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Eat more, think less: How not to respond to depression

Nivida Chandra
Nivida ChandraSep 07, 2015 | 14:41

Eat more, think less: How not to respond to depression

I'm depressed. I've accepted that. I don't have an answer or solution to it. I've accepted that too.

Why others can't accept it is something I have to additionally deal with. So I've decided to stop telling people that I'm depressed.

After having spoken to a few people with depression within the last month, I've learnt a few things. We're actually very hard-working people. We work very hard to contain our depression within ourselves. If you met us on the road, you wouldn't be able to tell. We often lead (almost) fully functioning lives, go out with friends, and watch Game of Thrones. But we have an inherent unhappiness. It's deep and unsettling. We are very grateful for this beautiful life that we have, but we're just not happy. We don't want more - more money, a better job, fame, or whatever it is that people want.

Personally, I just want to be able to laugh and mean it. I don't want to have to remind myself all the time that things will be better. I want living just to be a little less of a fight.

Depression remains a very personal and amorphous experience. No two depressions are alike. However, it seems like it always brings up the same images or ideas in the minds of people. Sad, crying, sunken eyes, unkempt, sitting in a corner, contemplating suicide.

When I decided to share what I was feeling, there was a battle between what others and I understood as depression. Of late, I've been trying to explain my version of depression to people. I wanted to reach out and build a support structure around me. That blew up in my face. And has motivated me to write this article to encourage you to really think before sharing your experience of depression.

Here are some of the gems of wisdom I've received in (very) recent times, in the garb of "support":

1. I feel you just think you're unique, and want to indulge it. No no, of course you're unique, but you're not THAT unique: What this means is that I'm in some way enjoying my depression, and enjoying being unique in my sadness, that I'm somehow enjoying characterizing myself as depressed. And that lots of people are sad, and everyone eventually gets on with their lives just the same. It takes a very cruel person to say something like this.

2. Everyone has problems: Yes. Again, I know. And I'm sorry to hear that. But in the case of depression, it feels like my problems have problems. Maybe you can give me sparkling solutions, but I don't have the strength to robotically execute them. I have a deep, debilitating exhaustion that cannot be overcome with your notion of efficiency.

3. Your mind is hungry, and you will only get what you feed your mind: Thanks. That doesn't sound like blame at all. Very supportive of you.

4. You must let go. You're holding on too much: Really? Have you recently been challenged to let go of experiences that scarred you? If you're saying this, I know you haven't. To put it (extremely) simply, it's very hard. When you're floating through, just trying to get through every day, it just seems like a bit of a tall order.

5. You have self-esteem issues? You seem like such a confident girl: I'm glad you feel that way. I'm also glad to have the opportunity to tell you that the two are not mutually exclusive. Here I know I speak for many of us depressants: We are certainly confident and are also good at our jobs and what not. We just have a grave fear that we're not the best, that we might be wrong, and that we should improve all the time. We feel like we may not be good enough. Some people even call that humility, when additional "depression symptoms" are absent.

6. This must be because you don't eat well: I don't even know how to respond to this one.

7. You think too much. Just relax. Enjoy life. Be in the moment: My moment is a life sucking vortex. You be in this moment and show me enjoyment.

8. You have too much time. You should do more things: Sure. Just let me grab some energy lying on the other side of the room and we're good to go. Oh wait. I don't have the will to move.

9. How long will this go on for? There must be something you can do! I don't know how long. I hope not too much longer. And I hope never again. There are certainly things that I can do, and I do the ones I can. But we'll have this conversation when you can't get out of bed in the morning, and hate the fact that you'll have to do it again tomorrow.

10. This will pass. It'll be over soon: This actually does help a little sometimes. It depends on who is saying it and how - so if it is your first attempt at being there for someone with depression, then don't say this.

A lot of this is great advice, I'm sure. My problem is that it comes from a place of impatience, ignorance and helplessness, which the advice-giver will not acknowledge. I'm not saying that we shouldn't eat well, or that we shouldn't try and keep busy. I'm saying that before you give advice, you're not understanding that we can't - not physically, not mentally! We're stuck in limbo, and this is already us doing the best we can.

Dear loved ones, just for a while, please accept this.

This is my note to all those who have someone with depression near them:

I believe you when you say you want to help, but please stop treating us like we're idiots. We know it's in our mind (and body too, actually).

But it's not our fault. We didn't ask for this, and most of us wouldn't wish it on our worst enemies. So please try and listen, really listen, to what we're saying, and if you don't know what to say in return, just nod politely and acknowledge our pain or confusion or sadness.

Otherwise we'll clam up and either pretend that everything is miraculously alright when we meet you next, or we'll stop meeting you. It takes a lot of courage to share, so we need you to understand how much it means to us to share with you. We love you for loving us. It helps to know you care. Help us hang in there.

To those who're struggling, like me:

Obviously don't listen to me. Just find the right people to talk to. Keep shouting to explain to them how you're feeling, till they understand and support in the way you need to be supported.

(This story first appeared in The Shrinking Couch.)

Last updated: March 14, 2016 | 12:27
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