19 August, 2014

The almost-obligatory August 2014 depression article

I promised myself I wouldn’t write anything that hadn’t already been written far better by other people.

Before I say any more, one of those things that hasn’t been said yet is that articles about depression, while insightful and helpful to both sufferers and those who love them (which, between them, ought to be everyone), can also sometimes act as triggers. So if you’re familiar with depression, you don’t have to read any further. I won’t be telling you anything you don’t already know. Go and read the Over the Hedge ’blog instead – it’s great!

I don’t have much to say that I haven’t already said in these two posts before. While the growing number of online articles explaining depression are very helpful – they certainly made me realise that there are other people who get it, and can put into words what I couldn’t for 20 years – none of them ever tell you everything about depression because they can’t.

Depression affects everyone who experiences it slightly differently. Or completely differently. Depression is not like the common cold, where you know that if you get it, you’ll probably sneeze for half a day, have a runny nose for a couple of days, cough for a couple more days, while talking like a movie trailer voiceover, but after that you’ll be back to whatever “normal” normally is for you.

We are all talking about depression now because of the terrible loss of the brilliant Robin Williams. As such,  much of our talk about depression is framed according to the link between depression and suicide risk. It’s important to recognise the connection but it’s also important to recognise that not all sufferers of depression are suicide risks. It’s a complex thing.

As usual, I can only speak for myself and I am not suggesting anyone else’s experiences are the same. Having said that, I have seen at least one other express similar thoughts. Even in my darkest moments, I would never harm myself for one simple reason: I’m too scared. I was once down enough to make my dearest wonder if maybe she should hide all the sharp things and keep close watch on me. I assured her that she would never have to worry about that. I have never wanted to die, there have just been times when I wouldn’t have cared if I did. If anything should happen to me, do please suspect foul play.

Two lines from two songs, sixty years apart, sum it up:
“I’m tired of living and scared of dying.” – Oscar Hammerstein, Ol’ Man River
“And when I’m lying in my bed
I think about life and I think about death
And neither one particularly appeals to me.”
– Morrissey, Nowhere Fast
The reason I’m taking you on this tour of my darkest corners is to make the point that suicide is not necessarily a measure of the severity of someone’s depression. Just because a person hasn’t attempted self-harm, self-medication or other visible manifestations of a mostly invisible condition, does not necessarily mean they are suffering any less. As I said in the Monsters post, for a long time I survived largely because I didn’t know what else to do.

Awareness is important. Understanding is important. It’s also important not to regard the condition in a way that still trivialises it, just in a different way.

It should also be noted that being able to toss off 700 words on the topic is not a measure of how much anyone feels it either. And to those who don’t get it, that’s okay. We’re happy for you that you don’t get it. Sometimes, understanding depression or anxiety can be like asking a man to understand menstrual cramps or a woman to understand a kick in the balls. We can never fully understand how it feels, but we can empathise, knowing that we can’t fully understand. That is all anyone asks.

This is the bit where you’re supposed to give Lifeline’s number and link to Beyond Blue. I know they do good work, but having never availed myself of their services, I would only be being trivial passing on their details. If you read the earlier posts, you will know of an unfortunate experience I had with Lifeline, which was not their fault, but makes me wary of recommending them.

So if you need to talk, contact me. My email is thebillablog@gmail.com, or contact me on twitter. I am not a professional, I have no training in counselling, but I’ll listen, and we’ll scout out the best service to contact together.