The first thing anyone does when they perceive someone is feeling depressed is try to ignore it. I do it too. Seeing that someone else is hurting feels like a sinkhole best avoided in the hopes the next time you see them they won’t mention it and life goes on, or at worst they’ll say they were just tired.
The second most likely thing to happen to a depressed person is someone will say “Whenever you feel this way… You can talk to me.” This is something I’ve never been guilty of because I’ve seen the consequences. In my career as “The Depressed One” I’ve had a hundred people say that I could talk to them and I’m sure they mean the absolute best. At First. But the fact is what they really want is to be the one that fixes me. The people that think they can be that special someone who finally just listened to me and caused me to turn everything around is the same sort of person who will get offended and upset when I don’t get better. And then it’s my fault because they gave me their magic hours of patience and I wasn’t cured.
I’ve seen it with parents, teachers, siblings, friends, girlfriends, co-workers, barflies, band-mates, and therapists. Empathy turns to resentment. It’s why I don’t bother when someone tells me they’re suicidal, because I know we’re just burning time til they do or don’t.
I read sports motivation books. In the off-season, when day-to-day exercise and nutrition doesn’t really matter, the best athletes still stay focused. Not because today they’ll feel good but because 11 months from now when play-offs are happening they’ll look back and be glad they didn’t waste the time. After losing a decade of my life to depression and kicking myself even worse when the fog lifted and I could face life again suddenly 5 months behind and playing catch up, I learned to force myself to keep going through the motions for as long as I could when an episode was coming on. So I spend a lot of energy staying the course, eating, sleeping, getting exercise, taking my vitamins, being nice, etc. But depression is like a marathon no one asked if you wanted to run. No matter how focused you feel at the start toward the end all there is is pain and your own foot steps. You can’t remember why you shouldn’t quit, all you remember is that sometime ago you knew this would happen and told yourself not to.
The other metaphor I always think about when it comes to depression is the movie White Christmas. Danny Kay holds up a falling wall long enough for Bing Crosby to get out from underneath. That’s how I feel most of the time but no one I love sees the collapsing bricks, they see normalcy. I spend months at a time holding up the collapsing wall of my mental health and if I’m doing it right no one notices. Until one by one the loosest bricks start falling and people start to comment “Are you okay?” “What’s up?” “You can talk to me.”
And the fact it’s too late by the time anyone else knows. It was too late 10 years ago and it’s only worse now. I either got strong enough in the off season or I didn’t. All the plans, hopes, dreams, friends, lose their meaning when you’ve been fighting this long.
Last time I had a rock bottom depression I shaved my hair into a mohawk and wore a suit everyday, figuring I might as well live the gravy before I check out and things turned around quite nicely and quite quickly. This time I don’t want anything, I see no gravy, I’m just rude and distant. Everything I wanted out of life is destined for younger men than me, I was too depressed to reach for it then and I’m too depressed to swim back against the current now.