Depression Marathon Blog

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Diagnosed with depression 16 years ago, I lost the life I once knew, but in the process re-created a better me. I am alive and functional today because of my dog, my treatment team, my sobriety, and my willingness to re-create myself within the confines of this illness. I hate the illness, but I'm grateful for the person I've become and the opportunities I've seized because of it. I hope writing a depression blog will reduce stigma and improve the understanding and treatment of people with mental illness. All original content copyright to me: etta. Enjoy your visit!

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Dear Friends and Family

Those of you who've been around awhile know I was fortunate enough to be featured in four videos created by the website Healthination a few months ago. It was the opportunity of a lifetime for me, and I remain humbled and grateful for their attention. I was very happy with the videos. However,  after filming me for one and a half days, a lot of taped material necessarily did not make it into the final versions. And of all that edited material, there's only one thing I wish had been saved. This is it.

When discussing the losing friends topic, the fourth video, I pointed out that a lot of times friends and family fall out of our lives because they feel helpless. They simply don't know what to do. We all know what to do if someone we love has, for example, cancer. Cards, flowers, help around the house, food...these are all automatic responses. But what to do with the loved one suffering from a depression relapse; it seems we don't automatically know. Here are my thoughts.

Dear Friends and Family,

When I'm not feeling well, when depression has me in its grip, I may not be very fun to be around. I will not act like myself. I may ignore your phone calls, isolate myself, and even push you away. It's not because I don't love you, rather it is because I don't love, or even like, myself.

When depression takes over, I may be more helpless, hopeless, and pessimistic. I may not be able to concentrate, and it might take me forever to make a decision, if I make one at all. My intrusive thoughts may make paying attention to anything you say nearly impossible. Showering, cooking, cleaning, and necessary errands may be neglected. I may not be able to work, and paying the bills, if I can muster the energy to attempt it, will become challenging and stressful. I may look okay on the outside, but I feel absolutely nothing on the inside. This is more painful than words can express. When I am sick with depression, my world becomes an overwhelming, dark, chaotic place, and I may just want to hide.

Depression is confusing. When my symptoms are at their worst, I may sleep too much or not enough. I may be tired all the time or unable to settle. I may eat everything in sight or nothing at all. I may be able to follow through with scheduled appointments or unable to get out of my house. And I never know from one day to the next what my capabilities will be. It makes it very challenging to plan anything. So I'm not trying to be difficult, I just don't know in advance if I will have the energy to do whatever it is you've asked.

Please understand. Depression tells me I am useless, hopeless, and not fit to remain on this planet. It reminds me I will never amount to anything, no matter how hard I try, so why bother trying. Depression tells me I'm ugly, and fat, and not as good as you or anyone else. It makes me self conscious. It distracts me so much, I may not be able to follow your conversation, and I certainly won't remember it tomorrow! Depression makes me feel stupid. Can you understand now why I'm not myself? Why I'm not easy to be around? I have to work extra hard to hold up my end of our relationship. Despite what may appear, I really don't want to lose you.

What can you do to help? I'm so glad you asked. Pretend I have cancer or any other debilitating illness. Just remember I have an illness, too. And like cancer, I may have periods of wellness followed by relapse followed by wellness again. It will pass, but I may feel unfamiliar with that fact. It's okay to gently remind me, but try not to pound it into my head. Don't dismiss what I'm going through. It may be invisible to you, but it is ever so real, and debilitating to me.

There are simple things you can do. If I'm isolating, offer to sit with me. Don't expect me to be a great conversationalist, but just sitting with me will reduce my isolation. Send me a card or flowers, even, especially if I'm in the hospital. Remind me you're there, offer assistance, validate how I'm feeling, but don't force yourself on me. I just may not have the energy to go out for coffee, and that's okay. Let that be okay.

