When You Love Someone With Depression

When You Love Someone With Depression
When You Love Someone With Depression

Whether it’s a spouse, a child, a parent, or a good friend, chances are you know someone who is battling depression.  Sharing a portion of your life with someone who is dancing with this insidious disease will be an experience like no other.  Like being on a rollercoaster that constantly changes speed.  And direction.  In the dark.  Without a pre-determined track.

Like many other diseases, severity and symptoms can vary widely.  Is it curable?  Yes, but its rate of recurrence kind of discourages the word “cure”.  Is it fatal?  It can be.  Is it contagious?  It sure feels like it.

Unlike other diseases, there are no real tried and true treatments.  Or causes.  There are a GAZILLION treatments, and absolutely no idea which one will work for your loved one.  There are also a BAJILLION (yes, I can make up words…shut up about it) professional opinions about those treatments.  PROFESSIONAL.  As in, this is what they specialize in.  Yet, if you see 3 of those professionals, they’re likely to propose 3 different types of treatment. That’s really reassuring.

At least you’ll be able to tell right away when you’ve found the right path to managing / beating this thing.  Oh, wait….no you won’t.

It’s messy.  And scary.  And emotional.  And frustrating.  And you’re not even the one suffering!  Well, yes, you are.  But you’re not the patient, and I’m pretty durn shure it’s even worse for them.  Pretty durn.

If you love someone with depression, you already know all this, and you don’t need to hear it again.  So what I really want to tell you is that it’s ok.

It’s ok.

It’s ok that you sometimes say you have to go pick up something from the store just so you can go sit in a parking lot and cry.

It’s ok that you never know when it’s time to be silent, when it’s time to be reassuring, when it’s time to encourage, or if you’re enabling.  It’s a crapshoot.

fine

You’re allowed to become frustrated.  It’s hard trying to be the strong one when you don’t feel like you are, or even can be, anymore.  You’re allowed to mourn the loss of the relationship that you shared with your loved one BD (“before depression”).

It’s perfectly normal to think that you either A) caused this, or B) can fix this, even though you’ve read all the books and know that neither is true.

It’s ok to have the occasional panic attack.  No, you’re not the only one who goes into full blown hysteria when you text twice with no response, and then, God forbid, have a call go to voicemail.  An hour later, when you finally reach them and learn that they were napping or left their phone in the car, you may WANT to slap them, but you should restrain yourself.  Also, extra points to those who have perfected silent hysteria.  Just keep driving, or working, or trying on clothes like your heart isn’t pounding out of your chest.  Good job!

You’re allowed to put some responsibility on the patient.  Listening to Enya while lamenting that everyone would be better off without them is not ok.  Go ahead and temporarily confiscate that iPod and suggest a walk in the park. Just make sure you keep in mind that the real bitch of this disease is that it inherently makes the patient not want to recover.  Thank you, limbic system, for this little twist!

anxiety-humor1

It’s ok that when Robin Williams died, you had a major meltdown.  Just remember that for every Robin Williams, there is also a Charles Schulz or Winston Churchill or Mark Twain, all of whom battled depression but lived full lives.  While that doesn’t help when you wake up in the middle of the night terrorized over the thought of losing this battle, it will help you talk yourself down once the sun comes up.

It’s ok to get angry.  When you’ve had those good days that turn into good weeks and (dare I suggest it?) good months, then out of nowhere, in an instant, you see the physical change in their eyes and expression, and know that the slide has come…it’s ok to cuss and rant about how life is unfair.

It’s ok to continue to live your life.  While your loved one may not be able to face the neighborhood pot luck, it’s ok for you to go.  Depending on the circumstances, it may even be a relief that you go.  Nothing piles guilt on your loved one more than feeling like they’re stealing your joy and ruining your life….and no matter how bad the food at that potluck is, they’ll truly feel like they’re a burden and keeping you from happiness.

You never know what life is bringing.  Embrace the good, acknowledge the bad.  Be patient.  Appreciate each day for what it is.  Let them know that you’re in it together.  Depression sucks, but life doesn’t have to.

