Why not be angry? You’re depressed, your life and senses are different than most people. One friend from this site told me “if one more person gives me an eye roll,” or “yes I know that I am lucky to be alive, and to have what comforts I do, but that’s not helpful to remind me how YOU think I should be feeling.” Imagine judging someone’s deeply personal feeling, and trying to shame them out of a condition like depression. Depression isn’t a choice for people, though I believe depressed people do have some control over how long a depressive episode lasts. If people could choose their emotions, depression would not be my choice.
I remember having a discussion with my mother a year or so before she died. She was 94, had arthritis of the everything, a fibrillation, stenosis of the spine, hypothyroidism, a host of maladies that would likely beset peers of her age. In spite of those problems, Mom walked on her own, or with a cane for distance. She colored her own hair, prepared some of her own meals. She had abilities that many people decades younger didn’t have. On this night, I’d prepared dinner for Mom, her boyfriend, my sister, and me, packaged it up and drove it across town to Mom’s house. As was her usual habit, Mom had a late start getting bathed and ready for dinner, so the food I’d brought over would be cooling while we waited for Mom to finish dressing herself. As she came to dinner, glancing at the covered food dishes, she sneered “I had potatoes with lunch.” I was displeased, but I remained calm as I said “wish I’d known that, I could’ve made us something else.” “How are you doing?” I asked as I hugged and kissed her. “Terrible….” she answered, everything hurts me.”
I knew she was sincere, and a few years after her passing I know now that she hated being the Last Mohican of her family and friends. She watched them die in hospitals, homes, and attended their funeral services. I know that it troubled her to think about how many different medications she had been prescribed for blood thinning, high blood pressure, cholesterol, and so on. Yet I still said, “Wow Mom, you are so much better off than people younger than you are, in Assisted Living Facilities, or nursing homes, unable to do or care for themselves.” “There are people living with advanced organic brain syndromes who don’t recognize their own children.” “They’d trade places with you in a second.”
Wasn’t that a cheery thing to say to Mom? She didn’t answer or snarl at me. In her heart, she knew that I was doing what people her age had always been told to do. Accentuate the positive, don’t dwell on the half empty water glass, the things you can no longer do.
About a year ago I finally heard an acceptable answer to the water glass analogy, forgive me if you’ve already heard this, but I found it to be very enlightening. When considering optimism or pessimism and a glass of water metaphor, it does not matter how much water is in the glass. What does matter is:
- How long do I have to hold this glass of water out in front of my body?
- If I’m forced to hold onto it for a long time, then being full means the glass becomes very heavy over time, and much more difficult to hold onto without dropping it.
Depressed people have to process through their depression, or if they choose to repress it, the depression becomes a heavy glass being held indefinitely. It hurts, and nobody knows just by looking at you that you suffer depression. There’s no plaster cast to show evidence of a broken bone, no stitches, no burned skin, or something tangible that lets others see our predicament.
What do you think others should do?
For the purposes of coexistence, the tolerance of those unwitting people who do not suffer depression and therefore they can’t relate exactly with how we are feeling, what can we want them to do? Should they leave us alone until we come around? Should they try to talk us out of our bad mood by telling us how good we have it? Depressed people can do the world a favor and help others know there are some helpful things we want them to accept about us.
- Depression is real
- Feeling depressed is not a choice, we don’t feel depressed for attention
- Sometimes an episode is protracted, it takes time to get through it
- We need awareness, and some slack.
- If more than a few days pass, it’s ok to ask “what can I do?”
That last one has a big caveat; if the answer is “you can’t do anything,” that needs to be acceptable by both parties. If I’m in a funk, I now realize that others have detected my mood swing, then I should acknowledge their concern. Maybe “please forgive me, I’m having some personal down time.” I guess they’ll just have to believe us when we say “I’m not quite feeling 100% today,” or something more pointed such as “I’d rather not go there” and wait us out.
What do you think?