have. How lovely it is, how lucky I feel simply to be me, to be able to do the things I do, have the things I have. To inhabit my own brain, which is a constant source of stories.

So there you have it: 1. eat right, 2. exercise, 3. sleep, 4. do MY work, 5. treat myself, 6. go for beauty, 7. reach out, 8. let go. And find joy.

A longer version of this post originally appeared on Theodora Goss’s site.

The Mighty is asking its readers the following: What’s one secret about your or your loved one’s mental illness that no one talks about? If you’d like to participate, please send a blog post [email protected] include a photo for the piece, a photo of yourself and 1-2 sentence bio.

Want to end the stigma around mental illness? Like us on Facebook.

And sign up for what we hope will be your favorite thing to read at night.

2k
2k
TOPICS
JOIN THE CONVERSATION

8 Ways to Support a Partner Living With Depression

2k
2k

I don’t think enough is written about having a relationship with someone living with depression. I know from personal experience how heartbreaking it can be to watch the person you love struggling with an illness that destroys the very fabric of who they are. As someone who has experienced depression, I want to offer some advice to anyone trying to support his or her partner through this illness.

1. Understand the devastation that depression can cause.

Depression is an awful illness and, because it can lead to suicide, it’s also potentially fatal. It tries to convince us we are useless, stupid and worthless. It can destroy our sense of self, erode our memory and destroy our ability to concentrate on even the simplest of tasks. People who experience depression can become short-tempered and our emotions can escalate rapidly. When depression hits me the hardest, I feel trapped inside my own mind, under attack from my own thoughts and feelings.

The partners of people experiencing depression should do some reading on the subject and educate yourself as much as possible about this illness. But most of all, you just need to be there, offer unconditional love and understand your partner is seriously ill. Ask them what you can do to help and make them aware that you’re there to listen whenever they need you.

2. Allow your partner as much space as possible.

Recovering from depression is not a straightforward process and everyone’s personal experience is unique. Space is essential. Depression has peaks and troughs; one good day, week or even month doesn’t necessarily mean a full recovery. Likewise, at the really low points, remember you are loved, wanted and needed, even if it seems like you aren’t.

3. Allow your partner as much time as possible.

Recovery doesn’t happen overnight. It can take years to recover fully from depression, so avoid putting pressure on your partner to get back to normal if they’ve had a couple of good weeks. Most of the time, I look well, but inside I’m going through hell. Sometimes people are good at hiding their depression.

The main thing is that you’re there, ready for a hug or to talk whenever we want.

4. Relieve some of the day-to-day pressure.

These days, there is always stuff that needs to be done, bills that need to be paid, plumbers that need to be called, shopping that needs to be happen… If possible, try to take away as much of this stress from us as you can.

Couple Holding Hands

5. Don’t assume we necessarily need to be occupied at all times.

Giving us little tasks might feel like a good idea and at times it is, but at other times, even the most menial of chores can feel intimidating. Also, understand that if we do agree to do something, we can’t always be relied upon to complete the task. Try not to get angry with us if this happens; just remember that depression can sometimes make us forgetful and disorganized.

6. Don’t be critical.

Criticism, no matter how trivial, really hurts. This is one of the most important things to remember. Living with someone suffering from depression is frustrating, but please try to avoid reminding us how much we frustrate you. Remember, we might already feel worthless, stupid and useless. Telling us we’ve used the wrong mug, forgotten to do something or taken the wrong turning just reinforces those feelings. Emotions can escalate quickly and one badly-timed push can open the floodgates, allowing all kinds of negativity to rush in.

7. Help create a positive environment at home.

Make some time to enjoy one another’s company, free from the pressures of life. My wife and I enjoy walking together and I find that’s when we’re at our happiest; all of those negative thoughts and emotions pause, albeit temporarily.

Provide some gentle encouragement to do the things you both enjoy, which in my case includes socializing, exercising and cooking. Had a tough day at work? Talk to us about it, but please keep a sense of perspective about what we’re experiencing as well.

Don’t push too hard though and remember that tough love does not work. We need to do the things we enjoy on our own terms, and saying, “Pull yourself together” is, in my opinion, one of the worst things you can do.

8. Remember to create some space for yourself.

Watching someone you love live with a potentially fatal illness is stressful and takes its toll on everyone. Remember that you, too, need some space to switch off, so be sure to keep doing the things you enjoy. Make sure you see your friends, have someone to talk to, and exercise.

