Tag Archives: depression

Being There

I wasn’t sure whether I wanted to write this post but my head has been swirling and sometimes it feels good just to type and see where it goes and more importantly, empty the contents of my head. So here goes.

Like most of the world waking up on Tuesday I was saddened to hear of the death of Robin Williams.  He committed suicide after battling depression for a very long time. Immediately social media started to swim with support for those battling mental health and the consequences of it. All of these messages came from the best of places and it was warming to see how we have moved on in recognising deprsssion as a clinical illness. Sort of. I say sot of because we have a long long way to go in my opinion.

If you’ve read some of my posts you will know that my husband has clinical depression. So I have some first hand experience of observing a person living  with what is at times a crippling illness. This post is more for for those supporting people with depression.

Yesterday despite the heartfelt messages being put out there for people with depression I started to feel angry. And here’s why. I feel sorry for someone with depression right now because all the messgaes are for them to talk. Talk right now to anyone. Just talk. From my experience you can’t force someone with depression to talk. Like any physical condition there are stages and as with any illness, use the wrong approach at the wrong time you can either make no difference or possibly make this worse. I read an article in the Guardian which suggested that talking therapies can be dreadful for some with depression because they can act as a trigger and worsen it. And I actually remember with my husband that at his worst he couldn’t physically speak. It looked as though opening his mouth to speak caused him actual physical pain. It was heart breaking to watch but talking at that point was fruitless. That’s not to say that talking never helps. It did help him, eventually, when the time was right.

Why do I feel that the messages to talk could be a trigger? Because for many with depression the voices that are telling you how awful you are, what a burden you are and that your loved ones would be better without you (all things that my husband felt) are so strong that I wonder if those ‘you must talk’ messages at the wrong point could be something else for them to feel like a failure and therefore reinforce the messages from their depressive inner voice. Morbid I know but for my husband I know he felt like he would not be a loss to he world so why bother talking?

So if talking isn’t an option then what else is there? 

You can be their advocate.  I made phone calls for my husband. I fought for services when he couldn’t.  I argued with GP receptionists. I would tell him to go for a walk. Sometimes I would sit with him and simply hold his hand, a touch to distract him from the demon depression telling him that his wife and children were better off without him. Encouraging him when he found the woodwork that helped to bring some Mindfulness. Telling him never to be ashamed. And then, once he was feeling more stable and having counselling, listening.

Supporting my husband through depression is one of the hardest things I’ve ever done and my husband has fought it so hard. It will always be there and there has had to be some acceptance from me that he has this condition and that it has to be managed. I have no easy answers for you if you have a loved one with depression.  It is not an illness that can currently be cured and I have had to fight my instincts to try and ‘heal him’. What I have learned though is that sometimes just being there and advocating for your loved one can be be best thing you can do.

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Running and Depression: A Vent

Before I start I should state a disclaimer: I do not have a diagnosis of depression. This post is not about me having depression. This post is mainly about how others see depression. I am no depression expert. I am just the partner of someone who does have this diagnosis and have seen first hand what it can do to someone’s health and well being.

A few days ago I came across a couple of tweets, the first of which I’m sure was coming from a good place:

‘Running is a great cure for depression, you can’t run and feel sorry for yourself at the same time’.

Another tweeter replied with:

‘If only depression was as simple as feeling sorry for yourself’.

I very nearly jumped into the conversation but I decided not to, it’s a topic for me that needs much more discussion than just a few tweets. However I’ve been mulling things over and I just needed to projectile vomit them onto this blog.

Firstly: if only it really was that easy. Two years ago when my significant other had basically decided he was done with this life, if only it had been that easy, that I just tell him to go for a run. He could have walked in from a few laps of the park saying ‘hey I’m all better now’. I would have dragged him out marathon training with me. If that was the ‘cure’ that the first tweeter was talking about then why isn’t everyone with depression doing it? Well it’s not that simple. Exercise can be an adjunct to the therapies for depression but it will never be a cure.

Secondly, to say that someone with depression just needs to go for a little jog to feel ‘less sorry for themselves’ completely undermines the condition. If someone is in physical pain from a chronic condition we don’t tell them to go for a run and get over it do we? Again exercise is an adjunct but we never expect exercise to completely reverse Type 1 diabetes or cure a tumour. No, because physical pain seems more acceptable and plausible to people than emotional pain. Emotional pain and mental anguish seem far harder for us to fully acknowledge. People are embarrassed by it and turn away from it. It is taboo to admit that you don’t want to be alive any more. Imagine that, at your lowest ebb, people telling you that you just need to ‘get moving and do some exercise’. Believe it or not, when I didn’t understand the condition as I do now, I tried to persuade him to do some exercise because I had read that it helps symptoms. Not when you’re down the rabbit hole though. No way.

Thirdly, I myself got a bit sick of the ‘he’s just a bit down’ and ‘what has he got to feel sorry for himself’ attitudes from people surprisingly close to us. Now, if I feel a bit frazzled from the day’s events then yes, possibly, a run might shift the clouded feeling I get. I get back from a run and I’m pretty much over it. But I don’t have depression. Depression isn’t something you can stick a patch on and expect it to be a bit better in the morning. The fact that some people insist on telling those with depression that they just feel ‘a bit down’ completely invalidates what they’re experiencing. People with depression need to feel safe to voice what they are going through, be heard, acknowledged and then tools and therapies decided on to manage it.

As the wife of a man who fell to some real depths I cannot imagine what people with depression have to suffer. I myself used running as a bit of a crutch to help me cope when it got tough so to this day I probably have quite a strong emotional connection to running. It’s why I miss it so much when I can’t do it. But no amount of running will cure depression. It will help manage it alongside medication and counselling, but please don’t tell the wife of someone with depression that you could cure my husband by taking him for a run. Just don’t.