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It’s Time to Get Brutally Honest About Depression

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Let’s get really freaking honest about depression:

Clinical Depression is an illness, a brain disorder that affects every part of the human condition including the mind and the body. A spectrum disorder from dysthymia (chronic low mood) to yes, even being terminal. Many, even in this educated and enlightened age, where information is available at the tip of our fingers, are still afraid to tell others.

The “D” word: It’s whispered about, it’s misunderstood. It’s shamed. It’s stigmatized. it’s the eye roll at family gatherings.

And yep, it’s the illness everyone seems to think, they know what formula will work to “fix” it.

“They just need to take medication, or go to yoga or meditate, or change their diet, or do that exercise regime, or read that self-help book, or align their chakras, or take this supplement, or create that vision board, or do that therapy, or attend that motivational conference or my very favorite (that is me being passive aggressive) think positive.”

And I mean yes, a lot of these things may help, but do you honestly think they haven’t thought of it or tried it already? Seriously?

During my worst depressive episode, back in 2011, I would have literally eaten dog sh*t, if there was evidence somewhere, anywhere that someone had tried it and it worked. I would have put a heaping scoop of poop in my Magic Bullet with frozen berries and drank it three times a day.

So before you send that link to your depressed friend about connecting with their inner child or their higher self, stop and ask yourself if you would send it to a loved one with any other chronic relapse/remission type of illness.

When a person is sick with even a bad case of the flu, people reach out for help. Friends might make homemade soup or bring over a little basket of soft tissues, cold medicine and herbal teas to soothe your sinuses.

When a person has surgery, friends make precooked meals so that they can rest and recuperate and not have to spend time in the kitchen while they are recovering. It’s a courtesy. It’s an act of kindness and so very much appreciated!

When a baby is born and the mother is in the hospital, family sends flowers to congratulate them on their new addition and on a job well done, even when we are not sick at all. We still acknowledge their labor.

When I had major surgery, or when we had a house fire or when I was in the hospital postpartum, gosh did people show up! I was blessed. My mom was there to help me with the kids, our church at the time had a hot dish at our front door at 4 p.m. every day for weeks. My sister baked me her famous chocolate chip cookies. My mother in law at the time made my favorite homemade fettuccine. Friends called.

Ohhhh but depression…Depression is not a “casserole illness!”

There are no meals or care packages or flowers! In fact, most people don’t even call to check in or they do at first, but over time, they give up; maybe you aren’t getting well fast enough. So they back up and out of your life and OMG does it burn!

It settles in deep, breaks the heart and gets under the skin. It becomes raw and painful, and eventually and without intention, it grows into self-loathing and to be honest, a dash of resentment too.

And when I ended up in that hospital because of my mental health (yep, the “mental hospital,” the “cuckoo nest,” the “nut house,” the “loony bin,” the “happy hills Hilton”) at stage 4 depression, tottering between life and death, with life being a 100 pound girl vs Arnold on the other side, the avoidance only got worse. Two hours from home, 56 days in intensive gut wrenching treatment. My now ex-husband brought my children to see me twice — me, their Momma…I had never been away from them once.

And drum roll please! The number of visitors? Zero.

Later, I asked why? The answers shocked me.

“Well, we didn’t know if you were allowed visitors.” What? I wasn’t contagious, you didn’t have to don a mask, gloves and gown. Did you think you were going to catch it and bring it home?

“Well, we didn’t know if they let people in?” What? I hadn’t committed a crime, for God’s sake. I was not in freaking jail.

“Well, we thought maybe you wanted to be alone.” What? I had felt alone for years. What I needed more than anything was connection.

“Well, you never come see us, so…” The quid pro quo, the trade, the something in return for something. What? Yes, I canceled lots of plans, turned down that invitation or didn’t show up at that birthday party, because I can’t even leave the house! I’m afraid all the time and mostly I am afraid of you judging me. I want to be included. I miss you all terribly. I already know I am an unreliable friend, the “black sheep,” the sum total of the excuses I’ve made! I admit it all and will humbly fall on my sword for you, but if I was sick with anything else, would we honestly, even be having this particular discussion?

“Well, we just didn’t know what to say!” And there it is…

The most honesty I think I ever heard!

Thank you. Now we have something to work with and here it is :

You do not have to say anything!

Hold their hand, even though it may tremble.

Listen to them vent without interrupting with platitudes or telling them “it could be worse.”

Allow them to cry in your presence, even though it makes you as uncomfortable as hell.

Let them speak freely, without feeling the need to give advice or come up with a solution.

Then just love them…OMG…please just love them and you will never go wrong!

And finally, bake the brownies, send the cheapest carnation you can find, write a note on a card from the dollar store. Keep including them in every family function. Keep asking them for coffee, even if they have declined 20 times. Keep inviting them, even though you don’t think they will come because one day, maybe tomorrow, maybe next year when they are feeling better, they will say yes, yes and yes to all of it.

Nope, you do not need a degree in psychology.

You don’t need to “fix” them, they are not broken.

They are sick… period.

All you need to do is follow the golden rule: Treat others the way you would hope to be treated if it was you.

I’m willing to share all this because it is 2019! Shatter the F&*king stigma... I hope you will share, as well.

Because if the statistics are indeed accurate, it is far more likely, than not that one day it may be you or someone you love too ❤

Compassion…please pass it on ❤️

Getty image via Big_and_serious.

Originally published: November 26, 2019
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