A Beginner's Guide To Understanding Depression

A Beginner's Guide To Understanding Depression

What your friends might want you to know.

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Disclaimer: This article is a guide to handling people with depression. But mental illness is a dice roll, not an equation, so this isn't a comprehensive guide to handling everyone's depression. Chronic sadness looks different for every one of the people it effects. If this guide doesn't help you, just try treating your friend with depression like you would treat anyone else--with patience and understanding.

Anyways.

Understand that your friend is as frustrated with their depression as you are.

Depression makes people feel heavy for no reason. Some mornings are okay, I wake up and take my medication and drink my coffee and feel what I think I'm supposed to.

Other days it feels like my heart is made of every inconvenience: every paper cut and burned out hallway lightbulb. Try to be gentle, because even basic tasks seem hard and frustrating. Getting out of bed feels like throwing myself to the sharks when I'm already bleeding.

Be considerate with how you phrase things.

Try not to say "that gives me anxiety" or "that makes me depressed." It's a small thing, but chronic mental illnesses are very real for people. It's a little frustrating when someone minimizes it into a feeling instead of something that constantly perpetuates your mind, body, and soul.

Learn how to talk without words and "listen" to their body language.

Just saying "I get sad too" and "it's going to be okay" is helpful, but not always what we want to hear. We've heard that before. I'm sure it's going to be okay, but right now what I need is something else.

It's helpful to understand when we can keep up a conversation and when we just want silence and a hug, or to be left alone, or just to sit together and just be together. Depression does a lot to try to isolate its victims, and sometimes that is what they need. But it says a lot being present, even if you aren't doing anything extensive.

Just because I'm not obviously and openly sad, it doesn't mean my depression is invalid.

It isn't every day that I want to pull every thread from my body and unravel myself until I turn into nothing. Sometimes I feel the sunshine on my shoulders, see the first few blooms of spring, feel the promise of summer in the atmosphere and remember why I still wake up every morning. I have the ability to feel happy, to feel content.

But even when the day is filled with good friends and decent coffee and warm weather, there's always an inner struggle. There's always something telling me I'm not good enough, I will never amount to anything, and I might as well stop trying. My mind will always be trying to sabotage me, but sometimes I can ignore it long enough to feel some semblance of contentedness.

The most important thing to know: There is no easy solution.

There is no magical serotonin pill, no amount of therapy or yoga that will make the weight in your stomach disappear. Some people don't need meds, some people really, really do. Therapy doesn't work for everyone. The question "are you okay?" is a tough thing to answer. Yes, no, not right now.

Understand that your friend might not even be sure what they need to feel better, so try not to prescribe them exercise or more water. We know it's important, but when your chest feels like it's constantly filled with ice water, it's difficult to think about working out and drinking detox tea.

These are just 5 surface level examples of how you can communicate with your friends that have depression. It doesn't always have to be a big, dramatic action. If you are unsure, your friend is most likely going to be more than happy to explain how they prefer to be treated when their depression is especially difficult.

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Everything You Will Miss If You Commit Suicide

The world needs you.
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You won't see the sunrise or have your favorite breakfast in the morning.

Instead, your family will mourn the sunrise because it means another day without you.

You will never stay up late talking to your friends or have a bonfire on a summer night.

You won't laugh until you cry again, or dance around and be silly.

You won't go on another adventure. You won't drive around under the moonlight and stars.

They'll miss you. They'll cry.

You won't fight with your siblings only to make up minutes later and laugh about it.

You won't get to interrogate your sister's fiancé when the time comes.

You won't be there to wipe away your mother's tears when she finds out that you're gone.

You won't be able to hug the ones that love you while they're waiting to wake up from the nightmare that had become their reality.

You won't be at your grandparents funeral, speaking about the good things they did in their life.

Instead, they will be at yours.

You won't find your purpose in life, the love of your life, get married or raise a family.

You won't celebrate another Christmas, Easter or birthday.

You won't turn another year older.

You will never see the places you've always dreamed of seeing.

You will not allow yourself the opportunity to get help.

This will be the last sunset you see.

You'll never see the sky change from a bright blue to purples, pinks, oranges, and yellows meshing together over the landscape again.

If the light has left your eyes and all you see is the darkness, know that it can get better. Let yourself get better.

This is what you will miss if you leave the world today.

This is who will care about you when you are gone.

You can change lives. But I hope it's not at the expense of yours.

We care. People care.

Don't let today be the end.

You don't have to live forever sad. You can be happy. It's not wrong to ask for help.

Thank you for staying. Thank you for fighting.

