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The Symptom of Depression That Was Hardest to Explain to My Family

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I’ll never forget the first time I told my husband I felt empty. He was quiet for several minutes before he finally responded, and his response was like a slap in the face.

He felt hurt, insulted that I had him and our kids and I still felt empty. It had never occurred to me that those who have never felt the emptiness of depression don’t understand what it means or how it feels.

It was important to me that he and my children, as well as other family and friends, understood that my emptiness had nothing to do with him — rather, it was just another symptom of my mental illnesses. Unfortunately, it was a symptom that hit me especially hard which made it even more important that I really help my family and friends understand what I meant when I spoke about emptiness.

First, emptiness is a symptom of my illness and has nothing to do with my family or friends. It doesn’t mean they aren’t doing enough. It doesn’t mean they aren’t enough, and it doesn’t mean I need them to try harder to give or be more. Emptiness is a reflection of where I am and doesn’t involve anyone else.

Secondly, emptiness doesn’t mean I feel discontented with my life. It doesn’t mean I’m not satisfied with what I have or that I don’t appreciate and love my family and friends. Again, emptiness is about me, and where I am at the time.

Emptiness is hard to explain, and I imagine everyone who experiences it will describe it differently. I say emptiness feels like nothing. It feels like nothing is there (or here). It is a surreal feeling of not being involved in my life, like an empty shell that washes ashore.

Finally, I have no control over my feelings of emptiness. They come and go as they please and I will most likely have to deal with these feelings forever, but through therapy and the proper medicinal routine I can learn how to cope with them.

It’s one of the most difficult parts of depression to deal with. It’s dark and lonely. It shows up uninvited and unannounced and stays for as long as it wants.

If you suffer from feelings of emptiness, know you are not alone. If you love someone who suffers from these feelings, understand they are not a reflection of you and though it may be difficult understanding and support during this dark time is what your loved one needs.

Mental illness and all of the stuff that comes with it is not something we choose. It is something we fight every day. We need to know that we aren’t fighting alone.

Getty Images photo via BruceStanfield

Originally published: May 24, 2018
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