Why You Shouldn't Be Mad When People Can't Describe Their Depression
Have you ever heard of a Takthuluyk? Really? You haven’t? Well, it’s actually just a really big bird. It has a 50-foot wing span, with beautiful, vibrant yellow and blue feathers zig-zagging across its body. It’s talons are large enough to pick up an Oldsmobile, large enough to crush its prey, but also gentle enough to feed and take care of its young. The Takthuluyk also has two heads, each with three eyes and a massive beak. Its eyes are deep and focused, glowing a fiery amber. The beak curves downward, using the sharp curvature to stab and incapacitate.
It’s feathers are smooth and clean but with the sharpness of steel. They move and clink together as it flies, like a knight wearing a suit of armor. Still haven’t heard of it?
Neither have I, but I bet you painted a good picture in your head. Everyone’s mental image may be slightly different, but if you had to describe it to someone, it wouldn’t be too difficult. It’s a thing. It’s solid and has certain characteristics that can be easily described.
It’s easier to accept and understand things you can see. Something no one has heard of, same as mythical beasts, religious figures and fictional characters, you can identify with ease. Yet, if I asked you to describe something to me that is far more common, then I don’t think one answer would be the same.
Describe to me love.
Describe to me happiness.
Describe to me sanity.
Describe to me depression.
I don’t want a text book definition or what some talking head has told you what these things are. You can’t. Not in a way that fully describes what it is or how it makes you feel. Something as common and as natural as simple, human emotion, something most of us take for granted every single day, is as complex and misunderstood as the universe.
We believe in these emotions, and we take them at face value when confronted with them. I can see Jim over there. He’s smiling and laughing with a coworker. They are making jokes and discussing the weekend. He greets everyone who walks in and asks everyone how they are doing. He looks and sounds happy and is enjoying everything the day gives him. We just assume and go on with our days.
How happy is he? What made him happy? What is happy? Even in reverse, if he was the opposite and turned his head away from people and didn’t engage. If he yelled and screamed, would he be sad? Angry? An a**hole? Which is it?
Taking people and emotions at face value is doing a disservice to yourself, others and to the understanding of the emotion itself. All of our emotions are so intertwined with how we are as people, that they become fluid, flowing around our brain and body, changing and moving as we change and move as people. They form every aspect of our life. Yet, we still take them for granted, and we take others for granted as well.
Everyone has a different approach to happiness. The smell of flowers, the oil-painted canvas look of an evening sky, children, grandchildren, music. The same goes for anger or sadness. Every emotion is different for each person, and we understand that and we carry on. We don’t question it. We just accept it.
So what happens with depression? Depression is a medical issue, but it is also an emotion to the extreme or in some cases, the complete lack of emotion. It’s also happiness. It’s sadness. It’s fear. It’s anger. It’s painful and cold. It’s scary. It’s real and rampant, and it makes you bend the knee to every other emotion.
You have a difficult time explaining happiness or love to me. People say these are abstract terms. Yet, we know the words and the feelings and still have difficulties conveying it. So why are you mad or confused with someone who can’t describe how it is to be depressed? Why are you quick to judge? Why do you assume I am going to be fine? That this will pass and I will be OK later on?
If you can’t describe to me something as common as happiness, don’t describe to me how someone should feel or how someone should behave when depressed and expect that to be the end of the conversation. Again, face value. Let me try to describe it for you, as detailed as the description of the Takthuluyk.
When you wake up, try to imagine you wish you were dreaming, for waking up becomes a nightmare. Your body struggles to move, but you have to. If you don’t move, then you will only curl up and try to die. Driving to work, try to imagine listening to any song, any interview, and you have the possibility of breaking down into tears.
A word or phrase makes you think of yourself or others. How ashamed you are for being this way. How you are disappointing others for being so selfish. How maybe you shouldn’t be here because your life is only a burden. That’s a daily occurrence.
Getting to work, all you still feel like doing is hiding. The only way to hide is put on your disguise and go about your day. Interacting and acting like a productive member of society, but behind your mask, tears streak your cheeks and your heart sputters.
All you hope is for people to leave you alone. You need to struggle in silence because you don’t think anyone else should have to share this burden with you. Yet, the only thing you hope, wish, dream for is for someone to volunteer to share this burden. How do you ask if you can’t talk? How can someone volunteer if you’re hiding? You will get upset at others for not offering, and increasingly upset at yourself for not asking. This is cyclical.
In a matter of moments, you can feel the pain of being excruciatingly defeated and the exuberance of victory. Laughing with a tear and crying with a smile. Getting to be too much? It’s hard for someone to understand this if they have never experienced it. Those people also are the first to tell you to get over it.
They say, “Oh, you’re sad?” Then, they ask why. Tell you things will get better. My only answers to the those questions are rage and pain. I am not sad because that requires emotion. I don’t know why my mind hates myself. Thanks for trying, but no, it absolutely won’t get better. Not anytime soon, not unless you start to understand.
I described something that doesn’t exist earlier. I made an entire creature up, and most people would have a better understanding of what that creature is, then they do of a friend or family member who is struggling with depression.
I am overburdened, and I need help. Don’t try to understand me. Don’t try to judge me. Don’t tell me I am going to be all right. Look at me. Talk to me. Give me a shoulder. Give me an ear. Let me be me. Let me struggle. Let me work through it, but don’t let me be alone. This is all I ask.
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Thinkstock image via Grandfailure