Because of my work – I tend to bear witness to people expressing a range of emotions and truths. My goal is always to approach these moments with the respect and tenderness they deserve. Every now and again, one of these moment resonates with me in such a way that it latches on and won’t let go. Its hands wrap so tightly around my soul and refuse to release until I address it.
I witnessed an attendee of our last Women of Worth meeting speak about her depression and anxiety. This beautiful person shared her struggle and articulated it in such a brave way that when she spoke – you could feel the struggle, too. It was one of those moments when everyone listened and remembered they were all human – fighting the same battles. But the specific moment that wrapped around my soul came when she described how everything hurts when you’re depressed. That “even the air hurts.”
Now, I had heard people use that phrase about depression in the past but this time was different. Maybe it was the intimate setting or the way this woman said it. I’m not quite sure. But I do know this – for me – there is no better way to articulate depression than that phrase.
Depression can seem illogical to those who have never experienced it. That’s one of the reasons I feel this phrase is a good way to describe it. Now, there are many different levels of depression but this at least helps those on the outside understand a bit better. Imagine that you are immersed in a painful substance that is a necessary to live. You wake up – it’s there. You play with your kids – it’s there. You try to complete simple daily tasks – it’s there. It envelops all aspects of your life and you cannot escape it.
People use a litany of clichés to help such as – “this will pass” or “stay positive ” or “it could be worse” – but what good is that advice when something so massive as the air hurts? Instead, I’d like to offer up some advice for those that want to help a loved one with depression:
Do NOT try to figure it out and solve it for us. Support our journey of figuring it out.
Know that the help and effort is greatly appreciated but we’re the only ones who can take steps to be better. Whether its through medication, exercise, meditation – we need to buy into it because we’re the ones that need to make the life adjustment. Sometimes, watching someone else try to “fix us” can hurt – A LOT.
It can definitely be frustrating watching someone go through depression. At times, our actions may be illogical, irrational, or frustrating. Do your research and learn about depression. It will help you approach the situations with more compassion and understanding. Chances are – we’re not trying to be difficult but again, the air hurts – how would you react? Also, this will help you know the difference between having a few bad days and living in a depressed world.
Stand vigil and walk beside us.
We don’t require pep talks, fixing, or coddling. But unconditional love, patience and support can go a long way. Small tasks that you may take for granted can seem like herculean events to someone who is depressed. Being there to quietly acknowledge the win is a great way to show your support. Also, giving a reminder that you’re going to still be there when the fog lifts is HUGE.
At the end of the day – we need to remember – we are all doing the best we can with the one life we’ve been given. Depression just makes it a different kind of life. It doesn’t define us or place a scarlet letter on our chests. It is a disease like all the others and requires special care. The positive with depression is that when you come out of the fog and can take a deep breath – it is that much sweeter. You appreciate things in life that others may take for granted – like air.