Saturday 1280 – 23.01.2016
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A couple of weeks ago I wrote my thoughts about my 2015 and mentioned that I had been suffering with depression. You can read that post here .
I am writing this as I hope it will further aid understanding for those who are lucky enough never to have experienced depression.
So what is depression like? Well I can only speak for myself, of course, but I will illustrate it using this box; an art installation I saw in Amsterdam last year.
I’d like you to look at the box for a moment and think about what it might be like to be inside such a box.
In the dark.
Separated from the outside world.
You look as though you’re in it but
actually you are unmoored from society.
There IS a doorway.
You can see it,
you can see what’s going on outside it,
It’s open, but it seems impossible to go through it.
Your energy is sapped,
unable to concentrate.
The unexpected puts you into a tailspin.
It’s not a choice.
Depression is often invisible.
Makes you want to be invisible.
People who see it from the outside can only look in.
and they might say –
If you could you would.
“Stop feeling sorry for yourself “
I refer you to my comment above !
“Can’t you pull yourself together? ”
Now it’s getting boring ^^^^^
“It can’t be as bad as all that”
Oh yes it can.
“Try not to be so depressed”
I am trying and so are you !
“Believe me, I know how you feel. I was depressed once for a couple of days”
Really! Sigh ! This one shows the speaker has never been really depressed.
“But you look alright”
Of course I do. Depression doesn’t make you grow 2 heads!
“But you can’t be depressed you always seem so confident “
I have an “I’m confident” mask. It’s quite thin. I hide when it gets too thin.
“What have you got to be depressed about? “
Nothing actually, but then depression doesn’t need a reason.
‘You’re not the only one with problems’
Correct but not helpful because it just adds guilt into the equation as does the one above and the one below !
“Shouldn’t you feel better by now?”
Goddammit I should ! I wish, I wish, I wish !
“At least you don’t have cancer”
Another sigh as this is the stupidest one ever. It’s not a competition!
I could give you loads more examples of what NOT to say to someone who gets regular visits from the “Black Dog” but I do recognise that often people are trying to help, they just don’t know how. This is particularly the case if they have never had depression themselves because they are used to emotions having a direct cause as in Cause > Effect, which is often not the case with depression.
So what IS depression?
Eminent neuroscientist Professor Sapolsky, in his lecture on depression ( video link below) defines depression as
“a biochemical disorder, with a genetic component, and early experience influences, where someone cannot appreciate sunsets” And how sad and distressing this is, comparing it to how some people with serious life threatening illness who despite being scared of dying have found that they have a renewed interest in life, found the true meaning in friendships etc. He continues saying that “humans have this astonishing capacity to derive pleasure out of the most unlikely domains. What could possibly be worse than a disease who’s defining symptom is the inability to feel pleasure”
A couple of facts from the World Health Organisation
- Depression is a common mental disorder. Globally, an estimated 350 million people of all ages suffer from depression.
- Depression is the leading cause of disability worldwide, and is a major contributor to the overall global burden of disease.
and it’s on the rise, along with other mental illnesses.
So why so many in the world ?
There are many, complex reasons, which I am not going to explore here. I’m not a scientist but I can’t help feeling that, certainly in the developed world, the more technology reaches into our lives and takes it over ( she says typing on her computer and posting on the internet! ) the further away we get from our “animal” existence and our connection with nature. The greedier we get for “things” also takes us further away.
The world moves too fast and our ability to evolve is much, much slower causing turmoil as we try, in vain, to keep up. Stress and depression seem to be linked as it is widely believed that chronic stress can cause chemical imbalance in the brains of susceptible people.
The saying “Stop the World I want to get off” about sums it up!
So to step back to the beginning what is helpful in interactions with someone who is depressed, or what would I find helpful I should say?
I would say the key is empathy, patience and being a compassionate listener; you cannot cure someone’s depression but listening really helps.
Ask how you can best support them? Tell them you may not understand how they feel but they are important to you and you want to help. Tell them they deserve help. Don’t be judgmental, tell them you know it’s not their fault.
Give them a hug, if you know they normally like them, I do but not everyone does. Encourage them to go out with you for a walk, to the cinema, swimming or out for dinner; don’t force, encourage. Text them just to let them know you are thinking about them.
There are many other things and I have included a couple of links below for further reading
Some reading :-
and viewing :-
Oh and by the way, I am feeling a lot better; this week anyway :o)
Your thoughts are very welcome as ever.
Saturday Girl signing off..
Take a look at my photography blog Photomania ; in particular the post Photos and Poetry 11 – The Magic Box which features the same box.