If I'm struggling, offer me something to eat. Fix dinner or bring over a casserole. Offer to mow my lawn, shovel the snow, or help with laundry. Do anything you would do for a loved one having difficulty caring for themselves due to any illness. It's simple really. I don't want you to be a hero. I may need help, but I don't need you to fix it. Continue to love me when I can't love myself, and know I will come out of this. Things will improve, and I'll be able to care for myself again. I will be ever so grateful for your kindness and help. And soon I will be myself again.

Thank you, friends and family. Thank you.

22 comments:

paullamb said...

This is perfect!

Thank you for posting it.

Lyle Harris said...

Well said. My family often treats me as sad or stressed because of my depression. While that might be nice, it's really not the same thing.

Joy said...

As one of your nurses when you were first hospitalized a few years ago, i want to tell you I think you are a courageous women and an inspiration to others. I think your writing is great and I just watched your videos. Keep sharing your story and maybe the stigma associated with a diagnosis of depression will be a thing of the past!

Jean Grey said...

That is so wonderfully said!

GabsTalks said...

You really are good at explaining it. Although I've got over the worst part of my depression, I still have a lot of moments where I want to bury myself where nobody will find me.

My blog is also about my depression, but much more of an overview of the past and the things I did to stop hurting myself. I want to try and help people, but I don't know how much help I will be...

Anonymous said...

Thank you for sharing this. I think you have done a great job of articulating what it can be like, gently reminding our loved ones that this is an illness, not a bad mood, offering helpful suggestions, and expressing gratitude. I'll be inviting some of the people in my life to read this. ~ Cheryl

Irene said...

Thanks Etta

Irene said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
CH said...

You explained what many of us are going through so perfectly. Keep moving forward and thank you so much for writing.

Irene said...

Interesting tip for your videos:

Your link on this website is
http://www.healthination.com/mental-health-spotlight/depression-center-true-champs-1/

But if I use the following link instead, I am able to view the 4th video even on my iPad without error.

http://www.healthination.com/mental-health/true-champions-depression-laree/

etta said...

Thanks, Irene. I think I changed it. I'm not an expert with these things.

Susan Weller said...

thank you so much for expressing what I too feel when depressed. I plan to share this with my family as a way of hoping to rebuild what we have lost

Tina Fariss Barbour said...

Thank you so much for this. It is what I would like my family and friends to know too.

AboutChloeAndMe said...

Thank you so much for posting this. You've managed to put into words what I feel, but can't express myself. Thank you.
May I borrow your words one day, when I feel ready to communicate with such honesty with my friends and family.

Anonymous said...

This post is so helpful- one of the best I've ever read about how to help your loved ones.

Amy B. Muzekari said...

This is so true. When my depression was at its worst, I could barely function. I couldn't drive and rarely left my house. I was doing well for several months and just in the past couple of weeks, I am feeling like I've been hit by a truck. The main symptom of my depression is debilitating fatigue. I am afraid of spiraling downward again. I will ask my husband to read your post because he really doesn't understand.

Pincha Loaf said...

"When I'm not feeling well, when depression has me in its grip, I may not be very fun to be around. I will not act like myself. I may ignore your phone calls, isolate myself, and even push you away. It's not because I don't love you, rather it is because I don't love, or even like, myself."

^^ I relate to this so much

Jim said...

Very powerful thank you.
Have you heard of or looked at "Cranial electronic stimulation"? Just curious if you had thoughts on it as for some people it does help with depression. I didn't mean to post this to your blog but didn't see an email for you. Jim Ingham

etta said...

@ Jim: Yes, I have heard of the cranial electric stim, but no, I have not tried it. My psychiatrist and I discussed it a long time ago, but she wasn't sold on it, and it isn't offered by the medical establishments around here. I have heard it works for some.

Anonymous said...

when depression wins the battle my life changes completely .I want to hid in the closet , I feel so hopeless and worthless .I wish ppl around me understand that i am not doing it purposely . I don't have friends cause depression hampers my social life.My husband in such times stays away from me cause he does not know how to handle me .

Anonymous said...

Thank you for your honesty. Your words help me feel less alone.

Anonymous said...

You said exactly how I feel and what I think on a daily basis, but can't find the words to say it.
Thank You :)



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