Life with depression is precarious business.
It’s like living full-time in a minefield.
You never quite get comfortable with your surroundings, even when things seem quiet. You always move gingerly, knowing full well that any step could blow it all up and send you reeling again; a bit of bad news, a difficult moment, or worse seemingly nothing at all. And every single time something triggers the sadness and that inner detonation occurs, parts of you get ripped up and shredded—and losing a bit of yourself in this way never gets easier.
One of the things most people don’t understand is the way mental illness isolates you, how it forces you to the periphery of all of your relationships because you know how unstable the ground you walk on each day is and how quickly everything can get ugly. You desperately want to avoid the collateral damage to people you love, so you learn to keep them at a safe distance.
Yet ironically it’s this very self-inflicted solitude that is the often the perfect incubator for despair. Without the necessary fresh voices from those outside of your own head, you have complete freedom to stay there and to craft the most horrible, hopeless narrative for yourself at any given moment.
So often this violence is an inside job.
Like most people who suffer from chronic depression, over the years I’ve become an expert at self-deception. My mind can manipulate the data in front of me to construct an iron-clad case against myself without a trace of reasonable doubt. And it’s this brutal inner trial that makes helping from the outside so difficult, because you’ve got to rescue me from me(and I can be a real bear to deal with).
Loving someone who struggles with depression is a costly investment. It’s hazard duty, plain and simple. It’s the brave and defiant act of heading directly into this dangerous head space and risking life and limb to get close to people when they least want you close and yet most need you to be. That proximity to another’s pain is as treacherous as it can be redemptive.
Chances are you love someone who struggles with severe depression or other forms of mental illness. I wanted to say thank you on behalf of them, as they may never be able to articulate these things to you. It’s often incredibly difficult to admit your flaws, especially when those flaws involve how you think and feel, and how you view the world and your place in it.
And the truth is, you may never get through to those you love.
You may say and do all the right things and still feel like it doesn’t matter. Despite all of your efforts and prayers and tears you may never be able to instill in people the hope you have for them and the goodness you see in them, but do not see that as defeat.
You can’t measure your care by the reception it receives. As is so often the case, the act of loving is itself the victory.
So thank you for stepping into the minefield over and over again to reach and rescue those of us who reside there.
It is a courageous and beautiful thing and not a moment of it is wasted.