I started therapy a few months ago.
About a year ago I plunged into a pretty deep depression. Worse than that, or at least more overwhelming to consider, Matthew and I began to realize that I had actually been depressed for quite a long time. At the very least, since shortly after Eliza was born. Five years! Five years, at least, and I didn’t know it.
How is that possible?
Depression looks different on different people. For me, depression has been a slow sucking of color and life over the years. A narrowing of my emotional experience. A collection of reasons to explain why I felt the way I did, which had nothing to do with the real reason and were mostly completely untrue, but were compelling and replay themselves over in my head: I am lazy, I shouldn’t have had kids, I am just not nurturing enough to enjoy being a mom, I am just an angry person, I don’t connect with people, I am discontent. It happened really slowly, this narrowing–over years, until I was always a hair trigger away from freaking out, either in anger, anxiety, or sadness. And even then, my symptoms were “under control” enough that I wouldn’t have called it a panic attack, I wouldn’t have said I was depressed. I would have said–did say–that I was happy. Because I knew I should be. I knew my life was good. Hard, but isn’t it always?
So I started therapy a few months ago. I plan to write more about both the uncovering of my depression, and my feeble steps back to myself. Whoever she is.
My counselor gave me this homework last week: to answer the question, “When I make time for __________, I feel better.” Because people in my situation tend to forget what we like. What makes us us, our best selves.
When I write, I feel better.
When I write for an (even if imagined) audience, I feel better.
So I’m moving away from exclusively journaling and I’m posting this, my first real written post (that wasn’t a song) in over a year. I’m going to find my way back, with a lot of help.
This isn’t the end.
Postscript: If you aren’t sure how to talk to someone with depression, a good place to start is a very simple, “I’m so sorry you’ve been feeling badly.” “I know you can’t feel this right now, but it will get better.” “You’re so much stronger than you know. I’m proud of you–this is really hard.” It’s not good to offer advice, ever, unless the person specifically asks you for it. Odds are, as smart individuals, they already know what they need to do. Don’t make them feel worse for not being able to do it. It’s also not great to say “I knew something was up with you,” or anything that will make the person feel worse for having to find their own way.
Just keep it simple, express your care, and your sorrow that the person is having a hard time. That is more than enough, and will communicate your love. This is a good thing to keep in mind whenever anyone is having any kind of hard time, whether with mental illness, physical illness, death in the family–don’t keep quiet. But limit your words to words of care, and stay away from words of advice.