I hope there is some useful advice in there. We all experience depression in different ways and I’m sure others would add further points. Fundamentally, just let your partner know you love them and are there with a hug whenever they need one. Everything else follows from that.

A version of this post originally appeared on World of Harv.

If you or someone you know needs help, see our suicide prevention resources.

If you need support right now, call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.

The Mighty is celebrating the people we don’t thank enough. If you’d like to participate, please submit a 400- to 800-word thank you note along with a photo and 1-2 sentence bio to [email protected].

Want to end the stigma around mental illness? Like us on Facebook.

And sign up for what we hope will be your favorite thing to read at night.

2k
2k
TOPICS
, Contributor list
JOIN THE CONVERSATION

I Want to Show What Depression Looks Like So No One Else Struggles in Silence

471
471

I’m often asked about how I feel since I came out about my mental illness to the world and the answer is always the same: I’ve never felt better.

I was instantly reminded of my favorite quote from Tyrion Lannister of “Game of Thrones,” when he said: “Never forget what you are; the rest of the world will not. Wear it like armor, and it can never be used to hurt you.”

I saw the world from a totally different angle and that’s all it took, a change of perspective. I found that all of that energy used to hide, to wear that mask, was draining me, but now I hide no more. As cliche as it sounds, I guess this is what it feels like when people say they got a second lease on life. Through your weaknesses, you find strength and through accepting who you are, you’ll find that you’ll truly begin to love yourself, the good and the bad.

It was inevitable that people were going to change how they behaved around me. I thought I was going to become the local charity case; I have never been so wrong. It’s like, in a day, the world showed me a newfound respect for standing up. I was dubbed brave by many. It didn’t go to my head though, I mean, how could it? I found that there was no ego in what I did, just pride for finally standing up to the demon that has dogged me for years. At last, I’m not alone in my fight.

For the first time in years, I’m excited. Every night, I go to sleep feeling psyched because I can’t possibly wait to see what tomorrow will bring me. I find that with each passing day I grow a little bit stronger and even though I may have my bad days or bad weeks in some situations, I learned that nothing is permanent, especially if you’re willing to fight for change.

Ultimately, we are all just human. All of us are individuals and none of us come with a user’s manual. You can make mistakes, but that’s OK, as long as you learn from them. I finally know who I am and I’m on my way to refining myself to be the best I could be.

Look at you; you’re still here. Hold your head a little higher and tell me you don’t feel a little different.

The Mighty is asking its readers the following: Describe the moment someone changed the way you think about disability and/or disease. If you’d like to participate, please send a blog post [email protected] include a photo for the piece, a photo of yourself and 1-2 sentence bio.

Want to end the stigma around mental illness? Like us on Facebook.

And sign up for what we hope will be your favorite thing to read at night.

471
471
TOPICS
JOIN THE CONVERSATION

Dear Depression, You Took My Best Friend. You Won't Take Me.

211
211
gabby
Me (right) and my best friend, Gabby.

Dear Depression,

Honestly, I don’t know if I should love you or hate you. You tried to kill me. You successfully killed my best friend. But in turn, you’ve saved my life. Seeing now what pain has been caused by my best friend’s death, I could never let you kill me. But right now I’m OK with being confused.

My best friend, Gabby, passed away two weeks ago. Depression took her. I could feel my heart rip in half. I am only 16 years old; how am I supposed to deal with this? Depression, you stole my best friend. But with this action, you’ve saved many lives. All of her friends go on each day and #doitforgabby.

I’ve worked hard to fight you. I’ve been in years of therapy and had a plethora of different medications. I spend hours every day learning how to cope with living with you.

But you know what, I can handle you. I will have to deal with you forever, but I can. I can do it.

If you or someone you know needs help, see our suicide prevention resources.

If you need support right now, call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.

For all of March, The Mighty is asking its readers the following: If you could write a letter to the disability or disease you (or a loved one) face, what would you say to it? If you’d like to participate, please send a blog post to [email protected] Please  include a photo for the piece, a photo of yourself and 1-2 sentence bio.

Want to end the stigma around mental illness? Like us on Facebook.

And sign up for what we hope will be your favorite thing to read at night.

211
211
TOPICS
JOIN THE CONVERSATION

Real People. Real Stories.

7,000
CONTRIBUTORS
150 Million
READERS

We face disability, disease and mental illness together.