Take a journey with me:
You’re sitting in your favorite dining spot. You look across and see someone you’ve known for most of your life. They are happy. They smile and laugh at your silly jokes. You know you can rely on your best friend to always be there and always be the light in your life when you’ve been covered in darkness. There’s nothing that you don’t know about them. You’ve shared everything together over the years. You’ve pretty much seen all that one can see when they think about having a best friend. This best friend may even be a family member.
Now, imagine that as you’re talking and laughing, they simply vanish from sight. They’re gone. They’ve made an ultimate decision that takes them away from you, and you don’t know why. Your best friend was so happy. They were so well-rounded, smart, witty, and full of life. When you thought you knew everything about them, there was that one thing you didn’t. They kept it so well hidden that not even you, someone so close, could know.
They suffered from deep depression. Something you weren’t aware of until you were handed a note, possibly left specifically for you, explaining why they made this decision. Sharing with you that they didn’t want to be a burden. All you can think of is how that isn’t true at all. Then you start to think about all the things you might have been able to see to prevent it. You know in your heart you would have been there for them regardless of what they were going through.
There may have been many times they almost felt comfortable talking to you about it, thinking they found an opening. Whatever the circumstances surrounding these openings, you may have not even recognized that they had something to get off their chest. They may have perceived you to have so much going on that they didn’t want to burden you with their own problems. At the time, it may have seemed to them that their problems were small in comparison to yours. Subtle hints in the eyes missed. Facial expressions overlooked. Their body language saying they were withdrawing their own feelings to pay attention to yours. Cues so silent and subtle anyone could miss…. even you.
As you read this, you may actually be remembering a time you, yourself did this to someone really close to you. You may be suffering from the same sense of being a burden to others. It may have brought up feelings of guilt and regret. You could have paid a little more attention. You could have changed something in order to save a life. Truth is that depression, especially in silence, is a slow and steady killer if the person doesn’t realize they suffer from this debilitating disease.
One of the many tragic aspects of depression is that the person feels like an absolute burden in the lives of those who are around them. Isolated and alone, even amongst friends, they are merely surviving. Trying to get from one day to the next. They wear a smile, play a role. Existing. Little things bother them that they just bury and try not to let show. They don’t want to be a burden. A mask is put on every day, and only in the privacy of their tiny solace do they take it off. They try to make people not notice the actual struggle. They don’t want to be a burden.
For anyone who has suffered from this disease or any of its cousins (PTSD, Seasonal Affective Disorder, Post-Partum, etc.), they don’t want to burden anyone but, at the same time, they don’t see a way out. Depression can be situational or bio-chemical. And the deeper it is, the more the individual has to dig, fight, claw, and scratch their way out of a negative mind set and feeling. To them, happy endings are hard to reach or don’t exist. They may feel that they don’t deserve it. Expressing and/or knowing feelings of accomplishment can be completely foreign. Buried in sadness, others in their lives may only see the exhaustion and frustration that lies on the surface.
Many people who suffer depression may not even realize they have the disease or absolutely deny anything being wrong. A good portion of them are successful, happy, have a good relationship with friends and family, their physical health is great. Yet, like a character from a recent episode of NBC’s “Chicago Med,” they walk out in front of a moving vehicle. Constantly feeling they have to prove themselves. Frustration can explode in anger and self-defeat when one too many projects or tasks are on their plate. They walk around tired, even after a complete night’s sleep. Outbursts of rage come out of nowhere and for no reason. To some they seem self-absorbed, selfish and incapable of thinking about anyone else. And we’ve only looked at the tip of the many facets and forms of the huge mountain that is depression.
Depression is unique to each and every person it affects. For many, the only way out is a prescription and medication dosage monitoring. Many victims of depression may try to avoid taking medication. There is a chance that the symptom they are attempting to treat is actually going to be engaged or enhanced. Modern medicine has been able to see how the brain reacts to certain chemicals when they are introduced. The downside being no two brains are exactly the same. So it can be difficult to gain an immediate or even effective result. Others are able to work it through with “talk-therapy”. Some are able to get through it simply by talking to friends. Very few are able to actually find relief on their own. Most who “go it alone” never completely find relief.
Hard truth of this disease? It has no scientifically documented cure. If someone learns they are bio-chemically depressed, they may have to manage it for the entirety of their lives. Situational depression is different because it is “easier” to recover from and treat. Regardless, recognition is the absolute largest step that any person can take who lives this battle. Wanting to know happiness, accomplishment, self-worth, and realizing they don’t have to feel like a burden is the largest milestone any depressive can have. Knowing it isn’t selfish to live with the highs and lows is also important. Many life coaches will use this approach to help their clients. Saying they are being selfish and causing their own depression. This is not only degrading, but can devastatingly backfire. The intention behind it may be well meaning, but to a depressive, it can be one more judgment they have to deal with, and this particular tactic should be used with caution.
Let’s go back to the scenario at the beginning. Only this time, you and your friend are talking, and you look up and notice something you hadn’t seen before. Something is telling you to quiet your own stories for a moment. Time to switch from output to listening. Instead of continuing, you ask if there’s anything going on and reassure them that no matter what it is that you are there for them. You help open the door for them to release the fear of burdening you with their problem. If they tell you that they are considering the ultimate decision, don’t panic. Don’t mock. Don’t dismiss it. Don’t think it selfish. Don’t scold. Be there. How they are feeling, what they are experiencing may be foreign to you, but it is VERY real to them.
If any of this applies to you or someone in your life, there is help and hope. Tools are available. Medication is out there when it’s beyond talking out. Nutrition can be matched to help manage the body’s processes. Triggers can be recognized and with diligence can be maintained. Meditation can help to quiet the mind and shift focus. With a little research, there are several outlets and techniques that can be used to assist in releasing, removing, and/or treating depression.
While a severe depressive may never BE happy, they can certainly learn what it looks and feels like. No one has to be an island and attempt to fix themselves. Depression IS a burden, but it doesn’t have to feel like one all the time. Know that you are not alone. Let them know that even if you can’t help them, there are those out there who can and will. They are not a burden. You are not a burden. You are both a gift and a beautiful being. You are all worth it.
Here are some links to follow if you need a starting point or are having a crisis: