Depression from the outside

I’ve spent time with a number of people over the last few weeks who have told me that they are either currently suffering from depression, or that they have done so in the past.  As a practical type, my question tends to be “what can I do to help?”.  
The question may be misplaced, for two reasons.
The first is  – am I asking just to make myself feel better?  To know that I showed appropriate concern?  So that if the offer is rejected ‘I’ve done what I can’?   
The second is – asking this question deflects away from my asking myself how I am.  I have never been diagnosed with depression, so I don’t know what that feels like.  And although I’ve been in some quite bleak situations in my life, I have always had hope.  I have always had faith that God is there (even if I’ve been thoroughly naffed off with what God appears to be doing to me – see most Chapters of the Book of Job).  So during our Quiet Day, I tried paying some attention to my feelings about depression.

I doubt any of the feelings I discovered come as any surprise to those who have suffered from depression, or those who work with people who are depressed.  But my initial reaction is one of fear – fear that by thinking about depression and trying to empathise in a small way I might become depressed.  I suspect this is about as likely as being diagnosed with an illness after seeing someone with that illness on television.  

My other reaction was to try to understand what might bring me to the point of depression – and for me that is around separation and parting.  Given my bereavement history, this is no surprise either.  But I found myself unable, during our Quiet Day of watching and waiting, to sit with these feelings for any length of time.  It was just too painful. Dealing with pain takes energy and focus – things which those with depression often find they don’t have. 

It’s been suggested to me that depression is like being locked in a dark room, and that some people know that God is with them in that room.  That knowledge enables them to sit through the depression until it passes.  It is an extreme form of Advent – of waiting with a tiny level of hope.

I have concluded so far that all I can do to help is to be willing to name depression as I would any other illness, and be around if people have the energy and inclination to talk.  Perhaps being around when they don’t is important too.


One response to “Depression from the outside

  1. Hi Claire
    Very thoughtful. In the year that I took early retirement I had 3 months off work having been diagnosed with depression. I didn't even know that I was depressed until the psychiatrist at the Priory diagnosed what was wrong having been referred there by my GP because I couldn't face any more international travel. It was a very hard lonely time but what helped me most was being able to openly talk to people about it and having someone listen to me. Of course some people deal with depression differently but do be encouraged and keep listening to people – it does help some.
    Best wishes

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