It’s ok.

 

T’was the Week After Christmas….

T’was the Week After Christmas….
T’was the Week After Christmas….

T’was the week after Christmas and all through the house
Nothing would fit me, not even a blouse.

The cookies I’d nibble, the eggnog I’d taste.
All the holiday parties had gone to my waist.

When I got on the scales there arose such a number!
When I walked to the store (less a walk than a lumber).

I’d remember the marvelous meals I’d prepared;
The gravies and sauces and beef nicely rared,

The wine and the rum balls, the bread and the cheese
And the way I’d never said, “No thank you, please.”

As I dressed myself in my husband’s old shirt
And prepared once again to do battle with dirt—

I said to myself, as I only can
“You can’t spend a winter disguised as a man!”

So–away with the last of the sour cream dip,
Get rid of the fruit cake, every cracker and chip

Every last bit of food that I like must be banished
Till all the additional ounces have vanished.

I won’t have a cookie–not even a lick.
I’ll want only to chew on a long celery stick.

I won’t have hot biscuits, or corn bread, or pie,
I’ll munch on a carrot and quietly cry.

I’m hungry, I’m lonesome, and life is a bore—
But isn’t that what January is for?

Unable to giggle, no longer a riot.
Happy New Year to all and to all a good diet!

(author unknown)

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Accidental Angels

Accidental Angels
Accidental Angels

Yesterday afternoon, I stepped out of the 3rd marathon meeting of the day to take what I assumed would be a brief personal phone call.

Have you had one of those?  Where the “Hey, what’s up?” is quickly followed with “What the hell are you talking about?”  It was an amazingly difficult 20 minutes that sent me from getting a breath of fresh air to hiding behind a closed door, struggling to contain my emotions and keep my voice level.  I failed at both of those things.

There was a follow up conversation later in the day, one that was longer, even more painful, and during which I threw in the towel on containing my emotions and put all my effort into remaining rational and logical.  After an hour and a half, I had a raging headache, my eyes were swollen from sobbing, and my exhaustion and feeling of failure was absolute.

This morning, my eyes were still puffy, my head was still raging, but another day of marathon meetings was not to be denied.  Off to work I went.

I’m not in this office every day.  Usually 3-5 days a month, and those days are pretty packed.  Not much time for roaming the halls and expanding my circle.

This morning, a woman I barely knew stuck her head in my door and said, “Hey, I’m not sure you remember me?  I’m Cheryl from Operations, we met at the anniversary party last year.”  I actually didn’t remember Cheryl at all, but I recognized the face, and said “Yeah, yeah, yeah, how are you?  What’s up?”

And she totally ruined my well practiced composure for the entire day.

“God, you’re going to think I’m so nosy, and I’m not, and I’m not a weirdo, but I ….. can I close the door?”  She didn’t wait for an answer.  “I walked past here yesterday heading to Modifiers, and I did NOT mean to eavesdrop, but I heard you on the phone with someone…..”

Oh, Lordy.  I just looked at her.  I didn’t know what to say.

“….and it just stopped me dead in my tracks.  I don’t know who you were talking to, but I want you to know that my best friend said almost those exact same words to me 5 years ago.  I stopped in the hall and just listened, and that was so crappy of me to do, but I couldn’t NOT listen.  I’m so sorry.  I just want you to know that I hope it works out.  When my friend gave me that verbal punch….I don’t know what would have happened if she hadn’t done that.  They’re probably angry at you, but just hang in there.  It’s so hard, sometimes, and you just can’t see the forest for the trees, ya know?  Sometimes we just need to hear reality.  I just wanted to tell you that, because I could tell you were really torn up.  I’m sorry if you think I’m crazy.”

With that, I mumbled some apology about losing my composure in the office, and thanked her for stopping by, and tried unsuccessfully to not tear up, and she went on her way.

And that, my friends, is when I realized that sometimes angels wear lanyards and lab coats, and just show up to let you know that it’s all ok.

Thanks for stopping by, Cheryl.

Thanks, Cheryl