I hate depression. No, I do not suffer from it, but I have loved ones who do. It has a way of turning your life upside down in an instant. Sometimes there is a trigger and sometimes it comes completely unexpected. Plans get cancelled. Words are difficult to come by, and when they do, they can be very cutting. Depression is the wettest blanket there is. But the important thing to know is that is precisely the time when the person suffering from depression needs you most. It is not easy, and tears will flow, but they need you.
There are no physical manifestations of what mental illness does to a person and to others. That makes it difficult to empathize or sympathize. Our brains and our emotions are so much a part of who we are as people, that when something goes wrong, it seems like we always blame the person instead of the illness. When you can’t control what enters your head and no matter what you try to think about it always results in a downward spiral, that can make you feel completely helpless. Imagine falling into a hole so deep that you cannot climb out, and no matter what you do, you keep sinking deeper in the muck. Now, imagine that the people standing around the top of the hole don’t throw you a rope or try to help, but instead blame you for falling into the hole in the first place and yell down to you to just “pull yourself out of it”. That is what we as a society do every single day.
It appalls me that our prisons have become de facto insane asylums. These are people who need to be treated, not locked away. Are we still so ignorant and heartless that we cannot reach out and help those who need it most?
Depression is as debilitating and destructive as cancer, carries more societal shame than an STD, and just as deeply affects the families and friends of those who face the challenge of depression.
We have a choice. Do we continue to circle the hole and throw ineffectual words at the person at the bottom, or do we climb down, work hard, and help them find a way to sunlight, if even for a brief moment?