I'm very lucky and blessed that I have an abundance of friends who don't suffer chemical depression. Like anybody, they occasionally suffer from situational depression -- the circumstances they find themselves in when the universe seems to just be piling on. I'm happy for them. More, I think it's important for me to have them in my life.
However, when I'm suffering a downswing, or just in general talking or thinking about depression, these friends don't necessarily "get" it. They know I'm hurting. They know I'm frustrated. They know I'm suffering immense mental anguish. And they want to fix it. And that's so laudable. In the good times, and on the fringes of the bad, knowing I have friends who want to ease my hurt is a comfort, a salve. But chemical depression isn't something that can be beat. It's a siege. It can't be fixed. It can be allayed. It can be pushed back, but it's always there.
I know it's difficult for people who don't suffer chemical depression to understand it. Even if you're not a "fixer," I imagine it would be tough to look at someone like me -- a good job, for a good company; an incredibly loving and comforting family; a wealth of friends who never give up on me even when I've given up on myself; they don't say, "What does she have to be depressed about?"
I wish I could explain how chemical depression works. But I was a history major, barely passed chemistry and never even took anatomy. So, I'll leave the scientific explanation to the folks over at PsychCentral. My description is a little more floral.
The problem with depression is even though you know something intellectually, even though you can see where you should be and where you need to be, it's hard to actualize how to get there. You're like Sisyphus, but you're forced to crawl on your hands and knees -- which are tied to each other -- and before you even get to the mountainside you have to cross a river filled with jello. You can look up and see your goal, you can start working towards it, and maybe you make a little bit of progress, but actually getting there is nigh impossible. Maybe you make a little bit of progress. You make the snack shack halfway up the mountain. You get to rest on the plateau and ready yourself to push on and get to the top. You soldier on. And finally, you get there. You've made it out. You're at the top. Things are golden. And then you fall back and the battle starts all over again.
This cycle, this battle, much like Sisyphus's, doesn't end. Its timing may vary. Sometimes the cycle lasts six months, six days, six years. It's hard to tell when you're going to be knocked back so you're always concerned today is going to be the day. The feather knocking the boulder backwards could be as little as a bad day at work or as major as losing a loved one.
I'm always scared when I reach that plateau, when I feel like I'm reaching the top of the mountain. And I never know whether this will be one of the times the mountain just continues to grow or whether I'm going to be knocked back on my ass. Again. It's a comfort to me knowing my friends -- depressed or not -- are there for me so unflinchingly and unquestioningly.
For those who read this who don't suffer depression, I hope this helps you understand where those of us who do are at at any given moment. I hope you have a little more patience (or less depending on the situation). I hope not that you stop trying to fix it, but acknowledge that maybe it can't be fixed. I love that you want to fix it. I love that you are unquestionably there for me. But sometimes I just need someone to listen when I bitch, to lean into as a shoulder when I need to cry, buy me a drink when I need to get drunk, give me a hug when I need a hug. Just being there can be enough sometimes.
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Need help? In the U.S., call 1-800-273-8255 for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.