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 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.
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!
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.