Suicide is a real problem that no one wants to talk about. I'm sure you're no different. But we need to talk about it. There is no difference between being suicidal and committing suicide. If someone tells you they want to kill themselves, do not think they won't do it. Do not just tell them, “Oh you'll be fine." Because when they aren't, you will wonder what you could have done to help. Sit with them however long you need to and tell them it will get better. Talk to them about their problems and tell them there is help. Be the help. Get them assistance. Remind them of all the things they will miss in life.

If you or someone you know is experiencing suicidal thoughts, call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline — 1-800-273-8255

Cover Image Credit: Brittani Norman

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Fight And Flight, How I Conquer My Emotional Battles

In times of high threat and peril, science says our innate response usually follows one of two paths: fight or flight.

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snele1
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Like almost any other concept related to humans, the idea of "fight or flight" boils down to either/or, one over the other, choice A or choice B. This seems logical, as science also says we can't actually multitask as humans. We may think we can manage multiple tasks simultaneously, but we're inevitably occupied by one thing at a time. Now, depending on each person, the response to any given situation might vary. Someone might feel courageous enough to stay and "fight," while someone else may deem it wiser to make like a bird and take "flight."

Regardless, this concept revolves around a definitive choice, a choice of just one response, not both.

While I agree with this concept as it is, I've come to think that, in some areas of life, we can manage both. We can fight, but we can also take flight. Although fight or flight generally refers to physical threats/obstacles, I think the fight and flight apply on an emotional/mental front.

This past weekend was quite a whirlwind, blowing my emotions in all kinds of directions, which is really what prompted me to think about my emotional response to the weekend as a whole. As a bit of important background, I'm not a crier by nature. I just don't cry in public/ in front of others. Don't get me wrong, I don't see anything wrong with crying in public. It's a perfectly human response. No book, movie, song, or the like has ever moved me to tears. (Well actually, the movie "The Last Song" with Miley Cyrus did cause a stream of tears, but that's literally one out of a decade.)

Enough about that for now, though, I'll make mention of it again later.

I think this past weekend's deluge was an unassuming foreboding of the flood of emotions that came pouring in on Sunday. The day began like any other Mother's Day, we opened gifts with my mother before heading to my aunt's for a family lunch. Only once we arrived, I was informed that my other aunt, who's like a second mom to me, lost her beloved Shih Tzu of 14 years, Coco. We all knew that Coco's time was likely limited, but it still seemed sudden. I was a bit rocked by the news, but ultimately knew she had given life a run for its money. After all, I like to joke that if I come back, it'd ideally be as a house dog.

Needless to say, the suddenness of it all wouldn't really hit me till later that afternoon.

Fast-forwarding to the evening, we decided visiting my other grandmother would be a nice gesture on Mother's Day. Although she was still out and about, my house-ridden grandfather was there, and so we decided it'd be nice to stay and visit with him. A bit more background, my grandfather was diagnosed with Alzheimer's a few years ago, so we've unfortunately watched him slowly decline since the diagnosis. As such, this is where things went on a steep downhill slide. We arrived mid-nap, which subsequently meant waking him from his nap to visit. In hindsight, it seemed like a very poor choice, as when he awoke he seemed completely disoriented and largely still asleep.

It was as if his eyes were awake, but most everything else about his body remained asleep.

We stayed only but 12 or 15 minutes, as it didn't prove useful to stick around any longer. Enter the flight of my emotions. I've known my grandfather wouldn't be the same every single time I visited. I've dreaded but prepared for the time when he wouldn't remember us, or wouldn't be able to communicate with us the same. As much as I thought I'd be unphased when it happened, I wasn't. At the time, I tried to shuffle through other thoughts. I tried to jump to the upcoming things for the week and what I needed to take care of next. I wanted my mind to float off till my emotions wouldn't be so strong.

That's where I believe the flight response happens for me. When I'm face to face with an emotion-laden experience, whether it's sadness, frustration, or whatever, I try to shift my thoughts away from what's stirring them up. My mind takes flight. Maybe, that's why I don't cry in public. I don't allow my mind to focus long enough to conjure up a physical response.

My mind never stays in flight for long, though. I wouldn't say I'm scared of the emotions, rather I just need them to calm down or settle before I can pick them apart. I tend to process my feelings internally, but they never go unchecked or un-analyzed. That's why, even though I typically don't show my emotions in public, my throat still tightens up and my eyes still become glassy behind closed doors.

Nevertheless, this is where the fight response shows up. Except, I wouldn't say this is so much a fight, even if the situation can be a sort of emotional battle. It's more of a coming-to-terms. I know that I can't outrun my feelings, and I don't ever intend to. At some point, I let them catch up to me, and then the sorting process can begin. It's usually not that tumultuous like a real fight would be, but it doesn't mean that the emotions don't present a challenge at times.

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snele1

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