By Damen Holmes
What is it about depression that is so hard for other people to get? That’s not me raging against the ignorance of some people, it’s a genuine question that I’ve asked myself for a long time. I think it’s that depression can be so different for two people that it gets confusing, even for those who suffer from it and have friends who do as well.
Depression can be so different for two people
All too often I’ve had friends with depression straight up dismissing someone else’s depression because it doesn’t match what they’re going through, or because the problems that their depression has blown out of all proportion are relatively minor, in the grand scheme of things or compared to theirs. It makes me sad, it really does, and it doesn’t help.
There are so many misconceptions about depression and depressive illnesses that even sufferers aren’t sure what’s what, let alone the family and friends of those who suffer with it. But I’m not the person to enlighten others on what depression is and what it means. I can only tell you what it is and what it means to me: there’s so much that’s subjective.
I can sit and tell my whole story, and many people will say that yes, I’ve been through enough to warrant the label of a depressed person. But this other person? They’ve not been through half the stuff that I have, so why are they depressed?
People should never have to justify their depression
Because, like me, they have a chemical imbalance in their brain that causes their depression. It doesn’t matter what they’ve been through, their issues are as real and relevant to them as mine are to me. People should never have to justify their depression to anyone else. It’s not their fault, and it’s not on them to prove to anyone, save medical professionals who can help with diagnosis and treatment, that they have depression.
We need to stop trying to downplay other people’s depression, as that’s the same thing as dismissing them, which can further harm their mental health. If someone claims that they have depression, advise seeing a doctor and be there for them. Do what you can to disabuse them of the notion that depression is looked down upon, because for the most part, we’ve come a long way in recent years. More is known and accepted about depression than it once was, but we’re still not there yet.
Show that you understand and empathise
If you have a friend with depression, do what you can to read up on things. Showing that you understand and empathise with what they’re going through will be a big help. This can help them take a step forward in getting themselves back on track. But don’t expect the track to be easy, or straightforward, or even the same from year to year.
I’ve been suffering with depression since I was 13. I was diagnosed with Seasonal Affective Disorder when I was in my early 20s, which was around the time that I was unfortunate enough to find the body of one of my best friends after he’d committed suicide. Around this time my depression was kicked into high gear.
The first few years were the worst, I didn’t get back close to being ‘me’ for a fair few years. But I made it through. Since then, I’ve had years where the darker months barely affect me and I’ve been absolutely fine, but I’ve also had years where I’ve been so down that I’ve fallen back on self-harming, or worse.
There’s no rhyme or reason to it
The hardest thing for my family, though, is that there’s no rhyme or reason to it. It just happens, no change in meds, no big or little event. I just spiral.
This year is shaping up to be a bad year. My depression and anxiety have gotten so bad that I’ve lost jobs. I struggle to sleep. Leaving the house for more than 10 minutes is getting harder and harder as the days go by. But I know I’ve got my family. We may not be close in distance, but I know that they’ve got my back. It’s been a long road, but over the years they’ve come to understand the foibles of my depression. Over time, you can, too.
Good luck everyone.