Depression has a face, ever changing, ever surprising. It’s not just the homeless woman, the beaten child, the unemployed man. It’s the face of your favorite actor or your favorite sports star. It’s the face of your next door neighbor or your best friend. It could be your husband or wife, your son or daughter, your mom or dad. Depression is an equal opportunity evil, and it can strike at anyone, anytime.
When I was 14, I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder. I struggled with depression sprinkled with insane periods of manic moments, rapid cycling. I could spend my morning crying, then spend my night painting the living room- something I did, as a matter of fact. And even as part of me knew it wasn’t ‘okay’, it seemed fine at the time.
I’ve been off medication for years now, and the manic episodes are more rare. But the depression still leaps up and grabs me by the throat at the oddest times. Not what I call situational depression, where I’m depressed because of financial troubles or the death of someone beloved. No, I mean the moments where I want to cry because I spill my coffee or can’t find a matching sock.
There’s nothing more tragic to me than the depression that hits me for no reason. When the baby is crying and won’t settle down, when he won’t nap and I desperately need to, when the laundry backs up and the dishes are dirty and I need to go to the store and I… just… can’t. That is my personal Hell.
I hear a lot of comments made with that tone that says they just don’t understand. “You just need to make time to do it,” or “you just need to take a break.” Life doesn’t give you breaks, and motherhood gives you even less opportunities than that, especially when you’re a nursing mother. His life is tied to mine, and that means I don’t take breaks. I get excited when he sleeps long enough to allow me to take a shower at this point.
But bravery? Bravery is putting one foot in front of the other, getting up each day, and doing it, no matter how hard it is, no matter how exhausting, no matter how many times it seems it would be so much better to spend the day in bed crying. No, dying is easy- living is hard. And giving up is not an option.
If you know someone dealing with depression, the best thing you can do for them is just to LISTEN. Not judge, not offer advice, not try to ‘fix it.’ Just listen. It’s the kindest thing you can do is offer a shoulder to cry on and an ear to listen. Because even though you may not understand how they could possibly be depressed (they have it so easy, they don’t know how hard my life is) maybe, just maybe, you don’t know as much as you think you do about their story. And then, when you need it, they’ll be here to listen to you.
Remember, everyone has their own battles to fight, and their own personal demons. No matter how great their life looks on the outside, you never know how hard it might be inside.