I don’t know how many times I’ve seen that going for a run or going the gym can make you feel better. It will release endorphins. What the f*** is an endorphin any way? A type of dolphin?
Alright, fair enough, physical exercise will give you that slight high feeling, accomplishing something for the day, being able to forget whatever it is that was bothering you and is obviously beneficial to an overall healthy life. But your worries and problems are still going to be there when you walk out of the gym or get home from that run. For example, that deadline, that looming social occasion that your anxiety isn’t prepared for, or that job interview. Is physical exercise going to fix your life?
Getting off the sofa itself can seem difficult, like something is pushing you back down again. It can feel like you are stuck in a dark room and can never escape. Occasionally a dim light will come on, but as quick as it appears, it’s gone again. The realities of living with depression can be, well, life threatening.
I am not sure I would be correct in saying I have ever been depressed. I have had sh*t days of course, but depression to me is much more severe than a single sh*t day when something didn’t quite go right. Even if everything seems to be going well, depression can make a person feel as if it’s not enough. They are not enough. Life is not enough.
Knowing that you have depression in itself can be a difficult thing to process. I don’t need therapy, I don’t have problems, everyone else has the problems. That sort of thing. It can be hard to admit to yourself that you need help. We all want to have everything figured out in life, but admitting you kinda don’t? Absolutely not. I have had to take account of myself many times since I really started to think about mental health. We are generally good judges of other people, but when it comes to holding the mirror up to ourselves, not so much. It takes courage to open yourself up to a stranger. It takes f***ing courage to open up to yourself.
There is so much science surrounding depression, like so much. Which is crazy, but also a bit of a relief. You are not a bad person, you’re not even slightly flawed. Your amygdala (a part of the brain associated with emotions), just doesn’t have the correct levels of chemicals and stuff. Activity in the amygdala is higher in people with clinical depression. You can balance the chemical equation either with medication (the correct medication) or without. You don’t get enough insulin? Nightmare, go to the doctor. No one is going to call you weak if you have diabetes, are they? Chemicals in the brain are the same way. There is improvement in society around this area, but there is still a way to go.
I’m not really writing this for someone with depression, because there probably isn’t anything new in here. I’m writing this for people like me, who don’t deal with depression on a daily basis, but instead perhaps don’t know how to help someone else who does. Fixing your friends problems can be a daunting task, and you may feel unprepared, but you can do some of the heavy lifting. Contact mental health services on their behalf, seek advice from professionals on how can help them, or just listen.
Wanting to help someone else is very admirable, but the idea that you can instantly fix someone else’s problems, while our own problems are too complex and nobody else’s business is both damaging and insulting. I’m talking about things like, “man up”, “get over it” and whatever else you want. Using words and phrases like “man up” can actually cause a person to feel worse and is also telling them that you think they are weak. No wonder it takes a lot for those with depression to talk. It’s feelings like this that causes people to fall deeper into their negative thoughts, not wanting to burden you with their “weak” problems. It’s equally important to comfort a person, and let them know you are there for them. Don’t push them too hard to get help. You don’t know the specifics of someone’s personal circumstances and if you push someone up a tree before they learn to climb, they will probably fall down hard. Allowing someone the space to make their own decisions can be empowering, because they feel in control. You don’t like when someone grabs your steering wheel do you? Listening is important.
As I’ve said, I have not personally suffered depression, but these are things I have seen and picked up. One thing I know for sure, we need to listen more.