I want to talk for a little bit about depression.

I don't have depression, but I am  affected by it. I have two people in my immediate family with depression. I have friends who have depression. And it is horrible to know that they are struggling with this thing and not know how to help them. I feel helpless a lot of the time when I read about depression and when people write about their experiences with it - because however good your imagination is, however many articles you read, whoever you talk to about it and try to put yourself in their shoes for a while - we, the people who don't have depression, will not be able to understand the people who do have it. We can try to understand what happens in the body and what the effects are, but we can't understand what it's like to be depressed. We will never be able to fully understand it.

It is fucking awful seeing someone you love struggling with this illness and not knowing how to help them. In the greatest sense, there isn't much you can do to help them - you can't get into their brain and pump up the serotonin production, and you can't magically think someone into not being depressed. If only it was that easy.

So what the fuck can you or I do?

You love that person, and show it. You listen to them when they want to talk, you hug them, you spend time with them, you make an effort to get in touch with them even if it's just a 'hi how are you?' text, you try to make sure they know that you are there for them. (For example, I just sent a text to someone I know who has been diagnosed with depression - basically 'hello, how are you? I'm think of you, love El'. I'm not expecting a reply - not because this person has depression, but because they have a bad track record of answering texts - but that's not the point. You send a message out to the person to let them know that you're thinking of them, and that's the best you can do.) You understand that this is not something they are doing on purpose, and it's not something they can control.

And if you do all those things and the person you love still has depression, you keep loving them. Keep at it. It can feel like you're wasting your love on that person because they're not getting better. It can feel like you're not doing enough for them, that they'd only recover if you loved them enough. But the thing is: it's not in your control to make that person better. You love them and support them as much as you can, but in the end it is up to them. It is not their fault that they have depression, but it's not your responsibility or within your power to cure them of it either.

Here's the thing: loving someone with depression will not cure them of it, but it just might make their lives a whole lot more bearable. So if you know someone who has depression and you want to help them deal with it, learn about it. Google 'depression information' and thousands of pages come up. Even Wikipedia is a start. Understand that it's not just a 'bad mood' and that the affected person should just 'snap out of it'. Correct other people when they don't have the facts right. Talk about it - there is a stigma over depression, as if it's either far too shameful to admit to having or so minor that it's not worth bothering about, and it's neither. Depression kills people and keeping silent about it kills people.

This is what we can do to help people with depression: give them love, and understanding. It will not make them recover, but it will (hopefully) make things easier for them. That the only thing, the most important thing we can do for the people we love.



May 2012



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