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When It Feels Like You Can't Talk About the Darkest Parts of Depression

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I was diagnosed with severe recurrent depression disorder with psychotic symptoms (ICD F33.3) in January 2007. I’ve worked out since, with the help of therapy, that this was almost certainly triggered by the suicide of my best friend two years earlier.

The depression has lingered to this day despite the best efforts of counselors and psychiatrists. It seems quite treatment resistant. I’ve never been afraid to talk about it, and have always found that friends, family and colleagues are usually accepting of depression as a serious mental health issue. But they will only go so far with any discussion of it. There is a point beyond which I know I cannot go — my feelings of despair and nihilism are simply too much to share with anyone I care for and respect. Depression has made me super-sensitive to other people’s emotions and reactions, and I have learned to trust my instincts and draw back from any conversation that seems to be crossing a line, where I might articulate some of the worst horrors inside my head.

On the occasions when I have talked with other people living with depression, I can sense them doing the same thing. I think this is a real issue, not much talked about, that enhances and ingrains the feeling of isolation and often despair that people with depressive disorders feel. A useful analogy for this might be watching a film, and watching a trailer for the film. Telling someone about some of the feelings and symptoms of depression to a certain level, is like watching a film trailer; the general idea is divulged and you’ll probably get the gist of the movie. But only when you’ve watched the whole film and understood the depth of the plot will you really “get it.” Most people might be happy to watch the trailer but will not want to watch the film, due to the dark content matter.

This inability to communicate the deeper levels of my depression has created a barrier between me and my friends and family, leading to a genuine feeling of aloneness, that once again feeds into the cycle of depression. The one legitimate solution I have found to ease the depression is writing. Writing is by its nature a solitary act, but it allows me to plug into the positive aspects of being alone, most especially the ability to be creative. I believe that creativity, at any level, is a great weapon against depression.

Depression kills creativity, usually by stifling it below layers of perceived inadequacies. But when I am able to write, even about dark subject matter, I feel as if I am finally digging down into the deeper parts of me, where the depression lives. But instead of backing off from talking about it, I can say whatever it is I want to. The writing doesn’t have to be directly tackling the subject of depression, but I find that whatever I am writing about, it is always informed, to some extent, by my mental illness.

Knowing this helps me enormously. I have published a novel, have a blog-site and write for various websites all of which communicate (in part) what I am unable to talk about in conversation with other people. It allows me to articulate the deepest aspects of the depression, in a way that I hope is useful and valuable for others. This, more than anything else, muzzles the depression.

So my advice for anyone who finds talking about depression difficult, is to redirect any energy you may have into creativity. It can be anything; writing, painting, drawing, music, photography etc.. It doesn’t really matter how good it is either, the key is to dredge something creative and meaningful from within yourself… depression doesn’t like that.

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

If you need support right now, call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or text “START” to741-741.

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Image via Thinkstock.

Originally published: December 7, 2016
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