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.