There are no simple, magic bullet solutions. But there are some frameworks we can use to help us have greater empathy for those going through the illness of depression.
That is the most often asked question when a celebrity or high profile person takes their own life. For those who have never been through actual depression, it seems inconceivable. After all, we all struggle with problems, but celebrities seem to have solved all of the problems us ordinary folks have in our day to day lives. They don’t have to worry about money! People love them! They have all the outward signs of success!
Except, depression is a liar.
Depression will take the very things that people are holding up as ‘proof’ that your life is ok and use them against you.
Depression says: “People only like you because you have money and fame.”
Depression says: “Your family will be better off without you. You are a burden.”
Depression says: “These people are not your friends. They are trying to hurt you. Stay far away from anyone who wants to help.”
The reason depression is a liar is similar to the reason that addictions lie to the addict. The depression, the mental illness or the addiction has a stronghold that it wants to maintain. If it doesn’t lie, the depression or addiction won’t be able to stay. And it wants to stay.
Depression is sneaky in its lies. It might say “You are unworthy of all this success.” But that gets hard to believe after a while. So it says “If you just had a little more money, or your business was a little better, or you worked a little harder, or you were a little prettier, or a little smarter—everything would be ok! So work on those things *first*. Then, after those problems are solved, work on connecting with others.”
But of course, because depression keeps upping the ante on the lies, those problems are never solved. And connecting with people who might help keeps getting pushed to the wayside.
Depression says “Don’t connect with people who might help you.” Because then the depression might lose.
It’s why telling people to “just reach out if you need me!” is often ineffective. Depression will give a person so many reasons not to reach out. Depression will manipulate a person into believing they *shouldn’t* reach out. That reaching out will make things worse somehow.
I remember hearing about an alcoholic who, at the time he was hitting bottom, would only talk to people who sold or served him alcohol. He had destroyed every other relationship, one by one, methodically and strategically, to insure the addiction could continue.
Understanding the way depression works is a start, but not the end. There is much to do in the way of education, treatments, destigmatizing the way we talk about it, how we pay for health care, how we prioritize it. But these are solvable problems. Let’s continue to work together for solutions.
Depression is a liar. But don’t let it tell you that it’s a problem that can’t be solved.
by Lisa Hickey